Project Rabbit GTI: Part II

Welcome to VWvortex Project Car Week. We’re bringing you five cars in five days, projects old and new. Kicking off the week is Project Rabbit GTI, one of the longest-running project cars in the VWvortex garage.

So let’s dispense with all the jokes that you could have restored a Rabbit faster than what we have tried to do. I would hazard a guess that the Titanic could have been raised, restored and crossed the Atlantic, successfully I might add, multiple times in the vast amount of time it has taken us to get this car close to the point of being on the road. Yet we persist on in trying to get this car roadworthy. So the question becomes, “Why?” In short, sheer stubbornness and determination are largely to blame. If it wasn’t for those two personal characteristics, I may have abandoned this project long ago. Trust me, the thought would cross my mind for a fleeting moment. Also, face it, A1 Rabbits are getting harder and harder to come by these days as they rust into oblivion or are retired to being parts cars to keep other Rabbits from disappearing back into the Earth from which they came.

What I can safely tell you all now is that the car pictured is not how the car looks today. We are much further ahead than we last left the project. From now on, I can actually focus on some of our trials in resurrecting the Rabbit after we got the car back from paint oh so many years ago.

Once we finally got the car back from the paint shop, the boys at NGP and I assessed the car’s needs before they jumped in on it and took over from where I left off. I fully recognize my shade tree mechanic limitations. Wiring, running fuel and brake lines are not something I personally would do and are outside my reach. I decided to get to work on the things I could do.

First up, the suspension and the rear disc conversion. Fortunately, through some deal making, there was a complete rear disc conversion that a fellow Vortex staffer had decided not to use. Perfect. New calipers, new rotors, etc. all set to attach up to the rear. Now the fun part, getting the rear beam down. While it sounds like an easy operation, it was not. Of course, with cars of this age, everything rusts and the Midas special pea-shooter exhaust that hung over the beam managed to give us a fair amount of fits as it rained down rust all over the place. Note to everyone, use eye protection when working on older cars as I was soon to find out, the hard way. We got the beam down, but not without dropping it on my head and shoulder. Rear beams aren’t light, as I found out. You might need a hard hat at times, and check that your medical insurance is up to date when restoring cars.

With the beam back up in there, it was time to take a look at the fuel and brake systems. The sad situation was that everything was a loss. Fuel pump, filter housing, all the lines. Everything was coated in rust or falling apart. Moisture was not a friend to these cars, since they were made from what amounts to papier mache. The search was on for new and slightly used parts for the brakes and fuel system, but we found out that this stuff does not come cheap. Sure, you can go to your local pick and pull and find many of these parts off junkers, but at the same time, the trade off is potentially ending up with the same problems that you would have with old parts, namely, they may not work. So we decided to source everything as new as we could find. After making some phone calls to dealers and even to some buddies at VWoA, it turned out that these things are no longer in stock. Sign of the times. The parts catalog for Rabbit parts is ever shrinking, sadly enough. We decided then to use new steel brake lines and bend those, and for the fuel lines we went with Aeroequip stainless steel lines. The coolness factor is there and the confidence that we won’t have fuel leaks provides some comfort.

While we were fitting the rear beam, new poly bushings were mounted to the rear beam, front suspension (along with new arms), new rack bushings topped off with a set of FK Konigsport coilovers sourced from NGP Racing. This combination will probably result in a car that rides like it has cement in its dampers, but should handle pretty decently once we tune everything in.

So with the fuel, braking, and suspension either in process of being assembled or completed, we moved onto the engine, which we will detail in the next installment. If you remember from way back when, the overall goal of this project was not to create some sort of bazillion horsepowered monster, but something more classic, using a mixture of newer technologies like the coilovers balanced out with OEM or near OEM performance parts. As you’ll see in future updates, this is still the goal for this project, and we hope to incorporate some geeky VW pieces that make these cars still so special.

Project Rabbit is back and this time for good. Read about its history in our other installments here.

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