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994 Posts
Definitely an Awsome job man, I am working on an 83 rabbit gti myself and I saw your build thread and its great. You did an awsome job. :thumbup:

For the oil question- Yes you can fill the transmission through the speedo cable opening but you have to check the level through the side hole.

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #163 · (Edited)
My 85 8v makes me smile every day I drive it. There is nothing quite like tearing up the streets every day in a car you re-built with your own two hands

Once again I applaud you.

Nice job!
Definitely an Awsome job man, I am working on an 83 rabbit gti myself and I saw your build thread and its great. You did an awsome job. :thumbup:

Thank you! I know exactly what you mean, it feels so good. I will be out there with the top down!
It has been about 1000 KMs, and it is running very smooth. I do still have some tweaking yet...
A recent drive was 4 hours one way, I had all of my tools in the back seat, just in case.
The only issue was the amplifier ground had to be redone along the way.
Now that it is settling in, I will post video soon of the drive I promised.
I am impressed with the MK1 dubbers. Dub on.:thumbup:

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #166 ·
After driving this car daily for a while, A few issues have presented themselves.
My custom exhaust is just slightly tapping on the heat shield sometimes.
Right where it goes up and over the rear beam. Superbly annoying.
I should have more exhaust hangers, but the cat one was destroyed when it came out.
I never bothered to put one in there to replace it.
Everything on the car is going to have to get re-torqued and locktite.
The plastic trim in the front of the car rattles.
The plastic shroud protecting the lower timing belt warped and is touching the belt.
It makes a very annoying noise.
The dash is rattling a lot, but sticky goo helped. At different RPM, different bits rattle.
I need to re-tighten the header and manifold bolts.

Worst of all, the transmission blew a drive seal, leaking (flinging). It was OK when I had it out.
If it ain't broke don't fix it. Well now it broke. I will go through a good inspection as well.

My suspension is horrible, old and threatens to throw me off the road.
I need new control arms, new ball joints, new rubber control arm bushings, tie rods.
I think I will go with Bilstein shocks, keep my ride height. The roads here are bad.
New strut mounts, and bushings. They will be coming soon.
However, I do need a bit of advice with what springs to use with Bilstein strut assemblies.
I do not wish to lower the car. Clearance is a big deal to me on these bad roads.

Other than that this car has brought a smile to my face over and over.
I had a couple of guys that didn't want to be passed by a Rabbit, and tried to race forward.
I passed them anyway. That feels so good.

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #167 ·
Still driving! Parts are slowly showing up for the suspension and steering.
Just got back from an epic month long journey drove 2500 Kms, went to 4 epic festivals.
The car held steady, I had recently installed a new radiator fan motor because the other was failing.
Lots more to come soon when the rest of the parts arrive...
Suspension rebuild!

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #168 ·
So it has been a while...
So far just minor issues, a full brake rebuild front and back just happened.
Brand new calipers and rotors and pads on the front, already rusty from winter.
Brand new drums, cylinders, wheel bearings, spring kit and shoes for the back.
You would never know, looking at it.
Had a major problem recently. Heater core failure. What a mess!
Just installed a brand new one after draining out all fluids.
It was not so bad for this vehicle, just undid the four screws under the hood at the fan and the whole box drops down. With some careful wriggling, it will clear the pedal cluster and slide right out for replacement. I will not say it was easy, it took me SO LONG! The most frustrating thing so far.
Will have pics soon!
New oil cooler to replace the old one...
Just put in a new fuel filter. One one side, crystal clear gas and the other a foul mess.
I am so glad it was working.
New oil filter, new fluids and I will be on my way. Good time to recharge the K&N filter too.

78rabbit1.5LGP & 82rabbitpickup1.6DGC
11,765 Posts
thanks for your thread
lots of good information and pictures

epic job on cleaning those parts and putting it all together

btw, it is easier to fill the transmission through the speedo-gear hole than through the side drain plug behind the wheel
just be careful not to drop anything into the hole there..


209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #172 · (Edited)
So this car is still rolling strong, starts instantly, and has never let me down. I am going to treat this classic to some more surgery. There is a big install coming this weekend, and I will have pics to share as it happens! No Shambhala for me this weekend. I will have to go next year. I have a limited window to do the work, and I am taking this opportunity.
Something that happened since last I posted was SMOKE inside the car while I was driving along. After a thorough inspection, I discovered my heater core was dripping onto some wires in the center console.
So, since I do not have the new dash completed yet, I just moved the gauges up, and got rid of the center console, for now. I know it looks weird but it works and once the new dash is in this will be a good laugh for later. The "Before" picture.

Here is the old heater core, removed from the car. Just 4 bolts under the hood and the rain tray by the blower motor.

Got some new (old) seats too!

From a toyota corolla. Needed some work to get those in!
Funny thing; a local VW enthusiast wanted someone to take a 99 golf off their hands, to keep the parts for others who need them. It turns out it came with 4 snowflakes!!!!!!! In a funny turn of events, it was the same people who donated my GTI to that yard it was found!!!!!
I am greatful. The girl who used to drive the GTI before it was junked fixes VW in Ottawa, check her out if you need help out there.
They were so happy the heart of the GTI is living on, in this car, that now sports snowflakes. Perfect fitment. Exactly what was needed to fix the wobble, which is mostly gone now.

So much more coming tonight after berry picking up the mountains. Last trip up the rickety road before the NEW SUSPENSION!:D

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #173 · (Edited)
Suspension Rebuild

:peace:This car is reliable and has taken me to some very remote places a car like this should never see. As a result of all this banging around on dirt roads, the suspension is shot, everything rattles, and the polyurethane bushings just transmit every little pebble into the steering wheel, with a BANG!

The proper rubber bushings are finally all here. Time to make this car feel good and tight.

Here are some of the parts I need at the moment. I have been getting little bits and pieces for a while, saving them up. Now it all comes together!

The control arms were pretty battered under the car, and the rubber bushings deteriorated. I decided to get some new control arms from Lemfoerder. The new bushings were pressed in, and the new Meyle ball joints were installed, so they are ready to go. The brackets that hold the bushings on to the control arms are new too. The camber bolts and control arm bolts still available from VW.

And so many little bits and pieces and I will still have to buy a rear sway bar with rubber bushings to install later when I do a proper exhaust. These pieces I already have are all going in, like the new oil pump, I can just feel sometimes it needs a new one. This one is a little upgrade from the other, needs longer bolts, and is German made. The tie rods are wobbly, but not for long. My master cylinder is having issues, too, so this is a good time to finish a complete rebuild. New shock mounts and higer durometer rubber bumpstops, and new dustboots. Everything needed to get this car working properly. The bodywork will be minimal, and painting this one is going to be fun.

And of course, the best for last. The heart of the matter. This is the choice I made, after a lot of reading, and checking out a lot of companies products, peoples testimonials. I am sure I will have an opinion on these in the not too distant future!


209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #174 · (Edited)
Shock install weekend! Every time I work on this car there are always surprises, and the parts that should be correct are almost never correct, or there is a mixed bag of some things that work, or use some new and some old used, lots of figuring out. I wonder if it is that my car is German made, or it is a Canadian version of the Rabbit Convertible or that it is right at the moment of changeover to the next model? Maybe other people made half ass repairs along the way and used the wrong pieces? Whatever the case, it can be frustrating. Parts sellers always say it will work, because they want to sell parts to you. Oh well. Anything I obtained along the way that is for another model I will be selling soon, I have lots of obscure bits and pieces that are really hard to get now. I know you all want to see how it went, so here we go!

Every bolt was rusted, seized and required tons of penetrating lube and force. No idea how long these have been in here, but I have owned the car since 2007 and this is the first time I touched the shocks.

The car was jacked up and jack stands kept the car up in the air while work progressed.
The front shocks went on the new mounts and went in first.

Here you can see the original control arm and sway bar bushing.

Starting with the front, the old shocks and control arms came out.

While I had everything out, I installed the rubber mounts for the steering rack, and finally a new rubber transmission mount. Having the rear motor mount out really made it easy to install the steering rack mounts, and I needed to shift gears under the car to make room for tools, and put it back in the same spot it was when all was done. The tranny mount that came out had loose bolts.

The problem came when I got to the back. To start with, I had a major problem I was unaware of, and there was no going back.

Here you can see there were actually 5 breaks in the rear shock.

After the shock came out, the extent of the problem was revealed. Broken springs! Leaking, busted struts! Mangled, destroyed, not good for anything. No wonder the muffler was rattling on the frame.

That was not the only problem. There was no going back, and when I compared old with new, I was unsure whether they would even work!

I was frustrated, and decided to go for a swim at my favorite lake to calm down.

When I got back, I decided that I did the research, and after all I had been through with the shocks, they just had to fit. So I put them in. The mounts I bought had some pieces that fit, and I had to reuse the top mount shown here, thank god it was in good shape still.

The new coilovers did go in, they did fit, and I decided to max them out to try to get the most clearance under the car, but after riding back home, I will back them off, they are too tight.

I also need an alignment, really bad, and that will happen soon, I will leave that to a professional. I will tell you all about the quality of the ride after I get aligned, I already know it is WAY better than it ever has been, and I have not dialed it proper yet. Updates soon! New dash and interior is next...

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #175 · (Edited)

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #176 · (Edited)
Running funny; Maintenance time!

For the first time ever this car let me down and did not instantly start. :confused:

Just kept on turning over and over. Then it started, because this car really has soul.
But it just didn't drive right, it was boggy and was really hesitating.
So what have we learned?
The first thing you have to do is tune up the engine, by making sure plugs, wires, cap and rotor are all functioning. Then check for air leaks. Then check fuel pressure and delivery, electrical is getting where it should when it should. Check grounds. Rewire if necessary.

So I just went over any possible point of entry for air. Right away I find the rubber vacuum lines are all cracked at the ends. Replace. Then the idle air screw o ring, and anything else that looks suspect. Remove the ground from the battery. Pop the top off the distributor, check inside.

The contact points were corroded and the rotor was half burnt off.

So I fill up the coolant that was getting low in the reservoir, and then I realize it must be a fuel issue, and I never did replace the in tank fuel pump.
So in I go! Pop off the back seat cushion, and get into it.
The two hoses and electrical come out, it doesn't seem like it will go, but it does!
Using a hammer and a flat screwdriver in the notches of the brass circle, it turns counter clockwise and unscrews from the fuel tank about 1/4 turn.

On the other side of that is the fuel level sender, and an in tank fuel pump.
It just uses a flotation device on a pivot. I was surprised to find elecrtical wires exposed to fuel! I suppose no air, no boom!

All the fine silt was getting past the in tank filter! Did you see how clogged that was?
The seal had broken , and there was a gap and some rubber bits missing.

You can see where a chunk came off the filter. The o-ring needed replacing, too, and I had one!

So luckily I just happened to have a new Pierburg pump and filter, got a bit of 5/16ths high pressure fuel injection hose (a little more pricy, but regular is only 10 psi and CIS is 100+ and yes, I know it only really gets pressurized after the bosch inline fuel pump, but there is a return hose going back in so maybe it needs it. Oh well, overkill is good.

The rubber hose pictured on here had to be cut back almost an inch, it was too long and wasn't sitting right in the tank; I had to pull it all out again, use exactly the same length of hose that was on it before, and reinstall it.

It went back in, I used the new o-rings, sealed it all up, checked the fuel pump relay, some electrical, then put the ground back on the battery. She took a few seconds, but it ran again! BEaUTIFULLY! Off I went for a 140 KM journey, with the car running like it hasn't in a while. Next up; timing, idle/air fuel mix, lifter adjustment. That should get things tightened back up!:laugh:

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #178 · (Edited)
fun in the snow

Took my car out into the frozen snow without a belt cover was not the best idea ever
I will be the first one to admit this was ambitious but I know this car is a tank!

The snow was several feet deep with 12 inches fresh snow on the road I was driving.
It kept trying to suck me into the bank which would have stranded me out in the wilderness!

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #179 · (Edited)
Performance Exhaust

The snow this last winter ripped my steel weld job muffler right to bits.
Little holes rusted through and created a raspy loudness that lost pressure and power.
It did not seem so long ago a chevy truck muffler was welded on last minute to get it on the road...

Some new parts arrived just in time...
Cat back! Everything behind the catalytic converter all the way to the tailpipe...
Stainless this time. No more rust. .

And all the little bits and pieces a Rabbit just might need...
Like a resonator and clamps until it can be welded properly.

Feels so good again, all the pressure is back, but welding this up is a must, it seems the clamps just wont keep it in the right spot.
Sounds like a dream.

209 Posts
Discussion Starter · #180 · (Edited)
Major Brake Overhaul

Hello fellow Dubbers!
This car has had a major issue with braking. There is a spongy feel to it. There is brake moisture around the master cylinder and the brake booster.
And just the other day there were no brakes at all when I went to stop, just about plowed through 3 deer and a moose.
So it seems to me it is time to rebuild EVERYTHING.

New bearings and bits to make the job easier...

The last time the brakes were done there were grooves that had been worn into the metal on the stub axle.
I decided to get new stub axles to ensure the best possible ride.

A new master cylinder was needed; the one I got before was the wrong part and cannot be returned, I will have to sell it.
This is the correct unit for my vehicle.

The brake booster was a hard thing to find and was EXPENSIVE.
Ordered the wrong one and had to send it back.
This is the correct unit for my car.

I decided to paint this part so it doesn't become a rusty piece of crap.

While I'm at it I may as well paint the new drums too. High temp paint.

Even the e brake cables are destroyed. You need two for this car.

So time to get right to it. Remove the cap by wiggling it off with a large grip wrench. Remove the cotter pin.
Remove the cotter pin holder, the nut and the lock washer. Pull the drum off carefully, the bearings will try to fall out.
Then you are met with the brake fluid and grime mess.

The two springs on the middle of the shoes must be depressed then turned to remove shoe assembly.
Then wiggle them out of the bottom retainer that holds them in.
Be ever so careful to remove the bolts that hold the stub axle and take the assembly into the shop.
I made a 3 1/4" hole in a block of wood 1" deep to support the backer plate.

One good solid whack with a urethane mallet got it out.
Of course, I sandblasted and painted it before I removed the old stub axle.

Here is a shot of the backer plate with the stub axle removed.

Under the dash I removed the pin that held the pedal to the brake booster.
Then, working under the hood, I undid the battery posts (negative off first, on last).
I undid the coolant reservoir, then moved the air tube, disconnected a few brake lines.
Reaching in under the car to the bottom bolts of the brake booster was not fun.

So it has been easy so far... Except for one problem... Of grandiose monumentalness.
A bolt head has been sheared off and is stuck in the axle mounts.

I will not bang my head in frustration. I will logically proceed. Drills and an easy out.

I will let you know how it all goes. Until that bolt comes out....
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