Dirty Diesel: 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit C 52K – SOLD!

by | Aug 2023 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Malaise Monday

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August 13, 2023, Update – We confirmed the seller of this “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” We’re not surprised this diesel-powered Rabbit lasted only one week as it appeared to be a well-sorted survivor quality example offered at a very realistic asking price.  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.

Record Inflation, rising interest rates, and high gas prices.  While all three attributes dominate current event headlines, the same could be said for the late 1970s. A second gas shortage just five years after the 1973 Arab oil embargo forced many consumers to look for more economical alternatives.  Volkswagen offered the right car at the right time when it launched its diesel-powered Rabbit in the U.S. With an EPA-rated 40 MPG City and 50 MPG highway, consumers interested in buying a diesel-powered Rabbit were put on waiting lists as demand quickly out-paced supply.

With acceleration on par with its classic Beetle, a late 1970s vintage, diesel-powered Volkswagen would not win you any stoplight Grand Prix, but it did provide economical transportation.  The problem is that the durable engine often outlasted the car’s poorly rust-proofed steel body.

This white 52K original mile 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit C Diesel for sale, first spotted in August 2023 on Craigslist in Medway, Massachusetts (Boston), is a notable exception.  We would love to learn the story of why this Rabbit has so few miles.  Another plus is that the current caretaker appears to have thoroughly sorted their VW Rabbit to ensure there are no fluid leaks.

Last offered for $7,800, Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask is well below this guide’s six-month rolling results trend for all Volkswagen Golf MK1s sold at auction in the past six months.  We note that nearly all of the examples shown are the highly-desirable GTI model.  By clicking on the green dots in the graph below, you can get a sense of what comparable examples sold for recently:

As a second data point, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls between this guide’s #2 Very Good” estimate of $5,900 and its #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $9,700.

The 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit C Diesel, also known as the VW Rabbit, is a classic compact car produced by the German automaker Volkswagen. It was part of the first generation of the Volkswagen Golf, which was known as the Rabbit in the North American market. The Rabbit C Diesel variant was introduced to cater to the growing demand for fuel-efficient and economical vehicles during the 1970s, particularly in response to the oil crisis.

The Rabbit C Diesel featured a boxy and practical design, typical of compact cars from that era. It had a front fascia featuring a pair of round headlights that complemented the car’s simple, clean appearance. The overall body design was aerodynamically efficient for its time, with a focus on maximizing fuel economy.

The most significant feature of the Rabbit C Diesel was its powertrain. It was powered by a 1.5-liter inline-four diesel engine, which was considered groundbreaking at the time. The diesel engine delivered around 48 horsepower and 68 lb-ft of torque, providing adequate performance for city driving and light commuting. The main selling point of this engine was its fuel efficiency, making it an ideal choice for those looking to save on fuel costs.  The Rabbit C Diesel came with a 4-speed manual transmission as standard. Some versions might have been equipped with an optional 3-speed automatic transmission for those who preferred shiftless, two-pedal driving.

One of the main reasons for the popularity of the Rabbit C Diesel was its impressive fuel economy. It could achieve approximately 40-50 miles per gallon (mpg), making it highly appealing to budget-conscious drivers and environmentally-conscious consumers.

Despite its compact size, the Rabbit C Diesel offered a surprisingly spacious and practical interior. It could comfortably accommodate four passengers with ample legroom and headroom. The dashboard was straightforward and functional, featuring only essential gauges and controls. As was common for cars of that era, air conditioning, power windows, and power steering were not always standard features.

The Volkswagen Rabbit C Diesel was well-received by consumers, especially those looking for an economical and reliable daily driver. Its success played a significant role in solidifying Volkswagen’s reputation for producing durable and fuel-efficient cars. Many drivers appreciated its affordability, durability, and ease of maintenance, making it a sought-after classic car among collectors and vintage car enthusiasts today.

Overall, the 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit C Diesel was a practical, fuel-efficient, and reliable compact car that impacted the automotive industry. Its innovative diesel engine and efficient design made it a standout choice during a time of increasing fuel costs and growing environmental concerns.

The Classic Cars Today Online YouTube Channel features this 1978 U.S. Volkswagen commercial extolling the virtues of its efficient diesel engine:

Known for their durability, most 1970s vintage diesel-powered Rabbits rusted away before their oil-burning powerplants were even close to giving up the ghost. With only 52K original miles, this 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit C Diesel for sale is barely broken in and features a rust-free body and a leak-free power train.  This Rabbit represents an economical way to get involved with the collector car hobby. It’s also an effective vehicle to consider if you’re worried about an impending Electromagnetic Pulse (“EMP”) attack, as it does not rely on any electronics to run and can be easily converted to run on common vegetable oil if needed.

If you are serious about buying this diesel-powered Rabbit, you can start the conversation by using the contact information provided by the seller in their Craigslist ad.  When you connect, please mention that you saw their vintage Golf survivor featured here on GuysWithRides.com. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“Runs great
Clean title
Made in Wolfsburg, West Germany
4-speed Manual
Diesel (could be converted to vegetable oil)
Everything works, even the factory radio
Nothing leaks (no drips on the driveway)
It starts on first crank
Current inspection
Original factory configuration (replacement parts OEM where available)
52,000 miles
53 mpg, verified
Work done in last 2000 miles:
– New head gasket
– Valve job while the head was off
– New shocks
– New clutch
– All transmission seals were replaced during a clutch job
– Rear main seal replaced
– Remanufactured diesel fuel injection pump
– Remanufactured fuel injectors
– New glow plugs
– Remanufactured starter motor
– All new rear brake system and bearings
– New master cylinder
– New CV boots, joints regreased
– All new motor mounts
– New fuel filter
– New timing belt and accessory belt
– New tires
– New battery
Bentley, Haynes, and Chilton manuals
Lots of extras (car cover, floor mats, etc.)

Show or go: What would you do with this 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit C Diesel for sale?  Please comment below and let us know!


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