I am looking at and considering buying a 1981 VW Rabbit diesel here in the states. The VW, for it 's age, appears to be well maintained. It has approximately 180k miles, with 4 speed manual tranny. I want to know what I should expect to get in mpg? Also I would like your general opinion about the overall integrity of the car. Are genuine parts still available for this car? How easy is it to work on this car? Any information anyone can provide me, will be greatly appreciated.
I have an '89 Jetta Diesel and when it was running i got about 47-48mpg. highest was 50.5mpg. You should be able to get that but it's gonna be SLOW! I miss mine but I shouldn't have cracked the head! Look at the odometer closely. The VDO gauges have a habit of stopping to read mileage.
Parts should be available from a number of the same sources you'll see mentioned here and they are pretty bullet proof, but not idiot proof.(that's me)
Good luck! It should be a good car and if the odo is correct you should have alot of miles left on it. Mine has 280K and minus the head issue was on the way to over 400K easy!
Thanks for your information. With no end to high gas prices, I see this car as a good investment for retirement.
Last edited by Jbird; 07-06-2008 at 05:56 PM.
My 82 Rabbit gets 45 mpg, mostly highway travel. I bought it three months ago for VO conversion because it had a very solid body. Here is a list of what I've done so far:
Front wheel bearings
Front strut inserts
Both drive shaft replacement
Welded cracked right front shock tower
Rear wheel cylinders
Rear bumper mount repair
Replace metal for rust spots on doors
Rebuilt injection pump
Rebuilt injectors with new tips
WVO system installation
Steering shaft repair
Shock tower brace installation
Trailer hitch install
Rear helper springs
Various engine wiring ends replaced
Changed air, oil, fuel filters
4 qts. Rotella oil
Still needs: Steering rack boot(probably rack replacement), washer pump to switch connection.
All the parts were available online or locally and were installed with a little help, make that a lot of help from my friends on the internet.
By the way, the VO system works great, we took an 180 mile trip to the dirtbike races at Redbud yesterday and probably used $2 of pump fuel. Top speed: 78mph. But the other day it would only go 50 pulling two dirtbikes on a trailer--I guess some things weren't meant to be.
The only issue I have is "clunks" over bumps in the road. I'm thinking about strut bearings or new springs, both of which appeared ok but which might not be performing correctly.
Anyway, get the car, it'll keep you out of the bars.
i get 45 mpg, and i have over 300,000 miles on my 81 diesel rabbit
I havent got my 84 5speed running yet but my neighbor has one that is the exact twin to my car same color same year everything he claimed the worst milege he ever got was 45mpg that was with 5 people ac on and doing 70 he said the best he has got was 65mpg with just him no ac on and going 55 he says the faster you go the milage goes down dramaticlly im not expecting 65 but i think 50+ isnt out of the question.
hi guys new to the fourms stole my rabbit [ got dirt cheap ]8 months ago and getting over 50 mpg still need to do alittle work but just love my little wattlin wabbit
When my 81 with a 4spd was new I got 61 mpg @55mph
When I sold it with the 5spd upgrade, I was still getting 40 ish on the highway but then it has 230k.
One of the best investments I made was waiting till it had 17K on it and adding Slick 50.
I bought my diesel new. I allowed it to get 17k on it then slicked 50'ed it. I ran 10w30 in it.
The timing belt broke on it at 130K. And we all know what happens.....
But on tear down, besides the hole in the head, and the Mushroomed piston, there was no wear in the cylinders. The Crank looked new.
Now unlike most folks I abused that engine, I changed the oil filter but rarely changed the oil I was always adding to it. I would change the oil once a year totally, but Changed the filter about every other month. That was a great running engine.....No maintenance needed at all.
I bought a timing belt from a Generic parts house, and it slipped a tooth, because the tooth gave out. So after the rebuild, I used only genuine timing belts from VW.
I sold the car about 8 years later.... it had only 230K on it....but ran great. I had a stroke and until about 5 years ago shifting wasn't fun.. I was scared that I was going to roll back into someone on a hill...None of the kids or the wife wanted to drive it.
I slick all my cars, I have seen what it can prevent.... Time and Time again.
For the veggie kit, I have to thank this gentleman's site for most of the inspiration :
Just got back from North Carolina--1700 miles no problem. Definately got worse mileage the faster I went.
I had a 81 Rabbit years about 10 years ago and got 45 mpg. It is an fairly easy car to work on. With a little help I was able to replace the head gasket and did all regular maintainence including replacing glow plug.
Mine has been sitting 9-10 months, relatively new starter, managed to get the sweetie to rollover but I don't think any fuel is getting there. How do I attach a manual pump and where? What sort or make of pump? Seems like I need to pump out the air, or possibly old snotty diesel from lines and tank and start fresh. Any additives out there to just solve this kinda problem overnight?
I am not a total hack but pictures are good too
1981 Rabbit 4Dr White Custom L Diesel ( vermont )
I picked this car up in Indiana in 2001, cost me 25 bucks to drive it back to Vermont. Will post pics
Truth goes out the door when rumors come innuendo
Start out with a new fuel filter, then try cracking the nuts on the injectors to allow fuel to flow through the pump..... crank the engine a few times watch the fuel to see it spray out the nuts on the injectors. Tighten the nuts.
Put one new cold start plug and install it in number 4.
Give it a go.
i meant to post on here earlier, worst mpg ever was 26,
the injector pump was leaking badly, and i only put on a few miles during the day, between here and school, and if i stopped for more than about thirty minutes or so, there would be a 2ft square puddle of diesel under the rabbit, and it would constantly be dripping as i drove down the road, any time i parked, i would put cardboard under it, but i think you all get the point, even leaking diesel horribly its still quite efficient, and now the injector pump is resealed, so i should be getting back up in the 40's again
Seriously Briano? 61mpg in the '81 with a 4-speed? What am I doing wrong?
(I keep resurrecting old threads, don't I?)
1981 Rabbit Diesel L - 161,000miles - 45mpg
1996 Jetta GL - 155,000 miles - 33 mpg
I used to drive to Mobile, Al. and back on a weekend about 6 times a year for quite a few years. I know the route by heart.
Last edited by briano1234; 10-14-2010 at 11:20 PM.
What do Divorces, Great Coffee and Cars all have in common?
They all Start with good GROUNDS.
Replace all of them that you can, 99 percent of flakiness will disappear.
92, 93 Cabriolet.... 89, and 90 are Deceased.
I drive an 82' with a 4 speed (3 plus 'E') up a steep canyon everyday to school.
Still getting 40 mpg though, can't complain about that!