Until recently, VW was on pretty solid ground as a growing presence on the North American market, but let’s take a look back at a time when VW’s existence here was very much in question. The North American Quantum definitely epitomized that time, with a pokey 1-7-liter 4-cylinder, awkward styling, and a marketing strategy that didn’t know where it wanted to be – frugal and well-made like a Beetle, or spartan-lux like most of its European contemporaries. Indeed, there’s little except maybe the goodwill and better service network from the Beetle days to differentiate this from a contemporary Renault, and we all know where Renault went in the late 1980s. So let’s check out a remnant from those early water-cooled days, this 1982 VW Quantum for sale for $1299 in Portland, OR.
This is one of the rare 2-door hatchbacks, which kind of aped the Saab 900 in its general layout, but without the Swedish oddball cool factor, or a glorious optional torque-steering turbo engine. On the bright side, this one is in largely complete, original condition, and not slowed down by the common-among-survivors automatic transmission strangling its sad 74hp Rabbit engine. Factory alloys would be a nice touch, but these turbine-style wheels are rather bland, so you might try to find something from a GTI or later VW with 4-bolt pattern.
The body does look remarkably decent, and funny enough, it’s parked next to a 2-door hatchback Saab 900. Based on the condition of the black paint around the rear glass, this car has spent plenty of time in the sun, which bodes well for the body but not for the interior trim, which was rattly from new. The listing states the car needs work done, and frankly, with 249,000 miles it’s impressive it’s still around at all. Unfortunately, test drives are not available from this self-service junk yard, but maybe you can at least start it and make sure it goes into every gear. If you’d like something a little more, uh, developed, and yet still pretty rare, how about this 1978 VW Rabbit for sale for $2000 in Seattle, WA?
White paint, updated bumpers and tasteful newer alloy wheels help smarten up this US-market (but German-built) car. Said to show only 51K miles, it does have some minor door dings and surface rust, and missing side trim is included. Fortunately, the car does not leak anywhere, and includes a logbook of all maintenance since new. There is also some peeling clearcoat on the roof.
Most critically, the early 3-bolt starter, said to be rare, is missing from the car. The seller suggests replacing the transmission with a 5-speed, which would allow use of the later starter (both of which he has available), and does not say if it can be made to run without the starter for testing purposes. The rear fascia does appear a bit bent, but the seller does not include any mention of this in the listing, so it might just be the picture making things appear that way.
The interior is the most impressive part here – a headliner in good condition, good cargo cover, good seats showing only minor splits, and excellent door panels. The driver’s front window crank shouldn’t be hard to source, while the dash shows some light cracking. Rattling plastic and faux-wood is included for free on this one too. Its needs notwithstanding, this is a nice example of a Rabbit that could be a reliable fun car with not too much effort. Which of the two waters would you pick?