Rabbits saved from scrapyard by County young man

Episode 323

July 12, 2020

The journey to a new home

In the mid 1980’s, I purchased my first 1983 VW Rabbit GTI from Fred Manzer at Danny Brewers used car dealership in Caribou, Maine. I put over 200,000 miles on that car while I drove it to work at Caribou Technology Center for several years.

I finally parked it due to old age problems, the car not me! I parked it and bought another 1983 GTI only this time it was black with a sunroof. It had been owned by auto parts dealer Lewis Greenier’s son.

I drove that GTI until it would no longer go into reverse. It was then parked next to the original red GTI.

I read an article ain Automobile Magazine while waiting for work to be done on another vehicle at Hogan Tire in Caribou. I noticed one of the articles was about valuable sports cars. Lo and behold…the 1983-84 Rabbit GTI made in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania was one of the top prospects. It was the few lightweight cars with high revving engine, distinctive spoked wheels, tight fitting seats, not too expensive price tag, and sporty handling in the 1980s.

A few of the many new parts installed in the Red GTI when restoration began in late 2007 at the Caribou Technology Center Auto Shop under the direction of instructor Kevin Keaton. (HTF Motorsports)

I began looking around to corner as many 1983 GTI models that I could find for little money. I found one in Madawaska for $200 and one in Easton for $75. For that price you might imply that these were not pristine cars, and you were correct.

With a little help from my wife, I held my obsession with 1983 VW GTI to four. The red one was the one I sank over $3000 in parts into. I fought with it and could not get it to run. The black GTI on the left was what Edwin restored. It was the Easton GTI. This photo shot in the rain made the cars much shinier than they actually were! (HTF Motorsports photo)

The first to depart from its Westmanland home was the red GTI. New owner, Edwin Walker on the deck with his Rabbit and his friend Dan Robertson from Beaulieu’s Garage in Caribou is leaning on the wrecker. Walker gives Robertson much credit for helping with the tuning of his cars as well as suspension set up. (HTF Motorsports photo)

First…what happened to the red GTI?

THe red GTI was the car that I sunk three thousand dollars into, drove it in a couple autocrosses at Loring, did “Race Your Neighbor” at Spud Speedway twice, and put less than 200 highway miles on. It never worked great for me and eventually was parked.

After Edwin acquired it in September 2019, with the help of friend Dan Robertson, got it running. Let Edwin tell the story after that:

“The red car I got running a week after I acquired it from you. It was just a matter of cleaning out the fuel system. I relocated the battery from the rear back to the front and held it in with a ratchet straps since the battery tray was cut out. The right front caliper was stuck so I replaced it with a new one, also did the rotors but kept the Hawk brake pads.”

“I bought NOS red molded carpet and a new front grille. Changed the oil of course. The paint was extremely faded so I did a 3 stage buffing and brought the paint back to life. That took me over a week to do, because I had to remove all the trim pieces and painted those pieces black to restore the color. I also bought the original vinyl side stripe and put that on myself. The red car was stock besides whatever you had done to it. The coilovers, exhaust header, braided brake lines, etc.”

The red GTI after Edwin buffed the dull paint to a like-new sheen. (Edwin Walker photo)

“I sold it on eBay for $5k to a woman living in Yonkers NY. She bought it to give it to her fiance as an engagement present. The last time I spoke with her was on the phone when it arrived on the shipping truck. She said her fiance was very surprised and happy.”

“I do regret selling it but I’m glad it went to home where it’s appreciated.”

After some title research Walker revealed,”That red GTI was owned by a man that was stationed at Loring and he bought it new at PI Volkswagen. He was assigned to civil engineering.”

The black GTI

The car from Easton was next to go. From the photo you can see that it was in rough shape when Edwin acquired it. (HTF Motorsports photo)

I followed Edwin’s progress in restoring one of the three black GTI. I thought he might restore the Madawaska car or maybe the Greenier car which I drove for a couple years. Walker remarked that both cars had terminal rust problems and after stripping every possible part, were scrapped. The car I thought might be the worst became the object of his restoration efforts.

The remarkable part of this story is the fact that Walker is only 23 and has limited formal automotive repair training. He is a rare find in today’s world with his intense work ethic in regards to car restoration and attention to detail especially Original Equipment Manufactured parts (OEM).

Edwin Walker background

Born at Bitburg Air Force Base in Germany 23 years ago to parents Malcolm and Bianca Walker, the youngster did the typical military shuffle. His father was a weather specialist in the Air Force and was stationed at Langley AFB in Hampton, Virginia, Maxwell AFB in Alabama, and the Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina before taking a job with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Caribou, Maine 12 years ago.

His father always had sports cars that he would fix up and sell. His wife Bianca, who met Malcolm at Soesterberg Air Force Base in the Netherlands, was unsure of how many cars her husband had owned over the years.

Edwin’s first memory of a car owned by his father was a 70’s era white Porsche 914. What impressed him most was the center console mounted phone. A MGB was also a car that he remembered as a tiny car with a small back seat that he and his brother Dean would ride in.

Walker’s mother Bianca said, “When I was a little girl growing up in the Netherlands, my family worked hard cutting flowers, handling bulbs, and do whatever we could to earn money. We worked for it. I think our four children, daughters Annalies and Danica and sons Dean and Edwin have that work ethic.”

She continued saying, ” Ed was always out in the garage with his father”.

Edwin attended Caribou Schools after moving to the area 12 years ago. He is a Caribou High School graduate. After graduation, he spent some time at UMaine Orono in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program until he decided that was not the career path he wanted to follow.

Last year he went to Aviator College of Aeronautical Science and Technology, Fort Pierce, Florida, where he is pursuing a career as a pilot. The COVID 19 pandemic ended the year for the young man who plans to continue this fall depending on what the school has for an action plan.

While in Florida, Walker applied for a job at nearby Kiddy’s Classics Automotive Restoration in Jensen Beach. He prepared a portfolio containing stories and photos of the multiple cars he owned or was involved with in conjunction with his father.

The owner, William Kiddy was impressed that a young man of Walker’s age possess the ambition and desire to work on automobiles. Unfortunately Walker was unable to pursue work at the restoration shop due to his heavy class load at Aviator College.

He certainly was favorably impressed and humbled by the eye-opening high quality work that Mr. Kiddy’s shop produced. Walker said he would be satisfied working in automobile restoration as a career.

The first car owned by the younger Walker was a silver Porsche 914. At age 12 at the Hershey, Pennsylvania car show, he bought a Triumph GT6. It was his Dad’s VW Scirocco project car, however, that got him curious about the Rabbit GTI family of cars. Something about the Mark I group of Volkswagens made him anxious to restore them. He needed a project since his only hobby is working on cars.

The Restoration of the black GTI

How rough was the black GTI? This photo gives some idea of how much work lie ahead when Edwin began the project late in 2019. Very few parts from the other GTI were used. Most parts needed to be ordered from specialty vendors.(Edwin Walker photo)

How rusty was the car? The driver’s side floor pan gives an idea what needed to be done . Walker welded the new pan into place. He estimated that he replaced about 75% of the floor on the car including the trunk area. (Edwin Walker photo)

A before shot of the GTI engine compartment giving one a perspective of how rough shape the 1983 car was in. (Edwin Walker photo)

Once the crud was scrapped from the engine compartment and wires were tagged as to their function, a new lower stress bar was installed. He also installed a front frame horn support (not visible in this picture) which I had not seen before. It made sense. Walker said the horn support bar moved the car almost 1/2 inch into square in the front. (Edwin Walker photo)

The GTI engine was Walker’s first complete engine rebuild that he personally performed. Note the Techtonics Tuning 260 degree camshaft with an Autotech adjustable camshaft sprocket. The head was ported and polished for the person who he bought the head from. (Edwin Walker photo)

Audi big bore throttle body and Scientific Rabbit intake manifold that also was polished and ported. The stock throttle body is on the bottom. (Edwin Walker photo)

Edwin Walker with the almost completed project (not sure project cars are ever completely done)..Partially visible are Recaro Trophy seats from a Mark II series Jetta. He also scored two New Old Stock (NOS) red carpets for both the red and black cars. The carpets were originally for the VW Rabbit pickup. The NOS parts were found in a container in Westmoreland , Pennsylvania where the GTI and pickups were constructed in 1983-84. (HTF Motorsports photo)

The List!

Walker provided a list of the new parts he acquired for his VW:

  • Polished & ported cylinder head
  • Autotech adjustable cam wheel
  • 260 degree TT (Techtonics Tuning) camshaft
  • Scientific Rabbit intake manifold polished & ported
  • Audi big bore throttle body
  • NGK iridium spark plugs
  • ABA oil pump (more volume)
  • eBay Motors stainless steel headers
  • Full TT Borla stainless exhaust
  • Prothane polyurethane bushing kit
  • TT K-Bar Front brace bar
  • eBay Motors coilovers
  • NRG 350mm steering wheel & hub adapter
  • Mk2 Jetta Recaro Trophy front seats
  • ABM short shifter
  • assorted engine internals
  • becoming rare…rear backup lenses

He also is a member of VWVortex online thread where he was able to pick up parts and information for these projects. Whether he eventually finds work as an aircraft pilot or works in a restoration shop, Walker emphasized, “I want to go to work and do what I love”

He is well on his way as these projects show.

Sting Ray Robb on podium at Road America

Sting Ray Robb on left finished second in the second race of the year in The Road to Indy Pro Sports 2000 Presented by Cooper Tire at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. as part of the IndyCar weekend. Juncos Racing team mate Artem Petrov, middle, was the race winner. On right is third place Daniel Frost. UpNorth Motorsports will be following the Idaho racer with one of his unique sponsors, Idaho Big Potato. The next race will be a tripleheader at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course July 29 & 30. (Sting Ray Robb photo).

Sting Ray Robb in Winner’s Circle at Road America with family, Grandma Suz, Mom Kimmie, Robb, Larry his Dad and Grandpa Phil. He had this to say about the race, “Today felt like a long day. We went into qualifying with high hopes, it was wet conditions turning to dry, but on the opening laps of qualifying we had a fuel pump issue. I pulled off and the team was able to get the issue fixed, but it wasn’t enough time to put down a lap. So no lap time, means we had to start at the back. In Race 1 I started fifteenth and was able to work my way through the field into fifth which was very good. The team gave me an excellent race car. In Race 2 we did very well, going from fifth to second. It was not an easy race, as we had a lot of great battles with other cars. I would like to thank the Juncos Racing team so much for everything and I would like to congratulate Artem on his first win, he drove so well! Now we will focus on Mid-Ohio, which I am really looking forward to because we have a great race car there. After our last test there during the Open Test we developed a great car, and hopefully we can take advantage of my experience there the past three years and go for a great finish and move forward up in the points standings. I would like to give a huge shoutout to Firehouse and Goodheart for all of their support, as well as all of my other partners, friends and family and to all of the amazing fans. See you all in Mid Ohio!”

A rookie wins in NASCAR Cup Series for first time in 4 years


Rookie Cole Custer beat Martin Truex to the finish line by .271 seconds in Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway. Custer becomes the latest rookie to win in their rookie year. The feat was last accomplished by Chris Buescher August 1, 2016 at Pocono Raceway. Custer led five laps, four early in the race and the last lap. These were his first such laps this season. Custer was joined by rookie Christopher Bell who finished 7th and Tyler Reddick in 10th for the first time in NASCAR Cup history that three rookies finished in the top 10. (Ford Performance photo)

Oh Oh! Kyle Busch’s son Brexton starting to race…see it here


Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine