Cars Of A Lifetime: 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit – Der Edelkampfwagen

We called it Der Edelkampfwagen, literally translated as the Precious War Wagon, or more fittingly, and just as correct, The Precious Struggle Wagon. It started out as a baby blue 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit with an automatic transmission and no frills. It ended up as a piece of crap Der Edelkampfwagen.

I don’t remember how or where I got it, so there must not be a good story there. I can assure you however, that even though I don’t remember buying it, it was super cheap. Because I am super cheap and there is no way I would pay much for a baby blue VW Rabbit with an automatic! I had taken up working (sort of) for a living and had a normal (sort of) job. I was working for a local security company and the Rabbit became my economy transportation to and from different job sites.

It was the typical inglorious piece of German engineering from the era, the taillights worked but some of the time, the radio never worked, and small parts occasionally took an early retirement. But of course because it was a Rabbit it unfortunately kept on going in one fashion or another.

Though it started out baby blue, it didn’t stay that way. After my friend Peter was through with the Travelall he needed another car. So I sold him the miserably slow little Rabbit. During this time I convinced him that it was quite boring as it was and that since it had little intrinsic value, it was a good candidate for doing something interesting with. Peter wanted to paint it camouflage but I thought that we should keep some of the original paint to save money. But what kind of camouflage has blue in it? One day I was looking at some pictures from WWII and noticed a German Ship painted in disruptive camouflage. Ha hah, I thought, that’s the ticket! So using cardboard masking we painted it in a German battleship disruptive camouflage pattern.

Since I was not the one driving it, that was not enough for me. It was lacking a certain je ne sais quois. So looking at old German WWII vehicles I noticed that all of the “Kampfwagons” had the spare tire on the hood. So we mounted the spare tire to the hood, now it was perfect.

Peter drove it unashamedly like that for quite some time until I got transferred to an armed position in Portland. At that time I needed a commuter car and I bought it back from Peter. I had not really figured on having to drive it like that myself. But I was poor and Peter really wanted a gun I had so it was a trade of convenience.

It came to pass that I was away and Michelle was driving Der Edelkampfwagen when the entire exhaust system from the collector back, fell off. As the sheriffs in our area were quite aggressive it was necessary to replace it right away. So she bought a new exhaust system from my friend at the VW Shop. Since I was gone it fell to her to install it as well. And install it she did. It may have taken her several hours, but it did indeed get installed. I should mention here that if there is anything she hates more, it’s working on cars.

As far as dependability, I can’t say it never let me down, after all it was a Rabbit. Many times the taillights were found not working and often various other electrical components failed to perform. On one occasion the temperature was very cold out side for our moderate state. It was late and I was leaving my friend’s house when I was pulled over. Of course the taillights were not working again. The policeman insisted I park the car and not drive it until they were fixed. So I ended up walking back in a T-shirt in thirty degree weather, I cursed Rabbits once again and decided that I would get rid of it at all costs.

And then it happened, the day I had prayed for, no it didn’t blow up, I found a better car for cheap. I made Peter an offer he couldn’t refuse on buying back the Rabbit and I got an Audi we will talk about latter.

Peter loved Der Edelkampfwagen and I was glad that at least someone did. But if there was one thing he was no good at, at all, it was working on cars. It began leaking oil from the valve cover, I refused to work on the car ever again. So Peter enlisted the help of Michelle and together they attempted to change the valve cover gasket. The result of which was the engine catching on fire and Peter putting it out with a wet shirt. It seems a myriad of small mistakes had led to disaster which of course I was obliged to fix. So a new valve cover gasket, some new wiring and hoses, and it was back on the road.

Somehow, I don’t remember how now, I ended up owning Der Edelkampfwagen again! I couldn’t get rid of it! So I drove it until the taillights stopped working again and one of the CV joints was making crunching sounds. And then I found a perfect couple to buy it. They were living in their van and needed a fixer upper car. When they saw it, they fell in love (it takes all kinds, doesn’t it)? So I was finally rid of it and three hundred and fifty dollars richer, which was not really justifiable compensation for the damages it had done to my psyche.

For some time afterward I kept expecting a call, or expecting the new owners to come driving up and give me back the Rabbit, or to want me to fix something on it. Eventually the PTSD of owning it wore off with time, but I swore I would never own another Rabbit……….