While it’s a classic design that did a lot to popularize the concept of the family hatchback, the Mark 1 VW Rabbit doesn’t seem to get much love outside of vintage watercooled VW circles. And sure, in stock form it’s a bit of a shopping cart, but upgrade an early car a little and you can get GTI-like performance with the cleaner, early Mark 1 design cues like round headlights, small tail lights, and even a “swallow tail” rear panel if you’re lucky. So we’ve got a sampling of a couple of early Rabbits, starting with this 1976 VW Rabbit for sale for $3900 in Silverton, OR.
Another thing in favor of an early Rabbit is the color palette, including this great Rallye Green. It really makes the best of this very 1970s shape, much more so than many of the later metallic colors, or, say, white. That funky exposed gas cap is also an iconic Rabbit feature – it’s always cool when you can make a design element out of something as mundane as a gas cap. This car is said to be with its third owner in the role of on and off daily driver, and has a December 1975 build date. Also note the thin early Euro bumpers, and matte black hood.
Upgrades include an upgraded 1.8 liter engine with 10.5:1 pistons, port/ polish, upgraded valve springs, header to exhaust, momo steering wheel, coil overs, and a Moroso valve cover. The engine probably won’t make a ton of power, but it should be sufficient to keep up with BMW 2002s, GTIs, and assorted older sports cars in your local car events. Minilite-style wheels also look pretty cool, and are a refreshing alternative to the usual BBS/polished lip/stretched tire look. Unfortunately, the seller includes the tired craigslist line about not “waisting” his time, in spite of giving buyers only two partial pictures and a brief description upon which to judge whether the car is right for them. So if you can’t deal with that, a better option might be this 1977 VW Rabbit for sale for $4000 in Portland, OR.
Is Oregon where old Rabbits go to retire? The agate brown on cream color combination is not quite as cool, but still very 1970s. Paint is definitely oxidized, but might benefit from some elbow grease to bring the shine back. This car doesn’t benefit from the power upgrades of the green one, but has still had significant work done, and retains some cool original features found on the early cars. Notable chassis work includes coil over suspension, polyurethane strut bushings, Porsche 924 phone dial wheels, new ball joints and tie rod ends. Further maintenance catch-up includes rebuilt rear brakes and new handbrake cables, vacuum lines and rubber fittings, ignition and cooling system work, cleaned grounds, and new belts. The car is said to be the seller’s daily driver, so it sounds like he’s addressed issues as they were uncovered.
As with any older car, there are still needs, including a new master cylinder, a dent on the right front fender, and a worn driver’s seat base. That said, the car has an excellent early dash with no cracks and the original radio and in-dash speaker, original Rabbit floor mats, and full parcel shelf. Critically, the car is also said to be leak-free. Unfortunately, the bumpers have been pulled – perhaps the new owner can find some composite black Cabriolet bumpers or Euro bumpers. Overall, it looks like a solid driver with room to make improvements where the new owner chooses. So which 1970s color would you pick – green or brown?