5k: Blue Bunny: TDI-swapped 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit

The earliest Volkswagen Rabbit had the purest Giugiaro-penned lines, truest driving experience, and stingiest use of fuel, especially the diesel version. But with 54 diesel-sipping horses, it was as slow as a DMV line full of politicians – and smelled just as bad. This Rabbit has chucked its old 1.6-liter naturally aspirated mill in favor of a “Turbocharged Direct Injection” 1.9-liter unit, good for 90 horsepower and 149 lb-ft of torque. And because of the MK1’s lightweight body and four-speed manual transmission, it still returns a hybrid-shaming 50 mpg. Find this TDI-swapped 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit in Tampa, FL for $5,500 via craigslist.

With the extra power from a 1997 Jetta comes approximately zero additional refinement. Classic diesel volume comes from a “big” 2-inch exhaust. Classic diesel vibes (literally) are due to HD motor mounts, which could mean “heavy duty,” “high durometer,” or Hilda Doolittle, the early 20th-century poet. It’s lowered on Raceland coilovers, of which some varieties have manual adjustment for height and damping to suit your needs.

Here’s how thorough the craftsmanship is on this swapped Rabbit: it includes an OBD port, right by by the hood release, as in most modern vehicles. The high-quality build is reflected in the price, but that could be held up by the wheels. Featuring a little stretch and poke, terms normally associated with a proctologist’s office, the big BBS wheels could be sold to an eager Vee-dub fanboy for enough dough to pick up smaller BBS examples from an early GTI.

When Hilda Doolittle wasn’t busy designing motor mounts, she wrote some decent poetry: 

Ah kingly kiss  

no more regret 

nor old deep memories 

to mar the bliss.

Your old, deep memories of chattering, lazy diesel Rabbits won’t mar the bliss of driving this quick yet efficient hatch. 

See a better fuel-thrifty classic? Email us at tips@dailyturismo.com.



PhiLOL actually likes the tuna here, but abhors structural rust. Save the manuals.