Guess what's become the hottest tuner car for eco-geeks and for used-car buyers who care about fuel economy? Used -- we're talking well-used -- Volkswagen diesels from the mid-1980s.
With gasoline at $3 a gallon nationally, prices for old VW diesels have been booming. Compare a 1985 Jetta TDI diesel to a 1985 gasoline-powered Jetta. The diesel-powered car sells for around $5,000, about $2,500 more than the gasoline Jetta.
Scan the completed auctions on eBay, and you'll see dozens of early to mid-1980s VW diesels with 150,000 to 200,000 or more miles selling for between $4,000 and $6,000.
The phenomenon has been noticed at Volkswagen of America. Spokesman Keith Price says one reason for the surging demand for old diesels is that the cars can be converted easily to run on used vegetable oil from junk food emporiums.
"It's an ideal platform for those types of conversions," he said, "and there's no loss of driveability."
Price said there are more common parts used in VW diesels and models of all years, keeping simplicity high and parts costs down.