Volkswagen might feel pretty confident now, but things seemed much scarier for the boys from Wolfsburg back in 1973; the company had milked just about every last drop from the air-cooled/rear-drive platform that had looked so futuristic when they ripped it off from Hans Ledwinka nearly four decades earlier and the verdict was still out on the new generation of water-cooled VWs. American car buyers could still buy the Type 4 in 1973, and so Car & Track felt compelled to review it.
It’s impossible to sugarcoat it: the Volkswagen 412 was a dismal failure in the North American marketplace. Zombie-movie-grade body rot problems, chronic overheating difficulties, engine power smogged down to 5 horsepower (well, OK, 76 HP), and scary handling all contributed to low sales, and we don’t even need to bring VW’s early Malaise Era Japanese competition in this discussion, do we? I’ve seen exactly one Type 4 on the street in the last few years, which makes this earnest review by C&T all the more interesting, as we contemplate Volkswagen’s future. Check out the 412’s behavior in the test track’s off-camber turn! Aiiieee!