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Still Rolling: Inspired by Herbie, Faye Hadley of 'All Girls Garage' customized this VW Rabbit

TV host and expect wrenched Faye Hadley has customized this Volskwagen Rabbit for off-roading.

Photo by Jesus Garcia

Faye Hadley has come a long way in a short time in the automotive world. She is a professional Toyota Specialist and Harvard graduate, but is better known as the co-host in the show "All Girls Garage" on Discovery Channel. The the pebble that started the avalanche of her automotive enthusiasm was a little car she lovingly named Gaia, after the Geek goddess of Earth.

Sometimes an inanimate object becomes the key to a purpose in life. A first guitar can snowball into a world tour, or a little league helmet into a multi-million dollar MLB contract. Some are more obvious than others, but it's the objects that force us into a180-degree spin that hide in the blind spot of the unexpected. For Faye Hadley, that object was a diesel-powered1980 Volkswagen Rabbit she found hidden, abandoned, behind a barn while on vacation in Washington State in 2007.

Faye Hadley Volskwagen Rabbit Texas The interior of the car features its own custom flare.Photo by Jesus Garcia

A childhood with minimal television screen time. Faye would only watch the occasional movie on VHS. One of those films was The Love Bug (1969) featuring possibly the most famous Volkswagen of them all, Herbie. The concept of a living car stuck with her. In her youth she would offend ask her mom and grandmother to take her to car shows. An interest for cars had dawned but it wouldn't break the horizon until years later.

The little Volkswagen barn find had not seen a highway roughly 10 years, but Hadley is the kind of person that follows the rule set by Hunter S. Thompson, "Buy the ticket, take the ride she had no mechanical experience at the time and rolled the dice on driving the Rabbit back across the country to her parents' home in New Hampshire.

The Rabbit was originally powered by a diesel engine paired with a four-speed manual transmission. The powertrain kept the model trekking until one mile from her mom's house it blew a head gasket. With no money for parts Hadley used the Rabbit as a semi-daily driver as she limped the car to and from school in Massachusetts.

She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in psychology in 2010, but even after securing a well paying job she had a twitch in the hands. She had a festering desire, a yearning for grease under finger nails and the cold feel of a stainless steel wrench over a dry yellow note pad.

During her drives around town, people started to take notice. Northern winters became the salty graves for many VW Rabbits so seeing one in the late 2000's was a visual treat for people with fond memories of them. The local VW owner's club invied her to car meets. It was at these meets where she would go on to meet her mechanic mentor, Jesse.

Faye Hadley Volskwagen Rabbit Texas This isn't your typical Rabbit restoration project.Photo by Jesus Garcia

Jesse was the first person who listened to her dream about learning cars and welcomed her as a shop apprentice. Over the next two years Hadley got the hands-on experience she needed to follow her dream. She was no longer just another Ivy Leaguer. Now she was degree-holder capable of performing an engine swap.

The Rabbit's original diesel engine needed to be rebuilt three times. The first was when it blew up one mile from Hadley's mother's house. The second time the engine quit it was somewhere in Kansas on another cross-country road trip. It gave up the ghost a third time when Hadley needed the Rabbit to tow a motorized scooter and Gaia didn't care for it – pop goes the rod. A replaced engine came from a 130,000 mile VW Golf as a 2.0-liter heart with a $200 price tag.

The engine isn't the only thing Hadley has replaced. Even at first glance, the casual observer can see that this rad Rabbit is far from Wolfsburg. The car has a custom lift-kit. Its front suspension features parts from a Volkswagen Mark 2 GLI and its rear-end uses parts from a Mark 3. The front and rear bumpers are one-of-kind custom fabrications that were Hadley's first welding project and carry a sentimental curb weight. The hood scoop is adapted from a Subaru WRX STI that no longer needed it. There's even a small skid plate underneath.

The results give Gaia an urban off-road look that serves as real life capability.

The car's front seats have been swapped with those from a Honda Prelude that have proved to be way more comfortable than the German stock seats. This Rabbit doubled as both a camper and shop truck in the past so Hadley opted to delete the rear seat for good. She's added another gear with a swapped in five-speed transmission for easier road tripping. Yet, she says that her favorite modifications to the car have been cup holders and a "kick-ass" sound system – the essentials.

Faye Hadley Volskwagen Rabbit Texas The Rabbit has a host of modifications for off-roading and general badassery.Photo by Jesus Garcia

Future planed modifications for Gaia do include the word turbo, but nothing too crazy. Hadley's goal is to produce just enough boost to get this little Rabbit to the end of its 85 mph speedometer.

Hadley's 1980 VW Rabbit is a moving, breathing, testament to her skill as a mechanic. "It gives my work the test the time," she told AutomotiveMap. The fact that the car is still road worthy after all it's been through is an achievement to her success. In the process, she has embedded the car with more than just swear and blood.

To call Gaia just a car is a swear word for Hadley. This Rabbit is family. This car was featured in her wedding party, and she has the Rabbit's VIN tattooed on her arm.

Hadley is a busy person. When she isn't on TV, or managing her auto repair business Pistons & Pixie Dust, she is teaching. She is one of the founders of Women and Machine, which are classes designed to develop female car enthusiasts. Lessons taught by women for women that cover the basics from how to check the oil, change a tire, and learning how to speak to a mechanic. These are important skills to anyone who owns a vehicle and is self-aware of how little they know if the check engine light suddenly came on.

The journey from Harvard graduate to mobile Toyota specialist/ TV host/ business owner started with an old Volkswagen for Faye Hadley. The car has been a learning tool, travel companion, bridesmaid, work horse, but above all else the most important thing this 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit has been is, Hadley's car.

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The AWD ID.4 model is on its way.

Volkswagen

There was a lot of buzz when VW introduced its 2021 ID.4 all-electric crossover with rear-wheel drive earlier this year, but there's plenty more now that the Wolfsburg automaker has added an all-wheel-drive version. The 2021 VW ID.4 AWD gets another motor onboard this compact SUV that brings all-wheel-drive traction. The SUV appeals to buyers in the snow belt states but will also tickle the fancy of performance enthusiasts. Now with motors on both the front and rear axle, there is nearly fifty percent more power, with impressive gains to horsepower and torque as well as the added battery-electric boost to that scoots the 5-seater from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds (the RWD model took 7.5 seconds to achieve the same).

2021 VW ID.4 AWD An extra motor brings AWD to the ID.4.Volkswagen

On sale now, the 2021 VW ID.4 AWD Pro starts at $44,870, before federal or other incentives; this is a $3,680 premium over the rear-drive model. The AWD Pro S starts at $49,370; both models are eligible for $7,500 income-tax credits. It's worth noting that current delivery estimates for the AWD Pro are running into 2022. The AWD Pro trim has been rated by the EPA at 249 miles (only 11 miles less than the Pro RWD) while the AWD Pro S has been validated at 240 miles (as compared to 250 miles). The AWD Pro has been rated at 102 MPGe for city driving/90 highway/97 combined; the Pro S gets 93/98/88. Both are rated at 2,700 towing. Competitors include the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y.

While the AWD and RWD look the same outside, one exterior badge designates the newest variant with an "AWD" badge, plus it gets 0.6 inches of added ground clearance, slightly bigger brakes and sway bars. From the front, the electric SUV has smoothed jelly-bean styling that is highlighted by standard LED headlights and standard black roof rails that sit atop the body-colored roof. From the rear, it wears hatchback-like looks.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4's cabin is tidy and upscale, no matter the model.Volkswagen

We drove both the Pro and Pro S versions, with different premium interior trims and found the Gradient Package ($1500) visually upscale and appealing. It brings a black roof with silver rails, along with 20-inch wheels and the availability of King's Red Metallic paint, as a $395 option. The Pro is well-equipped with attractive trim elements and an impressive collection of communication and infotainment technologies. Pro S comes with a glass roof with an electrically-retractable shade and front seats with leatherette upholstery and 12-way power adjustments (including four-way lumbar support and a massage system).

We drove the new ID.4 AWD over a course of 160 miles along a variety of roads to sample its handling and ergonomics. The interior has a clean and open feel with good visibility. Controls and gauges are well-placed and the seatbelts are height-adjustable, while a configurable console holds different drink sizes and has removable cupholders. A futuristic LED "Light" strip with 10 different ambient lighting selections extends across the dashboard and pulses with directional signals, incoming phone calls, navigation prompts and other in-cabin inputs (optional is 30-color lighting selection on the Pro S). Driving is also a bit futuristic with no stop/start button; the vehicle senses the approaching key and can start climate control, unfold side mirrors, unlock doors and illuminate door handles at night, among a number of other high-tech features. There is 30.3 cubic feet of stowage behind the rear seats and up to 64.2 cubic feet with the second row folded. Under the floor storage holds the charging cable and small items. Pro S has an adjustable trunk floor that can be raised and lowered and a ski passthrough.

Pushing the brake pedal triggers the ID.4 to begin motoring, with the option of a "D" mode for typical driving or "B" for a more regenerative driving experience. Travel Assist brings semi-autonomous driving. Notable is the fun and responsive torque-on-tap, well-balanced direct steering and a suspension system that allows the small compact to maneuver well through traffic and along twisty roadways, as well as an impressive turning radius. The vehicle dynamics control system is integrated with the stability control system and an electronic differential to seamlessly engage the front axle, when needed. Volkswagen has added a different asynchronous motor to the front with a permanent-magnetic synchronous motor at the back for a combined 295 hp. and 339 lb.-ft. of torque.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4 AWD will start shipping in early 2022.Volkswagen

Carried over are 82-kWh battery packs and the 5 to 80 percent fast-charging time of 38 minutes, when using 125kW fast-charging. VW says it can add 62 miles of range in 10 minutes; home charging on a Level 2 charger is projected to take approximately 7.5 hours for a full charge.

Of note: VW includes three years of complimentary charging up to 125 kW, with any ID.4 purchase or lease; VW Group's Electrify America charging network has over 650 stations and more than 2,700 fast chargers.

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The all-electric ID.4 will help its pilot and navigator tackle the grueling race route.

Volkswagen

Off-road racing and endurance races are nothing new, but the Rebelle Rally's approach is unique. The event is the first all-women event of its kind in the U.S. and takes participants through severely challenging terrain with no electronic aids allowed for navigation. This year, Volkswagen is bringing its new ID.4 EV to the event to be piloted by driver Mercedes Lilienthal and navigator Emily Winslow.

Volkswagen ID.4 Mercedes Lilienthal and Emily Winslow will pilot the ID.4.Volkswagen

Tanner Foust Racing and Rhys Millen Racing modified the VW with new suspension system, tubular control arms, fabricated skid plates, battery protection, and other off-road-ready kit. The crossover has also been fited with a Thule roof rack and Yokohama Geolandar A/T tires.

The ID.4's battery and electric motor will remain untouched. That means a combined output of 295 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. The 82 kWh battery can deliver an EPA-estimated range of 249 miles on a charge, but keep in mind that the terrain the team will be tackling will have an impact on that number.

The 2021 event marks the sixth year for the all-women rally raid. Teams are faced with 1,400 miles of desert in Nevada and California, and must navigate the racecourse without the use of electronic guides, such as GPS or cell phones. From the start in Las Vegas to the finish in Glamis, CA, participants must use maps, compasses, and their own skill to navigate.

Volkswagen ID.4 Several modifications were made to the suspension and other components.Volkswagen

Even though it's the ID.4's maiden year on the market, the electric crossover has already had a successful run in motorsport. Earlier this year, another modified version of the vehicle competed in the NORRA Mexican 1000. It was also massaged by Tanner Foust Racing and Rhys Millen Racing, and VW notes that the ID.4 that we'll see in Rebelle Rally vehicle was improved using data from its first races.

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