#TBT | VW Rabbit GTI: an usher of the sport compact revolution

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Oct 19, 2023 | Volkswagen | Posted in Buyer's Guides | From the Nov. 2013 issue | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy VW

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Prices have been left to how they appeared in print.]

To fully realize the impact the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI made on our scene, we need to take a ride in the wayback machine. The early ’80s were desolate times. The once-mighty Mustang GT made only around 150 …

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kanaric Dork
12/20/16 12:12 p.m.

Speaking of shopping for them these days if you really wanted a clean GTI and don't care paying a bit extra you could probably find a clean first gen overseas and import it as well. Though if I did that and wanted an 80s hot hatch it would be hard to not look at a Peugeot 205 GTI as well...... then you have the Familia (323) GTR and Pulsar GTIR....

The Euro GTI would be worth the extra price.

84FSP Dork
12/20/16 8:44 p.m.

Loving the GTI archives. Running around town eating mustangs as a passenger in my older brothers GTI was great fun.

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/20/16 8:49 p.m.

of all the people, my Grandmother owned one. In 1983, I was 13 and I remember her ripping through the gears all the way from my parents house to hers a good 20 miles away. This was a women who had owned big block caddies and V8 novas, she LOVED power and speed. Obviously she learned to enjoy handling too.

pinchvalve GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/21/16 10:05 a.m.

Is the accompanying photo from the archives, or is that a current photo? It certainly looks new.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/21/16 10:30 a.m.
pinchvalve wrote: Is the accompanying photo from the archives, or is that a current photo? It certainly looks new.

It's a recent photo. The tires give it away.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/21/16 12:33 p.m.

Ironically the Featured Readers' Ride just showed my old GTI.

It was a good car. We did a full project car series on it. This was back when GTIs were pretty much disposable.

JohnnyBquick Reader
7/5/18 2:43 p.m.

In the later part of the 80's I was looking to buy one, but also test drove the Dodge Omni GLH.

The GLH was so much quicker. Ended up with a GLH and then a GLHS.

USGUYS New Reader
7/5/18 6:49 p.m.

My favorite SCCA Showroom Stock race car. Bought it used in 1985 and drove it everyday to work and raced it in both autocross and club races.  

I put about 27000 miles on the clock including nearly 3000 racing miles.  Other than tires, the only parts I replaced were the front struts, a water pump, and front brake pads every race weekend.  

Many wins and 2 track records. Ran the 1986 Runoffs at Road Atlanta.  Started 10, battled for 3rd, got spun, and finished 10.  
Sold the car when was no longer eligible for SCCA Nationals.

It is with fondness I look at the picture of the car at the Runoffs that hangs in the race shop. It is and was my favorite race car.

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
7/5/18 7:27 p.m.

I always ask. Besides a Miata: What’s  today’s $1500 (or $3500) disposable GTI that has a bucket load of reasonable performance parts I can buy?

thale None
7/5/18 8:32 p.m.

I own 4 1983 Rabbit GTI cars. One completely gone through the others are rough. I live in Northern Maine.  The Rabbit served me well. I tried autocrossing it a couple years ago and it and its driver were slow compared to modern cars. I had rock hard tires and little experience. I hope to sell all of them in one fell swoop. Moving on to other things


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