1983 Volk­swa­gen Rab­bit GTI

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - DRIVING -

DAN WAS LIV­ING with me, work­ing in the garage of the first house I bought. He had spent 20 years and R235 000 turn­ing a rusted- out Volk­swa­gen into this brand­new car from 1983. It was the kind of pro­ject I could never jus­tify do­ing my­self. But watch­ing him work, I was jeal­ous. We had been into Volk­swa­gens since high school, read­ing about them in Euro­pean car mag­a­zines, think­ing about how to make enough money to buy one.

He moved out, got mar­ried, had kids, and put the Rab­bit up for sale. I ex­plained to my wife that it was an in­vest­ment. That it would never be worth less than what I was pay­ing for it. That '80's cars don't have the fail­ure rates like the '60's or ' 70's. That I wanted to res­cue it from some 19-yearold wrap­ping it around a tele­phone pole. She grew up with a dad who made her push-start his Porsche 356 in a Chicago al­ley­way every spring. She un­der­stands what cars mean to peo­ple.

I don't re­ally care about go­ing to a park­ing lot and hav­ing guys tell you how beau­ti­ful it is. I love cars be­cause I love driv­ing, and the Rab­bit has brought me friends who are the same way. It's 110 kw for 770 kg. The roll cage and rac­ing sus­pen­sion make it ex­tremely rigid, with low­pro­file, barely road-le­gal tyres. You know how you feel when you get off a roller coaster? That's what it's like when I drive it to work. You're tired and know you've ex­pe­ri­enced some adren­a­line.

I felt bad about the labour and money that Dan had put into it un­til he said that he was happy to sell it to me. Every time he and his wife see me, they say, “It's still in the fam­ily!” He's happy know­ing it's still around.

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