What America needs right now is
a domestically-built pickup truck that gets 45 miles per gallon.
Ask a small business owner with a local delivery or work fleet
that's been squeezed by inflated fuel costs ... a truck that
pulls down 45 miles per gallon (MPG) would be heaven sent. Remarkably,
we had a domestically-built compact pickup truck that scored
45 MPG ... twenty-five years ago ... but sadly, it slipped away
Most folks won't remember that Volkswagen had an auto plant in Westmoreland
County, Pennsylvania back in the late 1970s and 1980s, where
they VW built Rabbits for a market rabid (initially, at least)
for econo-boxes. Legend has it that an American design team
first penned the VW Rabbit Pickup to compete with the Japanese
compact trucks streaming to our shores.
The VW Rabbit Pickup was a unique small
truck and produced great mileage figures for two key reasons.
Unlike the competing Toyota Hi-Lux, Datsun (now Nissan), Mazda,
Chevrolet Luv (Isuzu), and Ford Courier (Mazda), the Rabbit
Pickup wasn't built on a true truck frame ... it was car based,
in a manner somewhat similar to the Chevy El Camino. But it
was the Rabbit Pickup's 1.6 liter diesel engine that made this
little truck a penny pincher's delivery dream truck. While no
speed demon, the 4-cylinder diesel put out plenty of grunt to
propel the tiny light truck around town.
Although production of the Rabbit Pickup
at the Westmoreland
VW Plant ceased in 1982, VW built pickups (with the Caddy
badge) in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, through 1992. VW
continues to build pickups in South Africa.
The twenty-five year old VW Rabbit Pickup
delivers nearly double the gas mileage of some of today's highest
Alas, VW stopped selling the wee pickup here
in the States after selling through the domestically produced
units. The company chose not to import the European- or South
A surprising number of domestic Rabbit
Pickups survive today. A steady stream of 1981, 1982, and 1983
Rabbit Pickups appear on eBay in various states of repair. A
kindly eBayer allowed us to include photographs of his faithfully
restored example in Lago Blue.
While a well-restored Rabbit Pickup
can fetch over $10,000, daily drivers can be had for less than
half that amount, as of this writing. Project trucks appear
to be selling in the $1000 range.
(NOTE: The Isuzu-built Chevy Luv could
also be purchased with a diesel engine. Diesel Luvs pulled down
excellent mileage figures, with 33 city/44 highway. Isuzu continued
to offer diesel engines in its own Izuzu Pup and Trooper into
- by Daniel Gray