• Nov 1st 2006 at 9:53AM
  • 12

The original Thunder Bunny was built by Bill Neumann, founder of Neuspeed, back in 1981. At the time, the Volkswagen GTI wasn't sold in the United States and Neumann was so eager for its arrival stateside that he decided to build his own. Thus, the original Thunder Bunny was born. It was extremely well received for its punch and practicality, and the next year VW began selling the GTI here in the States. Coincidence? We think not.

Some 25 years later, VW has teamed up with Neuspeed to commemorate the original car with the Thunder Bunny concept shown yesterday at the SEMA show. The Thunder Bunny concept adds a turbo to the Rabbit's torquey 2.5-liter, inline five-cylinder engine that increases power from 150 to 225 horsepower. A new front fascia has been grafted on the front and the whole car has been dipped in candy white paint with "topographical" graphics that "blink" on and off depending on the angle at which the car is viewed. Shocks from Bilstein, bunny-bedecked brakes from Brembo and gold-painted forged alloy wheels round out the hardware upgrades to the modern day Thunder Bunny.

Along with the R GTI, the Thunder Bunny is another compelling iteration of the Rabbit that could make a place for itself in the market. Considering how many versions of the Ford Mustang are on the market, one could easily imagine a different Rabbit for every day of the week.

There are more live shots, press pics and VW's full Thunder Bunny press release after the jump


Volkswagen Thunder Bunny press photos
click on any image to enlarge



LAS VEGAS - Volkswagen introduces a concept vehicle that reflects its roots in the sport compact tuning community.

The story began back in the early '80s, with a man named Bill Neumann. Bill founded the California based tuning firm Automotive Performance Systems (APS). He was frustrated with the fact that Volkswagen's hot hatchback GTI had been sold in Germany since 1976, but hadn't yet come to America. Bill had driven the GTI in Europe on several of his parts-searching trips, and he was convinced it would be a big hit in America. So he sent letters to the factory. He wrote to enthusiast magazines and lobbied Volkswagen dealers for support. Then, he put together the proof that a Rabbit-based performance car was capable of generating both stunning performance numbers and lots of attention from the American automotive press corp.

Thus was born the original Thunder Bunny.

The APS-modified Rabbit was delivered to Motor Trend magazine late in 1981. Even though its staff was use to driving the best cars in the world, they were blown away by the little Volkswagen hatchback. As it was written in the March 1982 issue: "The little white wonder packs its own kind of lightning-quick rabbit punch - one that's guaranteed to kayo unsuspecting boulevard bullies." And when Road & Track magazine got its hands on the car, it reported a zero to 60-mph run in the low seven-second range and slalom times that at the time had been bettered only by the Ferrari 512 Boxer, Lamborghini Countach and Renault R5 Turbo. Exalted company, indeed.

Bill's frustration ceased in the fall of 1982 when the GTI finally came to America, but by then Thunder Bunny had done its job. It put Neuspeed, the APS-trademarked line of parts and accessories, on the map. It also helped launch a vital North American community of specialists in watercooled Volkswagen performance. Modifying Volkswagens, of course, was not new in America - the Beetle had spawned a huge following of enthusiasts - but the new generation of Volkswagen cars hadn't sparked much interest in the go-fast crowd before the early '80s.

Neuspeed continues to be a leading force among the world's Volkswagen tuners, and it has never stopped building special projects. The latest is also called Thunder Bunny, and it was built in commemoration of Neuspeed's quantum leap forward all those years ago with the original rabid Rabbit. Designed in collaboration with Derek Jenkins, Chief Designer at the Volkswagen Design Center California located in Santa Monica, the new Thunder Bunny is an updated, thoroughly modern version of the original, and it debuts alongside the Concept R GTI on the Volkswagen stand at the 2006 SEMA Show.

Today's Thunder Bunny is a blend of subtle design massaging and tuning technology, built to show how a comfortable daily driver can also provide an exciting motoring experience. Creating the thunderous noise from under the hood is a newly developed turbocharger system, designed by Neuspeed especially for Volkswagen's 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. The high quality installation includes a modified intake manifold, Garrett ball-bearing turbocharger and air-to-air intercooler. A stainless exhaust and specially baffled aluminum oil pan were also sourced from APS for optimum flow and cooling. Boost is restricted to a maximum of seven lbs. in this Stage 1 kit, but it still produces 225 horsepower, 75 more than the stock 2.5 L, and a hefty dose of low-end torque. A performance clutch and Quaife differential were added to the powertrain for durability and a more efficient delivery of power to the front wheels.

Thunder Bunny's gleaming candy white exterior is made distinctive by several design studio touches. The concept's body kit includes a larger central grille and a more muscular rear valance framing a twin R32-style exhaust from Neuspeed. Like the R GTI, Thunder Bunny's paint was overlaid with graphics Jenkins calls "topographical" in pearl silver. They were meant to evoke the contours of the car's geography or waves of air that flow over the surfaces. However they are interpreted, the pearl silver graphics make a unique visual statement as they appear to blink on and off in the changing angles of the sun.

Like the original Thunder Bunny, the forged alloy "street" wheels are painted gold. In 19x8-inch sizing, they're wrapped with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 235/35-19 tires. Similar sized multi-spoked forged alloys were sourced from Neuspeed's RS line of wheels for track use. Both sets are lightweight, in keeping with the core GTI quality of nimble handling. The front brakes are 328mm two-piece floating cross-drilled discs from Brembo, gripped by bunny-bedecked Brembo four-piston brake calipers. That's right, bunnies. A veritable warren of Thunder Bunny logos dash to and fro across the surface of the white-painted caliper. At the rear, 310mm disc brakes are fitted.

Handling prowess comes from a suspension fitted with a Bilstein coil-over shock system and APS/Neuspeed sways bars, measuring 25mm front and rear. The suspension system is adjustable for both ride height and for shock stiffness, giving the new Thunder Bunny a dual character, suitable for the street or the track. A Neuspeed short-shift kit and custom spherical aluminum shift knob, created in the design studio, put the driver in closer touch with the manual transmission. A stock GTI steering wheel was recovered in alcantara to go along with the upgraded upholstery and trim.

Stock GTI seats were recovered in black and white checkered tweed that echoes styling trends from the early '80s, and the striking fabric is elegantly framed by surrounding black leather with white stitching. The color scheme is perfectly complemented by the white carbon-fiber interior trim provided by OSIR, experts in hand-laid composites and also major contributors to the design studio's Concept R GTI.

All those years ago, Bill Neumann asked a simple question. Volkswagen responded with the GTI, while Neuspeed became a leader in Volkswagen tuner circles...why a new Thunder Bunny? Think of it as a beautifully crafted response to another question, "What happens when you give a modern Rabbit to one of the original water-cooled Volkswagen tuners?"

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Rabbit, New Beetle, New Beetle convertible, GTI, Jetta, GLI, Passat, Passat wagon, Eos, Touareg and Phaeton through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      I just don't get it. All these tune ups etc. for a car that stock costs waaaaaay too much and in the end you make 225hp and 0-60 times that you can only laugh at?? This car is gorgeous but VW always lacked performance. Lacked is an understatement if I may correct myself. Look at the old gen R32. Awesome car that cost about $38k and had 0-60 times in the 6 second range. Sad. Beautiful car and very performance oriented, but performance is the one thing it lacks. I hope they learn one day.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #3 let me correct you. i own a 07 gti, i paid 23k for my ride. and if you know anything about turbo cars, their is a endless world of AEM parts. so i took my gti from 200bhp to 270bhp for less then 1k. 0 to 60 = 6.1 and this after just a ECU upgrade. intake, and exhaust. and this is just the begging. so why don't you start learning today, know your facts before you post up your stupid comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      I love how clean that front fascia is. Big gaping holes. In a good way. If that entire car was a pearl white, though, as opposed to the crazy swirly deallies, I think I would prefer it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      how much of these parts are going to be available in the coming months?
      • 8 Years Ago
      I raced cars since my college career and own an 05 STi that I track race as well as street race. I know turbo cars, and know how easy it is to blow one up with a 1k ECU upgrade making extra 70hp. Anyhow, 6.1 0-60 with that kind of power is sad. Sorry, it just is. Also, that power is worthless with the front power train on the track.

      The R32 is a great car, just like the GTi MKi V's, but once you driven one you realize that the power is not there and for the money you would've been better off with something else. I test drove one before my purchase because the R32 was on my list. VW just needs to build motors that match the rest of the car. Right now they are not and the cost is too ridiculous. And if you build motors above 300hp, you don't want front wheel drive. But then again, VW knows this hence the reason of them not doing it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Not bad i guess, and for those who are seeking power, there are so many other cheaper cars on the market that you could make fast.
      270 hp front wheel drive i will laugh so much when you will end up hitting telephone pole
      i have 2.5 jatta, unless i upgarde to all wheel dr i don't justify spending any money on upgrades, just audio , and interior

      • 8 Years Ago
      Those wheels are amazing. The whole car looks sweet.
      • 8 Years Ago
      hey, they copied hyundai's air intake hole!
      • 8 Years Ago

      Thats great all of you have comments on the new rabbit. while we would love to see vw have over 300hp, it's not going to happen any time soon, maybe with all-wheel drive? Remember, it is a car built for the masses. Affordable, good looks, great interior fit and finish. Well, it doesn't sound like a lawn mower, so maybe not for everyone.
      • 8 Years Ago
      " All these tune ups etc. for a car that stock costs waaaaaay too much and in the end you make 225hp and 0-60 times that you can only laugh at?? "

      Rabbits are dirt, dirt cheap. The two door is a comes pretty well loaded for $15k. Dealer profit is so low that many dealers aren't even bothering with them.

      They're a great "tuner" platform. A Rabbit with a firmed up suspension and aftermarket wheels and tires would make a hell of a neat car for the $18k.

      • 8 Years Ago
      mmmmmmmmmmmmm haasenpfeffer. That is indeed a bunny that packs a punch. Me want.
      • 8 Years Ago
      let me correct you #7 1k was for intake, exhuast, and the ecu upgrade not just for the ecu, thanks, now go drive of a cliff with you sti, lates
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