In the early 1980s, there were precious few options for open-air German motoring. Sure, there was the tried and true Mercedes-Benz SL; a luxury car aimed more at boulevard cruising and polo club grand-standing than the Sport Licht moniker would indicate. Porsche’s 911 Cabriolet was certainly more sporty, but also too expensive for most to contemplate as a fun second car. BMW and Audi? The latter was over a decade away from having a factory convertible, and the former took until the mid-80s to introduce its drop-top 3-series. For the plebeians, then, the only real option was Volkswagen’s Rabbit convertible.
Rabbit Convertibles were produced by Karmann in Osnabrück, Germany – about a two and a half hour drive west from Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg plant. As they did with the Scirocco, Karmann’s distinctive badge adorned the model, here on the front fenders. The intensive construction process laden with chassis strengthening and bespoke items like the added roll-over bar meant that VW’s normal production line couldn’t handle the task. Although these were the heaviest of the A1 models, compared to today’s metal they were downright lithe; a manual early Convertible like today’s, even with air conditioning optioned in, weighed less than 2,300 lbs. While never the most powerful in the lineup, the light weight and manual transmission made the original Rabbit convertibles one of the more entertaining ways to experience compact German engineering and open-air motoring in the notoriously malaise early 80s.
While the persona surrounding the model, and more generally the people who bought the model new, tends to steer away from the typical ‘enthusiast’, the Rabbit Convertible has nonetheless moved solidly into collector territory. It’s a smart-looking, practically packaged and fun to drive convertible that can be run on a budget, fit four people in relative comfort and generate smiles throughout. In a world of increasingly serious automobiles, the Rabbit Convertible and Cabriolet models were just simple fun.…
Do you know how many times I’ve heard “It was just too nice to part out” when referring to an older Audi? Heck, I’ve personally had three that I’ve said that very sentence for, and at least one more I should have said that about. One time I bought a 4000S front wheel drive 5-speed simply because I wanted a door. No, I’m not joking. The entire car was in mint shape – Sapphire with Marine Blue velour, and because I was 18 and had fully subscribed to the idea that the only good Audis were all-wheel drive Audis, I paid $300 to rip what was otherwise one of the nicest 4000S models I had seen to that point in my life apart. Most of it went to the junkyard, in fact. It’s something that near 40 year old me is mad at 18 year old me about, still.
Fast forward 22 years into the future, and since then I keep hearing the phrase in relation to all sorts of obscure, slightly crusty and forgotten examples of the brand. So when this 4000S 4E 2-door popped up for sale with just that thought in the seller’s advertisement, it was worth a look.
Yesterday’s 1985 Scirocco was a well modded driver. But if you wanted to win a preservation class – or, just liked the original configuration the car came in – it wasn’t for you. Today’s car answers those critics with a very clean first-year model of the second generation design. Though the shape of the new Scirocco was modern for the time, underneath the specification changed little from the outgoing model. It was still a Mk.1 underneath, with a 1.7 liter, 74 horsepower inline-4 providing adequate motivation to the 2,000 lb. coupe. Where the original Giugiaro design had held lovely nuance, the Karmann-penned follow-up borrowed heavily from the Asso di Picche design (ironically, also from Giugiaro) meaning it was all angles, everywhere. But it pulled it off reasonably well, and the second generation was quite popular, selling about a quarter million units in total. There were rolling changes throughout the years as more power, bigger spoilers and wheels, and even a more traditional second wiper appeared. But in terms of purity, the simple design shows through well despite the clunky U.S. spec bumpers on the early models like this 1982:
The product catalog for what Formula E is makes for a pretty hilarious read. “Passive Formula-E systems built in to your VW begin with an aerodynamic body design that cuts down on wind resistance.” Have you actually looked at a Rabbit? I guess in terms of footprint, it was physically smaller than a Chrysler Cordoba, so there’s that? But ‘aerodynamic’ is not the first thing I think of when I see an A1. It continues on touting the benefits of radial tires (Wooooow), a high-torque engine (compared to….?), and the George Costanza-inspired “breakerless transistorized ignition”. What it really was was a long 5th gear, denoted on Audis as the ‘4+E’ in the same year. What that meant was it spun the high-torque motor down to low revs, and that road better be pretty flat and not particularly windy if you’d like to maintain any speed. And, if you downshifted to pass anything or go the speed limit, immediately an arrow-shaped light would pop on the dash, reminding you that fuel was being wasted. But Volkswagen claimed it was good for 42 m.p.g. in a period still reeling from the fuel crises of the 1970s, and marketing is marketing.
What the Rabbit Convertible really offered you was one of the very few drop-top options in the early 1980s. Remember, this was a time when Detroit had pulled out of convertibles following hints they would be banned by the NHTSB. Japan didn’t really have much of anything on offer, either, as it hadn’t really established itself fully into the market in anything other than superb economy cars. And Germany? In 1982, you had two options – the Mercedes-Benz 380SL, or the Rabbit Convertible which had replaced the Beetle in 1980. That was it. In some ways, that makes these early Rabbits special, and though these Volkswagens were no where near as dear as the Daimlers, some who bought them treated them as royalty:
A few weeks ago Craig wrote a post in which he talked about Netflix’s Stranger Things, an exhaustively accurate depiction of life in 1983. However, one glaring problem immediately stuck out to me as I watched it. The moment the character Barb appeared in her Volkswagen Cabriolet, I scoffed “that’s not an ’83”, much to the bemusement of my wife, who was turning to me every time a car appeared on screen. As these series often go to great lengths to find era-accurate cars, it was strange for them to have what appeared to be a post-’88 Wolfsburg edition car in the mix, especially considering it’s possible to find plenty of 1970s Volkswagens. Plus, if they had just waited a few weeks, Barb could have instead borrowed her parent’s Quantum GL, which has sat in a loving state of 1983 since…well, probably 1984:
To round out my trifecta of A1s over the past two days, I thought we’d look at one that ironically brought the biggest smile to my face. It’s not because it’s the high performance model, nor is it because it’s in the best condition. What appeals to me about this Rabbit is the simplicity and the originality of it; a preserved time capsule from less complicated times. As I read about the recall of every car with an airbag ever made, I couldn’t help but ponder how complicated building and engineering cars has become. Not only do automakers need to provide a means of transportation, they need to calculate nearly risk factors, buy and install sub-contracted components that hopefully are made to specification and deliver a car to market that performs flawlessly, reliably, and economically. They need to dress these cars with the most modern conveniences; cars today read your mail, open your doors, tell you how much traffic is directly around you, how to avoid potential traffic in the future and can even tell when you’re getting sleepy. If you think about it, it’s pretty insane. Then, you see something like this Rabbit L. It’s small, not particularly safe in a crash, not particularly luxurious, you have to do almost everything while driving it, and it will probably break. But it has a lot of character, and character is something I love:
While I’ve spent a lot of time on 10K Fridays looking for the most car for your money, today we’re going to take a different path and look at the least Porsche for your money. Sound a bit strange? Well, while other Porsche models have taken off in value or are on the verge of being completely unaffordable, it’s refreshing to know you can still get a nice quality Porsche on a budget. Could you get into a beaten 944 Turbo for this money? Yes, and perhaps if you’re looking for a performance car that would be a better choice. But in the true spirit of the creation of both the 914 and 924, I want to look at the most simple versions of both of these cars. Which would be the one for you? Let’s start with the 914:
Engine: 1.7 liter flat-4
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Mileage: 100,000 mi
Price: $7,500 Buy It Now
1972 914 porsche from california new tires fuel injected very rust free for more info call dennis 847 521 9442
I have to admit, I’m a more recent convert to thinking clean 914s are pretty cool. They’re not the most attractive by any measure, but they have a Lotus-like simple design. Think of this car as the Porsche Europa and it makes a little more sense. Pop the top and you’ve got a fun, simple targa design. This model has some upgraded alloys and looks reasonably clean. Miles are lower and the price – $7,500 – wouldn’t get you into much of any other Porsche; that is, except the underdog 924:
The 924 is such a clean and elegant design, it’s nice to see them in their original spec.…