VW Jetta LS: The Backpack Golf

Hardy Mutschler
VW Jetta LS
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A ls Klaus Westrup his legendary reflection on the Writing down charmless cars for auto motor und sport, he chose a special car: a VW Jetta II with turbodiesel engine. That touched me a lot back then.

Almost every VW Jetta has been 'upgraded'

Not because I would have succumbed to the charm of the uninspired at a young age. No, I drove a Jetta myself. Okay, not me, but my girlfriend at the time. She was just graduating from high school and her father had bought the Jetta. So that the child has something to drive. With automatic, because the child had just passed the driving test. The Jetta was in ari silver, built in 1980 and had already been upgraded by the previous owner with six inch wide Exip wheels, 205 tires and a glass roof.

My contribution was limited to the installation of a three-spoke steering wheel from a Scirocco from the scrapyard and a cassette radio from the Waltham Metro wholesale market. We used it to play tapes by James Taylor and Joan Armatrading while we drove to Stockholm or Budapest. The Jetta was a thankful touring car. It consumed barely more than ten liters of regular gasoline, and the camping luggage fit in the huge trunk for two weeks. Including the larger parts of a folding pouch boat and an Ibanez guitar with a peace dove sticker. The rest had to go to the back seat. A through-loading hatch for skis - or folding boat poles - was only available on the Jetta II. At that time, my fleet consisted of a rusted Manta A that had cost 1,200 marks and a Yamaha XT500, which was possibly even cheaper. Neither of these alternatives for vacation trips. So Jetta.

Unbeatable: the monumental trunk

The auto motor und sport article opened your eyes to the subtle eroticism of driving a Jetta. Because Exip wheels, glass roof and sports steering wheel hadn't really changed the essence of the green automatic Jetta. As described by Westrup, it was an unattractive car that 'distinguishes itself from the many exciting dreams on our roads by its excellent functioning and total inconspicuousness'. What differentiated it from the VW Golf at the time would perhaps be called a statement today. Because whoever consciously preferred the Jetta with the square notchback to a modern, sober Golf, was saying something like: 'I don't give a damn about zeitgeist and modernity. I need a lotTrunk, and I don't care what it looks like. 'Everything was planned differently. The Jetta was not intended as an alternative for those buyers who thought the model change from Ascona B to C seemed too radical.

Much more should be According to VW Marketing, he closes the gap between the Golf and Passat and embodies 'the concept of the compact, sporty car with a large range of transport space, driving comfort and performance', as the press kit for the market launch in 1979 reported. Of course, he did not Although the chosen designation Jetta was supposed to refer to 'the jet stream blowing over the Atlantic and the comfort and performance of the modern travel jet', the notchback Golf became more the epitome of automotive philistinism. Jetta was not driven by young, dynamic people who might have lost their trunk of the BMW 3 Series of the E21 series was too small, but mostly older married couples, happily employed in the civil service, for whom a Golf too modern, an Opel C-Kadett too proletarian and a Mercedes W123 was too expensive. They put 'A Heart for Children' stickers on the boot lid and mostly blocked the German Fairy Tale Route during the school holidays.

In the USA, the Jetta has always been loved - and survived three model changes

In this way, the name Jetta was a total overkill. This clientele would probably not have bothered if the working name from the development phase had landed on the trunk lid: Hummel. But then his international career might have been denied him. Because across the Atlantic, the Jetta was better understood. Here he survived three model changes and was still successful as a Jetta, when the backpacking wolves in this country were long known as Vento and Bora. As if that had helped against the hat-and-suspenders image. Logically, the fifth generation is called Jetta again, here too. At the time, we might not just like the Jetta because it was practical, reliable and a gift. It was different too.

There is a message in the commitment to a non-appealing, purely functional automobile. You have to be able to afford to drive a Jetta. At least that was the case around twenty years ago; today everything is different. The first-generation Jetta has aged gracefully. And unlike so many other cars that you come across again after such a long time, it has hardly changed. Perhaps it's also because memories of the Jetta are not as transfigured as those of the yellow Manta A or the dark blue Alfasud TI from Alfa Romeo, which I drove a short time later. The bucket tappet engine from the large 827 family is still a grumpy fellow, whose performance, especially in combination with the three-speed automatic, in no way compensates for the mediocre smooth running.

The former philistine car is causing a stir today

Today the 70 hp Jetta has to betorment properly in order to be able to swim with the traffic to some extent. The automatic type needs around 15 seconds to accelerate from zero to a hundred. 15 real and at least 25 felt seconds. Just like before. Something completely different has changed: With a Jetta I from 1980 you are by no means inconspicuous. In any case, in Wolfsburg, the immaculate two-door from the holdings of the Volkswagen Auto Museum Foundation caused astonished looks, thumbs up and curious questions. And you still get used to the car very quickly. After just a few kilometers, everything is as familiar as if you had just driven a VW for a lifetime.

The turn signal switch with the chicken-bone feel, the humorless layout of the display instruments, the fragile window cranks and the brave struggle of the engine with the torque converter - all of this wipes away 20 years in five minutes. Perhaps that also applies to the new Jetta, which, like its first predecessor, was placed in the gap between the Golf and Passat. At least 20 years ago I would not have dared to dream of a Jetta version: The US version of the new Jetta has a five-cylinder that is basically nothing more than a Gallardo propellant cut in half. A Jetta with a Lamborghini engine, that would have been it.

VW Jetta history

1979: Jetta production starts in autumn with three engine variants.
1981: First facelift and new engines, including Diesel.
1984: At the same time as the Golf II comes the Jetta II.
1992: The Jetta successor based on the Golf III is called Vento
1998: The notchback version of the Golf IV is called Bora in Germany, in North America and South Africa stick to the name Jetta
2005: The fifth generation of the Golf is again given a notchback model. From now on it's called Jetta again in Germany.


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