Woodgrain Kit: 1979 VW Rabbit Diesel

As cars from the 70s and 80s grow harder to find, you may be surprised to realize that some once-laughable options are now reasons for spending more on a given vehicle. Take fake wood trim slapped on the sides: how many times did we point and laugh at cars like the LeBaron?  Now, examples like this 1979 VW Rabbit here on eBay are seeing a fair amount of interest from bidders due to what is considered a rare “option.” Bidding is over $1K with the reserve unmet.

The seller claims this wood applique was an option introduced at the 1979 Chicago auto show as an upgrade. I did some quick digging and can’t confirm this, but I have seen MK1 enthusiasts talk excitedly when such a car comes up for sale. As you can see, it’s far from perfect but you can recreate adhesive-backed wood graphics like this one. I’m actually in the process of making replacement badges for my HiAce, and it’s amazing what a good graphic designer can do! The seller says the Rabbit is solid, with just one rust spot in the rear valence.

That last bit of information is truly amazing, as the car’s Colorado location doesn’t  guarantee rust won’t become a serious issue for a vintage car. The seller says it retains its original factory undercoating, so perhaps that helped. The interior looks quite good and the seller notes that overall, the Rabbit is pretty tidy considering it sat outside under a tarp for the last few years. It hadn’t been run in 15 years, but the turbodiesel motor has received a fair amount of attention and is said to now run well.

According to the seller: “Bottom end is all new. Still in the second honing group it has new rings, bearings, and seals all around. Head is in excellent condition and it starts and runs real easy. Turbo has no play what so ever and spools nicely.” For a fun project car that will return fantastic fuel economy (or, convert it to run on vegetable oil) and has a tick of rarity due to the dealer-installed wood trim kit, this is an interesting alternative for the small car shopper who might otherwise consider an Omni or Civic for a vintage econobox project.


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  1. RichS

    Non original engine – Rabbit didnt get the turbo diesel until ’83.

    Also the lack of timing belt cover is a red flag to me.

    • Jon cherup

      Timeing belt cover raffles lose
      It happens
      Diesel 😀

  2. skagit340@gmail,com

    Never thought a fake wood sided rabbit would be desirable. The diesel engine is the kicker for this one

  3. Maestro1 Member

    One of the things that makes Barn Finds interesting is the bizarre cars they come up with, this being among those in that group. The site also has some experienced people commenting as well, which adds to the overall impression.
    Well done. I would bet that 0-60 is about 5 years in this one, and it is correct that the engine is not original to the car. That may be unknown to the seller.

  4. Miguel

    I bet there is a whole lot of play in the shifter, just like every other Rabbit I have been in.

    • Mike H. Mike H.

      That’s an easy fix with a new bushing kit. I’ve done many of these and it’s surprisingly easy.

  5. Gregs43

    I bought a new yellow one just like this. If I had only known I could have gotten the wood decals! I loved this car and yes it was hard and slow pulling out of first gear!

  6. Nrg8

    I think the fumes are getting in the cabin. As mentioned, never came w/turbo, lift supports are caving in from rust on the unibody, taped up exhaust? Don’t know what this guy is thinking.

  7. JohnM

    I had one of these in the mid 80s. I’ve never been as happy as when a tree fell on it.

  8. LAB3

    People talk about the mythical tin worm eating up cars, what about tin termites? It’s fun to see an oddity like this one, you can drive a long way on very little fuel that’s for sure.

  9. geomechs geomechs Member

    Used to see a lot of these come through the shop. Fairly rugged. The worst thing you can do to these is allow them to run out of fuel. The vane-type transfer pump inside the drive end of the injection pump runs dry and carves up the aluminum housing. I used to see these come up for sale right after the owner ran out of fuel.

  10. Sam

    My dad bought one of these for me when I was a teen. It was diesel and slow as molasses. It was this really interesting green paint and thankfully no fake wood on mine. It got great mileage but was riddled with quirky problems. I remember the wipers would betray me in heavy rain as they’d wipe themselves off the windshield to flap in the wind!

    • carbuzzard Member

      Driving something like a Slow Bunny proves that the girl isn’t going out with you because of your car.

  11. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    59 bids and sold for $3000. I guess the diesels hold their value(?)

    My father had a couple of Rabbit diesels before graduating to Mercedes diesels. Other than having to plug it in to battle the NH winters, they were solid running cars that latest forever.

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