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Contradiction Reader
2/19/14 1:48 a.m.

Welcome to the build thread for my 84 VW Rabbit GTI. I'm condensing the "start" a bit here because I bought it in may of 2013 and didn't think to start a build thread here until now.

To build up some back story here I find this to be nothing short of a "miraculous Craigslist Find", especially considering that this was found in Chicago, and according to a friend of mine was available online for a few weeks time before I scooped it up.

So at the time I was mulling over whether or not I wanted to buy a different 84 GTI off of a friend for some time, but this car was really in saveable but rough shape at this point. It was also a gutted track car essentially, meaning that it was destined to be an SCCA and road racing hobby car, not something comfortable enough to drive for hours at a time or to work etc if I felt like it. So the night after my 3rd visit to see that particular car and the realization that it probably needed a rotiserre resto for all of the issues it had, I was searching on autotempest.com for Rabbits, hoping I might find a clean Southern shell or something.

Then I saw my GTI. At this point it was totally "too good to be true" based on the condition of the car that I saw in the pictures. The paint looked great, the interior was in amazing shape, how the hell is this car still available? I figured it was already too late when I emailed the guy asking if he still had it.

But he did! So I asked to see it the next day, Sunday, but he was unavailable for the whole day and we made plans for Monday evening for me to see it. Good I thought, at least it wasn't gone yet. So Monday morning rolls around and I start texting him, thinking the whole time that this thing can't possibly stick around for long. BTW I had a 2.5 hr drive from Indiana to get there. So we talked a bit on the phone and I took off.

I saw it, took it for a test drive, and just knew I had to have it. I put a down payment on it to hold it and went home and started making arrangements to get a loan, etc. Finally the day came about 2 weeks later when I could pick it up. I had to drive to the airport 40 min from me in South Bend, IN, get on the Shore Line train to downtown Chicago, transfer to the Metra train to get out to the suburbs, and finally reach him by 8:30. BTW it was now a TORRENTIAL DOWN POUR outside! I'm in a 29 year old car that I'm driving for the 1st time, I know nothing about 8Vs or the mysteries of CIS, the car has been somewhat sorted out by this point and running good for the past 3 weeks but had sat in storage for 7 years prior to this date, and I'm just praying that the windshield wipers work good! What could possibly go wrong?

Miraculously although the deck was stacked against me in every regard, I made the trip okay. There were some very white knuckle moments as the concrete seams on 94 E threw the car around and I was afraid of being blown off the road by the semi next to me, but for a maiden voyage in the worst of all possible circumstances, she did just fine and got home safe!

So as far as I know, and I really wish I could find out more about the history of the car, it had spent it's whole life between IL and WI according to the title. The person I bought it from was a guy that specialized in buying and flipping cars, and he bought it from an estate sale in WI. It had been sitting since 2006 prior to this. I thought about trying to reach the previous owner listed on the title by mail, but when he said "estate sale", I can probably assume that the guy is now deceased. In any case, whoever owned it before me loved this car very, VERY much to keep it in this kind of shape. It IS the proverbial "Grandma Car" we all hope to find.

So enough typing, let's get to the pictures right?

Here it is the day I brought it home:

The all too period correct fogs were a nice touch, but the paint on the bumpers is shot! To the joy of the NA GTI purists I may someday refinish them, but for now they are off the car. The rear bumper is really shot at this point and the support was bent down too because the PO had backed into something at one point apparently.

Here's the rear view:

And here's where it starts to get really awesome, the interior!

Look at those seats! There's a cigarette burn on the driver's side bolster but otherwise these things are AMAZING! I can't believe the condition they are in.

I really began to appreciate how different of an experience driving this car will be when I saw the dash and how "Spartan" the controls are. No cd player, no "media sync", no Navi, no ABS, No Traction Control, No Power Steering, No AC even. Like many people have said driving something classic gives you a different appreciation for driving period.

And the proof is in the pudding. The odometer is working and based on the condition of the car I have good reason to believe it hasn't rolled over yet:

So this is probably one of my favorite parts of the car that I discovered after I got it home:

This was pinned to the driver's side sun visor. I googled Porsche PFM 3200 I found out that it was an aircooled Porsche aircraft engine derived from the 911 motor that was developed in the early 80's. I love finding artifacts like this. Things like old stickers from drag racing events, dash plaques from car shows, etc. really add to the character of vintage race cars and hotrods, etc.

And this one was pinned between the visors: Is "The Boss" in reference to Bruce Springsteen? :laugh: Maybe not but I'd like to think it is! I'm replacing the headliner as we speak but these will go back up after it is done. :)

And I ain't worried about these stinkin' towers! :)

More Details to Come.....

Hasbro Dork
2/19/14 2:32 a.m.


Burrito Enthusiast
Burrito Enthusiast Reader
2/19/14 2:36 a.m.

Holy Macaroni! That thing is clean!


chrispy Reader
2/19/14 7:23 a.m.

Clean! Obviously its your car, but I'd be hesitant to do a lot of mods on that example and just refresh it and bring maintenance up to date. Some good summer tires, fresh bushings, new shocks/struts and slightly stiffer springs will make it better than new. Great find.

Mike924 Reader
2/19/14 8:23 a.m.

I love these cars. This is one of those hard to find cars that were a ground breaking machine in their day. My dad had one when I was growing up. Lowered and Cam that car was a blast to drive. I scared many a friend in that car, lost my license in it as well. Shhh, don't tell anyone. LOL. I have since grown up.

Mike Kirby

ssswitch New Reader
2/19/14 7:26 p.m.

That looks incredible. What a find!

JtspellS Dork
2/19/14 8:03 p.m.

Clean as berkeley!!! wow I wish more early VW's were like this.

Contradiction New Reader
2/19/14 11:54 p.m.

The first "Mod" I made was some textured Euro Bumpers. Sorry purists, but I'm just not crazy about the 5mph railroad ties. :P I may refinish them at some point or do black metal euro bumpers at some point. For now these will do.

Contradiction New Reader
2/19/14 11:56 p.m.

So here's the new headliner installed:

And while I was working on pulling on the headliner I made a very pleasant discovery. The build sheet was taped to the top of the cardboard! :D

In addition to getting the headliner done I pulled all of the flares off and sprayed them with SEM Bumper Coater (to match what I put on the Euro Bumpers too), cleaned and detailed the engine bay, and removed the nasty old leather steering wheel wrap that was on there. Surprisingly the steering wheel underneath looked PERFECT too.

And I'm also very proud to report that all of this effort helped me win my first trophy with it!

Granted this wasn't a "hotly contested category" at the show with only about 6 cars in it, but I was proud to see that a judging panel made up of Porsche and BMW owners picked it. Probably the same people who may have had fond memories of owning one of these when they first came out.

Contradiction New Reader
2/20/14 12:08 a.m.

Thanks everyone. Yes it was definitely I find of a lifetime for me. Due to the fact that it was rendered a "NASCAR rabbit" by having the typical right hand turn fuel tank starvation problem I didn't really get a chance to romp on it last year but I am extremely excited to be preparing to do a full suspension overhaul soon and really get to enjoy driving it this summer.

I have the following planned to get completed in the next month:

Sandblast and powdercoat rear beam, 16v Scirocco 24mm rear sway bar upgrade, 200mm MK3 rear brake drum upgrade, Stainless Steel Braided Brake lines all around, poly rear beam bushings, Gas tank replacement with NOS OEM tank

HD rubber motor mounts, poly steering rack bushings, remove front sway bar, new control arms with delrin bushings, new ball joints, new tie rod ends, HPS pads, Koni Sports with coilover sleeves and 350f/450r spring rates.

My hope is to get it all put back together in time for the Water By the Bridge Car Show in Louisville, KY on March 21st.

After that I need to figure out wheels and tires for autocrossing and think about doing a missing linkz shift short throw shifter kit and a new clutch cable.

My goal is to run STC for Autocross this summer and just get acclimated to the car in general.

Contradiction Reader
2/21/14 8:29 p.m.

The first of many upcoming updates.

I found a set of 15"x7" BBS RAs that I couldn't pass up for the price:

Haven't decided yet if I want to paint them black or gold. Debating if I put Dunlop Direzza ZIIs on them and consider them my track and street wheels or not. We'll have to see how my budget goes for the rest of the build to decide if I buy another set of wheels for track only.

amg_rx7 Dork
2/21/14 11:53 p.m.

I remember adding the Scirocco 16v sway bar to my 8v while leaving the stock 8v front sway bar. Made the car very tail happy.

Nice to see a survivor. Those cars were fun if not for the annoying fact that something underhood kept failing.

Ransom GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/22/14 1:14 a.m.

This really causes pangs over my black '84 GTI. So cool. So much fun to drive.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/22/14 6:04 a.m.

I love, love love this car! Keep us updated.

But...please don't paint those BBS wheels!

maj75 New Reader
2/22/14 6:39 a.m.

I bought a new, white on red '84 GTI, but with AC. Loved that car. My first FWD car and a revelation in handling!

I approve of the bumpers, but I hate to see the factory wheels ditched. Those were such iconic wheels at the time.

Great find!

GCooper New Reader
2/22/14 7:52 a.m.

Amazing. I never paid much attention to the 80s VWs as I'd only ever seen beat up commuter car ones. But that thing is awesome! Congrats

chandlerGTi SuperDork
2/22/14 8:36 a.m.

You should have bought both! That one for preservation and my old one for racing. Is my car still for sale?

Contradiction New Reader
2/22/14 11:31 a.m.

It would have been nice to have both but that would have been a lot of work to do on 2 of them! He does still have it Adam. To be honest he hasn't done much of anything with it since I was considering buying it. It definitely needs work. He hasn't really been aggressively trying to sell it either. I don't think he's had an ad up in a long time.

Jarod Reader
2/22/14 11:49 a.m.
Woody wrote: I *love, love love* this car! Keep us updated. But...please don't paint those BBS wheels!

I agree, do not paint the wheels, please!

Contradiction New Reader
2/22/14 12:12 p.m.

I'm probably going to plasti-dip them first and see how I like whatever color I decide on before I make it permanent.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/22/14 12:13 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that some day very soon, we will see one of the few remaining unmodified, non rusty first generation GTI survivors show up and a big time auction ad pull down an OMG price.

VonSmallhausen GRM+ Memberand Reader
2/22/14 12:47 p.m.

I drool over that interior

Contradiction Reader
3/2/14 3:39 p.m.

So the parts keep rolling in. Got a 24mm 16v scirocco rear bar and found a set of nearly new Bonrath early style front strut mounts too.

Unfortunately I had a set back that is going to keep me out of taking this to Water By The Bridge. I fired it up to let it run a bit before I started my suspension tear down and I noticed that like the previous time I had started it I was smelling rubber belts. Sure enough it developed a whine and shortly after started running poorly so I shut it down. It's probably for the better anyway because I'm glad it happened in my garage and not while I was halfway between Northern Indiana and Lousiville, KY had it not popped up earlier. I'm guessing that the Timing Belt Tensioner gave out. So I'm going to do the Timing belt, water pump, tensioner, and a rubber valve cover gasket next weekend. I can't realistically see myself getting this, the gas tank, and all of the suspension work done by March 22nd so I'm going to take a step back here and take my time getting everything done.

Contradiction Reader
3/9/14 8:37 p.m.

Since I had some issues with belt noise and the car ultimately developing a bad idle the last time I had it running I decided it was time to do the timing belt. So with the help of some friends this weekend we replaced the timing belt, tensioner, accessory belt, water pump, and did a rubber valve cover gasket conversion.

I was very happy with how clean the motor looked when I opened it up!

I have a bunch more work planned for the car but since I'm waiting on my suspension to be shipped right now I'm contemplating just throwing the new BBS RA's on and driving it down to Water By The Bridge 2 weeks from now anyway just to make it out to that show.

Contradiction Reader
3/30/14 7:53 p.m.

Good progress on the rabbit today. Dropped the rear beam and got the old gas tank out. We said "That's not gonna come off give me a hack saw" more times then I wanted to but lucky that referred to rubber hoses parking brake cables and not studs mounted to the frame which were by far my bigger concern. I'm bracing myself for another $100+ MK1Autohaus order though. My goal is to strip down the front end next and get the rest of the stuff I need to out to powdercoat.

Old tank:

Considering that it was stalling out on EVERY right turn with under 3/4 of a tank I was surprised to see that the inner basket wasn't broken to pieces. There was definitely some sediment collected in there but nothing as bad as I imagined it would be. Oh well. I have a NOS OEM tank that still has the old VW shipping label on it that is replacing it, and either way it was time for it to go.

And I also got some presents in too:

I settled on 350# front and 450# rear for the springs. I'm going to be running no front bar and a 24mm solid Scirocco 16v rear bar. Koni Yellows should be in sometime this week.

I'm also waiting on 10.1" front brakes from a 16v Scirocco to come in this week too. I'm putting together a set of 200mm MK3 rear drums for the car too. Master Cylinder, etc will be left alone. I've talked to a few people on here that said with rear drums a MC upgrade is not needed so I'll take their word for it.

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