Winter in Nova Scotia can be particularly tough on cars, with salted roads, sleet, snow and sub-zero temperatures. So it wasn’t surprising to hear that Pat Burke was in the process of booking a one-way ticket to Florida when we contacted him.
Pat first flew to Florida in ’84 to pick up a ’71 Challenger and, for the last five years, has been making the same trip regularly, checking out the salt-free cars while enjoying the comfortable winter weather.
On his most recent trip, Pat and friend Sandy Muggah flew south to check out a couple of cars. On the list was this ’77 Mk1 Rabbit for sale with only 34000 miles. The car also came with upgrades that included Weitec coilovers and 14" Work wheels.
With keys in hand, they planned to cruise up the coast to Canada before several issues with the Rabbit had them extend their stay to soak up more rays.
The laundry list of problems included a brake pedal that went to the floor and they could feel the calipers rattling as well as the sound of something dragging. And while 14" wheels with stretched rubber was cool, it kept the revs high. After raising the suspension, Pat had the alignment adjusted and new tires fitted to alter the gearing before the long journey back home.
Traveling north, they picked up parts ordered for the Rabbit en route. The list included rare finds like a new box of Happich pop-out windows, and chrome front tow hook. The duo even had an excursion on the Tail of the Dragon before returning home.
Pat immediately got to work on some chrome 15" BBS RM wheels. The new wheels had 2" lips that would extend past the fenders. Pat considered fitting them, but eventually decided they had too much poke and rebuilt the barrels to a modest 15x6.5" fitment with 195/45 Toyo T1R tires all round.
As he dug into the Mk1, it showed its age with busted motor and tranny mounts, while cracked CV boots made quite a mess.
Pat wired up bulbs in the front bumper and used brackets from his ongoing VW Caddy project to set the bumpers closer to the body. They were then fastened with new chrome bolts front and rear.
The time spent restoring the Mk1 to its original condition kept Pat busy until his stage two Callaway turbo kit arrived in the mail. Pat had found a new/old stock Callaway kit while looking for parts online. He had purchased it before the Rabbit even arrived home, figuring it was a rare enough that he might be able to use it some day.
Pat pulled the head and replaced the gasket along with the 30 year-old timing belt. After fitting a lumpy cam, he used ARP head studs to put it back together.
The stage two kit included the exhaust manifold to mount the turbo. It flows to a horizontally positioned intercooler that’s fed by an air duct under the car. Oil lines where also included to mount the external oil cooler behind the grille. Then Pat bolted on the unused Rotomaster T04B turbo that was included in the kit.
In fact, the kit came with everything except the valve cover. The previous collector didn’t want to part with the rare item, so Pat managed to source one and had the Callaway logo buffed to a brilliant raw-aluminum sheen.
The horsepower on the 1.6L motor increased from 78hp stock to 117hp at 8psi boost. It might not seem much, but in a light car it has an addicting quality.
To get the extra ponies to the pavement, a Mk2 Golf five-speed transmission was added as an improvement on the stock four-speed cog-swapper.
After working around the car for several months, the paint started to irritate Pat. “It stirred up lots of shit online when I painted the car,” Pat laughed. “It was original but needed paint, in my opinion. Every panel had dents, dings and scratches, which were enough to bother me, but there were lots of people who thought I should leave it alone.”
As a bodywork and mechanical technician by trade, it was simple for him to strip down the paint, add a new basecoat of L31B Mars red, clearcoat it and polish. “The paint took about two weeks but the car looks 100% better now,” Pat reflected.
After the project was completed, Pat and pal Sandy cruised south again, this time to enjoy Waterfest 2011 where we met up and photographed the Rabbit.
Before entering the show, he fitted a factory radio so everything was period correct to 1977. And after successfully scoring first place in the Mk1 category, he cruised back to Canada to park the Rabbit in its heated storage bay for the cold winter until the start of the 2012 season.
Aluminum duct directs air to the horizontal FMIC
Discreet Callaway boost gauge in console
et Tech Spec
1977 VW Rabbit
Nova Scotia, Canada
1.6-liter four-cylinder 8v engine with stage two Callaway kit using Rotomaster T04B turbo, Turbonetics Deltagate external wastegate, Turbo XS BOV, front-mount intercooler, ARP head studs, Techtonics Euro GTI Solid Lift camshaft, Callaway valve cover, micro fueler, 2.25" turbo-back exhaust, turbo-diesel oil pan with turbo oil-drain, external oil cooler, AN fittings, T-Bolt clamps, Frozen Boost red silicone hose couplings, custom heat shield
five-speed DFN transmission, 210mm clutch, pressure plate and flywheel, custom short shifter
Weitec coilovers, Eibach tie bar, lower K-bar
Wheels & Tires:
15x6.5" polished BBS RM wheels with gold hardware, 195/45 R15 Toyo T1R tires
chrome Euro bumpers, tow hook, flag mirrors, door handles, rain gutter trim and wiper arms, Happich pop-out windows, L31B Mars red respray
Momo wood steering wheel, Momo shift knob, early center console, VDO/Callaway boost gauge
factory radio, 4" Infinity co-axial loudspeakers
my friends, everybody who sold rare parts, local vw scene, customobsessions.com