In the beginning...
During the gas bubble of 2005, I was driving a Proton Yellow Isuzu Vehicross. The VX is still one of my most favorite vehicles I owned, just because it was so unique. There are only about 4000 in the US, mine was number 779 of about 1000 Proton Yellow VXs in the US. However, the car got about 16 miles to the gallon... as I travel in excess of 20,000 miles a year, most years, this was getting expensive and I did not see any end in sight for the gas prices going up (looking back, I could not have been more right, yikes).
I started researching hybrids in August, but frankly, all the hybrids look like ass. Yes I said ass. The Honda Civic hybrid was the most reasonable looking vehicle of the bunch, but the fuel economy on it left a bit to be desired; Prior to my VX, I owned a Chevy Corvette C5, back before every Tom, Dick and Harry had the C5... back when they were still cool. Before that, I made the mistake of buying a Mustang Cobra. So for a number of years, I had been living in the high power/big displacement world. Moving to the budget/"disposable" car world was something I was having trouble with.
I researched the hybrids to death, and just could not convince myself that I could happily drive a hybrid, given thier performance, looks and potentially misleading fuel economy numbers. Also, the question of what the heck do I do with the batteries in 5 or 10 years when they wear out was something I didn't want to deal with.
Somehow, I learned of the fuel effeciency of the diesel VWs and I began researching them. I quickly became convinced that the TDI was, overall, a more effecient vehicle than any hybrid currently marketed over the lifetime of the vehicle, given there were no batteries to dispose of, the fuel economy was on par with, or sometimes better than anything but the Honda Insight (Good lord, what an ugly beast). I wasn't too keen on the Golfs (but they've grown on me, and I like them now) - but the Jettas looked good, had decent cargo capacity, and best of all, could be modified quite a bit.
So I set out on a search for a Jetta. Carmax didn't have any, of course, since it was the height of the fuel bubble of 2005 - any and all TDIs were being snapped up for ridiculous amounts. One dealer in Denver had a brand new black TDI for $26,000. I almost bougth this car, sight unseen since it was so hard to find them ... thankfully, I backed out of the deal before it was too late - I did not know, at the time, that the new TDI's with the PD engines and new body style were less fuel efficient than the A4s, or that they would be much harder to work on and modify. What caused me to back out of this purchase was, actually, a picture I saw of a Toyota Corolla parked next to a new Jetta. From the rear, the cars were almost identical, except for the badges. I didn't want a Corolla! After I saw this picture, I was firmly in the A4 camp.
I happened across an ad for a white A4 TDI about 40 miles from me for $15,500. A little pricey at the time for a 2003, but not unreasonable. I drove out there at 10 o'clock at night, on my motorcycle, on dirt roads to take a look at it. In the dark, it looked pretty good... took it for a spin and it was reasonable. Certainly wasn't a monster in the HP department, but it was adequate.
I made them a lowball offer close to blue book... they obviously refused, which I expected. I called them back the next day and told them I'd do $15,000 on it, and they agreed. I was the new owner of a 2003 Campenella White Jetta TDI.