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    Thread: 81 Rabbit 1.6D Restomod Daily Driver

    1. Junior Member
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      03-10-2020 02:02 PM #1
      Well, here we go again.

      I haven’t had a Volkswagen in my life for nearly one and a half years. As the withdrawals got worse, I would lay awake at night browsing market place and Craigslist looking to feed my addiction. I have been doing this since November 2019.

      For the last few years I have been daily driving my 2002 dodge 2500 Cummins during the winter months. As the weather gets nicer I tend to hop on one of my two wheeled toys. In November I decided it’s time to look for a small daily to keep the miles off the dodge during the winter months. My reason for this, I only drive about 4 miles to work. The dodge doest even finish getting up to temp before I shut the vehicle off. I know this is extremely hard on big diesels so again I thought it was time to find something I didn’t mind racking up the miles with.

      I told myself I would settle for a 1.6 diesel rabbit or caddy. I didn’t mind paying for something that needed a little work. Well one thing led to the next and in the middle of February I purchased my 81 Volkswagen Rabbit 4 door. I dragged the old girl about 4 hours south to her new home.



      A week later my buyer eyes finally wore off and I realized how much work this thing actually needs. With the DMV process complete (can’t wait for my custom plate) I’m ready to start tearing into it.

      My plan is to make a reliable, stylish, economical daily that I can drive to work on the rainy days. This is by no means a show car build. I plan on doing a lot but am still new to working on cars.

      Interior plans:
      New headliner, recover the what I believe are scirocco front seats, recover the rear bench, new carpet, clean up the trunk, and replace all 4 door seals.

      Exterior plans:
      Replace the driver side fender to get ride of the damage, take down some of the surface rust, depending on how it looks after that I want to clear coat it to keep the “patina” look, and replace window rubber trim.

      Drivetrain plans: keep the 4 speed, replace head gasket and other engine seals, replace injection pump, replace water pump and timing belt, replace radiator, delete and relocate engine bay items for a cleaner look.

      Suspension plans: replace bushings, replace control arms, replace wheel bearings, add strut tower brace front and rear, and lower with coilovers.

      Wheel and tire plans: mk2 teardrops with center caps and run a good all season because it is my daily.

      I will do other maintenance items such as brakes, fluids, and clutch as time goes on.

      I have had a couple projects in the past but never got them to where I wanted them. So I am counting on the great people of vortex to hold me accountable to getting this little rabbit to where I want it. Thanks for the read and updates to come.

      As she sits



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    3. 03-10-2020 06:27 PM #2
      I'm right there with you. I drive a Ram 2500 daily. Gas. I recently bought a 78 Rabbit to drive. Good luck with your project. Looks like a good one.


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    4. Member mokoosh's Avatar
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      03-10-2020 09:45 PM #3
      You're speaking my language! These are great winter/shoulder season vehicles.

      I like that you are going for teardrops. MK1 autohaus has NOS with blue accents for around $600 for the set or they did recently. Maybe you already have some? (Out of stock: sorry to tease http://www.mk1autohaus.com/NOS-Tear-...ic_p_8206.html)

      Glad to share whatever parts sources, and daily driver restomod knowledge that I've picked up over the years. Keep us posted on what you do with her.
      Last edited by mokoosh; 03-10-2020 at 10:30 PM.
      Quote Originally Posted by rabbitnothopper View Post
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    6. Member
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      03-10-2020 11:36 PM #4
      Check to see if that 4-speed is a GC.
      If it is you'll want to change that.

    7. Member
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      1983 Rabbit 2-Door Diesel LS 1.6L (JK) with AC - Sandstone Metallic (LE1Y)
      03-10-2020 11:54 PM #5
      Quote Originally Posted by fatmobile View Post
      Check to see if that 4-speed is a GC.
      If it is you'll want to change that.
      I think if you are not on the interstate for those 4 commuting miles you should be ok with the gearing. If your commute gets longer then you might want to consider different 4 speed, or even a 5 speed. http://brokevw.com/020ratios.html



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      03-11-2020 02:13 PM #6
      It's wonderful to beat on your chest and make plans. However, you really need to research the absolute short-comings of the 11 mm head bolt engine. If this has the original "CK" code block.....you are looking up a dead horse's patoot.

      Finding a rebuildable 12 mm engine would be indicative that you have "done your homework" on owning this dinosaur. VERY few people have ever succeeded breathing life into an early engine with or without head studs.

      The 11 mm head bolt block has a problem which can NOT be erased nor minimized.

      Do your research.
      Working to make American great again. Americanism NOT globalism.

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    9. Junior Member
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      03-11-2020 06:53 PM #7
      Thanks for all the input everyone! My goal is to have it mostly ready by May that way I can make it out to Center west mk1 fest! Mokoosh hope to see you there. I know this is a short timeline and I won’t have everything done but at least the major stuff.

      Already have teardrops. They are getting polished now. Center caps are on the way! Thanks for the link though

      As far as the 4 speed trans being an issue. The fastest road I drive right now has a speed limit of 45. I have no problem keeping up with traffic. No plans to go on the interstate. If the Trans is a GC why would I want to change it? For the style of driving I am doing I think a close ratio slower trans should be fine.

      Prairie- I feel like the research I have done on these has not paid off. I researched the hell out of the 1.5 having issues. 1.6 with the 12mm is the best for mods and clearly the toughest. The info I got on the 1.6 with 11mm bolts seem to recommend not to add boost and you should be fine. Am I missing something?

      Last, I have done tons of reading on door seals. It’s a bummer they are no longer manufactured and I can’t seem to find any old stock. I read that it is possible to use mk3 door seals with a little modification. Does anybody know of a good thread with pictures? I have a local company who said they would do it but they want me to supply all parts and pictures with it done before. Any help here would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks for all the support!

    10. Member atarasi's Avatar
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      03-11-2020 08:28 PM #8
      I know zero about diesels but I do know you can still buy door seals. How bad are they?

      https://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifi...php?id=2359517

    11. 03-11-2020 08:44 PM #9
      http://www.mk1autohaus.com/Rear-Door...or_p_8183.html

      They should have the rest too.


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    12. Junior Member
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      03-11-2020 09:19 PM #10
      Quote Originally Posted by atarasi View Post
      I know zero about diesels but I do know you can still buy door seals. How bad are they?

      https://www.thesamba.com/vw/classifi...php?id=2359517
      I probably could have gotten 2 gallons of water out of the carpet bad. Luckily the pans are decent. $95 for all 4 seems too good to be true. I need a decent photo!

    13. Junior Member
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      03-11-2020 09:25 PM #11
      Quote Originally Posted by Trey.a View Post
      http://www.mk1autohaus.com/Rear-Door...or_p_8183.html

      They should have the rest too.


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
      I did more research on that site they have a full set of reproduction ones both doors/all seals for $460 I believe. I might go that route. $900+ for seals is rough though.

    14. Member atarasi's Avatar
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      03-11-2020 09:35 PM #12
      Quote Originally Posted by Twebber10 View Post
      I probably could have gotten 2 gallons of water out of the carpet bad. Luckily the pans are decent. $95 for all 4 seems too good to be true. I need a decent photo!
      Fair enough. I bought door pulls from the same seller and I was also very suspicious if they were original. Happy buyer when they were indeed OEM.

    15. Member atarasi's Avatar
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      03-11-2020 09:39 PM #13
      BTW, are you sure the door seals are allowing water in? Check the rain tray to make sure water isn’t leaking? Could be a deteriorating heater fan gasket.

    16. 03-11-2020 09:46 PM #14
      Quote Originally Posted by Twebber10 View Post
      I did more research on that site they have a full set of reproduction ones both doors/all seals for $460 I believe. I might go that route. $900+ for seals is rough though.
      It's a lot of money. I need to do the same thing. Hopefully it's something I only have to buy once.


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    17. Member mokoosh's Avatar
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      03-11-2020 10:16 PM #15
      Quote Originally Posted by Twebber10 View Post
      Thanks for all the input everyone! My goal is to have it mostly ready by May that way I can make it out to Center west mk1 fest! Mokoosh hope to see you there. I know this is a short timeline and I won’t have everything done but at least the major stuff.

      Already have teardrops. They are getting polished now. Center caps are on the way! Thanks for the link though

      Prairie- I feel like the research I have done on these has not paid off. I researched the hell out of the 1.5 having issues. 1.6 with the 12mm is the best for mods and clearly the toughest. The info I got on the 1.6 with 11mm bolts seem to recommend not to add boost and you should be fine. Am I missing something?
      Prairie may be right about Center West MK1 fest (number 1); this Corona virus thing seems to be ramping up. Might be just the two of us. Still, you are welcome to come down and pick your own parts at my Rabbit farm or we can just drink beer and talk about Rabbits.

      As far as 11mm diesels...If they are so bad, then why are so many still running after nearly forty years? Everyone will tell you that 12mm is better than 11mm and five speed is better than four, but it's all relative. They may be right, but it's relative.

      In swapping things around, to quote John Muir: "Change one thing and you find that it's hitched to everything else in the universe. " I watched two beautiful MK1 ALH TDI swap builds in this forum last year. No expense spared, massive research, diligent effort. A year later and they are both parked with bad turbos (or worse). ALH TDIs are supposed to be the best for longevity.


      I say follow your dreams, or to quote John Cleese: your "own personal idiom". After all, this is a second vehicle so you have something else to drive if you need to get to work or whatever.
      Quote Originally Posted by rabbitnothopper View Post
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    18. Member mokoosh's Avatar
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      03-11-2020 10:21 PM #16
      Quote Originally Posted by atarasi View Post
      BTW, are you sure the door seals are allowing water in? Check the rain tray to make sure water isn’t leaking? Could be a deteriorating heater fan gasket.
      Bad outer window scrapers can let water in as well.
      Quote Originally Posted by rabbitnothopper View Post
      facebook...pfft. vwvortex baby!
      The NONSMKR now LE1ZCDY
      My Butte Whip: 82 Jetta Build
      perpetual online swap-meet(V2.3 FSOT: GTI Ashtray)

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      03-11-2020 11:28 PM #17
      I'm sorry....where exactly are there 11 mm head bolt engines running naked through the tall grasses???? Perhaps, in the grasses between two sheets of Zig Zag papers? Pfffft…..aaahhh?????

      Do yourself a favor....find a "JK" code block and don't look back. The 11 mm engines crack the corners of the block. This is not a problem that can be set-straight with JB Weld. The JK's are the 12 mm variants installed in pretty-much all the '82.5 and up Rabbits, Jetta's, and little fagg pickups. Yes...yes....I had two of them....so, hold yerr taters.

      The JK's will take a moderate turbocharging and live a very long time....IF the prep-work is done very well and performed right. A solid-lifter "ME" is very good as well....perhaps, not quite as durable as the JK as they were cutting down on the amount of nickel in the cast iron about that time (late 1984). 12 mm "CY" blocks are yummie as well.

      I personally have one hydro-ME block fitted with a solid head and turbocharged as well. All of these can (of course) be run normally aspirated and be "happy."

      I would not employ the 11 mm engine.

      EDIT: other than that, the little blue 4-door looks great. Another extremely good thing to find would be a 5-speed trans...FF...FN....ACH will all have the little studs to Mk. I mount-up. And, don't worry about finding one of the "deep-5th" gear ones either. I, personally, HATED living with one of the 3 + E four speeds. You will grow OLD getting it up to speed.....unless, of course, you are nursing a 12-pack while tooling along......THEN....everything will be in perspective.
      Last edited by Prairie; 03-11-2020 at 11:38 PM.
      Working to make American great again. Americanism NOT globalism.

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    20. Member
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      03-11-2020 11:43 PM #18
      People worry about the head bolts being too short and stressing the holes.
      I've never had one headbolt strip out.
      If I'm boosting one I use headstuds and they work fine.
      Even boosted to 30 a couple times with no problems.

      Your 11mm headbolt block will be just fine.
      If you do a headgasket, get some used studs.
      They are the same size as the gasser engines of the time so you can often get them used on here.

    21. 03-12-2020 06:59 PM #19
      This site is having a sale on seals. I don't know about the quality though.


      https://vwmk1man.com/


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    22. Member
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      03-12-2020 08:45 PM #20
      I had a 80' Dasher with the !.5D w/ 11mm head and it held up for years even with oval pistons and valves hitting the piston crowns at high rpms.
      Got it rebuilt and it ran like a top; ending up going into a 81' jetta after the Dasher rusted out.
      However,
      These days it's not so easy to be nice with those old motors with everybody doing 75+mph on the freeways. If you plan on driving it for sustained high speeds, do whatever you can to have a stronger, cooler engine. Cooling systems on Mk1's were minimal and those 11mm blocks were designed when speed limits were lower - it was all about fuel economy.

    23. Junior Member
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      03-12-2020 10:55 PM #21
      Quote Originally Posted by Trey.a View Post
      This site is having a sale on seals. I don't know about the quality though.


      https://vwmk1man.com/


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
      Dang those seals are inexpensive compared to mk1 autohaus. Has anyone ever used seals from vwmk1man? I would be happy if they held up for at least 5-10 years.

    24. Junior Member
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      03-17-2020 01:32 PM #22
      Got some parts from MorningStar in the mail yesterday, thanks Jason! Full set of tear drop center caps. Once those get polished my wheel and tire set up will be complete. Need to buy some coil overs soon and order other suspension parts.

      Side note, this is what I love about the VW community. When Jason shipped me the caps he included a few extra vw goodies. Thanks again!

    25. Junior Member
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      03-18-2020 03:24 PM #23
      A friend came over last night, I was excited to show him the new bunny. He’s a fellow diesel lover so I knew he would enjoy driving it.

      As we hit the road he asked about the top speed. I started to laugh and claimed around 75 (wild guess) with a grin on my face. He proceeded to drive toward interstate 5 which is only a couple miles from my house. I told him to take the on ramp and give her the rhubarb to see what this little rabbit had. It took about 3-4 miles to get there but my gps speedo said 80mph! Dash speedo claimed 78mph.

      Thinking back on this situation I know it was a little dumb. Dry rot tires with a rabbit that needs plenty of work. Here’s the thing, we made it back home and the interstate was just about empty. I know this was hard on the old girl but well worth it with how hard we were laughing.

      To wrap this update up: WORTH IT!

    26. Member mokoosh's Avatar
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      03-18-2020 07:33 PM #24
      Quote Originally Posted by Twebber10 View Post
      I told him to take the on ramp and give her the rhubarb to see what this little rabbit had.
      I like your style, sir. 😁
      Quote Originally Posted by rabbitnothopper View Post
      facebook...pfft. vwvortex baby!
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    27. 03-18-2020 09:58 PM #25
      Awesome. Sounds like your having fun with it. Mine has decided to be a bastard.


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