50 MPG Pickup: 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit Caddy Diesel – Sold?

by | Feb 2022 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Truckin Tuesday

(To stop the slideshow and expand the pictures, click on the current photograph below)

March 21, 2022, Update – We just confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found we’re assuming this ride “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

Small pickups: in a world that was once awash with these compact haulers, we went to full-size-only to now having a revival of sorts in this very specific segment. Trucklets like the Volkswagen Rabbit “Caddy” pickup were early pioneers in this space, and this diesel-powered 1981 Rabbit pickup originally listed in February 2022 on Craigslist in Key West, Florida for $4,500 seems like a worthwhile project if you can either ignore or fix some concerning rust issues. Comparing that price against the NADA Price Guide confirms the private seller has their Rabbit priced above the “High” retail price of $2,600, but the scarcity of this model may not be factoring into that valuation.

The early days of small pickups in America were such that you’d have some hard decisions to make choosing your favorite. From the captive imports offered by the domestic brands to the startlingly good entry-level offerings from the likes of Toyota and Datsun, the small pickup landscape was a happening place in the early 80s. In a way, GM kicked things off with the El Camino, which seemed to make it acceptable to have a small cab, small bed, two-wheel drive, and not much power. The import brands followed suit, offering the likes of the Rabbit “Caddy” from VW and other formidable offerings including the Mitsubishi Mighty Max and 4×2 Nissan Hardbody. Volkswagen was the brand that made the most hay with a diesel powertrain, though a few others like Isuzu offered similar options.

The ewjxn YouTube Channel features this 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit pickup commercial:

This Caddy benefits from a substantially refreshed powertrain, which the seller details as a relatively fresh diesel engine with 50,000 miles and a recently rebuilt manual gearbox that he supposedly repaired himself. There are just 30,000 claimed miles on the transmission and clutch plate, so overall, this Volkswagen has lots of miles left in the tank beyond its impressive miles per gallon rating. The interior presents well, and given the spartan qualities of the cockpit, there’s not much to go wrong inside. The challenge with this compact VW pickup, however, is whether the rust spots on the vehicle will dissuade you from enjoying the fruits of the seller’s labor. One, in particular, looks fairly serious, as the corrosion at the bottom of the driver’s side A-pillar will not be a simple fix – but if that’s the biggest sin it’s hiding, I think you could justify the body shop bill. Good luck with the purchase if you take this diesel pickup home.

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1981 Volkswagen Caddy.

1.7 liter diesel (50k miles)
5 speed manual transmission. (30k miles on the transmission and clutch plate)
Front wheel drive.

Comes with canopy topper.
Original owners manual included.

Stereo w/ DVD player.

Reliable, and dependable vehicle. Regular oil changes have been performed under my ownership. It’s mechanically sound, and in good running condition, with a couple items that need some attention (see below).

Alignment is good and tracks well.

I rebuilt the transmission and replaced the clutch shortly after I bought it, and installed upgraded motor mounts.

Just installed new exhaust hanger mounts (spare included).

It averages between 44-50 mpg.

Clean title in hand.

The main issues with the truck are rust spots (main areas are in pics), shifter linkage needs adjustment to easily get to 5th gear, very slow leak on driver’s side rear tire (goes flat in about 5 weeks), and the a/c compressor needs replacement.

Local sale in person, Cash only. Call or text only(three oh five nine twenty two fourteen twenty nine)

Diesel fumes: would you trade raw performance for 50 miles per gallon? 

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