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Mellow Yellow: 1980 VW Rabbit Cabriolet


Sometimes being a rare or unusual car does not confer value. That is the case with the 1980 VW Rabbit Cabriolet. 1980 was the first year for this model, and only 13,39o were sold in the US. Most of the time, these cars were driven til they failed and then sent to the crusher, so now that they are 35 years old, there are not very many left. And probably very few with only 50,000 miles, as this example for sale here on craigslist in Tucson, Arizona has been driven.


According to the seller, this car’s previous owner became ill and stopped driving the car in 2002. The current owner has had the car for the past six months, getting it sorted and back on the road.


As the photos attest, it appears quite original, and is generally in good condition, though the car needs some maintenance items, including tires and belts. The seller has gone through the fuel system and replaced the filter and pump.


Arizona cars of this vintage often suffer damage to the interior from the sun and low humidity of the climate. With the seats covered and not mentioned in the ad, it seems likely the original upholstery is not in good condition, and evidently, at least one piece of trim is missing. The top does look pretty good, which is a surprise.


Despite the fact that this car is now 35 years old, is relatively rare, and represents the first year the Rabbit cabriolet was sold in America, at least according to the price guides I consulted, its value remains incredibly low. High retail is less than $4,000, which, if correct, means this seller’s asking price of $2,8oo is way too high. I can’t help thinking this car ought to be worth a bit more, but any seller will be buying this car for sentimental reasons or just to have a fun to drive, low cost convertible.


And even if this car’s overall condition is solid, after sitting for 14 years, it will need mechanical refreshing to go along with the tire and belts, probably new brakes too. Unless you can do the work yourself, this car will be a money pit, and not an investment.


It’s often said that you should buy an older car because you love it, not as an investment, but none of us want to spend so much on a car that we feel stupid.


Despite its apparently low value and cost to bring back to life, is this a car that interests you? If so, there’s a great website dedicated to these convertible VWs, Cabby Info, where I learned a lot about them. There’s even a comprehensive buyer’s guide too. All Rabbit Cabriolets were built by Karmann, and their overall quality was very good. They weighed about 300 pounds more than standard Rabbits, so were a bit slower and less tossable. But they were fun cars and they do have a following, so maybe this car will be worth the cost of rescue for someone out there. Anyone here interested?


  1. Avatar photo Paul R.

    Girly-mans car!
    A co-worker friend drove one of these to work because of its great gas mileage and his long commute to work. It was actually his wife’s car.
    We called it the “Foo-Foo Mobile” and never let him live it down. He called it “Mr Gas Mileage” and claimed it to be a great little car. I could not say, I refused to ride in it!

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  2. Avatar photo Bob in Bexley Member

    1979 1st year.

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    • Avatar photo David Wilk Member

      Nice catch, Bob, I misread the production record, my mistake.

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      • Avatar photo Bob in Bexley Member

        Only way I know David is I was shopping for Scirocco replacement & VW dealer had a Rabbit Cabrio coming. When it got there it was an awful pea green with tan leatherette & tan top. So typically German ! Passed on that & bought Dasher wagon instead. That one worked well for years & was painted Inari Silver- positively glowed metallic silver green on a dull sunless day. I mean glowed.

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  3. Avatar photo wagon master

    I had one of these assembled in Germany, early ones. Great car! I’m having a hard time believing the mileage claim by the looks of the condition especially under the hood.

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  4. Avatar photo Francisco

    When these Rabbits first came out, they were banned from the interstates. They ate the cloverleafs :-(
    But seriously, I could learn to love this car. It looks like lots of fun. Decent price, great find.
    Gosh David, did you really have to find fault with the Arizona climate and cars? Think what this could look like if it were a New Jersey car!

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    • Avatar photo David Wilk Member

      Don’t get me wrong, I love the dry Arizona climate. But that sun does have an effect on interiors, paint, rubber parts too. Just want to be fair :)
      Where I live in Connecticut, we never see rust free cars. I’d rather have a sun dried car without the rust any day.

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  5. Avatar photo grant

    This seems like a nice little car that needs some love. I’m thinking less collector car, more a kids first ride. Maybe 1500 is a little closer. I’m pretty secure with myself. I’d roll it.

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  6. Avatar photo JoeT

    Had an 83 for a while. Water intrusion into the driver’s footwell was a common problem. Rainwater would drain from the vent in front of the windshield and wick along the wiring harness into the back of the fuse / relay block. Went to start the car one morning and when I turned the key the windshield wipers came on by themselves. Removed the relay and found it was full of water and shorted. IIRC VW had a recall for the water intrusion problem on certain years. Other than electrical problems it was a great car for the N Florida coast.

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  7. Avatar photo Rick

    Yep, fun little cars. Had an ’85 for a while. Other than some minor electrical gremlins it rarely failed to get me where I had to go. Rear quarters would fill with water when it rained, though.. at some point in it’s life a PO Ziebarted everything and probably filled a drain hole somewhere. But when the sun was out and it was warm enough to put the top down, what a great way to cruise the back country roads!

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  8. Avatar photo MountainMan

    Nice little car, has a few needs obviously but I don’t think the price is too far off I know most of the ones I see offered are priced in line with the featured car. It’s not to hard to de-cutesify these with some more sporting wheel and tire choices and a little lower stance from aftermarket suspension components. That would be on my list of needs, makes them more fun in the twistys as well. It’s offered on CL so I would think the seller left himself some wiggle room on the asking price.

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