From time to time, our eBay Find of the Week sparks discussion about extinct body styles. For example, personal luxury coupes and family wagons now seem like relics. Another seemingly extinct specimen? The small pickup truck.
In the 1970s and ’80s, pickups from Datsun, Mazda, and Toyota were absolutely tiny compared to even the smallest “mid-size” trucks on offer today. Chevrolet also sold a rebadged Isuzu as its LUV-class truck (Light Utility Vehicle), and Chrysler got into the game with its Mitsubishi Forte-based Dodge Ram 50 and Plymouth Arrow Truck. While those vehicles mostly stuck to the standard body-on-frame, front-engine rear-drive/4WD truck script, there were other interesting options looking to provide economical-yet-practical transportation for working folks and Marty McFly alike.
In the early 1980s, Chrysler offered small, front-wheel-drive pickups on the Omni/Horizon platform called the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp.
The Volkswagen pickup, like the one here, preceded the Chrysler offerings by a couple of years. Based on the Rabbit, the unibody FWD platform is essentially identical to the Rabbit from the doors forward. It has a longer wheelbase and body, with a revised leaf-spring rear suspension to cope with the added cargo-capacity demanded by pickup drivers (in this case, 1100 pounds).
The VW pickup lasted for only three years in the U.S., and most survivors we see today are equipped with the optional diesel engine. Gasoline versions were also available and perhaps a bit more desired today for their tuning potential and street performance. That’s still a relative term, as the 74-horsepower, fuel-injected, 1.7-liter pushrod four-cylinder was more of a workhorse than a barnburner.
This particular car caught our attention for a few reasons. First, relatively low-mile and rust-free pickups of this sort are rare. The modifications to this example are also pretty cool, sticking with an all-VW theme. It looks like a sport model VW might have been built in-period, but never did. GTI snowflake wheels and the VW Cabriolet center console fit perfectly here.
The listing doesn’t indicate whether the truck is equipped with the four- or five-speed manual transmission (either was optional), but otherwise it sounds like a very nice example of this rare survivor.