Questions about buying a Rabbit

sn1pesn1pe Member Posts: 3
Any pointers on what to look for when buying such an old car? Will this car be a good way to learn about cars (don't even really know how to change the oil) or am I way over my head in trying to poke around in a Rabbit? What's the reliability like on these things...the parts availability??

BTW, living in Los Angeles if that matters any.


  • verozahlverozahl Member Posts: 574
    Reliability on Rabbits has always been notoriously poor. Play with a Kitty (Mercury Cougar) instead if you really love animals.
  • lngtonge18lngtonge18 Member Posts: 2,228
    I own an 84 Rabbit GTI. If you can find one of these beauties, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Mine has been VERY reliable and parts are easy to find. I have 200k on my car and it always starts the first try, even when left sitting for 2 weeks. It has never left me stranded on the side of the road in the almost 7 years I have owned it. Rabbit's are easy to maintain, very simplistic, and have extremely durable engines. Almost no electronics control the engine. It's definitely a good starter car if you want to learn how to work on your own car.
    As far as tips go:
    - stay away from the 75-77 models completely.
    - look for models with the fuel injected engine (81-84), preferably the GTI (83-84) which has a 1.8 liter engine instead of 1.6 or 1.7. The GTI is very quick and has excellent handling.
    - stay away from automatics. They were not known for their durability.
    - if you don't mind driving real slowly, the diesel engines were known for lasting 300k + without much trouble.
    - look for visible oil or water leaks. Look at the condition of the water (is it fresh looking, does it look murky or have any oil residue in it). Look at the condition of the oil (does it look murky or discolored). Have a mechanic check the compression of the engine to see how healthy it is internally. Check to make sure no blue or white smoke is coming out of the exhaust when you start it up. Make sure the engine starts right up if its fuel injected. If it stalls right away but starts again no problem, try to keep it running with your foot on the gas for no more then a minute. If it idles fine after that minute is up, you are fine. Make sure it starts fine both cold and hot. Make sure the radiator fan clicks on and off. I think that covers about all of it. Just use common sense. An old well taken care of car can run just as good as a new one. Good luck and feel free to ask anymore questions. I definitely love my little GTI and would never give her up for anything.
  • rae52rae52 Member Posts: 102
    I owned three rabbits-a '78(I was stranded 3 times on the highway during it's warranty period);an '83black GTI w/o a/c(never make that mistake again); and and '84 GTI. I was the original owner of ALL of them and I really didn't care for their design(s). No wonder VW's pa. factory closed after only 10 years of operation.
  • lngtonge18lngtonge18 Member Posts: 2,228
    I would have to disagree. My black GTI was built in the Pa plant and has pretty darn good build quality and excellent reliability. It's been hit twice by considerably larger vehicles (81 Chevy Caprice and 84 Ford panel van) and both times it handled the impact well and I wasn't injured at all. Rust problems have been minimal, with most of it related to stopped up rain gutters on the factory sunroof (my fault for not investigating). The structure stayed rock solid until it was hit by the Caprice, but even after both accidents it still has reasonably good body integrity. The only cheap part about the car is the interior. Too many things rattle or break. But few cars back then had a trully rattle free interior and the design dated all the way back to 75, so I would expect some sloppy design aspects. Here's a curious question for you: If you hated the design of the Rabbit so much, then why would you buy 3 of them??
  • rae52rae52 Member Posts: 102
    The reason I owned 3 Rabbits was because the dealer that I purchased my 2 Gti's from really cared about customer service looong before the domestics ever thought about that!
    Reading the roadtests from all the car mags really influenced my decisions-big time.
    I enjoyed listening to the sport-tuned exhaust burping at every gear change, and the sport-tuned suspension w/ the pirelli tires!
    What I did not like was the climate control system; when I wanted to change the interior temp, it would take about 5 minutes from the time I moved the temp lever to when I could actually detect a difference in the interior temp.
  • sn1pesn1pe Member Posts: 3
    Didn't get in fast enough to buy a Rabbit on sale so going to have to wait awhile to buy a bunny. Anyway, would you recommend Diesel over gas? I've heard the reliability of the diesel engines is great.

    And I see Rabbits ranging from 700-3000 what price range should I look for? Bear in mind that I'm paying for this (only part time job at 16) and with the cost of insurance as it is a lot of $$ would really stretch me thin. I just need something that'll last me for a year or so...I just need something to get me to places and back..nowhere far.
  • lngtonge18lngtonge18 Member Posts: 2,228
    Too funny! I bought my Rabbit when I was 15. I still drive the thing once a week and I'm now 22. I paid $1900 for my 84 GTI in good condition 7 years ago (even had cold AC). I would say pay between 700-1500. And definitely stay between the years of 81-84. These years had standard fuel injection and electronic ignitions with breaker-less distributors, which were much more reliable then the old carbureators and breaker type distributors. As far as whether to get the gas or diesel, that's purely subjective. I wouldn't be able to live with the ungodly slow acceleration of the diesel (it has 46-52 horsepower compared to 90 for my GTI). I bought my GTI because it was fast and handled great. But, if you really dont care, the diesel is a good buy. Those things get around 50 mpg, whereas my 1.8 liter gas engine gets between 26-30 (its geared short so it revs higher on the highway). The diesel is very durable and reliable. They also are loud, clattery sounding, and smoky (might cause a problem with pollution regulations in California, so be careful). They are a great choice for a beater around town car. If you get the gas engine, go for the GTI. The 1.8 liter engine in that car is also known for its reliability and durability. Parts are easy to come by because they used the exact same engine all the way until 93. Good luck in your search. Let me know if you ever end up buying one.
  • verozahlverozahl Member Posts: 574
    Pollution regulations? A Rabbit is a stinky pet~! Although parts are available, it's also an expensive pet too, I have heard. Finicky, not reliable. You must coax it with carrots to move and run, or at least to get it to jump start.

    I'm not sure if this forum is for Animal Lovers Anonymous or people who don't realize that old Volkswagens are ... to put it mildly, competition for the Big Three. It's a pity, because I like the styling on the old sly Fox.

    At least one time, VWs were cute and had nice names. May I interest you in a Phaeton or Nardo or Tuareg? I didn't think so.
  • harlequin1971harlequin1971 Member Posts: 278
    vero - with that much hostility, I can only guess you have been burned by a VW Lemon.

    I am on the side of Rabbits making good pets. I had me a '84 VW Rabbit Diesel, 4-speed, no air, which I bought in 1988 with 46,000 miles for 3k. If I could get that car again, preserved for today, I would pay $3k in a heartbeat.

    No, it wasn't powerful, but I cruised with the windows down and my stereo loud. At 16 years old, it was a good fit and a great ride. Got 50 mpg average, was light on the maintainence until I hit 90k miles in 90-91 and might still have it if it hadn't sacrificed itself to a '64 F-150 with a taste for small game.

    My next three cars were all nothing in comparison to that little demon. But, then again, it was still young when I bought it, the interior was fresh, the engine was rust free and the car had barely lived.

    Like I said, if I could find an '84 diesel with under 60k miles in showroom condition...I would dump 2-3k into it without much hesitation.

    Unfortunately, you won't find that very often, most are heavily used, and shouldn't be much over $500 no matter what shape they are in. Maybe $1000 for an 84 GTI with under 100k miles.

    Good Luck...I still miss my White Rabbit...wish VW would bring the Lupo here.

    BTW, the Fox came out to hunt right as VW's reliability hit the floor...I think it was around the time they built a factory in Mexico. I know that the US cars took a build quality hit when they did that, until they managed to get things under control in the late 90s.

    Imagine if VW released the Corrado now, under the current market conditions of VW popularity, they would have sold 8X as many of them. Too bad too, was a good looking, fast little car.

    The H
  • moparbadmoparbad Member Posts: 3,870
    VW Puebla factory was built in 1954.
  • verozahlverozahl Member Posts: 574
    I'd look at them!
  • markz2kmarkz2k Member Posts: 112
    I had the misfortune of buying a new 1980 VW Rabbit while in my early 20's. I did the research, Consumer Reports rated reliability as average. And for the first year, it was fairly trouble-free. Sure, the sunroof broke the first time I used it. But, within a month of the warranty expiring (only 12mos/12k mi back then) It wouldn't start one day. Fortunately, the dealer I bought it from was less than a mile from my house. Had it towed, problem was the fuse box had burned and partly melted. So, the elctric fuel pump got no power. Though it was technically out of warranty, the dealer got VWoA to cover it under warranty as a "goodwill" gesture. (I later found out this was a VERY common problem.) Less than a year later, it happened again. There had been a recall for this problem, but the recall excluded models built after March '80, which mine was. As I found out, models built after that date definitly had the same problem. This time, VWoA wasn't interested in helping out. The dealer tried (or said they did) to get them to cover it, but they wouldn't. I called them several times myself, and they couldn't care less about the whole problem. So I got to pay for it. (And couldn't afford it at the time, but that's another story.) It eventually happened yet again. (Apparently, fuses are rare in germany, and must be protected by the fuse boxes from damage?!) It was finally fixed correctly by an independant mechanic who took over a VW dealership when they folded. (This dealer was on Lemon St. in Fullerton, CA. How appropriate)

    Sometime after that, it overheated for no apparent reason, and the head gasket was damaged cause there was oil and water mixed from then on. I had to add water every couple of days. I couldn't afford the repair back then, so just kept driving, it wasn't worth fixing anyway. It also had a CV joint failure too. I don't think I even got 50K miles out of this POS. Note that I did do all maintenance as recommended in the manual. For the first year, I let the dealer do it.

    That was my first, and last VW. 2 years ago, when I was shopping again, I briefly considered a passat due to the all the raving I read about it here, and on other sites. Then I remembered that if I had gotten another lemon, VWoA would have done nothing to help me out, just like they did nothing 20 years ago. I can forgive any manufacturer for making a lemon, but treating the customer like crap at the same time means I never buy their product again. That's why so many states found it neccessary to enact lemon laws. I bought a Honda Accord EXV6, and have had 0 problems since then.

    Ok, that was a long rant, but potential VW buyers should know.

    Oh, forgot something. Back then, VW's slogan was "It's not a car, it's a Volkswagen" I guess I should have known I wasn't buying transportation, I was buying a POS.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    Contrary to the last post, those VW diesel Rabbits from yesteryear DO run forever...a lot of the other stuff in the car will have broken long ago, so be prepared for that, but the engines just go and go. The only thing is, the diesels smoke bad...the back of the car will be covered in soot.

    I had a gasoline GTI, it was cranky and didn't always want to run, but it was fun to work on, and even tho the electrics quit all the time, those great oil gauges on the floor more than made up for it! And when it did run, poetry in motion!

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

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