1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup Diesel

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When you see copies of your first car on the road, do you get pangs to drop everything and go buy one? I do, and will always feel fortunate that my first year of driving was spent in a car as unique as Rabbit Pickup. Look around at the trucks available today; even the well-reviewed “small” Chevy Colorado is a pretty substantial beast. How great to be able to throw your stuff in the bed of a truck that weighs about a single ton, gets 45 mpg, and looks as good as a Mk1 Rabbit? Unless it’s a mediocre example for stupid money, I’m itching to get back in one. Today’s bronze Caddy gets me all hot and bothered as it looks exceptionally clean and comes with some serious Mk2 upgrades. The turbodiesel 1.9 liter is a significant improvement over the 1.6 non-turbo from a decade earlier, and this one also comes with the seats, steering wheel, and transmission from the donor 1992 Golf. The side graphics (which almost give a wood-panel look on the bronze paint) and front bumper delete help to make this funny little truck extra-unique.

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1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup Diesel

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Instead of Friday Fail, today we’ve got Sunday Smokers. I’m not sure what kind of dust is floating around the Dusty Old Cars warehouse, but I think it might be crack. I love Rabbit Pickups – not only was my first car one, but they’re precisely the kind of European oddity that we rarely get in the US but, for some magical reason, were blessed with for a few years in the early 80s. Practical and putting a heavy dose of fun in funky, they even came with a diesel! Today’s example is one of those oil-burners, wears a fresh coat of baby blue paint, and – despite 187k miles – the engine bay looks a great. However, a little closer look reveals some big question marks (like any description at all?) and possible rust spots that were just painted over. Even if it is just cosmetic and the truck were perfect, their asking price of $14,950 (down from $17,899, lucky you!) is top dollar for perfectly restored, low-mile, and modified Caddys. I realize New Hampshire is all about Live Free or Die, but with the amount of drugs these guys are doing, it doesn’t sound like they’ll be living free much longer.

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1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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I’m a huge Rabbit Pickup fan, and frequently startle the people around me when I see one as I excitedly point out “Look at that! That was my first car! Yes, that weird little Volkswagen. It was awesome.” Despite coming from Florida, today’s Caddy is pretty exceptional, sporting Mk3 running gear and full interior, taking the OEM+ concept to a wonderful extreme. Adding a turbo to the 2-point-slow should certainly help this pickup’s gittyup, while Weitec coil overs and upgraded brakes should help turn what was a fun driver into a moderately serious weapon. The Rabbit Pickup should never be taken too seriously, and the bold blue helps with that, but overall this is one of the more exceptional Caddy restomods I’ve seen.

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#Fail Friday: 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup+

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My one main complaint with my 1981 Rabbit Pickup was that the passenger compartment was a pretty tight squeeze between the low roof and too-close rear wall – beyond that, it was a hilarious, competent, unique, and fun-to-drive car. Today’s oddball Frankenstein monster fixes my one gripe by melding a Rabbit Hatchback with a Pickup, creating a Crew Cab Caddy reminiscent of Rutledge Wood’s limo on Top Gear America (I don’t blame you if you haven’t seen it). While the extra legroom and seating for four are nice additions and it allegedly runs and drives, this is clearly a half-baked project with many, many needs. The seller thinks its rarity makes it as valuable as a top-notch Caddy, but it would take a lot of time and money to make it even presentable.

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1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup TDI

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Today we have a sweet Rabbit Pickup that has gone through a complete restoration and updated to a rebuilt 1997 TDI motor from a Passat. These were efficient little buggers in the first place, but now it’s got a little more power while maintaining the best gas mileage of any truck out there. It may not be the most attractive Caddy we’ve seen, as the emblemless grille and tacked-on hood scoop scar the front while the innocuous grey has that slightly dull finish marking a budget repaint. But the interior is quite nice with Recaros and a nice wood wheel-and-knob combo, underscoring the fact that this little pickup is built for comfort and utility. With just 15k miles on the renewed package, the seller is looking for top-Caddy dollar, asking $11,400.

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1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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I still miss my first car, a white 1981 VW Rabbit Pickup, and can easily recall the smell, the feel of the golf-ball shifter, and the way it liked to be tossed into corners. It doesn’t surprise me that they (along with what seems to be every funky, cool 80s German car) are slowly rising in value. There are pristine examples out there, both original and restored/modified, but the vast majority are survivors that have experienced some swaps and exploitation of the interchangeability of 1980s VW parts. Mine was certainly such a truck, and today’s 1983 example has been kept alive with a healthy appreciation for the OEM+ school of thought. It’s running a 1983 GTI engine, transmission, Snowflakes, and instrument cluster – nothing crazy, but if you like the GTI, you’ll have just as much fun (if not more) in this little hauler. Mk3 GTI seats are a nice upgrade, and overall the little Caddy looks decent and functional even with some like the bed showing age and use. It definitely makes me nostalgic, but does nostalgia make a piecemeal minitruck worth over five grand?

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1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Truck Turbo Diesel

What price would you be willing to pay for perfection? For most people, restoring a car is more a labor of love than a prudent investment. First there’s the massive amount of time that you need to invest to make the car right; presuming it doesn’t have massive body damage or corrosion, even what many would consider only a reasonable paint job will still cost thousands of dollars. Then there are the countless trim items that need to be replaced, seats and carpeting. Do them right and you’re looking at several thousand dollars more. Move to the suspension, brakes and drive line and another few thousand dollars will be gone. At the end, you’ll receive a disproportionately small amount of kudos for the large amount of effort and cash that you’ve infused into your project. But, it’s a labor of love – so it doesn’t matter that no one else appreciates your work, right? That’s why it’s so strange when these projects go up for sale:

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1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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Even though I feel very fortunate to have two cars I love, every time a Rabbit Pickup drives by I follow it longingly. It was an amazing first car – different, a blast to drive, moderately useful, and completely hilarious. There are quite a few still out there that could be acquired for decent prices, but the diesels and the really clean examples have begun commanding some severe premiums. Today’s example isn’t quite the modded-out tuner machine like a few that I’ve written up here, but it’s not an all-original example either. It sits as a nice in-between, with an attractive, low stance and awesome, plus-sized Snowflake wheels. The only other modifications are a duckbill front spoiler and trimmed bumper mounts, creating a subtly unique look that is more of an exaggeration of the original car rather than a revamp. The real story here is that it’s covered less than 100k miles and shows it, with the white exterior clean and the VERY RED interior in great shape.

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1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup Diesel

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For a country that loves its trucks, it’s curious we have so few options when it comes to new compact trucks. The Japanese have been in the game for quite some time, but even their offerings have grown to the point of not quite compact of late. There have been rumblings that Ford is going to get back in the game with an updated Ranger and GM is about to unleash a new Chevrolet Colorado for those who many find their full-size offerings a bit too much. Beyond compact pickups, there was another option years ago, the car-based truck.

Still available in some markets from certain manufacturers, these type of trucks were mainly used for light hauling and delivery duties. Volkswagen decided it would try its hat at its own version of the El Camino formula by offering US customers the Mk1 Rabbit Pickup years ago, known as the Caddy elsewhere. Offered for a few years alongside Rabbits and GTIs, these small trucks have a dedicated following, with many folks tuning them or adding GTI trim. This diesel version for sale in Oregon is in splendid, original condition, having been owned by one family its whole life.

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1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup

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Last year I wrote up a very cool Caddy, almost completely redone with great mods like a 16v and Brat seats in the bed. At the time, the seller was asking almost $15k, which seemed a bit optimistic. Today’s fully redone Caddy is gorgeous and leans a bit more towards the subtle end of aesthetics, but has a 16v ABF engine among a very nice list of performance improvements in addition to the cleanliness that can only come with ripping something all the way down. Unfortunately, while $15k seemed optimistic (and was… it sold for $10,900), this seller has started his auction at $12k and is asking $19k. I love Rabbit Pickups, it was my first car and I will own one again etc., but that white one represented the top of the crop. This one may be there, but that market is still short of the opening bid.

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