Category Archives: Volkswagen Rabbit

VW’s dirty house of lies collapses

Dear Volkswagen,

You’re dead to us.

Not a clean machine but we weren't told otherwise

Not a clean machine but we weren’t told otherwise

When you write about cars it’s natural that friends and family ask you for advice when they’re in the market for something new.  Over the past few years, we haven’t hesitated to heartily recommend any and all diesel-powered Volkswagens because our experience with the current generation VW TDI diesel has been a very happy one since an ’09 Jetta SportWagen found its way to our driveway.

Dirty trucker

Dirty little trucker

That all ended a day or so ago when news broke that we’ve been duped in no uncertain terms. VW (and Audi) admitted that TDI-equipped cars (this so-called ‘clean diesel’ motor is available, for a premium, across many model lines including Beetle, Golf, Jetta, Passat, A3) have been fitted with software to deliberately violate Clean Air Act emissions laws.  

Oil burning bunny

Oil burning bunny

That’s right, VW TDIs passed emissions tests because “defeat” software was programmed to stifle emissions when the cars were tested but allowed them to emit up to 40 times the legally allowed amount of potential carcinogens into the environment under normal use. This is a literal “dirty trick,” if ever there was. We’re painfully aware that at least three people took our solicited advice and bought or leased a “Clean Diesel” VW.

When they were honest

When they were honest

Volkswagen was a pioneer in equipping passenger cars with diesels for quite some time as photos of surviving diesel Rabbits, an appliance white sedan and beige pick up, attest.  After some quiet years, VW’s US diesel program roared back to life for the 2009 model year with the launch of the TDI “Clean Diesel.”  While, perhaps, not as polluting as the superannuated Rabbits seen here, we’ve found out they’re far from “clean.”

Pre-clean but honest

Pre-clean but honest

We are disappointed that VW engaged in egregious deception and fear that the “fix,” once vehicles are recalled and software is recalibrated,  will diminish performance and fuel economy.  Overnight, we’ve gone from fanboy status to major haters, a consequence of VW’s cheating, snookering consumers and despoiling the environment.   It all makes us yearn for the “good old days” when diesels weren’t marketed as “clean” by a campaign of overt lies.

If you’d like to drive down memory lane, we suggest “the highest mileage car in America,” the Volkswagen diesel for ’81 when they, perhaps, told some semblance of truth.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Street seen: native New Yorkers

Wunderkind VW

Wunderkind VW

We recently spent part of a sweltering New York afternoon, ahem, walking the streets with world renowned performance artist Tammy Faye Starlite.  What Tammy doesn’t know about cars could fill the New York Public Library.  That’s no surprise in light of the fact that this Manhattan born and bred provocateuse doesn’t have a driver’s license and that’s a very good thing since she doesn’t actually know how to drive a car.

Bunny hoppers

Bunny hoppers

While she’s rather indifferent to cars other than taxis, she was somewhat smitten by the sight of a vintage Volkswagen Rabbit Cabriolet on East 11th Street.  It’s not often that one encounters a mid-80s car parked on the mean streets of Manhattan, especially a soft top like this yet there it was.  The VW convertible has long been considered the ultimate “chick car” and that’s not a slight in any way.  They’re cute and trim and when the top is folded down there’s a roll bar that looks something like a purse handle.

Tammy's bunny

Cabaret Cabriolet

These were built for VW by Karmann (as in Karmann Ghia)  in the Westphalian town of Rheine, 190 kilometers north of Cologne. That’s where Christa Päffgen was born in 1938. She would transform herself into the underground icon Nico who went on to a career of modeling, recording, acting and drug abuse.  Tammy has portrayed her in Nico: Underground, a theatrical performance that The New York Times called “remarkable and howlingly funny, morbidly fascinating night of theater.”  See how we connected the dots just now?

K-car gets the OK

K-car desperately seeks Tammy’s OK

Just one block removed from that surprisingly not-too-battered VW we encountered a domestic rag top of similar vintage.  Behold, the Chrysler LeBaron convertible for 1983.  Though not as loveable as the VW, the two cars have much in common.  Both are front wheel drive cars powered by transverse-mounted 4 cylinder motors. Are you taking notes, Ms. Starlite?  There will be a quiz!  We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Tammy’s deficiencies in automotive areas is more than made up for by her uncanny ability to inhabit characters based on real people.  Her next piece, entitled Cabaret Marianne, debuts October 1 at New York’s delightful Pangea restaurant and supper club.  It’s a performance based on the life and music of Marianne Faithful which Rolling Stone’s David Fricke called “poignant” and  “lethally honest..”  Damned if we can find a way to connect this with Chrysler’s K-Car but Marianne once recorded a song entitled “Times Square” and that’s only about a mile away from where this LeBaron was parked.  No?  How about the fact that, in her youth, Marianne had a fairly big record titled “Summer Nights”? Isn’t that exactly when you’d want to put the top down.  Hey, we’re walkin’ here!

Styling? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Styling? Fuhgeddaboudit!

We offer a bit of time travel with the great Ricardo Montalban, a performance artist in his own right, in this LeBaron commercial from back in the day.. and not a mention of “rich Corinthian leather.”  And check out this Mattel commercial for the Heart Family Car which looks strangely similar to the VW Rabbit convertible.. but much, much smaller.

What’s keeping you from buying this ’87 VW Cabriolet?  It’s in nearby Seattle and is offered for a mere (not a typo) $525!! A deal like this won’t last forever.  And while you’re in the buying mood, why not add this ’82 LeBaron convertible to your shopping list?  It’s a low mileage cream puff in nearby Palm Springs. Yow!  They’re asking $7900 for it but, hey, it’s the deluxe Mark Cross edition and one of only 505 made.

Bonus! Click here for Tammy performing Marianne’s “Sister Morphine” at Lincoln Center.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

Falcon Rancheros of the world, Unite!

Business in the back, party in the front

Business in the back, party in the front

The inspiration for feralcars.com came after noting  just how many Ford Falcons have survived over the past six decades.   “Feral Falcons” posts on Facebook morphed into this site so our roots, it could be said, lie with Ford’s compact car. Many of those still-flying Falcons are Rancheros, the trucklette created by transforming the station wagon variant into a small pickup.

Haulin' little birdie

Haulin’ little birdie

The Rancheros car/truck concept debuted in 1957 and continued through ’59, based on full-size Fords and those, in turn, inspired Chevy’s El Camino. The Falcon-based Ranchero, however,  truly ignited the mini truck revolution in which Toyota and Datsun would soon play their part.

Dio's machina

Deus ex machina

We thought we’d celebrate Labor Day by offering a gallery of Falcon Rancheros, all caught in the wild.  While many are still hard at work, hauling whatever piles of detritus one may choose to toss in the load bed, we’re giving them the day off in recognition of their travails for the last 50+ years.

Distressed express

Distressed express

Ranchero was an integral part of the Falcon line through 1965 and a disproportionate number are still in service. We’re partial to the raw, un-restored, examples found in a condition  that seems to underscore plebian roots.   Let’s salute them on this day of the worker!

Ruffled feathers

Ruffled feathers

Falcon ranger

Snappy kestrel

After 1965 Ranchero was based on the larger Fairlane platform and, ultimately, forswore its working class origin, transforming into a muscle car that happened to have a load bed.  Fairlane yielded to Torino and this less-than-demure ’72 Ranchero GT with a bitchin’ hood scoop is a prime example of that  change in attitude.

Ranchero aggresso

Aggro Ranchero

Here’s a Starsky & Hutch era ’78 Ranchero that shares its platform with the LTD II/Thunderbird of the time. Aside from the fact that it’s a Ford built car based truck, its arriviste affect really has very little in common with that of the humble Falcon Ranchero that we celebrate today.

Blowed up real good

Snooty social striver

The basic Falcon Ranchero concept was revived by Volkwagen in the late ’70s with the Rabbit Pickup, built in Westmoreland, PA over a four year production run.  We encountered this diesel powered 1980 example in rural Kelseyville CA the other day and its owner reports that he’s had 22 of these over the course of time.  The motor on this one has been swapped out for a relatively recent TDi diesel and yields mpg in the mid 40s.  How’s that for addressing the concerns of the working person?

Bauer = Ranchero auf Deutsche

Arbeit macht frei?

 If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted

 

 

Keha’s Plymouth Horizon never sets

The Blue Horizon never ends

The Blue Horizon never ends

We were delighted and amazed to meet lovely Keha McIlwaine the other day as she lounged behind the wheel of her 1986 Plymouth Horizon.  She told us she had driven the car out to California from New York a few months back and encountered no difficulties despite the fact that the odometer is closing in on 150,000 miles.  We especially like the duct tape around the parking light.  This kind of ingenuity worked for Apollo 13, so it would seem  a logical solution for a terrestrial vehicle with certain needs.

Plymouth pride will out

Plymouth pride will out (NOTE: ultra feral ’68 Chevy Caprice just ahead)

Plymouth Horizon and corporate twin Dodge Omni were introduced in 1978 and the same basic car stayed in production for 12 years.  They were fielded by Chrysler to compete with Volkswagen’s Rabbit and, like that bunny, were powered by a transverse mounted 4-cylinder motor via front wheel drive. Most mass-produced cars these days are configured this way but the “Omnirizon” twins were the first American cars of this kind and were jointly named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1978.   We salute Keha who, paradoxically, pronounces her name like a certain Korean car spelled with three letters.

Hop-a-long VW

Hop-a-long VW

Volkswagen Rabbits of this general vintage are much more plentiful than their Plymouth and Dodge counterparts so we offer two such here to underscore the point.  Both of these are diesel-powered which may provide a clue to their preternatural longevity.

Oil-burning sweaty Rabbit

Oil-burning sweaty Rabbit

Diesel-powered VW = Sooty Rabbit

Diesel-powered VW = Sooty Rabbit

For quite a few model years, the Horizon co-existed with its ultimate replacement, Plymouth Sundance.  We’re not sure we’d exhibit the kind of loyalty Keha has for her Horizon if we had to tango with something like this over the long haul.

Unbutch: Plymouth's Sundance

Unbutch

Dappled Sundance

Dappled Sundance

Chrysler touted Horizon with lots of red, white and blue advertising such as this “The Pride Is Back” commercial that has a distinct Springsteenian undertone. The truth is that Simca, its French subsidiary, later offloaded to Peugeot, did the initial development work on this car.  Let’s keep that notre petit secret, d’accord?

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted