Diesel-Powered Survivor: 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit LS

Though most front-wheel-drive economy cars from the late 1970s and early 1980s were rather lackluster, that’s certainly not the case with Volkswagen’s first Rabbit, the MK1. Many people flock to the GTI model, which was arguably the world’s first “hot hatch,” but even pedestrian models like this 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit LS Diesel that Barn Finds reader Mitchell G. found here on eBay still offer plenty of charm.

This Rabbit is available in Lynnwood, Washington with a clean title. The advertisement states that this one-owner vehicle was always garage and well-maintained, and it also comes with documentation such as the original dealership paperwork, books, and owner’s manuals.

It’s impressive to see a Rabbit in this condition, let alone an all-original survivor like this one. There’s only one flaw with the exterior, which is a cracked windshield, but the original paint still shines brightly and the advertisement mentions that the exterior has no rust, which seems believable when looking through the pictures of this time capsule.

The dark blue interior nicely complements the exterior paint, and it’s arguably in even better shape. There are no rips or tears in the upholstery, the dashboard material has no cracks or wear, and all of the lights and gauges function without issue.

Under the hood, you’ll find a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine, which pairs to a 5-speed manual transmission to drive the front wheels. The drivetrain has 144,807 miles on it, and the seller not only notes that it runs and drives with no mechanical issues or leaks whatsoever, but also that they would get in the car and drive across the country without hesitation. With that being said, the fuel costs wouldn’t be too expensive for anyone living outside of the pacific northwest who is considering purchasing this vehicle – this drivetrain has a reputation for stellar fuel economy, often achieving close to 50 miles per gallon.

At the time of publication, bidding is at $5,101. Would you purchase this time capsule Rabbit?

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Comments

  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Looks like it is in good condition, especially the interior for being a Pennsylvania Rabbit, but too much money IMO. Now, If this were a German 79 Champagne Edition diesel, that would be a different story. Since I respect the owners and admins of this site, I will refrain on commenting on the sticker on the tailgate :-)

    Like 18
  2. alphasud Member

    This is the diesel rabbit to have. 82 engines were revised with larger torque to yield head bolts. 1980-81 engines has issues with head gaskets and cracked blocks around the oil feed. The champagne edition rabbit was really nice. I only saw and worked on one. I’m sure pretty rare these days.

    Like 2
  3. Classic Steel

    I owned two Rabbits and they were good cars that ran well . The con is each very high road noises inside the tin can. Short trips fine but long range bring ear plugs and Tylenol … or turn the hearing aid off…. WHAT?

    Like 8
  4. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    A 77/78 gas Rabbit/Scirocco for the fun/novelty of re-flogging long past good times, sure. A diesel version ? Voodoo nostalgia. Ever driven one ? New ? No guts unless maybe you’re flooring it in each gear & then there’s no guts & then there’s the shake rattle & hope you don’t roll it with the minimal tires VW decided to install on this americanized model. 5k just about buys you a bunch of late model compact that has twice the power & a lot better value.

    Like 5
  5. Spud

    I had this car, except 2 years newer and in white. If one could get over the fact that it was a diesel, and if you had the manual transmission (like this one does, and I did), it wasn’t a half-bad car. You weren’t going to win any drag races, but it would cruise happily at 80 on the highway all day long…and return 50 mpg to boot. And you know, for a lot of us in the 1980s (those who weren’t Yuppies and were trying to just get by in the Reagan economy), that was just fine.

    I drove mine for about 150K miles and then gave it away to someone even less well resourced than I am (which is what I nearly always do with cars that have reached that mileage) who then drove it at least that many more miles. I’d wager that it’s still out there (last I heard it was in Colorado) chugging along.

    Like 6
  6. Tim

    No, I would not buy it. I will never buy a diesel. I had a couple in the 80s when I worked in the oil patch and they aren’t for me. To paraphrase Ray Magliozzi of Click and Clack fame (aka the Tappet Bros), what is it you like about diesels? The noise or the fumes? And Volkswagen? The company that excelled at cheating emissions to flood the US market with them? To each their own, I just don’t want to be behind you breathing your particulate waiting for my opportunity to blow by you …

    Like 6
  7. Dusty Rider

    I had two new ’75s, a yellow Rabbit that would die on the highway with monotonous regularity but the dealer couldn’t fix it. I traded it for a silver Dasher GT, it was OK, pretty sharp looking and fun to drive but my girlfriend at the time rolled it. Insurance fixed it and I sold it and bought a ’66 Mustang. I’d really like to have that Mustang back, the VWs, not so much.

    Like 6
    • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

      I had a 1978 Rabbit that I bought brand new. It also stalled at the worst possible times and would not start until an hour later. Dealer insisted there was nothing wrong with the car. Years later, Consumer Reports listing chronic stalling as an issue with Rabbits. Worst car I ever owned. It was fun to drive though, when it actually ran.

      Like 1
    • bob

      What about the girlfriend ? Want her back?

      Like 1
  8. Boot McHoot

    Naturally aspirated? Do tell the make and model of that carburator!
    Well, fuel injection for a diesel engine is natural, so…

    Like 1
    • gerry

      Naturally aspirated normally means no turbo or supercharger.

      though back before they were a normal thing it meant carb vs. injection the vernacular has changed as turbos became more commonplace.

      Like 4
  9. Dave

    Just sold a decent 83 rabbit to a fellow this afternoon. He knocked on the door and asked if he could buy one of the three I had. He left in a nice all original 4 door. They are great little cars. Super easy to maintain. But, yes they can be a bit noisy on the highway.

    Like 1
  10. Mike

    My ex brother-in-law would buy these things all the time. The dash would shake violently at start up and was noisy as hell. He would just crank up the tunes and ignore it. Once he was done flogging it, he would go find another one and pass the other car to his sister who then would finish it off with some bone headed maneuver like sliding it into ditch trying to u-turn or forgetting to add oil and burning up the motor.

    Like 5
  11. Dave

    I had two, an 82 1.7L fuelie 4 speed coupe bought new and an 83 GTI bought from a local auto auction in 1992. The GTI’s VIN ended with 000235 and featured the 85 mph speedo with the upshift light. I bought it exclusively for the Mount Storm run. There was a coal mine there and we had two contracts, one for Dominion and one for Consol, to calibrate the belt scales twice a month. The car, with it’s performance and handling enhancements, proved to be a good investment for $300.
    The 82 served well for six years of family use followed by four years of field service calls. I never replaced the timing belt but checked the tension whenever I changed oil. No rust on either body or doors but the GTI’s hatch needed replaced ($100).

  12. Cobra Steve

    In 1982 I bought a brand new black tie edition two-door Rabbit diesel. It was slate gray metallic with two tone light blue and dark blue cloth seats. In the summer Texas heat, I would have to shut off the air conditioning in order to keep up with traffic as the 52 horsepower engine was taxed heavily due to the air conditioner.

    Upside is I had achieved 55.9 miles per gallon stretch going to Arkansas, west to east. Car had a 5-speed manual and keeping it at 60 miles per hour I achieved this with the help of a little tail into also.

    Do recall pulling a 14-foot Hobie cat on a trailer many times to sailboat races at the lakes around Houston. The sailboat was larger than the car!

    Around 75,000 miles or so, I started to notice oil weeping around the head gasket. Decided it was time to upgrade do a Mercedes diesel; a decision I never regretted.

    Like 2
    • Cobra Steve

      I hate this voice dictation! Was trying to say with the help of a tail wind!

      Like 3
    • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

      IMO, I think “keeping it at 60 miles per hour I achieved this with the help of a little tail” is hilarious….

      Like 3
      • Cobra Steve

        In retrospect, it is hilarious. I just wished we had the means to edit a few minutes after submission. Glad to see the Barn Finds editors also have a sense of humor by not flagging me. They have my permission to edit my original post if need be.

  13. David Miraglia

    owned two Rabbits, 1975 and 1979, would love to have another. They were fun to drive except for the gremlins on the 1975, my first car.

  14. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. I remember when the VW Golf (Rabbit) looked like this. At the time, I didn’t find it attractive, at least not next to the Passat (Dasher). But today, I find this first generation Golf way more attractive than today’s Golf.

    Like 1
  15. John Oliveri

    I remember in 79, when gas hit a dollar a gallon in NY, I was 18, and I bought a new 79 Grand Prix, which had no gas in it when I picked it up in June rite in the heat of the gas lines, and a friend of mine ordered a diesel Rabbit, took 3 mos to get it, didn’t burn any fuel at all, but in 79, I wasn’t thinking about that, pulling up to a club in a Rabbit, saying hey honey, it gets 50mpg

    Like 1
  16. ThreePedalSteve

    Bit of a time capsule here. Bought a new Rabbit diesel back in 1978 during the crazy days of gas shortages. Mostly because of its incredible range. At 25k miles it blew the head gasket and after a fight it was replaced under warranty.
    Later, I noticed that the wife was putting 2 gallons of 87 octane gasoline in with every tank of diesel when filling up. She said it gave it a extra power!!!

    Like 3
  17. LarryS Member

    I bought a brand new 1983 Rabbit Wolfsburg Edition diesel with a 5 speed when I lived on Long Island (replaced my ’76 gas-engine 4-speed). Really nice looking car but, with it’s limited (understatement) acceleration it was a bit scary on the LIE. Not nearly as scary, though, as driving it through the mountains of western Pennsylvania when I moved to Wisconsin and would go back to the East Coast to visit family. Go as fast as you can downhill, foot on the floor for the next uphill, and pray you don’t get run over by a semi driving the same way. The first winter in Wisconsin was an eyeopener. Parked in the garage at night, with a heater in the lower radiator hose, it would start just fine. After being parked outside all day at work, with no way to plug in the heater, it would start sometimes. Even with a jump, if it was cold enough, it wouldn’t start – the starter didn’t seem capable of overcoming the thick oil and the diesel’s compression. Replaced by an ’86 RX-7. It had its own issues in Wisconsin winters (winter tires help a lot) but it always started.

  18. John Oliveri

    The singer Harry Chapin died on the LIE in the left lane in 79 or 80 in one of those, they never figured out if the car died first, or he had a heart attack, burnt real bad

    Like 4
    • LarryS Member

      Didn’t know that. I was on Long Island from the end of ’79 until the beginning of ’83. Maybe Long Island wasn’t a good place for Rabbits. My ’76 got hit 3 times (each time while parked) in the first few months after I moved there. The LIE was a dangerous place. I got run off the road while I was riding my Honda CB550F on the LIE.

      Like 1
    • Spud

      Harry Chapin died in 1981. He was driving a 1975 gas Rabbit…that was rear-ended at 65 mph by a tractor trailer truck after Chapin had slowed to 15mph in the center lane (likely because he had suffered from a massive heart attack behind the wheel). RIP. That really has nothing much to do with the 1983 diesel car on sale here. :-(

  19. JS

    I had ’81 Rabbit Diesel. Did a number of mods to it to get more power and economy out of it. My best tank was 65 mpg. Loved it. The wife hated it. The EPA was always playing with the Diesel composition which led to injection pump seal failures. Easy pump to work on. Bosch kit ~$30. Don’t buy one if you can’t work on it yourself.

  20. Brian

    I had three of these cars back in the day, a 79 LS 2 door with a (rare in 79) 5 speed and a sunroof. Loved that car although I suspect the memory, to paraphrase Paul Simon, “looks worse in black and white”. Also had a 1980 4dr 4spd that I purchased from a farmers field. The total price of both cars together was still under 1k. Would that i could justify 5k for a trip down memory lane. Driving these was a hoot. You buried the skinny pedal and simply didn’t release it other than to shift or stop. My 80 stuck like glue in corners thanks to a set of scirocco rims with Michelin tires. My last Rabbit was an 83 gas model with the automatic. Sucked all the fun right out of it.

    Like 1
    • Spud

      “Driving these was a hoot. You buried the skinny pedal and simply didn’t release it other than to shift or stop. ”

      +1!

      That was my original point exactly. As the often-quoted automotive maxim says, “it’s much (much) more fun to drive a slow car fast.” Totally.

      • LarryS Member

        Except that my (stock) ’83 Rabbit diesel didn’t do fast. Don’t get me wrong, it was a pleasant enough car to drive – but it didn’t cope well with very cold weather and/or mountainous highways. My ’76, on the other hand, had enough power to keep up easily with highway traffic and, like the ’83, handled well.

  21. Tom

    Had a couple of these. I believe the manual more or less stated that ‘if it din’t get 52-53 mpg, there’s something wrong’ – call it 40 years ago.
    “would get in the car and drive across the country without hesitation”. I would have too back in the day. But you’ll definitely need that tail wind….depending on which direction you’re going. You’re gonna be well into Oregon, Idaho, or Montana before you reach 60 mph. I never passed a car with mine on a two lane road. Passing zones weren’t long enough here.

  22. Maverick

    The old man by the car sales technique must work. At least for the last few ads.

    • bone

      I was thinking the same thing !

  23. chrlsful

    turbo, turbo, turbo!

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