It’s been said that small hatchbacks killed off traditional little sports cars. In atonement for that nefarious act, today’s Nice Price or No Dice Volkswagen Rabbit convertible offers a similar experience. Let’s see if it is similarly well-priced for its age and that experience.
Moon-trip mileage didn’t seem to be an issue on yesterday’s 2000 Toyota Celica GT-S. That, and a few dings and scratches seemed to be the car’s only noteworthy flaws. Pair that reasonable presentation with the car’s six-speed manual gearbox and the $3,900 asking price’s 77 percent Nice Price win seem pretty understandable.
With just over 100,000 on the ol’ ticker, today’s 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit convertible has less than half the mileage of yesterday’s Toyota, although it is presented in similarly clean condition.
When Volkswagen introduced its first fully-electric production car, the ID.3 a couple years back, the press materials went at length to explain that the numeral in the name carries two meanings. It firstly identified the car in its size segment with higher numbers (i.e. the ID.4 and ID.5) being larger. Secondly, according to VW, it represented the third major chapter in the company’s history. The first two of those chapters were marked by the introductions of, respectively, the Type 1 Beetle and the Mk1 Golf/Rabbit.
That second chapter started in 1974 with the Golf’s debut in three- and five-door hatchback forms. Volkswagen introduced the open-top edition six years later, as a replacement for the Beetle convertible.
This model was not just a beheaded hatch cobbled together into convertible form. Instead, each Golf/Rabbit convertible was crafted by specialty builder Karmann at its factory in Osnabrück.
The design is probably best known for its unique B-pillar crossbar. It earned the convertible an unfortunate sobriquet based on its resemblance to a “basket handle” and the model’s popularity amongst sorority sisters. We’ll just leave it at that.
This one, in Cedar Green over a charcoal and gray cloth interior, might make a better name for itself as it looks to be in fantastic shape for its age. That appearance didn’t come without some effort, and the seller notes in the ad a long list of maintenance and repair work that has gone into the car along the way. According to the ad, that work was all done to make the car “reliable and fresh and ready for anything.” It seems to have all been well worth it as the car is now claimed to run “great.”
Motivation is by way of a 74 horsepower 1.7-liter SOHC four and that’s mated to a five-speed stick driving the front wheels. That combo doesn’t make the convertible a quick car, but it’s reasonable for its era and should be pretty easy to work on too. Also, a GTI drivetrain will fit in here just fine.
Overall, the car presents pretty well. The paint pops and the factory alloys (including on the spare) appear free from scrapes or gouges. The seller does note a few dings in the bodywork and a couple of scratches in the paint. The manual top looks to be in good shape, though and features a big glass back window for all your viewing pleasure.
None of the aesthetic flaws seem to be anything that would keep a new buyer from enjoying this Rabbit, but as a whole, they take the car down a notch from show-car quality.
Perhaps the most glaring issue is the large decubitus in the off-side bolster of the driver’s seat. These sport buckets are snugglier than skinny jeans, but those tall bolsters do tend to wear aggressively over the course of years of entry and exits. The rest of the interior looks to be in excellent shape and is as clean as a bean in the pictures. And speaking of clean, that describes the title too.
Does the good outweigh the bad on this lop-top Rabbit? That sure seems to be the case. Could it benefit from some further tidying up? Yeah, probably. Especially that seat which will only get worse with time and use.
The most important question, however, is whether or not the car is worth $10,000 in its present state. What do you say? Is this tidy Rabbit worth that much as it sits? Or does that price make you hopping mad?
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