The ongoing restoration of a VW Rabbit I have been driving
for more than 25 years.
My 1976 VW Rabbit
This is my car, a cheap
econobox from the 70's. It was never intended as a classic
car, and most of the millions on the road have long since
been scrapped in the junkyards. I could have bought a newer
car at any time, but for some reason I have kept this little
car going over the years. I suppose you would have to be a
Volkswagen nut to understand why any sane person would choose
to do this, but there's something I still enjoy about this
car. It has a lot of problems, but ironically it seems to
turn heads when I drive around town. Many people I run into
stop and reminisce about the old days when someone they knew
owned a Rabbit. It is getting harder and harder to find parts
to keep it going, but I suppose that's part of the journey
with my VW Rabbit.
When I first got my drivers license, my parents
bought me an old Datsun to start out with. I hated that car
from day one, and never even took a picture of it. It's the
car I prefer to forget I ever owned. :)
In my Junior year of high school, we sold
the Datsun and bought my first VW Rabbit. It had a boxy
shape, was painted a bright fluorescent green, and didn't run
all that well. I spent nearly as much time working under the
hood as I did driving it, but something about that car
connected with me. It was fun to drive and easy to work on,
so I learned a lot about fixing cars. Gas was only 99 cents
at the time, so I would fill the tank for less than $10 and
put on many miles driving around the local area.
My first Rabbit wasn't all
that reliable for long distances, so once I started college
we traded in the 75 Rabbit for a newer 1976 Rabbit. My step
dad wanted to get me a sporty car like the Camaro or Firebird
of the time, but I was too attached to the Rabbit. It was
still green, but the "Mountain Green" was a little easier on
the eyes. It also ran a lot better, which meant I drove even
more miles exploring the surrounding areas.
Early in 1982, I met the girl who would
later become my wife. We dated for five years and spent many
hours leaning against my little bunny. Even then, everyone
knew me as the guy who drove the green Rabbit. I was a lot
skinnier and had a lot more hair back then.
My best friend bought a red 1976 Rabbit,
and we would often strap inflatable rafts to our cars and
drive up river to float back down. Unfortunately, his Rabbit
was totaled in a multi-car crash while we were in town, and
he moved on to other cars. But, I took what parts I could
from his car before it was towed away, and still use the
steering wheel from his car in my Rabbit today.
I had always wanted a black
car, so we spent weeks prepping the car and a friend of ours
painted it for me.
When my girlfriend graduated
high school, my Rabbit and I were there to bring her home.
Nothing but the best limo ride for my lady!
As fate would have it, my
wife's first car was also a 76 VW Rabbit. So when we finally
got married in 1986, we drove her Rabbit home from the
church. Let's be real... I didn't want shaving cream all over
my new paint job. :)
When we went on our honeymoon
to the San Juan islands in northwestern Washington state, it
was just me, my bride, and my bunny.
During the first years of our
marriage, we would often take road trips and go camping in
the back of my Rabbit. I took the back seat out, had a small
platform I set in the rear footwells, and a custom cut 4"
thick upholstered cushion to make a bed in back. It was
actually quite comfortable.
We took many long drives in my
Rabbit. At least as far as the road would take
Unfortunately, one fateful day
a teenage gal reaching for a tissue box rear ended me at
60+mph while I was parked at a stop light. The car was too
far gone to fix, though surprisingly still driveable. A
couple months later, we found out we were going to have a
I wasn't ready to give up
my little bunny just yet, so I found an orange Rabbit and
repainted it to match my old one exactly. I transferred
everything from the old car into the new one, engine, tranny,
suspension, interior, etc., keeping the best from each car.
Is it still the same car? I don't know, but at least it gave
me that illusion.
When we bought our property,
we often drove up to camp out overnight and built campfires
next to my Rabbit.
When our daughter turned one
year old, we naturally drove my Rabbit up to our property to
celebrate her first birthday (She recently finished her
bachelor degree in college. )
Once I got my utility trailer,
my little bunny really started earning it's keep. I have
towed countless loads up our mountain road, including these
trusses to build my first shed.
When we bought our first home
(a single wide mobile), I used my Rabbit to haul up the
lumber and supplies for decks and whatnot.
My little Rabbit has had a
full life, and it isn't always easy living outside like
My Rabbit and I are both aging gracefully, and after 35 years
the old bunny was starting to rust through. Water was leaking
in, and the floorpans were full of holes. I wasn't ready to
give up on my little car yet, but I didn't know what to do
about it. Without any experience or good sense to know
better, I bought a small welder and some replacement floor
pans. Then I proceeded to cut out the old floor and weld in
the new panels. It was quite a job, and I replaced a rusty
battery tray and fixed some other problem areas while I had
the equipment out. I even imported some new carpet from
England so my Rabbit would be good as new inside.
Which brings us to today. Just
some old dude still driving a 1976 Rabbit like he did in high
school. Impressive, or pitiful, you be the judge...