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VW Heritage Buying Guides | Mk2 Golf

Overview of the Mk2 Golf

Mk2 Golf Buying Guide

A half decent Mk2 can still be yours for a little over £1000, but you need to be selective. Here’s our expert guide on how to sort the diamonds from the duffers.

There’s no doubt the Mk2 is a great modern classic for daily duties or weekend fun and with MoT’d examples with plenty of life left in them selling for as little as a grand, buying one won’t stretch your resources too far.

If you’re getting behind the wheel of a Mk2 for the first time, you’ll be instantly impressed by the chunkiness of the controls, the firm seating and precise gearchange – but what you may not be prepared for is the heavy steering as many of the early Mk2s were devoid of power assistance. If you do a lot of town driving, this could narrow your choices.

Incidentally, if you’re after a GTi – you’ll no doubt be pondering whether to opt for the 8v or more pokey 16v version. The extra 27bhp is useful high in the rev range but the 8v offers better low down grunt and a more relaxed drive.
Again, the choice is yours…

Of course one of the best bits about buying a Mk2 is excellent parts availability which means you can bring a tired car up to scratch very easily. Moreover, it’s very DIY friendly, so you can do most of the routine servicing yourself and keep a car in fine fettle on a very low budget.

Where to buy?

That well known internet auction site is a good place to start looking for Mk2s, although it’s worth trying the excellent Mk2 Owners Club, Club GTi, Pistonheads and Edition38.com as well. Whether you pick an already modified car or part finished project is up to you – potentially there’s money to be saved going down this route, but you do need to be a bit picky about the quality of workmanship and parts used. Something that’s been cobbled together by a total novice could prove more of a headache than it’s really worth. On the flipside, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t profit from buying a well-executed 2.0 16v, VR6 or 1.8T uprated Mk2 for a fraction of what the previous owner spent and then put your own stamp on it with different wheels, paint or interior.

What to look for

Mk2 Golf Engine


Whether it’s the 1.1, 1.3, 1.6 or 1.8 – all Mk2 engines should prove long lasting as long as the oil and filter changes have been carried out on a regular basis. However, clouds of blue smoke on start up is a bad sign – it points to worn valve guides or valve stem oil seal failure. A cylinder head rebuild will be required which won’t be cheap, although at least it can be done in situ on the 8v lumps.

If you notice any misfires or erratic idle while out on a test drive, suspect duff HT leads or problems with the notorious factory fit Pierburg carb. You can retrofit a progressive Weber 32/34 item with a manual choke, but in any case haggle to try and cover your costs (the carb kit alone is around £300).

Other running issues (on the GTi 8v up to ’88, 16v up to ‘92) could be down to the K-jet injection box which are tricky to get hold of new, or a leak from one of the vacuum hoses which is a lot easier to fix.

While on the K-jet, if the car feels sluggish, it could be that the metering head or air flap inside the airbox has become stuck but the whole affair can be cleaned out later. Again, use all this as a handy negotiating tool. If you’re lucky enough to be looking at the supercharged 1781cc G60 Mk2 be mindful of the fact that the G-Lader supercharger can be fragile so check through receipts to confirm it’s had an overhaul with new apex seals relatively recently (10-20k).

Diesel Mk2s are robust, frugal and generally totally reliable – a good bet is the 70bhp turbo. The non-turbo 54bhp version is pretty slow and maybe best avoided. Better still is the increasingly sought after GTD which pumps out a useful 80bhp thanks to the addition of an intercooler.

The five-speed rod change 020 gearboxes are generally good, but watch for loss of synchro in second and diff pins exiting the side of the ‘box when you least expect it.

Running Gear

As you would expect, Mk2 running gear is strong and long lasting – but cars that come with a wad of receipts proving that things such as exhausts, clutches and brakes have been replaced in the previous few years is always a plus point. Original looking, generally unmolested cars are usually best – so always eye with caution a Mk2 that’s been ‘upgraded’ by the fitment of cheap coilovers, loud exhausts and various other tuning goodies. That said, if the car’s solid underneath – you could always strip the unwanted bits off and flog them off to fund more tasteful, better quality alternatives.


Mk2 Golf Bodywork

Despite the fact that they were so much better than the Mk1 at fending off the dreaded tin worm, with the youngest Mk2s being 21 years old, don’t make the mistake of ignoring the prospect of rust. Hotspots include the sills, wheelarches, door bottoms, rear valance, the seam where the floor panel meets the sill and the metal around sunroofs. The lower bulkhead and front suspension subframe are also known troublespots, so take time with a torch to carry out a proper inspection.


While it’s yet to gain the true kudos of the original hatch, Mk2 prices are rising fast – so if you want one, now might be a good time to buy. Kicking off with the GTis, the 16v commands a premium over the 8v and you can expect to pay £1,500 at the bottom end and up to £5,000 for a really clean historied example, with the 8v costing slightly less. The last of the line GTis with the rainbow cloth and central locking may fetch in excess of this, especially if it’s in sought after Oak Green / Bright Blue Metallic.

Increasingly, however, it’s the non-GTi models, in particular the early small bumper models, that are getting interest from old school enthusiasts – largely for their rarity as so few have survived. Obviously three-door models look nicer than the five-door and to this end we’d look to the Driver. You should easily be able to find one of these in decent condition for under £2,000. Finally, anything that’s had an engine transplant seems to hover around £4,000 which can be fabulous value considering the work involved

History of the Mk2 Golf

1984– ten years after the original Mk1 broke cover, VW decide to introduce its replacement – although plans for the Mk1’s successor date back to as early as 1979. Unlike the original, which was designed by Giugiaro, the Mk2 blueprint was penned in-house. Linking the two cars, visually, is the broad C-panel between the rear doors and tailgate on the more curvy Mk2, albeit at the expense of repeating the biggest point of criticism on the original Golf, it’s rear three-quarter blindspot.

1986– the 16v version of the GTi becomes available with and extra 27bhp. 1987– the Mk2 receives its first makeover with grille slats being reduced from seven to five and the mechanical K-jet fuel injection system being replaced with a fully-electronic Digifant system on the 8v GTi.

1989– bigger bumpers replace the skinny versions and the rubber bump strips along the side are made smaller for the 90 spec GTi models, the small bumpers remained for the non GTi models. VW also unveil two new models; the motorsport derived four-wheel drive LHD-only supercharged Rallye (of which just 5000 were built) and the limited edition supercharged G60.

1991– Mk2 production comes to a close – to be replaced by the heavier, and bulkier Mk3. Although some Mk2s exist on 1992 and 1993 registrations.

Technical Specifications

Model Driver 8v GTi 16v GTi
Years 1984 - 91 1984 - 91 1986 - 91
Engine 1781cc / 4cyl 1781cc / 4cyl 1781cc / 4cyl
Power 85bhp 112bhp 139bhp
0-60mph 12 seconds 9 seconds 7.9 seconds
Top Speed 107mph 121mph 129mph
MPG 35 32 30

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