The average listing price in Brooklyn Heights is around $5.41 million dollars, or around five times the average Brooklyn listing price. This desirable neighborhood is situated on the other side of the East River from Manhattan’s Financial District, and is full of gorgeous brownstones and apartment buildings with stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. It’s a little sleepy, but that seems to suit its wealthy inhabitants quite nicely. I’m not sure if one of those wealthy residents drives this well-worn VW Rabbit or if it belongs to one of the help, but it was certainly an unexpected sight.
Volkswagen opened its Westmoreland, PA assembly plant in 1978 to manufacture these Rabbits. However, in the process, they made numerous unfortunate changes to the Mk1 Golf such as softening the suspension and using inferior quality interior parts. Eventually, VW revised the Rabbit and made it more similar to its progenitor.
It’s interesting that Volkswagen, in their pursuit to increase North American volume and become less of a niche player, has chosen to Americanize the current Jetta and Passat. Built to a price point, certain sacrifices have been made. I briefly rented a Passat in 2013 and came away impressed with its basic dynamic goodness, although noticed the interior had clearly experienced cost-cutting. However, if I had a choice between a Jetta or a Golf, I would pick the latter. The Rabbit’s descendant is almost identical to the European-market model, and it is all the better for it. If it ain’t broke, why Americanize it?
I always think it’s interesting when you see an older weathered daily driver in very high-rent place, or seeing a expensive new luxury car in the driveway of a rundown shack. Some people just have different priorities when it comes to cars I guess.
Yup… I always get a chuckle when I a see an AMG Mercedes or a M series BMW in the drive thru line at the cheapest fast food joint…
Exactly! In fact, one of the first new S-Classes I saw last fall was when I was driving by a Taco Bell and it was in the drive-thru. Money can’t buy class.
That comment made me cringe. Class should be defined by the way we respect ourselves and others around us, not by the products we choose to associate with or consume.
You mean something like that?
Its the maids car!. But really… thinking about it ..would you drive a super car around on Manhattans roads?.
“If it aint broke why Americanize it?” that got a good chuckle.
$5.41 million dollars is 5.41 million dollars dollars.
If it ain’t broke …. Yup, that applied in the ’60s as well. I remember driving and repairing some VWs that had been bought directly from Germany instead of through American dealers. They were superior to the Americanized version. Theft-proof ignition, three-point seat belts, better interiors.
I drive through a crappy area on my commute…professional beggars on the corner, crappy BP station with a chicken wing restaurant attached to it, etc…and there is a new Tesla sitting in front of a $40,000 house. I don’t know where he plugs it in, because it’s always parked across the street on a gravel bed next to the road.
This Westmoreland Rabbit is a 1984, the last year of the Mk1 Golf/Rabbit platform in the U.S. (if you don’t count the Cabriolet that continued to 1993). I just ran a Carfax on the car using the tag number.
It may have seen better days but at least it’s still on the road!
Thanks for the research! I wonder if there were any outwardly-visible changes from 1981 to 1984 at all. I believe there were door-mounted seatbelts on some trims in some years, but I don’t know how useful as a dating tool that would be.
The door-mounted automatic belts were a freestanding option in the Rabbit’s introductory year in the US (1975). After that as I recall, they were bundled with the top trim only, all the way through the Mark I generation.
I had the first model year of the Westmoreland Rabbit (1979), a 2-door like the one pictured, except it was baby blue with a matching monotone all-vinyl interior (even the gearshift knob was blue). This car was much quieter and more reliable than the 1975 model it replaced, but was not as zippy. I did like the fuel injection on the newer model compared to the previous, troublesome carburetor.
1982 – chrome wheel opening trim on top-line L model replaced with larger black rubber wheel opening surrounds. Inside, headliner gets GM-style one-piece fabric with center dome round dome light instead of a light between the sun visors. A limited-edition “Black Tie” model was available for a few months around summer 1982; these are based on the L model and have a two-tone grey cloth interior with the woodgrain dash. 1983 sees lots of changes, including new GTI model, whilst C, L, and LS models become L, LS, and GL respectively. GLs are still a bit less plush losing available velour seat trim, upgraded steering wheels, and woodgrain interior trim. All models get squared-off front seat headrests in ’83 easily noticable from outside. Some new colors. Don’t know how to tell ’84 apart.
And it looks like it has near new tires. That’s a vote of confidence, or blind V-dub love.
How long was the Westmoreland even open? Surely VW lost their collective asses on that plant.
My recollection is that it was closed by 1988, so it lasted only 10 years.
I do like how the square lamps suit the styling of the car, even if it’s not what Giugiaro intended.
The big bumpers, I could do without. That’s probably why most of the Mk1 Rabbits I see have been de-bumpered.
Agree, thought this was a good updating at the time, although it’s a bit puzzling that VWchose to make the front so Omnirizon-ish. Nowadays i prefer the original Rabbit.
Tucked bumpers completely change the look of the car.
FWIU Giugiaro’s original design used square headlights similarly to the ’79-80 pre-wraparound-signal Westmoreland Rabbits, VW went with round eyes on the otherwise square car as a cost-saving measure.
I prefer the round headlights: They add a bit of stylistic contrast to what would otherwise be a totally rectangular front end, and seem nice and unpretentious.
It’s hard to believe how many of these once roamed America’s Roads but they were wildly popular .
One of three possibilities
A-it belongs to one of the firemen from the firehouse who probably uses it to commute to work
B-It probably is a beater that someone who works at a local store drives to work in
C-Maybe one of the affluent brownsone owners uses it to run errands when he doesn`t want to take the Lexus or Volvo out of its garage.
Your guess is as good as mine.
Rare cars in this part of the world VW Golfs were horrendously expensive to buy (being european imports) for what you got, Cars like Mazdas 323 sold much better and are arguably a better car, these things were badged City Golf one survivor is in use locally one family owned since new its on the cohort somewhere.
Ah yes, the downtrodden car in the upscale neighborhoods. In the 1980s, my uncle used to have a townhouse on West 11th Street in Manhattan. I lived in a 300 sq. ft. hovel in the East Village. So in the summers, when his wife and kids would vacate the house to points outside of the city, I would go to live with him, as he traveled extensively for work, and hey, a Townhouse in Greenwich Village! (He was kind of a stuck-up-pain-in-the-…).
The point of all this is to retell the story how on one particular day, a lovely Sunday afternoon, as I installed a new radio in my 1964 Dodge Dart (from Crazy Eddie’s!), head under the dash, feet hanging on the sidewalk, tools at hand, I happened to look up to see a uniformed Police Officer, hand on gun, approaching me with the full expectation of finding something else going on. Yikes! Luckily I was able to explain my situation. Over near my own home, on East 10th St., they would never have even bothered to look at me.
Ah well. Nowadays, I couldn’t afford the East Village, either. But cars in NYC, are always a luxury, people keep ’em as a convenience, and no matter their income, they may be just as happy to have a worn out car on the street, ’cause then you don’t have to care what happens to it.
A friend of mine who lives in a Manhattan neighborhood that makes this look cheap, once told me there are two kinds of cars in Manhattan. 1) $100k luxury barges owned my people who don’t care about money, and 2) Beaters owned by people who do and know their car is gonna get destroyed on the streets. I assume this is the latter?
My wife had an ’83 Westmoreland diesel Rabbit 3-door hatchback similar to the one pictured, in bright red. Manual everything, including window cranks to supplement the lack of A/C. It was a great rural vehicle and returned wonderful fuel mileage. It even chauffeured a (then) presidential candidate’s son to his stumping engagements for a couple of days (Ted Mondale). The diesel did not make for a good city car however – no acceleration when needed and an almost comical belch of black smoke when stomped on for lane changing and freeway entrance ramps. What a difference 30 years makes – my 2013 Passat TDI has power everything, great fuel mileage, decent acceleration and no smoke screen camouflage, not to mention a ready fuel supply at most local convenience stores. Besides the propositions my wife endured while refueling, the little Rabbit was also often lost in a sea of monster vehicles at Interstate highway truck stops back in the day.
Based on the license plates this Wabbit has had the same owner for about 14 years since plates stay with the owner in New York State. The patina is eye catching especially the large rust blob on the passenger door and these Wabbits are not terribly common anymore from what I can tell.
My mama had a 76 Wabbit which lived in the Southern Tier its whole life and it rusted to death by 1988 which annoyed her. She had to have her’s shipped from Rochester since she wanted an AM/FM radio which apparently was not terribly common at the time.
$5.41 million? No wonder this country is screwed.
Around 1989 I needed a car and my brother told me of a neighbor of his that had a mint 1983 Rabbit with only 40K miles on it that needed rid of it as he had recently lost his sight. I DID NOT want a car like that. I was a teenager and had my sites on something far more loftier to cruise the streets of my hometown Los Angeles. I was forced to see this car and I still did not want it and I was strongarmed into making an offer by my family. I offered $150.00 Yes the decimal is in the right place. The offer was quickly accepted and I drove that car without issue for 3 years when it was hit by a bus while my car was parked. Due to its low mileage I was given an insurance check for $3000. It was a good car.
About the only visual difference from ’81-’84 Westmoreland Rabbit is mid year ’83 bumper shocks were were replaced with solid bumper brackets after the 5 MPH law changed to 2.5 MPH after ’82. Hubcaps and alloy wheels were sometimes different year to year also. German 1st gen non convertible Rabbits are becoming hard to find in the US nowadays, especially gas models.
The first Westmoreland Rabbits were 79 model year. I think the first plant manager was a former GM Plant Manager (the youngest at the time, I think), named Dick Dauch, who went on to be Chrysler’s mfg boss in the 1990s, and CEO of American Axle. The last US-assembled VW rolled off the line in summer 1988, so the plant ran for about 10 years.
I think there was some kind of tax incentive that expired in 1988 (approx 10 years). Nothing like the milking of the taxpayers in southern states today. It’s ironic that in these “Red” states, local govt doesn’t seem to mind raising taxes on the locals, or cutting services and benefits (roads, schools, welfare), in order to build infrastructure for foreign automakers and give them big tax breaks.
VW bought the building from Chrysler–it was a stillborn plant that would have been similar to Chrysler Sterling Heights, MI plant (which still makes cars). The plant’s hourly workforce was UAW.
My first new car was an 86 GTI from Westmoreland. Over 13 years and 145k miles, it served me pretty well.
At 125k, I decided to pull of the valve cover. I was surprised by two things-how relatively clean it was (it does pay to change oil regularly and use Mobil 1), and that it was “Hecho en Mexico”. At 145k, it was using 1/3 to 1/2 quart between oil changes–pretty good!
The early “Malibu-zation” of the 79-84 Rabbits really didn’t help sales. The amazing fuel economy of the diesel did. The original cars got old. The Mark II Golf was even better, but pricey. VW added Jetta production to Westmoreland in 87 (88 model), but production volumes were still about half of what they had been in the late 70s/early 80s.
The “Americanization” (ie, cheapening the cars and trying to offer fluff to hide this) really doesn’t seem to be working well this time around.
In the 1980s, as now, VW dealers had a lousy reputation. Then it was deserved. I haven’t had a new VW since then, so I can’t say about now.
I do know, from personal experience, the Westmoreland VWs were well-built, solid cars. If I could have any new car, my first pick would be an 85-87 Westmoreland GTI with A/C and manual steering, my 2nd or 3rd would be an 84 Rabbit GTI with no A/C or a late 60s BMW 1602/2002.
Great cars and “Made in the USA”, were very appealing to me back in my teens/20s….