So, while I was doing some research (getting sidetracked by more interesting internet stuff) on that new pickup Volkswagen is bringing to the New York Auto Show, I happened to find some old ads for Volkswagen’s Pennsylvania-built Golf/Rabbit-based small pickup trucks from the 1980s. The ads made claims that they were “built like a truck, but handled like a sports car,” which seemed to me to be some ridiculous hyperbole. I mean, they probably have some points here, but, well, come on.
Here’s some examples of these ads:
...and another one:
Okay, so, at first glance, this seems absurd, right? It handles like a sports car? Maybe a embarrassingly-low horsepower FWD sportscar with a strange, long, light rear end, right? I mean, the 1.6-liter gas version made only around 78 HP, and the diesel was a woefull 48 (later 52) HP. That doesn’t feel very sportscar-ish, right?
I have to hand it to VW’s ad writers, because they almost got me; I looked at that first ad and saw a 0 to something time of 9.7 seconds. I thought, hey, holy crap, a no-joke ‘80s sportscar like the 1981 Mazda RX-7 took 9.5 seconds to go from 0 to 60 MPH—maybe VW has a point here!
Then I looked again and saw that they were listing 0 to 50 times. Pretty sneaky, VW. A Rabbit (same drivetrain, same from the B-pillar forward) took a decent-for-the-era-but-no-sportscar 12 seconds or so to get to 60.
Plus, these were FWD cars with long wheelbases and, you know, truck beds. I’ve driven Rabbits of this era and yeah, they can be a blast to throw around, but stick a truck bed on the back and expect it to be like a sportscar?
I’m not so sure. Besides, who cares? These were fun, cheap, and useful little trucks. If you wanted a FWD Rabbit sportscar, VW would sell you a GTI, happily.