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

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.

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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.)

  • SCE to AUX Another outsourced battery goes awry.
  • Jkross22 Nah, If I needed a truck, I'd get a Nissan titan or for nearly the same money a 20 yr old SR5.
  • Kwik_Shift No. It is hideous and jarring to look at. Why would I need this anyway?
  • Jeff From the side profile this gives off Taurus wagon vibes. Nice looking wagon love the exterior color and the interior. The burled walnut interior trim is beautiful.
  • Jeff I think initially there will be a lot of orders for this truck and then sales will crater. Those that want this truck mainly the Tesla fans will buy them and then anyone that wanted one will have already bought one. The Cybertruck kind of reminds me of the Delorean which was widely anticipated and once it was out and those who wanted a Delorean bought one that was the end. Both the Delorean and Cybertruck are stainless steel and both are weird looking. Maybe they could release a new Back to the Future sequence and have Doc drive a Cybertruck.