I’ve shown you dozens of VW Rabbits (Golf Mk1) over the years here in Eugene. Unlike their namesake, their numbers are not multiplying. In my immediate neighborhood (5-6 block radius), I currently two. This one is typical of so many here, being a diesel. They’re rugged, and of course were big during the Bio-Diesel Boom. That kept a lot of them on the road, but the numbers are thinning. This one is starting to see less action too. All things must pass.
The other one is a bit different.
I hadn’t noticed this one before. It’s “tuned”, with wide wheels and tires, and a lowered suspension. Definitely not a diesel.
VW was a master at making one car appeal to anybody and everybody. From the Mk 1 gti to the 4 door diesel and pick up and more… I look fondly in those Mk 1″ s.
The VW Golf, all generations, is the perfect classless car. Everybody accepts and loves them; regardless the driver’s gender, age, origin, income, profession, or whatever.
Not the case with its direct competitors like the Opel Kadett (later Astra), Ford Escort or Toyota Corolla. Let alone bigger and more expensive cars like a BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
I must be an exaction as I don’t like them. Sorry.
Mind you, I can’t type… ooops. (and I must remember to use Firefox so I can edit my comments, darn it).
Drove a company car in the mid 80’s VW Rabbit diesel. 0-60 times you could measure with a desk calendar. Merging onto the Interstate was an ah..”adventure” to say the least. Then I bought a well used Rabbit made in Pennsylvania. Swore it was Germanys revenge for losing the wars. Everything broke on it at one time or another.
My family’s Westmoreland, PA sourced 1980 Rabbit is what finally cured their VW addiction.
That 2017 1.4 turbo Jetta sure looks good tho…
Changing the engine or transmission had a huge effect on the personality of one of these cars. The late 70s model with a 4 speed that I drove was tremendous fun while the early 80s diesel was a total slug. I can only imagine how an automatic would have totally killed whatever joy either was capable of giving.
And I am still struck by what a successful styling job was done on the Rabbit.
I like both of them!
My brother had an ’81, Mk I VW “Rabbit” convertible (before it was called the Cabriolet in the U.S.). It may have what some may have considered a “chick car”, but my gosh, was that thing fun to drive.
In a bizarre twist on the “CC Effect”, I had started scrawling on paper a piece on some local VW Rabbits… which I’ll put in the freezer for later. 🙂
I drove an ’80 Rabbit Cabriolet for about 6 months in the early ’90’s, and I can attest, it was one of the most fun vehicles I ever spent any considerable time with. I’d bought it at a fire sale price for someone I was dating at the time, but I ended up driving it 90% of the time due to opposing personal preferences in vehicles. I was frequently asked what was wrong with me, handing over a newer, seemingly “better” car and driving this 12 year-old rust bucket (it wasn’t that rusty, but white paint shows rust quite easily), and it was tough to explain, but I loved that little car.
2 friends of mine had the diesels, and I only remember 3 things about them. They literally could not get out of their own way, vibrated like an out-of-balance washing machine and reeked of diesel fuel with the tank inside the passenger compartment. So rugged like the world’s slowest home-made go-cart!
I drove a late 70s gasoline Rabbit and a late 70s diesel Rabbit. I agree, the non turbo diesel Rabbits were bog slow, but diesel or gas, they both rode and handled better than 90% of the “small” cars out there.
From my experience, what “killed” a significant number of Mk 1 Rabbits was rust. Water would enter the voids that VW had filled with foam to cut down on the noise, and turned the foam into a rust producing sponge.
I owned a stripped down, 2-door, gasoline-powered 1979 or 1980 Rabbit for a couple years in the early 90s. It was probably my favorite car I’ve ever owned. I believe it was assembled in PA (rectangular headlights), but the interior still had the design of the mid-late 70’s German Mk1s (pre Malibuization). The car was fun to drive, cheap to own (important for a graduate student!), and was quite dependable, even with 100k miles. It was bare bones, though … no AC, 4-speed, fixed rear windows. Winters in the northeast were harsh on it, though, and I eventually unloaded it because the doors were literally falling off. Water seeped in the rusted areas around the windshield and caused the car to rust from the inside. I had to physically lift the driver’s side door about an inch or two to make it meet the latch! The Datsun 310 replacement for that car was a huge disappointment.
Around 1980 I worked for a Florida environmental firm that sent its technicians and geologists to sites all over the USA. A few of the people bought new Rabbit diesels thinking they could make a profit by driving to and from the jobsites then claiming mileage on their expense forms. Sadly, no-one made money on this scheme because of mechanical problems eating up the surplus.
My old mechanic had a souped up 1980 rabbit that looked a lot like the 2nd photo. It was white with a mild body kit (wider fender flares) . He would leave the car at the end of the day with a 2×4 on the gas pedal and the next day come in and see what had broken and repeat until it stopped breaking. The rumour was (but I can’t confirm) that he had the fastest rabbit in Canada. He passed away a couple of years ago and I kick myself for not trying to buy the car or the really mean looking old beetle he was trying to sell at the time.
It’s a shame that regulations prohibited VW from keeping the original Rabbit/Golf with consistent engineering and technological improvements but minimal styling changes like they did with the original Beetle. The Mk 1 is an attractive car that has timeless, classic styling that still looks good to this day.
It’s somewhat disorienting to go to a VW show now, and see how small the Mk 1s are compared to any Golf of the last 10 years. The current gen Polo is the size of a Mk 1 Golf, and the next gen Polo, unveiled a couple weeks ago, is even larger, with technology, features and complexity unimagined in the 70s.
Shortly after a bought my Jetta wagon, I encountered an 80s Cabriolet at a traffic light. Compared to the Jetta, the Cabiolet looked to be the size of a golf cart.
The new Polo Mk6, below, is about the size of a Golf Mk4.
Sweet looking car, but we’ll never see it. The “common wisdom” here is SUVs for everyone, everywhere, all the time.
As this video asks, is the new Polo so big and so sophisticated “do you really need a Golf?” This all has the smell of the US auto industry in the 70s, when the “full size” Ford and Chevy got so big that they were outsold by their intermediate size cousins.
The Polo: the most earnest B-segment car on the market. No place for frivolities or funhouse-designs.
And yet they won’t sell it here
VW isn’t the first to do it – a few years ago I did a spreadsheet with the sizes of various UK Fords since the 1950s. (Yes, I have an exciting life.) I was trying to work out how many decades it takes for a small model to migrate up to a limousine – if I remember correctly the projection was about 50 years.
Growing cars also made room for a new smaller model. The Ford Fiesta was the smallest Ford, until the Ka arrived. Likewise, the B-segment VW Polo and the A-segment VW Up (introduced in 2011).
While we’re at the subject of VeeDub:
The original VW Golf GTI Mk1: 110 hp, 810 kg.
The new VW Up (or up!) GTI, see below: 115 hp, 997 kg.
Up GTI inside:
There are a few Mk1 Rabbits around here, but oddly enough a significantly higher number of Rabbit pickups (aka the Caddy to non-Americans). Also quite a lot of Vanagons, including a *very* nice later Westfalia in my neighborhood. Funny how vehicles seem to cluster that way.
I remember friend’s of my parents had one of the first diesel Rabbits I had ever seen. I think I remember it so well because of the custom decal he had made up for it :
THE THUNDER BUNNY ! ?
The Rabit was a well engineered, good driving, beautifully styled, solid little car; but sadly these little bunnies were often plagued with a bevy of electrical and mechanical malfunctions and poor build quality.
I had an ’80 Rabbit L, one of the Pennselvania built VW’s, and the build quality was on par with what GM was doing at the time. In other words: pretty rotten. I loved the way my Rabbit drove and handled, but it just wasn’t a trustworthy means of transportation.
I sometimes wonder if my Rabbit had been built with loving care in Germany it might have been a much more reliable car? In the past I’ve heard that VW’s long gone Westmoreland Penn. assembly plant had a bad reputation of poor quality autos rolling out of its doors. It’s too bad VW mired its reputation by having some of their models US built.
If it’s any consolation here is a Mk 1 Golf I saw being reworked in Cape Town yesterday. I say Mk 1 and not the later Citigolf as the wheels are very early editions.
I think that is the later (South African?) Citi Golf as it has a differently contoured C pillar with some additional creases that the original German or American built Mk1 didn’t have.
Slammed Diesel Rabbits do exist, though rare.
I have a ’17 Jetta 1.4t and I’m thrilled with it so far. Not convinced about the V-Tec pleather seats but that’s the only way they spec them in the US market unless you cheap-out with the S trim level.
I’d love to have a Mk1 Golf/Rabbit OR Ford Fiesta of the same vintage as a cheap little hotrod to roar around in. Alas, I’m getting too old and lazy to mess with old cars.
Shoot, I can’t edit…that’s V-Tex seats, not V-Tec.
I drove a diesel Rabbit daily for about a year. It had factory air, but you had your choice of air conditioning or speeds above 50 mph, not both. As a joke, I put one of those “Police Interceptor” badges from a Crown Vic on the back. It was fun on curvy roads, and was great in the snow.
I’d consider a Golf/Rabbit as a classic car project although my heart is really with the Scirocco. They were really stylish at the time and still look good, although the square headlight US models lost some of the good looks outside and all of the looks inside. Tihs means my project would have to be pre-79 or grey import, which is actually appealing since I like the later European cluster with the LED warning lights and LCD clock better than the original. They are easy to work on and in my experience even the K-Jetronic is reliable, and easily comprehensible.
The US Rabbit interiors didn’t diverge all that much from the German ones until 1981 which saw a redesigned dash, steering wheel, and other trim. The main differentiator was new colors and full and exhaustive color-keyed trim in the US models, meaning the dash, headliner, even the turn signal indicator stalks matched the seat upholstery, which often was that unique baby blue color, with red, beige, and black the other choices. There were other more subtle differences, like smooth vinyl upholstery instead of textured, and a chrome ball-ended stick to adjust the mirrors instead of the black rubber mushroom shaped control on the German cars, the result of American suppliers replacing German ones.