Joining the VW lineup just before the Golf, and being the first launched of VW’s current lineup of modern, economical front wheel drive cars, the VW Passat must have seemed scary for the company at the time. So far, VW had been very conservative, sticking to its lineup of flat-4 powered, rear-engine rear-wheel-drive, air-cooled cars, but given the complaints from the public about the ancient technology upon which their cars were based, they were forced to do something drastic. Imagine any major car company changing their whole platform strategy today – suppose BMW dropped all their six-cylinder engines, and went to front-wheel-drive, turbocharged four cylinders as their dominant powertrain – it’s really a pretty remarkable move. Of course, VW held on to the old Beetle-based cars for six more years in Europe, US/Canada and Asia, and continued far further in Mexico and down through Brazil, as well as South Africa and doubtless others. Check out VW’s first successful (you wouldn’t call the K70 successful or VW’s, would you?) foray into conventional powertrains here with this 1979 VW Dasher for sale for an unknown price that can’t be more than $1000, right?
All US/Canadian-market Dashers were hatchbacks, though VW offered wagons and fastback sedans in most other markets. It was basically the Audi 80 with a Giugiaro body – wait, this came from the same pen as the Alfetta GT and Esprit? Okay, so you have to squint really hard, but there *is* a vague similarity. It really has more in common with the Lancia Beta sedan, or the Chevrolet Citation and friends. Being a 1979, this is a post-facelift car, and appears to be a lifelong Oregon resident with blue-on-yellow plates.
The car is said to run and drive, but is not registered and needs some work, including a new speedometer cable, muffler, and attention to a cold starting issue. There’s no doubt you’ll find more issues on a 36-year-old economy sedan, so factor that into your prepurchase research and negotiations. Showing just under 70,000 miles on its six-digit odometer, the car’s overall look is somewhat shop-worn, but not beyond presentable. Curiously, there’s some rusting around the driver’s door frame, but the seller does not explain the cause – accident, environment, or vandalism?
It’s a good thing you said no to crack, because this car sure didn’t, and you can see them all over the dashboard, with much less significant splitting on the driver’s seat. Pleated vinyl and faux wood certainly show aspirations to some kind of German interpretation of what Americans might find klassy in 1979, and North-American-bound Dashers also got a softer suspension. The rattling interior parts were part of VW’s pioneering world-car program, however.
Here’s the oddball Audi engine layout, with the engine next to the radiator. Were they anticipating installing a bigger engine at some future point? With all that width, it seems possible. This 78hp, 1.6-liter fuel injected engine was shared with the Rabbit, and if you think you were being patient getting to sixty in 13.2 seconds, just think of the poor guy in his Dasher Diesel taking another 6.2 seconds to get there. So while this car isn’t the most thrilling driving experience from a handling and performance perspective, you’d be driving a revolutionary VW and probably be the only one at your local dub-fest, especially if you kept those skinny steel wheels.