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The Volkswagen Rabbit GTI Turbo by Callaway Is the Wildest Golf Mk1 Out There

When you hear the name Callaway, you instantly think about beefed-up Chevrolet Corvettes. And it makes sense because Callaway has been tuning them since the 1980s. Come 2021, and Callaway is also tuning Camaros and Silverados, but there was a time when the Connecticut-based company also meddled with cars from other brands.
1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI turbocharged by Callaway 7 photos
1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI turbocharged by Callaway1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI turbocharged by Callaway1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI turbocharged by Callaway1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI turbocharged by Callaway1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI turbocharged by Callaway1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI turbocharged by Callaway
Reeves Callaway started his business in the 1970s with a program called Callaway Turbo Systems. It included turbochargers for BMW, Porsche, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. At some point, Callaway also twin-turboed the Alfa Romeo GTV6. But I bet most of you didn't know that Callaway also developed a turbo system for the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, America's version of the first-gen Golf GTI.

The latter made its European debut in 1975, the same year when the regular Golf was introduced to the U.S. However, the GTI didn't make it Stateside until 1983. Volkswagen did offer a GTI-badged Rabbit in Canada starting 1979, but at 78 horsepower it was notably less powerful than its European counterpart (109 horses).

The U.S. model introduced in 1983 wasn't as powerful either, but the 1.8-liter inline-four engine had 90 horsepower and 105 pound-feet (142 Nm) of torque to throw around. Enough to send the hatchback from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) in 10.6 seconds.

That's far from impressive nowadays, and it wasn't all that fast in 1983 either, but the Rabbit GTI was quite nimble when it came to cornering. Still, some customers demanded more power, so Callaway came up with a Stage II Turbo kit.

The bundle included a turbocharger, intercooler, oil cooler, and a modified exhaust system that increased the four-banger's output to a whopping 200 horsepower. That's more than double the GTI Mk1's stock output and only 41 horses below the current, eighth-generation GTI! Callaway also included a front sway bar, lower stress bar, and a taller fifth gear to help the tiny hatch handle the extra oomph.

Needless to say, Callaway didn't roll out too many GTI kits for the Mk1, mostly because Volkswagen introduced the second-gen model just a year later. So these beefed-up Rabbits are quite rare and tend to change hands for more than $40,000 when they go under the hammer.

If you're wondering how fast these Callaway-tuned GTIs are, YouTube's "Tedward" just took one for a spin. And he's quite impressed with it, praising its immediate throttle response, nimble handling, and the fact that its driveability isn't negatively impacted by the turbocharger. Hit the play button below for a cool, POV-style drive test of the wildest Golf GTI Mk1 out there. An angry wolf in sheep's clothing.

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