1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup Diesel

Condition: Used
Make: Volkswagen
Model: Rabbit
Type: Standard Cab Pickup
Trim: Sport
Year: 1981
Mileage: 128,000
VIN: 1V1LG0176BV098562
Color: Yellow
Engine: 1.6 4-cyl diesel
Cylinders: 4
Fuel: Diesel
Transmission: Manual
Drive type: Front wheel drive
Interior color: Black
Drive side: Left-hand drive
Vehicle Title: Clear
Item location: Thousand Oaks, California, United States

Listed by
Private seller

Description of 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Sport

Here is a nicely fixed up mostly stock 1981 VW Rabbit Pickup. The goal to this restoration wasn’t “show car” but it was about having a reliable daily driver anyone would be proud to be seen in, and get lots of thumbs up whereverthey go. You should see the looks at Home Depot when I pull into the contractors parking. I know quite a bit about the history of this truck from the previous owner, who did a lot of the mechanical work on it to bring it up to being a reliable daily driver. He was a diesel engine instructor at a technical institute in Southern CA, and did the rebuild on the engine four years ago, I bought it from him three years ago, he said he put maybe 5,000 miles on the rebuilt engine. And I only drove it to Home Depot a few times, the tire shop to get new tires, and then it was torn down, to get ready for paint.

The previous owner went through the brakes, steering, and few other things, though I don’t think he did the CV boots, because I can see that they could stand some attention. If I were to keep it, I’d probably just get new axles, they are easy to put in.He also put in the 5-speed manual as I think the 81's all came with only 4-speed.

I drove and rejected about a dozen of these trucks before buying this one, and the reason I bought it was that it worked. The engine felt strong, started right up as it should, didn’t have any blow by. The gear selector worked, was smooth, there were no “tricks” needed to get it into reverse or any other gear. The clutch felt right, and predictable. The steering was good, and precise, no wander when on center, no pulling to either direction, and easy despite it is not power assisted. And it was the ONLY one that had a working hand brake! While some things like the door latches feel less than factory fresh, they work, and seem pretty good for a 36-year-old vehicle.
Even the clock works! There are a few things, the signal light fails to auto-cancel when turning left, turning right is fine. The radio doesn’t work, there power, etc. it just doesn’t work, and I’m not much of a radio listener so it wasn’t a priority. The outside mirror adjusters feel “loose”, but once you get them set they seem to stay put. You can’t just slam the tailgate, you need to pull the handle and latch it. The engine is set to a fast idle, so the air conditioning doesn’t drag the idle down when it’s turned on, but the tradeoff is the AC really works, it gets dang cold in fact.

This truck has a great very well rebuilt engine, rebuilt injection pump, new injectors, new Toyo tires, working AC, good brakes, good tight steering, fresh tri-stage paint in Lemon Drop Pearl yellow, new grille, front signal lights, door handles, all the trim has been painted black for a sportier look, there’s a black rock guard coating on the rockers which also provides a ground effect. The truck will come with a number of things I picked up, and decided not to install, including the wheel arch plastic trim pieces, a black dash cover (to replace the wood grain one), and console with three holes for gauges, as well as some other things I picked up just because I was able to find them, and those supplies might dry up someday, like a timing belt kit, new rubber valve cover gasket kit that is permanent and replaces the cork one that has to be replaced every time you adjust the valves, and a number of other little goodies.

Couple of things I’ve left for the new owner to do, so they can choose what they want. Antenna mast, if they want stainless, silver or black, radio and speakers, and the mentioned drive axles.

What I have done, and there pictures here to show some of this.

Block old paint to remove 90% of the paint that was there (this truck had two paint jobs besides the factory one). I used that paint to block the panels so they are flat and sharp.

One coat of epoxy direct to metal primer was applied to make sure any exposed metal would not rust.

Two coats of high build primer were applied, then it was blocked once again with fine grain sandpaper.

Then a coat of pure white urethane paint as the base coat was sprayed, followed by several coats of the Lemon Drop Pearl mid-coat. The yellow is a translucent coat so the pearl will pop, but man is it difficult to get on evenly, and there are two places I don’t think are perfect, but they are only visible when the light hit at a low angle, or is dusk type lighting. I later found out why they charge $4,000 to spray tri-coats. Overall, I get a lot of compliments on it, and it is a beautiful truck.

On top of the Lemon Drop Pearl is three coats of high solid European clear coat.

After all that, the clear coat was wet sanded and buffed to remove any orange peel, (there wasn’t much) or lint nibs.

The bed as in bad shape, luckily there was no serious rust, just lots of dents. Some could be removed, but not all of them, so it was most important to get the rust to stop, and prevent future rust. All rust was removed, then it was treated with a rust inhibitor, then a coat of epoxy primer, then urethane U-pol Raptor truck bed coating. So, while still dented, it should remain very solid and rust free.

The tailgate I removed all the paint to the bare metal, because the paint was so thick the letters looks soft, now they are nice and crisp again. Which was also the goal of all the body, remove the coats so you could see the details in the stampings.

Inside, I wanted to change out everything with black, but found some pieces impossible to acquire. An uncracked dash pad was impossible to find, I found some that aren’t cracked as bad, but wondered if removing the dash would just damage other brittle plastic bits, and if it’d be worth that risk. Instead, I put a dash cover on it, and dyed some of the plastic black. The door cards, inner door release handles and window cranks, are brand new in black vinyl the same type as used in 1981. The arm rests and sun visors were dyed black, the visors were done two years ago, and they look like the day there were dyed, so it seems very durable.

The seats are from a Volkswagen Sirocco, and have height adjustment, which really helps the legroom in this truck. The have amazing bolsters on the thighs and back, and are a million times more comfortable than the Rabbit seats were. That was one of the “mistakes” VW made with the truck, they based it on the four-door Rabbit, when the two door would have offered a much longer cab, but it would not have looked as good.

I think I’ve covered about everything, if there’s anything I’ve left out, let me know.