1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

The advertising tag line for the 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup was “So American, it’s not available in Germany”. Since the mid 1980s, though, the opposite has been true as the truck range of Volkswagen was removed from the U.S. lineup. In some ways, that’s a bit strange since the small truck market was so strong in the mid-to-late 1980s, but starting in the 90s and culminating in the early 2000s, the small truck market evaporated as the crossover to large trucks became so easy and prevalent. But big trucks have gotten very expensive, and smaller trucks (which really are the size of 1980s full sized trucks) are experiencing a minor resurgence – so much so that VW is rumored to be thinking of bringing the Amarok starting as early as next year. So, let’s take a look back at where the VW pickup began:

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1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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Longtime reader Sam was selling his “Blue Colonel” Rabbit Pickup in Portland but saw another extremely clean Caddy for sale at the same time. It looks like the Blue Colonel has sold, but this beautiful little LX – leatherette and wood dash included – is still looking for a new home. It’s covered 134k gentle miles and spent most of last 15 years in a temperature controlled garage. Everything looks original in the best of ways, including the clean engine compartment. $6k is a pretty common number for diesel Caddys, but we’ll see if this excellent gas pickup can swing that much too.

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Custom 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup – REVISIT

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Last summer I saw this insane VW Rabbit Pickup concoction rocking an extended cab, air bags, and monochrome dark green interior to match the exterior. It still has the 1.5-liter diesel lump to pull all that extra weight, but that’s not the only explanation for it still sitting outside the same garage it was almost a year ago. At first, the seller had it for sale for $11k, but it didn’t sell. Then he made it a reserve auction with the Buy It Now at $11k and it got up to $4,600 but didn’t crack the reserve. He tried again, and it only reached $4,500. Third times a charm with the same auction, right? Nope, then he only got to $4,300. It’s almost as if the eBay bidders were taunting him. Well, he’s trying a different tack now: Start the bidding at $6,500 and lower the Buy It Now to $8,500. I feel a little bad for the guy; as stated in my original post, this truck has clearly taken a ton of time, money, and work. Unfortunately, the market for custom extended, ground-rubbing diesel Rabbit Pickups seems to be very small and capped around $5k. I wish him the best, but wouldn’t bet on it selling yet.

The below post originally appeared on our site August 9, 2015:

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1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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After Friday’s wallet-busting Rabbit Pickup, we have a sweet little diesel model that doesn’t have quite the top-to-bottom shine as the low beige caddy but is looking to pack quite the value. Pretty much everything under the hood has been redone with top-notch parts from OEM supplier The Parts Place, so you can bet this little pickup is going to run for many decades to come. The value comes in because there’s still work to be done on the interior and running gear, but those are things you can do over time, improve, and customize in much simpler ways than the motor. The reserve is still on the auction and bidding is hot, but it’s looking like this is going to be a right-priced economy truck with tons of potential.

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1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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When I saw the first picture and almost $16k asking price for this beige Rabbit Pickup auction, I thought it was yet another grossly optimistic seller shooting the moon for a wealthy ’80s VW fan that doesn’t exist. It just looked like another slammed Caddy on black wheels, and the weird and vaguely inappropriate intro in the description doesn’t really help. A closer look at the extensive work and the quality inside and out – if you can sort through the horribly formatted ad – starts to paint a very different picture. A rebuilt stock 1.8 and 5-speed are from 1986 Golf (my Rabbit Pickup had the same swap), and the whole undercarriage looks better than new. Recaro Trophys from a MkII and door cards and carpet from a MkI Jetta highlight the very clean interior. Refurbished black Snowflakes and a duckbill spoiler bring some OEM+ to the party, and LED head and tail lights are surprisingly attractive and unobtrusive.

From 20 feet away it looks like a budget slammer, but up close it looks like the “showstopper jaw dropper” that the seller describes. If it was white or black on silver rims, it might look like the classic clean German style. Maybe that’s the point, a play on the Caddy slammer scene while actually keeping most of it restrained and well-chosen. I’m still not sure if that makes it worth $16k.

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What a Drag: 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup ABD 2.1 16V

Way back in time, before the proliferation of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – indeed, before the Internet really got off its feet at all, dreams were made not with by-the-minute browser refreshes eagerly anticipating the next clever comment or picture of someone eating an avocado. If you weren’t actually traveling the automotive scene, you were totally reliant on your monthly delivery of new automobile magazines. In high school, I had at one point four different subscriptions and poured over the details of every single car that graced the pages of what was my Bible. But it was in the mid 1990s that I stumbled across a magazine that really spoke to me much more than the BMW-loving Car and Driver or the fairly vanilla Automobile; I found a copy of European Car. It was a complete revelation to me, to see the cars that not only I dreamt about but could actually afford parts for. Nearly as good, if not perhaps better, than the feature articles were the advertisements. The “Dr. Feelgood”s of the European tuner scene, companies like Techtonics Tuning and Total Audi Performance spoke to my specific needs in ways that the mainstream magazines couldn’t. And within those advertisements, one particular company became something of a legend among a small group of friends who all shared the enthusiasm for Volkswagens. That company was AutoBahn Designs, better known as ABD Racing – and what they had created was an absolute monster. In the days before the ubiquitous VR-swap for VWs, dropping a 16V into the nose of your car was about as hot as you could get. But ABD took that recipe to the next level with a custom-built 2.1 16V with massive compression and side-draft carburetors. But it was really what they put it in that set them apart, as ABD chose a Caddy for the massive build. The result, stripped out, painted up and dominating the import drag scene, still gives me goose bumps when I see it all these years later:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup ABD 2.1 16V on eBay

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1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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“Looks good, runs good” is the perfect opening line for this ad in its simplicity and lack of hoity-toity grammar. No matter what people try to charge for them as time goes on, Volkswagen Rabbit Pickups will always be about honest practicality. No frills, no big tires, no in-dash DVD players. These trucks are about getting you from A to B faster and carrying more stuff than a bike could. And probably using less energy as well, especially with these diesels that approach 50 mpgs.

This red on red example is very straight with good paint, a nice spray-in liner that will battle the elements and rust, and a clean interior (other than some hidden, reportedly beat seats). The seller has done his part to address any leaks and squeaks, and prior to him there was an alleged rebuild around 30k miles ago. 160k is pretty early for these diesels to need much attention, but with a new owner willing to address any further drips and noises that arise, you can be sure the motor will keep going until we finally burn this green and blue sphere to dust.

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Custom 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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This crazy, custom Rabbit Pickup popped up a little while back but the auction ended before I was able to get it up here. As the seller states at the end of the ad, clearly this truck was NOT built for speed or performance, but to be a wild-looking showpiece. Stretched and slammed with countless custom touches, there is some outstanding craftsmanship, though the interior leaves a bit to be desired. While I love the grey-green exterior that puts a slight mellow on the exterior aesthetics, I think he was going for a similar look inside that ended up just looking kind of faded and old. I love that ragtop though. Overall this is just a weird personal challenge completed that will turn heads wherever it goes, even if it goes rather slowly due to an awful turning radius and meager diesel power.

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1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup Diesel

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I love Rabbit Pickups, and they’ve experienced a bit of a renaissance here in the Bay Area with more and more moseying by on the road. Perhaps the newly-rich hipsters are realizing how cool they are and plucking them from around the country. Demand has risen to the point where some jokers think a diesel and a crappy respray can demand $15k, but it seems like the ridiculous prices may just be encouraging other silly sellers as opposed to truly elevating prices. This one doesn’t have an extensive history but it does have some nice parts, namely a 1.9-liter turbodiesel upgrade and some large, late-model VW wheels.

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1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup Turbodiesel

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Turbo’d Rabbit Pickup diesels are becoming quite a thing, as they are regularly showing up for sale and make up a large percentage of the little Rabbitaminos for sale in general. Some opt for the later 1.9-liter TDI, but this one appears to be an original (albeit refreshed) engine with a turbo bolted on. It surely boosts performance but sends the mileage up a bit as well, returning an astonishing 50-60 mpg. With a fresh coat of a gorgeous Mazda green and very nicely reupholstered Jetta seats, this little Caddy flies under the radar but hides a serious performer. All this comes for what, compared to some Rabbit Pickups, is a downright reasonable price.

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