- The Garage
1981 Volkswagen Rabbit 4dr.
Drivetrain; 1.6L Inline 4 water cooled Diesel engine (updated with 12mm head bolts not 11mm), 4 Speed manual transmission.
I picked this car up with two others for $720 dollars. This one, is the running one. The car sits on GTI suspension, and has the stock 14 inch GTI wheels, with 195/60/14's all around. When I first got the car running, I had my heavy craftsman tool box in the hatch back, behind the back seat. I noticed, that the car really had NO power. As, I noticed that when I would drive up a high rise bridge, I would have to mash the pedal to the floor in order to maintain 45 MPH. This had to change...I simply advanced the timing a tooth on the timing belt, and then backed it off untill the clatter didnt sound so deadly. This made for easier starts, smoother idle, and a chirp to the front wheels when necessary..The black smoke is THICK under hard accelleration. The temperature of the engine did not change, and remained at the specified temperature. The car now accellerates UP the same bridge, and does not try to roll backwards on me. The 4 spd. transmission really is a good set up. First gear the kind that you must shift out of at 15mph, and will really snap you back into the seat when you get on it. Second and Third gear are pretty close together, and are good for getting up to 60. Fourth gear is so low, its like a lugging overdrive gear. Ive made numerous trips from The Keys (70 miles south of Miami) to North Florida (over 300 Miles one way) on about $10 in fuel. The car will cruise, on the highway, at speeds that are fast enough to pass other cars doing 75mph. They say, that top speed is about 80mph, but not this one...Its a small car, small enough to not really need to have 4 doors, but its definatly a good car. It too, has over 300,000 miles on the engine. Burns a little oil here and there, mostly after a hard run, but its a good car..especially when you figure it cost a little over $200.
The VW Diesel engine, has a cast iron block, and aluminum head. This engine is interesting, because it shares a similarity to the Olds Diesels. These engines, too, shared a bad reputation. These, also, had only ten head bolts holding the head, in the same pattern found on the Olds Diesels. This is interesting, since many say the Olds Diesel is unfixable, because of this pattern. Blowing head gaskets, and overheating where among the major problems found in the VW Diesel engine. The earlier 1.5L and 1.6L Diesels had 11mm head bolts. Identified by their 6 point allen key style hex head, these bolts would stretch with out breaking, allowing the head gasket to leak. Over time, the engine would overheat, and warp and in some cases, crack the aluminum head. Then, you would find yourself with a cheap car, and a very expensive repair. This sounds familiar, doesn't it? What VW did, was, update the later model engines, begining mid way, through 1981, by tapping the head bolt holes in the block to 12mm. The 12mm bolt is identified, in an allen style, 12 point. A regular 6 point drive will not work on these. This seemed to fix the problem of leaking had gaskets. The threat of a sticking thermostat, can be corrected by removing the thermostat, and running with out one. The engine will run a few degrees cooler on the road, and the electric fan will not let it heat up any more then with a T-stat at idle. Today, The 1.9L TDI Diesel, uses a cast iron block, with aluminim head, and yep, 10 bolts holding the head in the same pattern, with the same 12mm head bolts. This engine is turbo charged, and holds up very well.
This car is known to most as the Vegetable Car. The Little Diesel GTI look a like, sucessfully runs on Vegetable Oil. Fuel Economy is around the 50mpg range.