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September 17, 2022

1983 VW Rabbit GTI – Ten Reasons NOT To Buy One

When Volkswagen introduced the GTI to the United States, it was an oasis for enthusiasts caught in a desert of post-emissions malaise. As American manufacturers scrambled to add power back to their pony and sports car nameplates, VW introduced a practical, nimble and efficient hot hatchback that could embarrass plenty of Detroit’s entry-level fun cars, even in a straight line.

Over the past few weeks, Volkswagen circulated a few gems from its heritage collection, including a Rabbit GTI. This 1983 model would have represented the second model year for the GTI here in the States, where it was locally assembled at a brand-new facility in Pennsylvania.

This is important, because the Rabbit GTI was very much a product of Volkswagen’s American arm. Though the Golf GTI had been on sale in Europe since 1976, the imported Rabbit was not offered in this hopped-up variant. In fact, the European Golf GTI and American Rabbit GTI were put together quite differently. As is often the case in these situations, the Europeans got the better end of the deal, including a more powerful tune of the 1.8-liter engine that delivered closer to 110 horsepower.

Meanwhile, America’s Rabbit GTI packed 90 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque from an eight-valve, 1.8-liter inline-four. The peppier 16-valve engine wouldn’t arrive for a couple more model years. Power steering was not available, but with such a low curb weight, the GTI didn’t really need it.


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