Reasonable Diesels: A German Followed Me Home

I’ve been on a secret diesel quest for about a year or more now. Usually, I found some neat vehicles but couldn’t justify the cost. That’s when a diesel W116 at the Illinois Gambler 500 gave me a brilliant idea: Gamble a diesel!

I never got my hands on that car, but it did convince me that I really wanted a German diesel car, not an American truck.

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I found a lot of neat cars out there like a 190D with a 300D swap, or this crazy TDI Jetta!

But I didn’t get the Jetta or the W116. But the Jetta did remind me of something, I could totally get a diesel made in this millennium for cheap! Enter the search...

How did I miss VW beforehand!?!?

There were a few cute bugs like this one:

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Some older, rusty Jettas:

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An EMD GP9:

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Even a Golf or two!

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All of these in the range of $1000-$1500 and presumably negotiable!

But no, my heart was tugged on by two wagons. This first one is being sold by a dealership that seems pretty sketchy and they’re calling this Jetta a GTI. And no, it wasn’t a Facebook error, they actually think it’s a GTI.

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The second came from Craigslist. For FAR less money than any of the other diesels here, it was a 2005 Passat TDI without rust, with all kinds of service records and part receipts, and owned by a man that loved it so much he kept the engine bay clean. There was but one catch: It likes to enter limp mode on the highway.

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I went to the guy’s house, test drove the car, reviewed the service records, confirmed the limp mode behaviour, then bartered him down to the same price I paid for the Festiva. Figured if I can’t solve the limp mode I could probably still flip it. Worst case, it still drives largely fine in limp mode. The service records suggest he drove it 40k since limp mode was first triggered. So apparently whatever is causing it isn’t a fatal thing. Unfortunately, the dealership just shotgunned parts at it. Notably missing from the records are a check of the vacuum system, checking the N75, MAF, or a few other bits I gathered from the TDI forums that could be the cause. They did replace the turbo and the fuel pump though.

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This car is SERIOUSLY nice. The paint shines, the interior is nearly spotless, the car even came with both keys and the radio security code. I already have a mechanic diagnostic computer, I just need to install VCDS to it! I took the dive.

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So, what’s going to happen to the Festiva? As I mentioned in previous threads, those closest to me really really really hate the idea of me driving it on the road between rallies. They want doors back on or me to sell the car. My parents even took the keys to it, a move a surprising amount of people supported.

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Alright, I can sometimes tell when I’ve gone too far. Working with some Gamblers we decided the car will be raffled off if it survives next weekend’s Northwest Indiana Fambler 500. Mind you, this particular run will have a time trial course and jumps. This car is too rusty to be sold to the general public with a good conscience, so it’s going to die a Gambler. The proceeds along with removing a few valuable parts should make me break even. Good enough for me!

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