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33K Miles! 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit Cabriolet

While not as omnipresent as the universally recognized Beetle, the VW Golf Mark I, and all of its derivatives, was a pretty close second. When the Golf first appeared on domestic shores in 1975, it was referred to as the Rabbit, and for today’s review, we have a convertible, or cabriolet, version of the Rabbit from 1980. It is located in Chicago, Illinois and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $4,950, six bids tendered so far.

Total Golf Mark I production, world-wide, tallied about 6.8 MM vehicles between the years of 1974 and 1987 (’83 in the U.S.). The Rabbit, the U.S. version of the Golf, saw production from 1975 through 1984 as in 1985, it underwent a name change to Golf, aligning with the universal name used in most countries. Body styles initially included two and four-door sedans, but later a cabriolet, like our subject vehicle, and even a Ranchero/El Camino styled pickup was offered.

There is not a lot of detail in the listing for this 33K mile Rabbit, the pictures do a pretty good job of providing an overall description, however. The dark green finish with a contrasting tan convertible top is a favorite combination of convertible body styles for many different marques. While the finish of this example shows well, it seems that some of it could be a repaint, area such as the above the belt-line portion of the driver-side fender just doesn’t appear like a factory applied paint job. Again, it looks fine, just not original. Body panel alignment is as intended and there is no sign of rust or corrosion. The top, bumpers, and black rubber trim are in a similar state of condition, they all present very well – other than the faded name badges, it’s safe to say that the exterior of this VW needs no attention.

Inside, matching the top is a saddle/tan vinyl environment and it appears to have been very gently used. It looks to have been “oiled up” for sales presentation but it is a sound environment. There are no signs of splits, tears, scuffs, or permanent stains. The instrument panel has a blocky ’80s design and the six-digit odometer can be clearly read, attesting to the mileage claim. Admittedly, there is no referenced documentation authenticating the low mileage but the car’s overall appearance gives no reason to doubt it. The steering wheel, my favorite interior feature, and the triple gauge panel lend a no-nonsense, functional vibe to this Rabbit’s controls.

Under the hood, there is no image provided so I included one of the underside which is as close as I can get to anything mechanical on this VW (note the trace of green overspray and my earlier comment). That’s unfortunate as an engine’s appearance can tell you a lot about the state of maintenance, condition, and mileage that a car has experienced. Anyway, it should be a 70 net HP, 1.5 liter, in-line four-cylinder engine, driving through a front-wheel-drive, four-speed, manual transaxle. There is no description of how this Rabbit hops but with 33K miles on its clock it should be able to take on any tortoise that is up for some competition.

Considering this Rabbit’s clean condition and low mileage, this VW should make for a fun, top-down ride. The bidding, for now, is still reasonable, we’ll just have to see where it goes over the next five days. We hear about VW Beetle antics all of the time, it would be great to hear from readers who have owned Mark I Rabbits/Golfs and how those experiences were, would anyone like to share?


  1. alphasud Member

    80 Rabbit convertible is a rare beast! The 1.5 is underpowered especially in today’s market. You are better off buying a 84 and newer when they started using the 90hp 1.8 and the close ratio 5-speed. For the most part when they got the GTI engine most everything else was GTI spec. so they drove like a GTI except with the open top they have a lot of cowl shake. I got my sister a 87 Cabriolet and she drove it for several years before it died from cancer. Great cars and a lot of fun to cruise around in.

    Like 1
  2. GTiDave

    I think 1980 should have the 1.6. The dash with a tach I’m pretty sure is from a Scirocco, along with the steering wheel and shift knob. And if the dash is correct I’d say there is way too much wear on the switches for the miles. The right side door looks out of alignment (accident?).

    Like 4
    • alphasud Member

      I think it’s a 1.5 because they had the 1.6 in the Rabbit and Scirocco in 77 and went back to a 1.5 in 78 probably to escape the tighter emissions. 80 was the first year for the catalyst for the 49 state cars and 81 was the first year for closed loop injection with the O2 sensor. They also went to the 1.7 in 81.

  3. doug

    VW never painted a car that poorly.

    Like 7
    • Stan Marks

      From what I can see, from the pictures, the paint doesn’t look too bad, considering it’s not factory. The top looks new. The interior is exceptional. So it has a 1.5.. BFD. I’m sure a good mechanic could boost the power. It is what it is.
      The current bid is up to $6500. Nice daily driver.

  4. Superdessucke

    Back in the day, these were very popular among the young female demographic. They were usually seen in all white.

    Like 1
  5. Kevin

    I had a ’79 Scirocco and many bits in this Rabbit look like they were shared with the Scirocco. Agreed that there is a decent amount of wear on the switches and the cubby in the center console to merit the mileage claim. This was the first year for the Rabbit drop top and never see these at all anymore especially with just the dual headlights. In 1980 it was the Beetle’s replacement then morphed into the ultimate “chick car.” Hard to believe these labored on through the mid 90’s.VW got about 20 years out of this.

    Like 2
  6. Matt in L.A. Member

    I had an 84 Convertible. It was easy to get GTI rims, steering wheel and front air dam. It was white with black trim so it looked like a GTI convertible. Great car! Zippy, great handling, reliable (after I got the cv joints/boots sorted). I drove it 9 years to 140k miles. It was perfect for 25 year old southern California in the 80’s!! PS. Yes. It was oddly reliable for an 80’s vw. The horror stories other vw owners had (and have)!!!

  7. Howard A Member

    Yeah, where are all the Rabbits? I remember, the Rabbit had some mighty big shoes to fill. Like the TR7 for British buffs, Bug owners couldn’t believe this is what replaced their Beetle, it was all wrong. Front engine, front drive, a real heater? Didn’t take long though, it became the king of the “econobox”, I remember quite a few. So where did they all go? Great find, price, for once, is much more in line for someone to have fun on a budget.

    • Stan Marks

      The Rabbit became the Golf. They had to replace the Beetle, for the U.S. market, for one reason. The old air-cooled engines, couldn’t pass emissions tests. They had to go to water-cooled.
      On the other hand, Beetles were still manufactured, in Puebla, Mexico, till 2003.

      Like 1
      • Howard A Member

        Thanks, Stan, yeah, we never called it “Golf”, fact is, we never knew they were even called Golf’s elsewhere, and sounded like a sillier name than Rabbit. The Rabbit was the 1st car I saw with a “shift light”.

    • Stan Marks

      And “Beetle” isn’t a silly name? Looked more like a turtle. LOL!

  8. Bultaco

    A friend had a new ‘84 GTI, black with the red/blue pattern seats. It was really nice to sit in, and zippy to drive. Very unrefined powertrain though. I remember the entire dash buzzing and vibrating at idle. As the engine zipped up through the rev range, there were various points of resonance that felt like the engine mounts were solid metal. Odd for a car that was otherwise so well executed. A Honda Accord seemed so quiet and refined by comparison, but not as much fun.

  9. sign guy

    The dash has more shine than the paint!

    Like 1
    • Pete Starkey

      You must need glasses then!

    • Stan Marks

      The owner must own stock in Armor All.

  10. Mycroft

    The seller ratings make me nervous.

    Like 2
  11. Larry Wood

    They made this style Cabriolet until 1993, I have one, dark green with a tan top. Fun car, reliable and lots of parts available for them.

    Like 1
  12. Raymond Keck

    My first new car purchase was a 1980 Rabbit Convertible (not yet dubbed Cabriolet) and it was emblematic of a Karmann-built car, impeccable in every way. White with tan interior, so fun to drive. I lived in San Francisco and lost a stereo every time my insurance company bought a new one. One could slit the top behind the rear window and roll down the window, I gave up and bought an ’83 GTI. Then they just broke out the wing window to break in. Still I had that VW for 8 years and they were great cars. I’m suprised how few seem to have survived.

    • Stan Marks

      My ’76 Beetle was broken into a few times, via the side wing window. fortunately, they didn’t break it. They simply used the latch lock. One time, I left a denim jacket, on the passenger seat.
      Another time, they stole the spare tire. Good olé L.A. living..

  13. ramblergarage

    I had a new 1980 and a new 1982 both convs. The 80 was a lemon and I swapped it in for the 82 with fuel injection. That cars was a gem and never had a problem with it in 125,000. Neither of mine had a steering wheel like that.

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