The Volkswagen Rabbit pickup is everything a pickup truck shouldn’t be: It’s front wheel drive, it has a four cylinder, and it’s from Europe. So why would someone buy a Rabbit pickup? Well, probably for those same reasons.
The 1982 Rabbit pickup I drove had a 1.7L inline four cylinder and a five speed manual transmission. The engine is under powered, but it’s enough to move the wheels. The five speed is quirky, having a super short first gear and having fifth gear labeled as E, for economy instead of just being called 5th gear. Speaking of economy, the 1.7L got amazing gas mileage ranging up into the 30s. But the most interesting thing about the drivetrain is the fact that it’s front wheel drive. Every other truck I’ve driven, foreign and domestic, has been at least rear wheel drive, most are four-wheel drive. While I didn’t notice a huge difference, I also didn’t pull any heavy loads or take it off road.
The interior was bare. There were gauges, which lacked a tachometer but instead had a clock. There’s a radio and a glove box, but that rounds out the interior. The seats were comfortable, but after years of use the headliner has begun to sag. I can’t blame Volkswagen for that, 36 years of Midwestern weather will do that to a car. The coolest thing I remember was the seatbelt release button. It felt like an ejector seat button, and had really good feedback when you pressed it.
The Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup is a cool little piece of history. With a limited amount of them having been sold in the US, I was honored to have had the privilege to drive one. Back in the day, if you needed a truck to run parts around town, or loads consisting of lighter items, the Rabbit Pickup was the truck for you.