1977 Volkswagen Rabbit VR6 24V swap

Did the high-mileage R32 from earlier get you wondering what you might do with the drivetrain? A little over three years ago, we took a look at a special early Rabbit. Dressed in Miami Blue and looking subtly upgraded with Corrado steel wheels and a lower ride height, what the exterior didn’t give away was that lurking under the hood was a 2.8 liter 24V VR6 motor popped in. The swap looked well executed and generally clean outside of some loose wiring, and the builder hadn’t gone over the top with a crazy interior – instead, relying on the original items for a true sleeper status. With a few minor changes like a better executed intake, engine cover and some odds and ends, the car has reappeared with generally the same introduction – but that’s okay with us, because the look is spot on! It’s also a no reserve auction, so we’ll get to see where an honest yet seriously quick Rabbit gets you these days.

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1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup GTi

Volkswagen of America’s small pickup truck offered a unique experience at the beginning of the 1980s; basically, the front half of the pickup was a Rabbit, which meant relative comfort, reliability, easy of use and driving and good fuel economy. In back, Volkswagen stretched the wheelbase nine inches and swapped in a tubular axle supported by leaf springs giving the pick up 1,100 lbs of payload capacity and a six foot bed – not too shabby! They even launched a “Sportruck” model, which gave you bucket seats and some really trick decals that covered most of the side. You also got some amazing options for the period, like a tachometer (wooooow) and a 5-speed transmission. However, the mix of 1.7 liter, low compression 8V motors available weren’t exactly going ignite your enthusiast dreams. 78 horsepower channeled through the manual would return a not particularly stunning 0-50 time of 9.7 seconds. 60, you’ll remember, was illegal in the United States at that time, so why bother designing a car that could approach it?

But Westmoreland, PA produced some other neat Volkswagens around the same time, though – notably, the U.S. finally got the higher compression, higher output GTi. Though Volkswagen themselves never combined them, that hasn’t stopped some enterprising individuals:

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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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1982 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible with 8,000 Miles

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:

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible

When considering the Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible and it’s Halloween disguise replacement, the Cabriolet, I was at a bit of a loss to explain its general lack of popularity. It wears much of the same DNA as the very popular, universally lauded, and VW market darlings of the moment GTi and first generation Scirocco. Yet it is often dismissed as too soft, too heavy, too weak on performance, and too girly. This is strange, since it’s not the removal of the top that dynamically changes it much. You don’t look at a R107 or Porsche Cabriolet and think ‘Wow, those drapes they’ve put on top have really made this car feminine.’ I guess ultimately it’s probably like the difference between the two Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Underneath, the share 99% plus of the same DNA. They’re both intelligent, well spoken, dynamic and ruthlessly, take-no-prisoners fast on the race track. Yet when it comes down to it, the crowd loves the plucky underdog Brit, while the cold and calculating German seems a bit of the villain. Silly, right?

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Feature Listing: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit L

I’ve spent a fair amount of time documenting the importance of Porsche’s 924 model on these pages, but the first generation Volkswagen Golf was equally if not more important. Like the 924, it signaled the shift for the Wolfsburg firm from its tried and true air cooled roots into the modern age of water cooled, front-engine designs. Taking the design pioneered by the Mini, Volkswagen adopted a transverse engine layout driving the front wheels. To package their new platform, Volkswagen turned to Giuigaro, an ex-Ghia employee who had helped design the swoopy and popular Karmann Ghia. But the shift from air to water cooling needed a new direction, and capitalizing on the wedge designs he had pioneer in cars like the Maserati Merak and Lotus Esprit, Giugiaro made an angular but pretty design with a signature large greenhouse. While not a revolutionary design in either engine, platform or interior/exterior look, the first generation Golf hit the market at just the right time – in the midst of the OPEC-driven oil embargo. The effects were long reaching in the U.S. even though the embargo was lifted in 1974; we adopted a national speed limit, daylight saving time was invented to reduce electric consumption and small, efficient cars like the Golf became popular. Like the 924, in addition to being a sales success in its own right, the Volkswagen Golf was the platform which launched several successful other models. The Scirocco, Jetta, Cabriolet and third generation Passat all came from the original design, along with pretty much every single car VAG makes today. But unlike the 924, appreciation for the original design has been very widespread and the first Golf was even nominated for (and came close to winning) Car of the Century. As cars have become increasingly complex, fast, heavy and expensive, the this 1978 Rabbit brings us back that more simple time:

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1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

It’s been 15 years since I traded in that piece of crap 2000 Volkswagen GTI. I haven’t had the nerve to buy another Volkswagen since, but this isn’t a problem since the Scirocco and Polo GTI are conveniently omitted from the US product lineup. I am convinced to this day that VW had hired away some Fiat assembly plant workers back in the dark days of the 1970s and would employ them on the line when the Germans went on holiday. There was no other way of explaining a car that would self destruct in front of my own eyes. It also made me pine for the simpler days of the car we see here, the original Volkswagen GTI. This 1984 GTI for sale in New York reminds me of the example fellow GCFSBer Brian owns, albeit in stock form. For a final year Mk1 GTI, rarely do they get this nice and it has just the right amount of mileage and patina that won’t deter an enthusiast from using it as intended.

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1981 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet

For a decade the Mercedes-Benz R107 SL held a monopoly on topless motoring in Germany. Granted, the Beetle Convertible ran alongside the R107, but honestly they were no where near the same product and certainly didn’t appeal to the same clientele. The company narrowed the gap in 1980 though; Beetle Convertible production ended and a new topless VW came onto the market in the Golf Cabriolet. Modern engines and driving dynamics made the Cabriolet a much more appealing affordable option to those who wished to have some fun in the sun, and though Porsche and BMW would join the topless crew a few years later it still seems that the R107 and the Cabriolet personified the ends of the market and both were extremely popular in their own right. While the Mercedes-Benz has been gaining traction as a collector-status car, the Cabriolet has been slower to be appreciated by enthusiasts but a mint condition original model in European trim is certain to raise some eyebrows as it drops its top:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1981 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet on eBay

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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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1984 Volkswagen GTI

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When I first saw this GTI, I thought “that’s a beautiful Mk1 GTI,” immediately followed by “they want $15k with 216,000 miles?!” which is the exact response the seller is discouraging in his ad, as I later found out. What I also found out as I read further and drooled over the pictures was that this GTI has just about everything new on it. Seriously, it’s like new under there with a rebuild with a fresh bottom end, all suspension, rebuilt brakes, and an interior redone in new-old-stock GTI red cloth. It’s pretty much perfect, and the mudflaps put me over the damn edge (I put some on my E28 M5 this winter and am now obsessed). This is the best non-original, like-new GTI out there.

Click for details: 1984 Volkswagen GTI on eBay

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