Motorsports Monday: 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit Swallowtail

There are very few race cars that I instantly fall in love with. A vast majority of them I see as very cool or with unique aspects, but often I’m left feeling as though I would do something – or many things – very different than the builder. But the moment I laid my eyes on this Rabbit, I fell instantly in love. Now, truth told I had already been thinking about an early Volkswagen race car – this time around, my thoughts lingered on some of the Scirocco SCCA racers. Hunkered down with all-too-awesome gold BBS magnesium wheels and a deep air dam, they just look spectacular to me. That feeling instantly transferred to this Rabbit. One of the earliest imported to the U.S., it’s the desirable Swallowtail model which looks much closer to the original Giugiaro design than the later U.S. built examples. There’s something that’s so pretty, so delicate about the early Golf/Rabbit design. It was refreshingly different from what Volkswagen had produced up to that point, but it was also purposeful in its design. With light weight and a dose of sport, these early Rabbits paved the way for what would become the performance arm of Volkswagen, centered around the A1 based GTi. But even before the GTi hit these shores there were plenty of racers that saw the opportunity to race the Rabbit on a budget. This early build was competitive right through the 1980s; in fact, I bet with the right driver it would still be close to the front today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit on eBay

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1976 Volkswagen Rabbit Swallowtail Callaway Turbo

A few weeks ago, I wrote up a low-mile 1977 Rabbit that, while it was very pretty, lacked some originality because of a motor swap to a diesel unit. Today, we have another survivor Rabbit with lower miles. This one is still on it’s original paint, too – though not as striking as the green from the 1977, this one year earlier 70s appropriate brown still looks pretty impressive. This past weekend a few of us from GCFSB headed over to a Volkswagen show, and I have to say I feel like I’ve lost touch with the VW crowd completely. Air bags, ridiculously large wheels and matte paint were all the rage – and there we were with a clean modified A1, my Audi GT, a BMW 325is returned to OEM specs. We were fish out of water, but had a good time looking over each other’s cars again, marveling at new scene and where we lost touch. But this VW is right up our alley; with some tasteful modifications, a neat Callaway Turbo swap and original paint, this is the type of car I’d walk towards at a show:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1976 Volkswagen Rabbit on eBay

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1975 Volkswagen Rabbit Swallowtail

By the time the late 1960s rolled around, Volkswagen saw the writing on the wall when it came to the Beetle. It was time to plan for its replacement. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Golf (or Rabbit as it came to be known in the US), was one of the first mass produced front engined, front-wheel drive, transverse engined compacts to gain success after the introduction of the trailblazing Mini in 1959. In 1978, Volkswagen began to produce this compact hatchback in the US at the Westmoreland, Pennsylvania manufacturing plant under the Rabbit badge. But before the domestic Rabbits began to roll off the line, the very first Rabbits to appear in the US were distinguished by their curious rear bodywork, with a drooping panel line around the rear tail lamps. These early Rabbits became known as the “swallowtail.”

It’s rare to come across these early Rabbits, but this 1975 model for sale in Florida is one of the earliest we’ve featured here on GCFSB, with a build date of December 1974. For the purist, this is certainly a chance to snag what has to be one the earliest, most well preserved Rabbits on US shores.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit on eBay

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One of a Kind 1976 VW Rabbit VR5 Swap


As far as powerplants go, VW has been experimenting throughout the years looking for the perfect mix of economy, and power, and in many cases has been successful. However in some cases, they mostly succeeded in creating an oddity…enter the VR5. The VR5 had a pretty healthy run in the Passat, Bora, and some Skoda models outside of the US market as an alternative the staple 1.8T.  But what is it really? Well, because of the very narrow angle of the “V” it can’t be considered a true V5 engine, as all cylinders share the same bank. The V5 is more closely aligned with Volkswagen’s legendary VR6, minus one cylinder, so technically is’s staggered 5, and has more in common with the inline-5s used in the Passat and Audi Quattros of the ’80s.

No matter how you classify it, it’s a pretty stout powerplant that sounds like a cross between an audi quattro, and a Corrado SLC. Producing 170 bhp this 20v version of the V5 engine would make a big heavy Passat, or MK4 Bora jump off the line,  swap it in to a light MK1 chassis, and now you have something a bit ridiculous. That is exactly what the seller of this Oceanic Blue Swallowtail Rabbit did, employing the age old hot rodders recipe (big engine in little car) creating something the world has never seen before, and likely won’t for a long time.


Year: 1976
Model: Rabbit
Engine: 2.3 VR5
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 132,800 mi
Price: $8,000

CLICK FOR DETAILS: One of a Kind 4 Door Oceanic Blue 20V VR5 Swallowtail on VW Vortex


I have an addiction to locating and building classic custom cars and trucks and it always seems I have about 30 potential project cars in mind at a time… but space and money aren’t there unfortunately.. I’d like to start the process of sourcing my next big project and I need the cash from this to invest in the base vehicle. I am NOT in the need to sell this in a fire sale fashion and I will ONLY sell it to a buyer that I feel will appreciate the car for what it is and take care of it.

For anyone that is unsure. The FULL build thread from start to finish can be seen here:…n-blue-swallow.

Here’s a quick rundown of everything done to it. I’ll keep adding to the list as I think of things.. I forget half the work I put into these cars and it takes me driving them and thinking about it to remember.

1976 Ocean Bleu Swallowtail 4 door.
Hi option model with kneebar, all chrome exterior trim and passive restraint belts
Original Paint with some minor rust in exterior panels only (this is only visual stuff that isn’t structural)

Mechanical :

Worlds only running AND driving (one car just was started with one a couple weeks ago) V5 Mk1 and the only 20V V5 engine in the US (at least in a car)
Running the OEM Mk4 V5 wiring/injection with a sport tune by C2 Motorsports
Mk4 OEM Drive By Wire Throttle integrated into the OEM pedal cluster
VR6 Transmission rebuilt with a shorter 4 cylinder R&P
Clutch Cable Conversion using a mix of OEM parts and a custom cable mount on the transmission
BFI motor mounts in modified Eurowise VR6 engine mounts with a delrin rear trans mount and Eurowise axles
A/C, P/S, SAI, and all emissions stuff deleted
custom V5 header made from an OEM V5 manifold to a custom straight through2.25 exhaust system with a borla SS muffler.
custom 3″ core aluminum dual pass radiator
Custom aluminum intake tube with flipped C2 Motorsports aluminum MAF tube running into an OEM Mk1 Turbo Diesel intake box with K&N filter with drilled airbox
Original swallowtail diagnostic box has been converted to allow you to plug a flying lead in and scan the vehicle with VAG-COM
All new fuel lines, fuel tank, fuel pump, etc
new V5 specific parts: intake manifold and valve cover gaskets, crack pipe, thermo housing, water pump, exhaust manifold gasket, etc.

All original clear glass with NEW front windshield seal, and new chrome trim all around.
New thin chrome side trim
OEM Australian “Euro” small chrome bumpers
OEM early Post Golf Taillights
Chrome OEM Wiper arms
OEM front small duckbill
NEW full Klokkerholm floor pans and support rails welded in
Passenger frame rail notched and blended for OEM appearance
Early Chrome trim US spec Sidemarkers on all 4 corners

ALL NEW Copper/Nickel Brake lines (will outlast the life of the car)
new master cylinder
Converted to 9.4 vented GTI front brakes (new calipers and hoses)
new rear drums, shows, wheel cylinders and flex lines
new control arms with poly bushings
new rear beam bushings
new wheel bearings on all 4 corners
new ball joints and tie rods and tie rod boots (converted to later 19mm ball joints)
Early rebuildable front strut mounts with Audi 90 rubber mounts inside
Cheap-o front coilovers with UVAIR sleeve bags
custom rear airlift air struts
paddle valve air setup with controls in kneebar
new Viaiar Compresor and 3 gallon tank hidden in spare tire well
Air hose attachment for filling tires and running air tools attached to tank
Custom 2-piece 16″ OEM Porsche Fuchs 16×6 made to fit BBS Motorsport outer lips for customization with 20mm Raceland adapters
eurospec 165/40/16 Tires with one summer of driving on them

Rare Orange-Brown Interior with very nice diagonal stripe swallowtail door cards
Really nice original interior I sourced 2.5 full interiors to make this one nice one
NEW carpet in matching orange/brown color
golf ball shift knob
early eurospec super base model bakelite style swallowtail steering wheel (hard plastic real thin grip)
very nice (dare i say mint?) headliner
NOS base model swallowtail rear hatch prop rod (non hydraulic)
dash has some minor cracking but is in decent shape for its age
OEM silver gauge bezel with original (WORKING!) radio and dash speaker
Floor pans have been undercoated, seam sealed, and thermocoustic sound deadener pads put down under the carpet.
Heat and blower motor still work mint in the car!

Negatives/Things to mention:

The car was stored a good part of its life indoors when abandoned.. but it does have some rust in panels around the car. I have fixed ALL structural damage or rot on the car. Overall it is really solid since it was a car that was treated with a Rusty Jones type treatment for some of its life.

The drivers fender and A-Pillar have some small holes in them in the usual spot. I cleaned and rust proofed the windshield frame when I had the windshield to replace the seal a month ago the bottom of the drivers fender has a bit of rust.

The passenger fender at the bottom has rust where it bolts to the core support
Car is a true survivor and has dings and scrapes and minor dents around the car. View all pics in my build thread you can see every inch of it there.
I never got around to sourcing a Passat/Corrado g60 speedo cable to make the speedo work.. i just use my gps in my phone…
Recently I realized that the fuel level sender has cracked and isn’t sealing fumes from the tank out properly. A definite gas smell when you first drive the car.. I can fix before selling.. I drive the car A LOT so I may do it out of annoyance any day now…
rear window seal is original and cracked/split. It leaks into the trunk on heavy rains, but i keep it under a car cover most times.. just haven’t gotten around to it.. again I may do that soon if I get time..

I’m sure there are a lot more things I’ll add over the next days.. but I need to jog my memory (or just read the build thread). This car is VERY SPECIAL to me and it hurts me to think of selling it..

I’ll start the pricing as it sits with all mods and rare parts at: $8,000 OBO
If you begin to add up the basics of this car.. you’ll see that this price is definitely worth it.. figure a decent stock running/driving swallowtail with all the rare bits is worth 4-6K, the rare engine swap just to buy it and get it into the country would cost $2-4k
The wheels/tires- $2k+, all of the rare parts and new replacement parts, etc- $2k.. you get the idea. I’ll accept reasonable offers and I’ll consider working with someone by removing certain parts to get the price where they need.. but I won’t go crazy.


Having followed this build from the start, I can say that I’m sad to see the car go. I know the heart and soul it takes to build a car like this, from conception, to sourcing the parts, and all of the nights and weekends spent making it a reality, this is something you don’t do for the money. With all of those things considered, I’m surprised at the asking price. A swallowtail MK1 alone is a pretty rare and sought after car, throw in the rare parts and mods, and this car could fetch $8,000 with the stock engine. Now we’re adding in an uncommon engine and all of the engineering time and money to make it work, that bumps up the value significantly. All in, I’d consider this to be a $10,000 car all day long, making this a virtual bargain for the MK1 enthusiast that wants something no one else has.


1975 VW Rabbit “swallowtail”

What is rarer than a clean low mileage MK1?  A clean low mileage “swallowtail.” The term “swallowtail” is a term for early Volkswagen Rabbits built with a unique body line in between the taillights. They are extremely rare, as they were only made for model year 1975.  All model year 1975s and some early model year 1976 Rabbits had “swallowtails.”

Viewed as one of the most desirable MK1s, this beautiful 62,034 mile Lofoten Green swallowtail for sale in New Jersey is an early VW lovers dream.

1975 VW Rabbit on

1975 Lofoten Green Swallowtail Rabbit. Its a survivor in great condition! It is a perfect project for someone to finish up. I am the second registered owner with 62034 miles. It is a carbureted 1.6L engine that runs strong. The carb does need to be adjusted. Has a 4 speed manual transmission. It has a 100% original stock interior! In a 90% perfect condition. There is a rip in the drivers seat and the dash is cracked. But considering it’s age it is very clean and all together! Has immaculate headliner, carpet and door cards!

I started the body restoration. The rear lower corner rust has been fixed and sealed. I have before and after pictures of that area if you are interested. The rear under body and wheel arch have been cleaned and sealed. The gas tank has been POR 15ed. Thanks to Paintscratch for sending the mismatched touch-up paint as seen in the pictures but that is an easy fix. There are a few other places of rust I was planing on fixing but never got around to. I have tried to picture those areas. This is a very solid car though. Clean floors and strut towers.

The brakes, suspension and tires are original to the car! The brakes need to be replaced – they work but not very strongly – and the tires are dry rot – 2 of them don’t hold air. This is a project and does need to be towed. (I can have it towed within a reasonable distance from Hillsborough, NJ 08844 for a fee). I also have NOS OEM 1975 passenger fender, calipers and starter. Probably have a few other 1975 only parts here too that will be included. Also have very low mileage H&R Ultra low coilovers. Approx 100 miles or less. Obviously, they are not installed. Also have 1976 VW Dasher Aluminum wheels. 13 X 5.5 Perfect time period correct wheels for this car!

Asking $5000 but price depends on what you want included. Let me know if you have any questions. I have a bunch more pictures if there is something specific you would like to see.

With 62K miles, this VW has barely seen any use over its 37 year life span, just a mere 1800 miles/yr. The condition of the car reflects this light use, with shiny paint, and a clean interior, this is a car that needs nothing.

While there are a lot of clean early VWs out there, this is the first one I’ve come across that is worth every penny of the asking price, and then some. I’d love to own a car like this, because as time goes on it will only become more and more valuable.