I just posted the initial review of the new 1977 VW Rabbit Diesel as well as a 24,000 mile long term test. But I had forgotten that R&T kept their little energizer bunny for a whole 100k miles and three years. It makes for interesting reading, as there were some serious maladies, the most serious being a damaged crankshaft, rod and main bearings due to an oil supply line to the vacuum pump cracking. There were some other issues too, the result of this being a first year car. R&T’s 1975 gas Rabbit had a lot of teething problems too.
VW addressed these maladies, on both the gas and diesel versions with numerous updates and recalls and lengthened warranties. All I can say is that there’s still a totally outsized number of diesel Rabbits on the road here, so the evidence strongly suggests that most of the issues were addressed. But the Rabbit/Golf was never going to be a Toyota Corolla in ultimate reliability respects, but then the Corolla wasn’t nearly as much fun to drive either.
The diesel Rabbit ended up with a superlative overall cost per mile of 7.1 cents per mile, despite some $3,000 in repair and maintenance costs. How was that possible? Fantastic fuel economy (42 mpg) and even more fantastic resale value. It’s resale value after 100k miles was some $4460 retail (R&T used a wholesale number of $3300). It’s new list price was $4689 (minus sales tax). Essentially no depreciation, thanks to the energy crisis raging in 1981.
And I can confirm this: folks were paying absurd prices for new ones at the time. I saw an ad from someone offering a new one on delivery for $10k, almost double the list price.