The Fox Wagon

How we came to own this Volkswagen rarity / oddity.

The Rabbit is dead. Long live the Fox.

For twenty years I had driven a 1981 Rabbit LS. It was about to be treated to a 20th anniversary restoration- a coat of paint and some new parts to make it a bit more like a GTi - when it burst into flames. It was written off. The Rabbit died.

Used car prices in the city were still inflated from a recent transit strike. Finding a car that seemed safe to drive for less that $10000 was proving difficult. We had some definite ideas about the car we wanted. Standard Transmission. No Power Locks. No power steering. No air conditioning. (Try to find those anti options in  a new car.) No expensive gizmos like rain sensing windshield wipers. A simple fuel management system. No or at least few expensive brains to break. A non-interference valve train. The replacement car would probably be a keeper and I didn't want to have to pay for 16 or more new valves if the timing belt broke.

Going on a Fox Hunt

It didn't start as a Fox hunt. It started as looking for a 1983 or 84 GTi. Original, unmolested and not leaking. This was harder to find than I had imagined. It seems many people have a fairly optimistic impression of the car they are trying to sell. To the basic questions like the colour of the car we soon added others like does it have all its seats? The search expanded to include the A1 Jetta GLi. As the months went by modified and even molested vehicles were added to the hunt.
A couple of cars had come close but either failed or failed to show up for a mechanical inspection. We were about to expand the search to include Volvos and madly, the Mazda 323 GTX Turbo, when in desperation we went on to a VW dealer lot and looked at the Fox.

Fox Ad
Now that is rare! A $7500 Fox!

It was the perfect match but at first I didn't realize it. My mind was clouded by the outrageous price the dealer was asking for a then 12 year old car. $7500 seemed a bit much for a car that sold for less that $10000 (They were once on sale for $8888.) when it was new. This could well be the most expensive Fox on the planet. But through the fog the basic appeal of the Fox shone through. Most people don't get the Fox. It has so few creature comforts. Most VW people don't get the Fox. It was built in Brazil... The motor isn't in sideways... WE GOT THE FOX! and we brought it home. (Though not for $7500.)

Early Amber P Side

Why the Fox?
  • Elegant Design.  The crew at Italdesign did a great job of building a bigger and better Rabbit. The lines are crisp, uncluttered and balanced. The lines at the rear of the wagon are inspired and inspiring. Some find its boxy shape dated (when they are speaking kindly), but I am thankful every time I look at it that it is not a melted jelly bean or bloated marshmallow that so many cars of the 90's seem to resemble.
  • Simple Plan.  Originally marketed as an economical car, the Fox was simply made. It is not burdened with digital, electric, or electronic gadgets that after 12 years seldom work and are expensive to replace.
  • Small yet not tiny. This is so much more car than the Rabbit was that for the first month I wasn't sure I would be able to park in the SMALL CAR ONLY spaces. After a while I began to realize that SMALL CAR meant anything smaller than an ESCAPADE or what ever the largest of Emission Spewing, Vision Blocking,  Fuel Guzzling, Self Important, Eye-sore, SUVs are called.
  • Nimble. The Fox does U-turns where the Rabbit had to do three point turns. How could you want power assist when you can get such a feel for the road without? And never have to hear that horrid sound PS makes when the car is at the end of its lock? Does one really need to turn the cars wheels while it is stationary that often?
  • Light. No extras like power steering pumps to weigh the car down.
  • No Air Bags. Or most importantly no 15 year old air bags. I read that air bags were first available in 1986. That means that some drivers are sitting in their cars with a 25+ year old explosive charge in front of them. I don't know if that means they wouldn't go off when they should or they would go off if you hit a pot hole big enough to bend a rim but I just don't like the idea. Safer Driving and Safer Roads will cost less in the long run than cars that give the occupants the false impression of being "Safe".
  • Parts and Service. Almost all the parts to maintain a Fox are available from either VW or after market companies. The Fox is a relatively simple car. It does not require banks of sophisticated electronic diagnostic machines to determine that a sensor is malfunctioning. It doesn't have many sensors.
  • Easily modified. Though the performance after market has largely abandoned the Fox, it has the advantage of being a Volkswagen. Many of the parts are interchangeable with other Volkswagens and Audis. The engine is mechanically the same as other 1.8l VWs so it is pretty easy to overcome the obstacles that made the Fox a "economy" car and bring its power up to and beyond the factory performance cars of the day.
  • Exclusive. They are out of print. Collectable? May be not yet but certainly not common. I seldom see more than three Foxes in one day. I've seen more Ferraris in a single day than I have Fox Wagons.
  • Loved. The Fox has a loyal if small group of fans. Through forums on the VW Vortex and The Fox Club you can get in touch with a group of dedicated Fox fans. The collective knowledge of the group is extensive.
Early Amber D Side

Our Fox is a Feel Good Car...

Shortly after we bought the car we parked it out side a car show. As we were getting out we overheard. "Now there is a great car."

Coming out of the mall, we found a fellow staring at the car. He said he has looked at a lot of Fox wagons but never seen one so nice.

A mechanic said "I hope you paid at least $5000 for that car, cause it is worth that much."

A good friend commented that "This car has you guys written all over it."
(I'm not sure what that says about us, but I took it as a compliment.)

And now that we have spent a couple of thousand on the car to rebuild the suspension etc., it is also a good feeling car. To paraphrase the 1988 sales brochure, the car is now "a spirited, economy drive." I feel the car is now worth what the dealer was asking. (Though I am probably alone in this opinion.)

In the Summer of 2010, a fellow watched as we got out of the car. He waited for us. As we got close to him he asked, "Is that was a new VW Fox?" I missed it the first time but when he repeated the question, I answered, "Mostly." He chuckled and then went on to describe the Fox he had owned and how much he missed it. He finished by thanking us for our time and the memories seeing our car triggered for him.

This sort of thing happens quite often. Good Feelings.

The Blue VW Fox Wagon

The Red VW Fox Wagon

Fun with the Fox

  • Car Show
  • Drag Racing
  • Autocross
  • Xmas