Low-Mile Diesel: 1981 VW Rabbit Pickup

This 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit pickup is likely one of the nicest ones left, and it’s been in the same family ownership since new. The seller’s father took the Rabbit off the road in 1991 and put it up on blocks, which likely helped ensure its present-day condition. The Rabbit is a diesel-powered example that’s undergone all the necessary start-up maintenance before being fired up, and is now available here on eBay with bidding at $6,300 and the reserve unmet.

The Rabbit comes with a bed cap that has done a wonderful job of preserving the bed paint, and all of the factory mouldings and mudflaps are still present. Even the original window sticker is included, a testament to a family that obviously placed a great deal of pride in preserving their investments. The Rabbit is equipped with the preferred 5-speed manual gearbox.

The interior is just a time warp, with the seats, door panels, dash, and carpets all in exceptional condition. The seller is correct when he says this is too nice for a daily driver, and really should continue to be preserved by the next owner. While the reserve remains unmet, I think the seller is absolutely correct to hold out for more as a bottom line.

Mechanically, the seller performed his due diligence before starting the Rabbit back up, including fitting a new timing belt and battery. The full-size spare is sitting in the aforementioned gorgeous bed of the Rabbit, which looks like it didn’t haul much of anything. With the manual transmission, the seller claims the Rabbit with get 50 MPGs, which is impressive in any era.


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  1. Stevieg

    Nice little vehicle (I can’t bring myself to call it a truck).
    I am all about conserving fuel with my daily driver, toys? Not so much of a priority. But I also like to conserve money. My daily driver Hyundai is rated @ 37 mpg on the highway, but I was able to average 42 mpg heading out to Phoenix last June & actually maintained 45 mpg for 2 tanks of fuel. With gas being more inexpensive at the pump than diesel, I think I would rather have my Hyundai for daily driver purposes. Still a nice vehicle though. Whoever buys it needs to maintain it as it is, and with pride.

    Like 5
    • wayne

      I have an 82 diesel pickup and it hauled a weighed 1142 pounds from Idaho to Utah – over an 8,000 pass on dirt roads with dangerous switchbacks along the way. Didn’t like the weight, but it did the job.
      Now a farm truck with 50/50 gravel/pavement and some farm fields in the mix. Gets 44-52mpg depending on road conditions.
      Yes, the are small but does work as a truck.

  2. alphasud Member

    The 81 diesel was the worst one to have. When VW increased the displacement from 1.5 to 1.6 the head bolts were not up to the task of keeping the head gaskets from failing. Also to engine block cracked where the oil feed went to the cylinder head. They used to make a external oil bypass to salvage the block. 82 and up are the ones to have because VW increased the size of the head bolts.

    Like 5
  3. Cycling Fred

    I had one of these in collage. Same year (’81) but charcoal grey with grey interior. While indeed the mpg was 50+, it could barely get up to 60 mph, eventually getting there after about 60 seconds (I actually timed it). Practical rig, especially in snow country with the front wheel drive and no weight in the back. But after about 100K, it really started to consume oil. 500 miles to a quart or worse.

    Like 1

    I have a question for you all. Why is it that all of these preserved put up cars are all base models painted the ugliest color on the chart cheapo models?

    Like 8
    • bone

      Wow, I guess I’m not the only one who notices that !

  5. Steve

    +1 on the 81 being a bad year. My wife had one when we were dating and it went through several head gaskets. When she sold it she refused to answer the phone for two weeks because she was sure the guy would want his money back.

    Like 1

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