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I'm considering buying a beater rabbit and fixing it up (specifically a diesel that I would convert to bio-diesel). Unfortunately though a simple statement I fear I might get myself in over my head.
So I find myself with several questions:
1. Would it be better to buy really busted and really cheep or in better condition for slightly more?
2. Is it better to buy with a new motor or to skip that and replace the motor myself?
3. In general what can I expect from this endeavor? Are there any common issues I should know about, Am I going to face a lot of the same work no matter what condition I buy in... so on and so forth?
4. How much can I expect to put into a project like this?

Thank you for looking and whatever advice you can offer.
 

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I prefer running ones. If it does not run you won't know if the cvs, bearing, transaxle, etc are good.
Rabbit consumables, fuses boxes, windshield gaskets, front wheel bearings and hubs and diesel injection pumps.
 

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well you should look for a vw that has very little rot on it (check floor pans and rockers and strut mounts and A pillers ) . body work is way to costly. i would look for one that runs or one that ran and sat for awile and now dosent run, because in diesels the problem is most likely fuel related and would be a cheap fix . because eather the diesel became contaminated with bacteria or water or the filter is cloged and no one checked the filter out. so you could just need a filter and to dump the old diesel out and add new fuel and the car will run.also these rabbits are also known for blown head gaskets ( too much compression for a little motor ) so if you wont get a set of arp studs and a metal performance cylinder head gasket it will make sure youll never need to replace the head gasket (unless you forget to do the timing belt then you have other problems)but basicaly these are the things you will need to replace right off the bat are glow plugs and glow plug relay ($100) youll need to rebuild the vacuum pump ($35 if you do it your self) oil change ( call it $40 pending on the oil) (20w-50) and you should add a block heater too ($30) after tha you should do the timing belt (20) timing belt tentioner(30) water pump(40) v-belts (15) and g11 coolant (25) and get a bently manual (48) for the rabbit, fuel filter (10) and air filter (15) after that you will need to check all the rubber on the car ( tie rods, control arm bushings ,sway bar bushings ect.) then there is brakes (calipers 30 ech ) pads and rotors (85) and rear drums shoes wheel cylinders and wheel bearings (125ish) if you are going to do biodiesel you should also replace the front seal in the injector pump (partsplaceinc has them )(30) if you dont the pump will fail quicker. also if you are going to do bio i would replace the injectors and the heat shields (225 with core charges) i personally dont like biodiesel because the money you save gose right back in to the car ( filters and injection pumps and injectors ) i just think its not worth the hassel nice idea but not realistic with old cars( seals swell up in biodiesel if they are made from rubber like the old cars where). also diesel fuel has less sulfur in it then it did in the 70's and 80's so youll need to put aditives in the fuel to compansate this or your injection pump will be doomed. if you finish the car it will be worth it it just might take 4 or 5 years to get your money back in free fuel from bio or in the 50 mpgs you can get rather than in a car that gets 25 or so.if you plan on keeping the car for years and years then do the work never give up on it and always have a back up car incase your car needs parts that need to be special orderd after all the car is 26 plus years old and most places (autozone, advance auto ect.) dont keep parts for cars that old( besides filters and brake pads and belts ) hope this helps ya
 

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Well said jhnlesch. X2 on only using German parts on German cars. You bring up a major point about the Rabbit diesel not being very cost effective and they are dangerously slow. I have had about 15 of them but only paid $50-$400 for them. $50 if they needed a head gasket. The early Jetta turbo diesel was quick for a VW diesel. All the diesel injector pump repair shops love home brew biodiesel powered cars, it is a good portion of thier business fixing pumps ruined by bad formulated diesel. I bought biodiesel at the pump for my SD and that biodiesel seemed just fine.
 
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