By on August 15, 2014

01 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI haven’t shot many Junkyard Finds involving water-cooled Volkswagens, mostly due to the fact that these cars tend to depreciate into the crush-worthy price range before age 15, which means that interesting VWs don’t appear too often in self-service wrecking yards. We saw this ’82 Scirocco and this ’80 Dasher Diesel recently, and I’ve found 2/1461ths of the North American Etienne Agnier Edition Golfs in junkyards, but nearly all the Golfs I find these days are Mk2s or later, or Mk1 Cabrios (or ones that I’m helping to load up for a trip to The Crusher). Here’s a genuine, numbers-matching (maybe), final-year-of-American-production, Westmoreland-built, Mk1 Rabbit two-door that I spotted in Denver a while back.
02 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNothing very special about this car, other than being uncommon in the junkyard.
03 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo shortage of these engines in the world.
09 - 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Whorehouse Red Velour Interior craze peaked in the mid-1980s; Japan and Detroit did the most lurid red interiors, but VWoA made some good ones as well.


This car isn’t a GTI, but the ’84 GTI TV ad was so great that I’m including it anyway.

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42 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit...”


  • avatar
    mankyman

    Man, oh man does this car bring back memories. I learned to drive stick on one of these, made out with my first girlfriend in one of these, etc.
    The hood latches were not that sturdy though, and the hood flew up one me one evening on the expressway. That was fun. And they had that interior smell I’ll always associate with old VWs. I remember being impressed that they were fuel injected in an era of carburetors. And their engines were 3 or 4 litres smaller in displacement than most of my friend’s cars. These didn’t cost much to fuel, but that was when gas was 85 cents/gallon and ATMs were something of a novelty. Man, am I getting old.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      But you look so young.
      :-)

      I’m really conflicted about this Mk. One of the sweetest handling front drivers that I remember, but then the seat back latch would let go while you were going through a steep banked curve on a hill with black ice. Sudden, high drama.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        Truth…Took my wife on first date in ’84 GTi in summer. Air Conditioning didn’t. Second date to hotel party in the Ozarks – fuel-injection seal failure, idled home in second gear for HOURS. Got busy ON the back of it. Yes, not a typo, ON the rear hatch window. Busted by police. Failed struts, falling sunroof and headliner parts, frozen struts, etc. It was 1989, so it wasn’t THAT old. Around 35k miles at the time. At least I can say I didn’t lose races to most economy hot-hatches (this was way pre-Fast and Furious insanely-built Hondas and Mitsus).

    • 0 avatar
      rockets

      Gotta love that ad, too…always liked the upbeat Beach boys song, German lyrics, stunts and just plain fun.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Love those red velour interiors, however I say that they reached perfection/peaked with the mid 1970’s Lincolns and in particular the Pucci Edition Mark IV.

    Of course that may have something to do with my memories.

    They say that the music that you like best is the music that you heard or was popular during your first sexual encounter(s). I wonder if it is the same with cars?

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      “Love those red velour interiors”

      Me, too, on my first Honda. Went well with Ubiquitous Japanese Silver exteriors of the era.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        My wife’s first new car was an ’81 silver Honda Civic with a red interior and a manual choke. She specifically picked that colour combination.

        It was totally reliable, never a problem. Regular oil and filter changes, lubrication, some new spark plugs and tires and we sold it for about 60% of what we paid for it 6 years later.

        It was that type of vehicle that propelled the Japanese manufacturers to where they are today.

        Still have fond memories of that car and the many weekend trips we took in him (yes, it had a male personality and name).

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          It’s nowadays very hard to explain to younger people the combination of toughness, attention to detail, rational design and sheer tactile joy of ’80s Japanese cars. It was as if they were delivered by UFOs.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Too rust magnetic-y for me to agree that they were tough, but I can only imagine that they were miracles otherwise.

            Video Game-like interiors, engines that were reliable and yet smooth, unique styling, great build quality (not always materials), the 80’s was a pretty diverse era for cars (even with Chrysler and GMs cloning factories). And then the 90’s came and everyone wanted to make the next Taurus or Accord.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            And how they rusted to oblivion in the Northeast… In Maine nothing lived long enough to get a reliability reputation in those days that wasn’t Swedish.

  • avatar
    challenger2012

    A co-worker purchased a diesel rabbit convertible in that era. What a POS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I remember the dashboard would shake so much you could not see the radio station numbers. The radio display numbers were blurry due to the dashboard shaking so much. Then the noise of the diesel engine was another matter. We were at a traffic light when an 18 wheeler stopped next to us. The noise from the rabbit diesel was almost as loud as the 18 wheeler. He paid extra to have a high end after market radio installed. When listening to the radio, you had to turn up the volume to cover up the noise of the engine. The music was ruined by the engine noise. Again, what a POS.

    I have no doubt that he convinced himself that he was purchasing quality German engineering. The very same thought process that VW owners subscribe to this very day.

    • 0 avatar
      stars9texashockey

      No such car (diesel Rabbit convertible) existed.

      • 0 avatar
        challenger2012

        Mr. Stars My memory may have faded, but I am sure it was a convertible. But all the rest is 100% true, i.e. the engine noise, the vibrating dashboard, the radio being drowned out by the engine noise. I remember putting my hand on the dashboard and watching is shake. I could not even grip the volumne dial of the radio because it was shaking so much. If there was no convertible at that time, then I stand corrected. As far as the diesel stuff is concerned, I am sure there are others who experienced what I did and who can verify what I experienced as being true.

        • 0 avatar
          mnm4ever

          So basically you are saying that an early 80s diesel VW was very loud and vibrated a lot therefore the car was a POS. So I have to ask, what other early 80s diesel engines were quiet and smooth?? And @stars is right, there was never a diesel Rabbit Cabriolet, at least not in the USA, maybe in Europe. So did your friend purchase an engine swapped car?

          I’ve ridden and driven in both Rabbit Cabriolets and diesel Rabbits… neither was a spectacular car but your description doesn’t sound anything like what I remember.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I’ve heard diesel VWs from that period and they’re not that loud, not unless if the exaust has been tampered with. The shaking doesn’t surprise me though after riding in a MK1 Cabirolet myself.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            IIRC, all the MkI Cabs came from der Vaterland.

          • 0 avatar
            snakebit

            My recollection of the Golf MK 1 cab is that they were all West German-sourced. I know the New Beetle convertibles were assembled in Mexico with convertible top subassemblies sourced from Karmann while they were still in business.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          It had a bad motor mount, and or a bad injector or two. They were actually pretty quiet when in good order.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      If the car was a vert’ I am 100% certain the car was not a diesel, from the factory at least. If it was, someone may have cut the roof off a two door to make there own or performed the strangest engine swap in history. Either way it is not surprising the car was poor in nature.

      On the flip side: anecdotal here. I had a 78′ four door. Slow, loud cabin etc. But, for the time for me, I was in college in the mid 90’s it was a great car. Cheap to buy, came out of WY, so no rust. Easy/cheap to keep running and got great mpg. I finished school and sold it for what I owned it for,

      My general opinion is that just about every car from that era in the econobox genre are/were pretty awful in terms of fit, finish road noise so on and so forth.

  • avatar
    karlbonde

    That certainly looks like a GTI model to me: sport seats, GTI steering wheel, center console, red pin stripes on the interior door panels, black stuff on the hatch, etc., etc.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Yep, it’s definitely a Rabbit GTI.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Three against one, Murilee. GTI tach, steering wheel, bolstered front seats,matte black-painted tailgate glass surround.

        I drove an 82 middling trim Rabbit with manual box for about 18 months, and had tremendous luck with it. I didn’t particularly like the red velour upholstery and silver paint, as VW themselves said-Malibuized, but the seats were infinitively adjustible for backrest angle, as the German versions were, and it drove just as well as the previous German-built Rabbits that I owned, much improved over the first Westminster, PA cars.

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      Absolutely it’s a GTI. My ’84 was not red, but silver with the dark blue interior, and I had to back out of the first deal I was going to make on one in order to get the blue color innards. It was definitely a nicer color scheme, with the red accenting contrasting MUCH better against the dark blue.

      And some of the guys in my school engineering department at the time were in their own band for fun, and loved to sing along with that commercial, with the German lyrics no less.

      Nice reminder that exactly 30 years ago I was tooling all around the Midwest in this brand new set of wheels, sometimes with an attractive lady and fellow grad student sitting alongside. ’twas a good time then.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        Mine was an ’83 in the Silver/Midnight Blue combination. I loved that car like no other, even to this day. Other than a failed alternator that threw me to the side of I-40 on a cold and rainy night, it had no other issues in ten years of ownership.

  • avatar
    Curt in WPG

    I learned to drive stick on our 83 Rabbit. The car was a blast to drive and responded well to hooning by 16 year old me. No red interior (that was reserved for the 82 Reliant wagon) though. Fun little car though you sure don’t see many of them on the road anymore, probably see way more Omni/Horizons than Rabbits.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    That commercial is what made me want a GTI back then, and probably is a big part of what made me want a GTI when I bought my 2008 too. Really good advertising. I didn’t get a GTI but my first car was a 79 Scirocco. I can remember jumping it over a couple of perfectly situated railroad track crossings around town, just like in the commercial. Good times.

  • avatar
    sproc

    I spent a good portion of my childhood in the back seat of my dad’s four door ’77 Rabbit, 4-speed, chocolate brown with a light brown vinyl interior. It will forever be the car that replaced his beloved ’72 gray-market 2002 because there wasn’t enough room for baby sproc.

    I know he did at least two alternators–I remember driving home one night in pouring rain with a failing battery and useless headlights. Summer road trips were plagued by epic bouts of vapor lock at the worst possible times, including when we stalled in a wild animal park surrounded by lions.

  • avatar
    Corners

    I’m pretty sure this is an 83 or 84 GTI…interior is GTI for sure. This colour was available on U.S. market GTI’s only, not on Canadian cars

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    A very close family friend had a ’79 Rabbit – it was a God awful vehicle.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Why the holy hell would someone junk a nearly rust-free Rabbit, GTI or not? What a waste. Look at those rust-free strut towers, doors, and rocker panels. Rust-belt Dubbers would love to have something this nice to start with. What a sad end to an iconic car.

    “Junkyard Find” is like one of those Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA commercials, but with cars instead of starving, beaten doggies.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Looks like a classic case of “No mas fahrvergnugen” which was an actual bumper sticker spotted circa 1992 on a clapped out Rabbit with a Hispanic driver.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    After I got divorced in 1995 and bean dating again , I decided my 1970 Volvo 144S just wasn’t going to cut it and bought an ’82 Rabbit Drop Top in shiny red out of a Sun Valley junkyard (Alden Brothers for the L.A. Locals) ~ it only had the 1600 C.C. engine unlike the sedans that had the 1800 but it got along O.K. and certainly was a hit with the ladies , top down motoring in the California sunshine .

    One freak in particular liked to get busy in the back seat with the top down……

    My Son has a Rabbit MKI with some 1990’s vintage multi – valve engine and 5 speed box in it as one of his Auto Cross track cars ! very fun to drive .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Only the ’84 A1 Jetta GLI had a 1.8l engine in the US. Regular A1 Jettas had a 1.6 initially, then a 1.7. I believe the Cabriolets had the 1.7l initially, then got the 1.8L after the rest of the A1 line died in the US.

      I had an ’84 Jetta GLI for many years. Fantastic car, ultimately put over 350K on it before selling out of the family. Amazingly, it was still on the road as of last summer. I found it parked in front of me at the airport when I came home from a trip. Still looked pretty good too! They seem so TINY now.

      Coincidently, today my Mom dropped off a box of old photos she found cleaning out some closets. From my college days, several pics of the Jetta back in the day. I had it through most of college and all of Law School. One in particular I like – the car backed up to my undergrad dorm, packing it to leave school for the last time on graduation day. 21 years ago.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I had a 1984 VW diesel back in the day and it was a great car. They were only sold as 2 & 4 doors. The convertibles were never sold with diesel engines. I know i had both. The diesel would vibrate if the front motor mount was out of adjustment. Very easy to fix but out of adjustment the whole car would vibrate. For the record my old diesel is still on the road going between Boston & Hartford every day. I understand that the fellow that now owns the car has about 850,000 miles on it. Drives with a screwdriver & pliers in the glove box because one day it will just give up and die. Had my VW Cabriolet for many years and sold it about 6 years ago to a fellow upstate for $6,800.00. It only had about 60,000 miles on it. Should never have sold it.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    I have a Mk1 1981 Scirocco S…same platform as the Rabbit GTI shown here.
    I only have the 1.7 Liter motor putting out only 74 hp. But with a 5 speed and weighing less than 2000 the car is peppy if not past…The 1.8 90 hp GTI engine was a revelation…It is amazing how small these cars are compared to contemporary cars

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Mine was a 1980 Rabbit that I bought new and sold at 8 years old and 125k miles . It had the 5-speed , fuel injection and sunroof . Given the context of the times not a bad car , only recall replacing the plastic radiator and the alternator ( twice ). Capable of what now seems unbelievable mileage ( over 45 m.p.g on the highway ) but at the time we had the crappy 55 m.p.h. speed limit and even in Texas it was heavily enforced . Back then a car of that size weighed in about 2000 lbs, of course no airbags , etc. and about as quick or quicker than the other malaise era cars .

  • avatar
    blppt

    My parents had a 77 Rabbit—man, what an awful car. The paint held up about as well as the Volare they also had at the same time, but the mechanical issues—dear Lord. We always had to take the (much maligned) slant-6 Volare out to rescue dad because the fuel injectors would freeze up anytime the temperature got below freezing outside.


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