Where Have All The Front-Wheel-Drive Pickups Gone? Crunch, Crunch, Crunch!

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
where have all the front wheel drive pickups gone crunch crunch crunch

The pickup-truck version of the Volkswagen Rabbit might seem like a terrible idea nowadays, but these things actually turned out to be pretty useful in the real world. You couldn’t haul 1,500 pounds of hog entrails in one, but you couldn’t do that in a Luv, Courier, or 620 either.

It’s just weird seeing VOLKSWAGEN on a pickup tailgate! I was surprised to see this reasonably solid-looking example in a Denver self-service junkyard last week, because the Mk1 Rabbit fanatics worship these things and rescue far rustier ones for their fleets. Maybe that’s just a California thing?

With a mere 62 horsepower, the Rabbit pickup for 1980 wasn’t exactly what you’d call quick (though it wasn’t quite as miserable as you’d expect, due to its sub-ton weight), but you had to plan ahead at freeway onramps. The 48-horse diesel, on the other hand, made for a terrifyingly underpowered vehicle; I took my driver training classes in a dual-control Diesel Rabbit and I still get the shakes thinking about taking that thing on the Nimitz Freeway.







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  • Fastwagon Fastwagon on Jan 14, 2014

    A factual error in the article: I had a '77 Datsun 620 King Cab, and though it was nominally rated for 1400 lbs, subtracting the curb weight from the GVWR yielded a capacity of 1555 lbs, and I had far more than a ton in it on occasion. It could carry a ton without a problem, if it was loaded toward the front of the bed. At any rate, hauling "1,500 pounds of hog entrails" was a day in the park for the 620.

  • Heather Heather on Apr 04, 2016

    Ok, I don't know much about VW's but I bought a 1980 VW Rabbit pickup with, no lie, 6800 (yes that's six thousand eight HUNDRED) a running engine that cranked immediately after sitting years and working manual transmission, all her original head/tail lights, blinkers, trim, back window (that still slides open and shut) windows that work etc, tiny bit of rust in the bed of it. She was to be a shade-tree project for me to play with since I've never fixed anything foreign. Mustang's etc, bring it on.... Her body of course needs a ton of sandblasting, paint, carpet, dashboard basically the main of the interior. She has all her parts, bumpers mirrors, tailgate etc. Put a new alternator, battery, tires, brakes already and have a fuel pump still in the box. But the body has no dents, she's never been wrecked and I knew the lady, the original and only owner, until she died. How much is Ms. Mary (her name) worth?? At least 4x a month someone stops by and asks if she's for sale. She wasn't until now since I can't work on cars anymore. (PLEASE teach your kids/friends NOT to text and drive, somehow I didn't explode and should have when the girl hit me in the rear and tried to flip me like an omelet and punctured my gas tank.)

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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