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Is It A Classic Yet? 1983 VW Rabbit GTI


First off, it’s NOT a diesel! Early Generation 1 GTI’s, the first ‘”hot hatch,” have been recognized in Europe as classics for a while now, and I’ve started to see some indications that the North American market is starting to think the same thing. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Cam for sending this one in. It’s located in Labelle, Florida and is up for sale here on eBay with heavy bidding so far. It’s very unusual to see one of these so unmolested, with original undamaged upholstery. It does have at least 120k miles, so someone must have really loved this car. I love the upholstery, and considering the minor defects pointed out by the seller, I’m thinking this could be in close to immaculate condition with only a little bit of work. So do you think this is a classic?


  1. hhaleblian

    I owned a 83 GTI for many years. As a rep I piled on the miles without any issue. Loved the car and would love to find another one like this. The closest thing I’ve found to the GTI is my 03 Liquid Yellow Cooper S I bought new. Other than the supercharger going south a 60k miles it’s been a blast of a shoebox. Have over 80k on it and it still has the original clutch.

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  2. Steve Member

    Hi hhaleblain
    I too had a Rabbit and it was a fantastic vehicle and after a secession of other cars I now drive a 2006 supercharged Mini convertible with a chip. It easily does 0 to 60 in six seconds and on the interstate, at my average of 80 mph, if I downshift and give it the gas, I’ll be passing anything else attaining 100 mph in very short order…great for shooting the gaps with the 18 wheelers. And the gas mileage isn’t too bad either. People might not believe this but the Cooper is a fantastic road car with plenty of room for as big guys. I’m 6′ 2+ and have more headroom that I did in my Cadillac ESV platinum I traded for the Mini.

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  3. redwagon

    love the design of the early golf/rabbits. very functional and very appealing. i could do without the black stripes and body molding but i surprisingly like the colored seats.

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  4. Fred

    Is it a classic? Maybe classic is a strong word, but I think any car that had a strong following at the time, as the Rabbit did, has a good shot at attaining true collector status one day. That doesn’t explain the station wagon thing though!

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  5. krash

    I had an 82 Rabbit.(non GTI)…back in early 90’s….It was a good little car…. Unfortunately I wasn’t very good about tending to even the most routine maintenance….ended up blowing a hole in the side of the engine block while racing along on the highway….

    I just remembered it as being very spartan. The heater worked spectacularly on those cold days….and it never left me stranded.

    would love to have another…

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  6. sir mike

    No not a classic.the real world got real GTI’s..we got a very slightly modified Westmoreland built Rabbit…plus the round headlamp models looked better.this one is a very nice example though.most beat to death.

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  7. Dave Wright

    I lived in Germany when these first came out…….incredible machines. I had a Maserati Mistral and a Mercedes 300SEL 6.3 among others…….,on the no speed limit autobahns I would routinely drive over 110 MPH for extended periods, mostly in the left lane flashing the lights at others to clear the way……..until a little car came up fast…..flashing at me. It was a GTI. I am sure the European versions would run in excess of 120 MPH and the Germans used all the available speed. I have owned several through the years ( they were mostly in transit ) and I hold them in high regard. But none here in the US came close to the European models. I don’t know about it being a classic but I am in Germany right now and the once old car hating Germans have discovered what they call old timers, The factory Mercedes dealers have even gotten in on the act, actively looking for good cars or cars to restore for the public. I off course am buying some cars while here but the best classics are selling for more here than at home. That is off course what has driven the meteoric rise in Porsche prices. Many cars on dealer lots here are advertised as “California” cars as a price enhancement. I would not be surprised if the GTI follows the same trend.

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  8. jim s

    the seller should have fixed the headliner and the steering issue, which the seller states is a easy fix, before listing. i test drove these when they were new. had to do a lot of shifting and the engine RPM at highway speeds was high, that was back when the speed limit was 55MPH. not sure what the engine would be turning at 70 or 75 limits we have today. it would be fun around town/autocross/hillclimb i think. great find.

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  9. Steve

    When’s the last time anyone has seen any of the 1st gen Rabbit/Dasher/Sciroccos on the road? I had both a Dasher and a Scirocco back in the day, in hindsight they were pretty craptastic but fun as you could drive them wide open at the redline all day. The Scirocco had the distributor mounted in a metal cup which was conveniently located right where rain splashed through the grill.

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  10. John

    I had a 1980. It was wonderful to drive but a huge and expensive drain on my finances to maintain. Every imaginable part got replaced under warranty. But there is a God who watches over us dumb animals. About the time I was at wits end, I took it in for yet another one of its warranty sessions, with a VW factory tech, no less, In the course of replacing its high pressure fuel rail – their words – as the tech was working on it, it caught fire and burned to the ground taking with it a newly installed Sun machine that was hanging above it. The check from the dealership’s insurance company bought me a new Toyota Corolla which I drove almost 300,000 miles with no issues ever.

    I had ordered the GTI and waited for it for about two months. I loved it, but mine was horribly unreliable and VW America was arrogant and untruthful to the point that I vowed to never again touch one of their cars. I kept that vow for 35 years, and then fell in love with a Golf TDI which I was going out to pick up when the dealership called to tell me it was no longer for sale. I had left a $500 deposit — I’m sure I’ll never get it back.

    But this one sure has been carefully maintained for a lot of years. I’m sure someone will fall in love with it.

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  11. sir mike

    Steve…every time i see my mother…1983 rabbit..4dr..auto around 50000 miles..one owner..other than that rarely in the east coast rust belt area…in fact she had a person stop her today and asked if she wanted to sell it…she’s 88 and doesn’t drive very far..

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  12. Tundra/BMW Guy

    Had friend who had one of these, his was a black GTI. He got it cheap because it would stall out on L/H turns. Not sometimes, all the time. That could be considered a bit more than a nuisance. We hung virtually everything in the fuel system on it. Never figured it out and his wife got tired of putting $$$$$ in it with no reward. (it was supposed to be her DD) you know what happened when she put her foot down and locked up the $$$ flow! Bye bye it went. Never heard whether or not it ever got fixed.

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  13. Mark-A

    First thing I’d do is remove the HORRIBLE oversized Federal bumpers for the Slimmer European ones, dunno if I’d go as far as changing the Square Lamps to a Euro spec 4 round lamp GTI grille but I’d definitely be looking for either a set of BORBET A or ATS Classic alloys #DreamCar 😍

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  14. Jason Houston

    You ask, “Do you think this is a classic?”

    Well… Can you name 3 features that would suggest this has some classic attributes (besides being 30 years old)?

    MORAL: “Age alone does not a classic car make.”

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  15. Kenny

    It’s the first hot hatch in the USA. Yes, it’s a timeless modern classic.

    I’d add Borbet Type C 15″ wheels (only when the stock wheels looked too scuffed).

    Some Bilstein sport shocks, Neuspeed sport springs, Neuspeed front and rear sway bars, all new bushings and any the rod ends and other rubber looking old or cracked.

    The front discs upgraded to 10″ Scirocco 16v units. Maybe some 16v rear discs.

    Intake, TT exhaust with Borla muffler, mild cam.

    Aside from that, just make sure everything is in guud shape. From shifter bushings to gas tank seal.

    Enjoy it. Drive it once a week while I bike more commonly. Keep it forever.

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