Junkyard Find: 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit 3-Door

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1979 volkswagen rabbit 3 door

The non-convertible Mk1 VW Golf was sold in the United States through the 1984 model year and the Cabriolet version well into the 1990s, which means that most of the examples you see in high-turnover wrecking yards nowadays are the soft-top variety. I have a friend who is trying to get a long-idle GTI project into streetworthy condition, and so I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a 3-door hatch Mk1 Rabbit with black interior for him. After six months of spotting Cabrios and the occasional hooptied-out 5-door, I found this ’79 in a Denver self-serve yard.

Not many econoboxes came with factory fuel injection in 1979. The (gasoline-powered) Rabbit was more fun to drive than most of its Malaise Era Japanese and Detroit competition, but still intolerably slow by present-day standards. Fuel economy was great, though.

The round headlights indicate that we’re looking at a car built in Germany, not Pennsylvania.

“I owned my last Volkswagen for seven years!”

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  • Bill mcgee Bill mcgee on Aug 28, 2012

    Shortly after I took delivery of my 1980 Rabbit the Jettas came out and a friend bought a new Jetta which I comparison drove . To me handling was much more identical , but the interior was completely different . The Jetta and the other contemporary German built VWs had much nicer durable looking interiors with firmer seats than the Pennsylvania car - really like comparing a BMW and yeah a Malibu . At the time I wished I had waited and bought a Jetta GLI , though I don't remember what the price differential was , and I always preferred wagons / hatchbacks . Another college roommate bought a new 1975 Rabbit . Total POS , noisy and rattly , really cut rate interior that looked like something out of the soviet bloc , lousy carbed engine , constantly needing repairs .They really hadn't worked the bugs out yet .

  • Bill h. Bill h. on Aug 28, 2012

    Family friends sold us their two year old frog-green '77 with CIS just as I was graduating college. I drove it cross country to get to my summer job and cross country again to get to grad school in the fall. It served me well for many years afterward, even to the point where I got one of the last Mk I GTIs in '84, which I kept well into the mid-90s. Fond memories of cars that were pretty decent in Fun Factor and reliability, at least for me.

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...