By on May 9, 2014

24 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe original Volkswagen Passat, which was essentially an Audi 80, was sold in the United States as the Dasher. We saw this two-door diesel Dasher at a Northern California wrecking yard last year, then this first-cousin gasoline-burning ’75 Audi Fox a couple months back, and now we’re heading back to California for a super-rare four-door diesel Dasher.
02 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car was slow even by generous 1980 standards, but diesel fuel economy must have made diesel VW buyers feel smart. I took my driver-training classes in a Rabbit Diesel, and I’m pretty sure the top speed of that car was about 52 mph.
13 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car appears to have been driven down from Alaska, judging from the body rust, moss growing on the trim, and these parking stickers.
14 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is packed with damp Alaska Airlines aircraft shop manuals, probably a couple hundred pounds of them.
15 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m sure I could have picked up a Boeing manual for cheap or even free, but I decided that I’d be able to live without it.
09 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWas it still running when it got scrapped? Who can say?
16 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to use up a car this thoroughly.

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70 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Poor old thing .

    Both my brothers bought two door Diesel Rabbits when they first came out in…?1976? and paid a hefty premium for them , both got easy 40 MPG’s and went 80 + MPH .

    I thought them to be junk but I’m also an Air Cooled Fanboi .

    I had an Indie VW Shop back then and well remember few Diesels made over 60,000 miles before needing major engine overhaul .

    I briefly dated a Jamaican Woman who loved her Diesel Jetta .

    Now , all A1 Diesels are cult cars .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I liked the simplicity of my air-cooled VWs, but the lack of heating and defrosting made them unrealistic for use here in the midwest.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        I grew up Down East and if you maintain all those damned rubber gaskets , clamps , hoses and so on , a Beetle is toasty warm and the defrosting is greatly helped by *just* cracking the vent windows .

        Folks were always amazed at how worm my personal VW’s were , I hate cold feet so I took the time to keep everything in order , few did .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          blowfish

          I was lucky enuf to picked up a 12v blower made by JC whitney I attach to driver side of the tubing ( from fan box to the heat exchanger) so I get steady warm air when stop on red light. And all the air went into the right side also helps too.
          Most of them do leak exhaust too, my school mate told me that was Fuhrer’s revenge.
          I drove a 69 vw across from van to Toronto, took a wk.
          I guess it was a miracle that I arrived safely. The brakes tend to drop on level and I have to pump her once to bring up the level. There was a shop call Hayman on Hwy7 specialized on these bug then.
          I also pin the speedo on 401, that was 80mph ?

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Truth… drive all day and only be able to keep softball-sized patches of the glass clear with constant scraping.

        But at least on the flat windshield Beetles you could do a reach-around and scrape the outside while driving o_O

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Big VW fan here.

    Still would sell my soul for a cherry, but not afraid to camp in it grade Syncro Westy (<-check the prices on those beauties) or a first generation Jetta (why to drop in a VR6, of course!).

    Never could get behind the Dashers, though.

    They must be fairly unbreakable because this definitely isn't the first time I've seen a Dasher Diesel of similar vintage.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time and experience what (and why) stuff like this was for myself.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      I think the past is always like WW I. Better to just read about it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Well, 28, before you take the DeLorean time machine trip, I’d like to share my story of a real live VW diesel from this era.

      My dad was helping me buy a car for my high school graduation, and being the bargain hunter he was, he fixated on the aforementioned VW diesel, a ’80 Rabbit left over from the previous model year that they couldn’t unload. Of course, the reason why they couldn’t unload it may have had something to do with the fact that it was puke green, had no A/C, and no radio. And did I mention we lived in St. Louis? Yes, I could have been sweating to death in St. Louis, in July, in a puke green diesel with no stereo that took a month to get to 60. That thing was about as much fun as having a needle stuck in your Johnson. HORRID car.

      He told me the dealer was going to give us a great deal on it. Yeah, no doubt! I ended up talking him into a ’81 gas Rabbit with air and a cassette stereo.

      Sometimes the past is best left in the past, and so it is for VW diesels from that era. HORRID cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Not a great time in history. Inflation was high, interest rates were skyrocketing (when this car was built you’d have been paying 15% for a 30 year fixed mortgage), and gas prices were about 4 bucks a gallon in adjusted dollars. That’s less than now but an alarming historic high then. There was also post Vietnam mistrust of the government, insecurity from two major oil embargos, the Iranian hostage debacle, and a contracting economy. On the car front, primitive pollution controls and heavy handed EPA fuel economy and DOT safety standards had completely sucked the fun out of new cars.

      We weren’t quite at the shotgun and canned good stage but close enough for discomfort. One side effect was Americans flocked towards austere fuel sipping little shitboxes like they flock to CUVs today. The Chevette, diesel VWs, Omnirizon, Starlet, and other little tin cans. All were slow and noisy but Americans were willing to put up with it for the fuel savings and feelings of living efficiently.

      This was of course partially diminished by bidding wars over some of these things, particularly the diesel VWs. I recall stories of people getting into fist fights over diesel Rabbits as they came off the car carrier, like they were the last cans of Hormel Chili on the shelf at Jewel during a pending nuclear holocaust.

      Seems laughable now and a car like this would sell about 10 copies today. But then, they were serious players in a fast growing segment.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        I believe you are peering at this time through reactionary glasses. The Malaise era in retrospect was a fairly dismal time for cars; however, these VeeDubs and other ‘shitboxes’ you reference were far and away better than the crap that the late ’60s and early ’70s vomited up in the used car market. As well as the premium price people paid for the two to three ton tuna boats and luxury barges that floated out of Detroit (in retrospect, not much smaller or fuel efficient than large SUVs) that were a PITA to keep maintained. The VW Rabbit and Dasher seemed like reliable dream machines that always started, cheap to feed and maintain, were powerful enough in a time of 55mph, easy to park, and were, dare I say it? Trustworthy.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      The past is like WWI?

      By the 70′s and 80′s German cars as long as they lacked a thermal reactor were quite good. Sure todays stuff is better but in the day a good car wasx a good car…OTOH I have worked at dealers where so piece of 60′s detroit iron with a carb and 4 wheel drum brakes that the techs had to start every now and then did remind me how bad some cars were.

      Due to bad chokes allowing an overly rich mixture to wash the oil away 100k on an engine was a lot – now a car sitting for 6 months (my volvo 850)
      starts right up.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    How reliable were these when new(er)?

    I can’t imagine driving something iffy down to Cali from Alaska by myself even in 1990.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      My parents bought a 1980 diesel wagon new and traded it in 1989 and it was dead reliable for most of its life. It developed two issues near the end of its life – one was a starter wire that passed too close to the exhaust manifold that eventually melted enough to just short out when the motor was hot so until we figured that one out I had to help push-start the old girl a lot and you learned to park facing down a hill. The other problem was flaw in the PCV system that allowed it to suck oil into the intake after sustained high RPMs which would cause an unintended acceleration event – that one I didn’t figure out until a few years ago when I stumbled across it on the web – apparently it was fairly common but my dad assumed it was because the rings were worn form the miles and it was sucking oil past them.

      That car made countless trips from DC to Illinois, Alabama and Rhode Island loaded down with the four of us during its life time and until the no-start and runaway acceleration issues cropped up in the last couple of years, I don’t remember it being in the shop once – so, 7 or 8 years and well over 100K miles of completely problem free motoring followed by a couple years of iffier operation as a second car. In 1985 Alaska to CA would have been no problem – in 1990… keep it under 60 on the highway and make sure to park on a hill when you stop (or leave it running) and you’d probably make it…

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      VWs of that era weren’t unreliable, but lots of little stuff went wrong on them. My ’81 Rabbit ate window cranks at the rate of at least three per year, the driver’s door handle constantly came loose, various parts fell off, and the tube carrying a/c condensation would clog at least twice a year, making the front passenger footwell into a lake.

      And the dealer service was a joke.

      Traded it for a ’85 Honda Civic 1500S and never looked at VW again.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        That sounds like current VW problems and service. I didn’t realize it was baked in so long ago.

      • 0 avatar
        alsorl

        I had the same issues with my 83 and 84 jetta’s. Door handles would break and the ac would clog up. I rigged a large syringe and would inject a bleach solution so it would not clog up. I did it once a year.. oh the sunroof would also fill up with water and create a waterfall. But the engine and old school York a/c compressor worked beautifully.

      • 0 avatar
        dig

        @FreedMike

        Not to hijack but my first brand new car was a 1985 Civic 1500S. Got it when I mustered out of the USAF having spent 3 years in Germany. Drove Fiats and VW’s of the 70′s vintages over there. E-3′s can’t afford the good stuff. The Honda was like a star ship comparatively. Had it for years and I think 160K trouble free miles.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      @ 28 : ” How reliable were these when new(er)? ”

      Dead nuts even if you didn’t take good care of them .

      The white one my Elder Brother bought new (two door sedan) he used to move from Ma. to Sunny Southern California , hauling everything he owned in a two axle trailer that was bigger than the car ~ in Penn. he was pulled over by the H9ghway Patrol who told him but for the added mirrors , he thought it was an un attached runaway when it zizzed past him going downhill @ 85 + MPH .

      When he got to Cali. we had to replace both front brake rotors as they were paper thin .

      He loved it and kept in until a crooked Armenian Indie VW Shop in Glendale , Ca. stole and stripped it while ” servicing ” it .

      They routinely shook like paint mixers because the valves (like all old VW’s) needed periodic valve adjustments and they were shim under bucket meaning you needed special tools plus a micrometer and a BIG box of various sized shims to do the job ,often the lazy assed Dealer ‘ mechanics ‘ just played cars & drank beer for an hour instead of touching the damn thing , few realized as the Service Writer would say ” oh , they all vibrate like that ” . (BULLCRAP) .

      Also no one ever changed the fuel filters or the weepy 3MM fuel return hoses so air in the system made them run rough and poor fuel economy .

      Fungus likes to grow in Diesel Fuel and most just ignore it until the engine runs terribly or stops in the road .

      Those few who loved these things , stayed right on top of the regular mtce. and enjoyed smooth sailing in spite of them being motorized tin cans .

      Same deal with the the heat in old Beetles ~ I lived far north and was never cold because I didn’t leave off all those PIA rubber gaskets and seals that prevented cold air leaks….

      Some get it , others whine and complain , blame the Machine .

      Trust me , you _DO-NOT_ want to go back to those days ! .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        Joebaldheadedgranny

        All true Nate, especially the imperative to find a dedicated VW mechanic, which I was lucky enough to find in Pacific Grove, CA.

        I had a 1980 fuel-injected Dasher wagon and got it up to 216K until a drunk driver put it into the shrubs. I found a cinnamon-red Dasher DIESEL with only 50K (1981) and it was more problematic due to the fungus issue you mention. I would find myself idling at a stoplight, and when the light changed it would just sit there at ~600 rpm making zero compression while people threw whatever they could find handy as they went around me. After a couple agonizing minutes it would suddenly rev and I was off to the races again. I had the tank power washed and fuel socks replaced but the problem always returned.

        Still, I loved that wagon. Once up to speed it handled great and delivered 40+ mpg in any setting.

        When I got a job with a company car I gave it to my dad, but in the absence of a good mechanic I’m pretty sure it shaved a few years off his lifespan.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          RE : fungus in Diesel Fuel :

          The good thing is , there’s _one_ (only one_ really good chemical you can add to not only kill the fungus but it allows you to (usually) keep driving whilst it works it’s way through the system and out the tailpipe ~ most fungus killers simply kill the fungus leaving you with great globs of slimy dead stuff that wants to repeatedly kill the engine , clog the fuel filters etc. ~ Startron , made by Starbrite , is an _enzyme_ that eats the fungus and poops it back out in sub micronic particles so it’ll flow through the filters and injectors etc. and be burned up as you drive .

          So far I’ve only found it in Boating Supply Stores , West marine etc.

          3 Oz. per fillup each tankful and after a few tanks the clear primary fuel filter will remain clear .

          -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        JD-Shifty

        “Those few who loved these things , stayed right on top of the regular mtce. and enjoyed smooth sailing in spite of them being motorized tin cans .”.

        gee whiz you could say that about any car someone else says is junk. i’ll take the reliability of my 71 olds cutlass with the 350 rocket over this garbage.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Yes JD ;

          I’d not have a Dasher for free but I wasn’t rude/ignorant/stupid enough to make a complete fool of myself on a public forum by saying so like *you* did .

          =8-) .

          Kids ~ what’re ya gonna do with them ?

          -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            JD-Shifty

            stating the fact that you can keep a car running if you take care of and perform vigilant maintenance applies to ALL cars is making a fool of one’s self. LOL. OK squirt.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    A friend of mine had the El Camino version of the Rabbit, his dad bought it for him to take to college. He lived in Atlanta, went to school in Pasadena, CA, so it was quite a ride. It finally expired when the fuel pump started spraying fuel all over the inside of the engine compartment, and between the cost of a replacement pump plus all the belts and hoses that the spraying fuel ruined made it not worth fixing.

    When I bought my first townhouse, the real estate agent took me around in her diesel Rabbit. Whenever we stopped for a traffic light, she’d have to bring the engine up to a fast idle or else the dashboard shook like a paintshaker. I suspect the reason these didn’t last long in the marketplace was that they just weren’t very nice to drive.

    Were they slow? Yes, but they still got you where you were going. In town, you were limited by traffic and stoplights, and on the highway, as long as you could get up past 60 mph you could get where you were going in a reasonable time, especially considering the speed limit at the time was 55. Power is vastly overrated as being important.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Aircraft fire protection self-study and clapped out live-in car? I can’t wait to see what Crab Spirits comes up with for this one.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    That’s a (5) door Dasher. There were no 4 doors, if you wanted a 4 door sedan in that generation it would say Audi on it. Dashers were 3 door, 5 door hatch, and station wagon only. The 3 doors are the rare ones, they look kind of like big Siroccos.

    Buddy of mine had a hand-me-down diesel Dasher wagon in High School. I can assure you it would go a LOT faster than 52mph if you kept your foot hard on the floor for long enough. My ’82 Subaru was a rocketship in comparison though. And had a 5spd and A/C – such luxury!

    @28-days-later

    I would say there were pretty reliable cars. They rusted a little slower than most in this climate. Starting them in the winter could be an issue if you didn’t plug them in, the glow plug system wasn’t tip-top, or you got some non-winterized fuel, but they pretty much ran and ran and ran. They all needed head gaskets eventually, that was kind of a wear item at 150K or so. I never owned an A1 VW diesel, but lots of friends did! I loved them, always wanted one, and almost bought an ’82 Rabbit diesel but found my ’84 Jetta GLI for a price I could not refuse. Best car ever made, that one.

  • avatar
    patman

    We had one of these in wagon form – white with a brown vinyl interior. It was slow as molasses but was pretty nice to drive otherwise. Over all it was a very good car for us but see my response above for a description of some weird issues it developed later in its life.

    It delivered an honest 40 MPG city and 50+ MPG on the highway (dad recorded every fill up in a notebook) – keep in mind though it was probably well under 3000lbs and cruising speed was 55 during those dark years of interstate travel, and it made all of ~50HP. Did I mention it was slow? Lots of stuff was slow back then so it wasn’t a big deal but today even kids on electric Razor scooters would be passing you. I’m not sure it could go fast enough to keep up with interstate traffic now and I sure wouldn’t want to try to merge in one anymore.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So, this guy did maintenance on Alaska Airlines MD80s? Let’s hope he wasn’t the one in charge of maintaining the rear stabilizer…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Airlines_Flight_261

    Don’t read that article if you don’t want to get VERY angry about corporate malfeasance, by the way.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      This tragedy involved an MD-83, which I imagine is a variant of the MD-80 but the documents are regarding the older MD-80.

      EDIT: The more I look into it, the variants make up the bulk of model production and seem to be minor enhancements. So it might be very possible documentation would just be labeled “MD-80″ but apply to all variants.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The differences between the MD-80 models are relatively minor. Alaskan Airlines only operated the MD-82 and MD-83.

      • 0 avatar
        Madroc

        Same elevator jackscrew, I’m guessing, made of the same metal that wears down to nothing if you try to double the lube intervals.

        Nonetheless, I’d have grabbed all of those aircraft manuals purely for nerd value.

        • 0 avatar
          fincar1

          Once when I was in a wrecking yard looking for a front fender for my 69 Valiant I found a Duster that had stacks of Boeing manuals, plans etc. in the trunk. Many of them were marked confidential, limited distribution etc. Probably not that rare a find in western Washington.

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    Amazed@how bad this thing looks when compared to the euro version, or even the Passat Mk1 facelift we got in Brazil. My dad had a white 1980 Passat TS 1.5, bought used in 1985 and traded into a brand-new Fiat Prêmio about a year later. His fondest memory of the thing is how engine block cracked open like a milk carton two weeks after he sold it.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I always thought the Dasher/Audi 80 were a nice design for the era. The only things wrong were poor materials, poor fit and finish, and underpowered Euro engines unsuited for American roads. Overall, it was a nifty platform wrecked by poor execution. Why is it Audi has learned from it, but its owner Volkswagen hasn’t?

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Girlfriend 10 years ago had an ’86 Jetta Diesel with over 300k miles on it. I found it to be a charming car, although at 52 hp it definitely was slow, and it idled cold like a cement mixer – somehow that was part of its charm. I actually found it to be a pleasant highway cruiser, as long as cruising meant staying below about 75 MPH.

    At the same time, I had a much fresher – but same body style – ’92 gas model. Mine had power steering, which made parking much easier (the girlfriend actually wasn’t capable of turning the wheel when her car stood still) but was floatier in highway cruise. I found it amusing that with only 100hp, it had just under double the diesel’s output, and felt like a rocket by comparison.

    Of course the diesel got considerably better than my gasser’s already-respectable mileage. With the large gas tanks these cars had, their range was very good; even my gasser could do 500 miles at 75 MPH in summertime cruise despite turning 3,700 RPM, and the seats and highway manners were good enough that you could exploit it.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      I had a similar experience – we traded the diesel Dasher wagon in for the Brazilian Audi/VW parts bin Fox wagon which was very similar but had two less doors and a 90 HP gas motor. The Fox too felt like a a rocket compared to its diesel counterpart. MPGs dropped off a good bit too but it was still a respectable 30/40. The Fox would touch 100 MPH too, something the Dasher couldn’t even begin to dream of.

      Manual steering felt great in those light little cars with skinny tires but parking wasn’t much fun if the wheels weren’t rolling at least a little bit.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    If you found those manuals in a car on the street today, someone would assume they belonged to a Terrorist; and yes the manuals are for a MD and not a Boeing (unless you consider the cattle-car, spot-a-pot with wings, Boeing 717, which me and my aching bum spent all day on yesterday, to really be a Boeing).

    BTW, the Dasher was dog$hit on wheels.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    I learned how to drive stick in an 81 Dasher diesel station wagon. Dad bought it during the gas crisis on the thinking that there will always be diesel available if the country wants anything transported anywhere. You had to turn off the A/C to climb any kind of an incline with a family of 4 in it plus groceries, but the thing would get 49 MPG on the highway.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    An undignified end to a once Dashing automobile. Get it? LOL!!!!!

  • avatar
    css28

    Bought an ’81 Dasher Diesel wagon in ’85 (with a pre-cracked head, as it turns out).

    Bog slow car with lousy NVH. 42 mpg all the time.

    Worst mileage was in 95 degree weather heading south on Hatteras Island into a stiff headwind with two bikes on a roof rack and a car full of people and stuff. 39 mpg with the accelerator to the floor to maintain 55 mph with the AC on.

    The only car I bought that my family really disliked.

  • avatar
    Johannes Dutch

    Exactly 30 years ago I took my driving lessons in a VW Golf~Rabbit Mk1 diesel with a 4 speed manual. It did 80+ mph very easily. So saying the top speed was about 52 mph is both funny and complete nonsens.

    I also remember how easy and smooth that lil’ diesel drove. You could drive it flawlessly while asleep at the wheel. Once the engine was warm you could put it in first, release the clutch, and it would roll down the road all day long without touching the gas pedal.

    About a year later I took a new Mk2 turbo-diesel (it was a GTD) out for a spin, quite a revelation I must say compared to the Mk1 diesel.

  • avatar

    I got two Mk 1 diesels as hand me downs long ago. The first was a round light German build, the second a square light PA build. The style of the German car was austere. The US built car had some odd GM styling tossed in. The German car had no A/C, but the US car did. We would turn it off if “accelerating” onto a highway (48 hp/52 hp) Both cars clattered like crazy, got 40 plus mpg, were slower than molasses, and had a charming habit of tossing alternator belts. The Alternator was at the very top of the engine, and the violence of the shaking would cause the mounting eye at the top of the alternator to go “oval” over time as it shook against the steel bolt. Eventually the Alternator would loosen and move…the alternator light would go on, and popping the hood would reveal “no belt”. The trick was not to turn off the engine, as it would run without a belt or electricity, but you’d have to turn off all the power accessories.

    I now own a Mk 6 TDi. It has nothing in common with the Mk1, save the company emblem and excellent seats ! The Mk 6 is as quiet/quieter at highway speeds as my 3 series, still pulls 40 mpg, and you can use the air conditioner while driving !!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Ah, mechanical fuel injection.

      I had the voltage regulator on my W115 diesel go out on a road trip, and the same thing – it’ll run with *no power at all* (not no belt in that case, as the alternator belt also ran the water pump).

      Though of course you want to spare the accessories so you can have things like turn signals…

      Got a new regulator at the destination and five minutes of work and a jump start later, good to go.

  • avatar

    Breathlessly awaiting the Crabspirits novella of the Alaska Airlines chief mechanic, alcoholism, living in a Dasher, and Flight 261.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Drove both a diesel rabbit and a gas Chevette of this era. Diesel by far was the better car. It didn’t want to drive 65 mph, but it could easier than a Chevette. 60 mph was a better speed for it. It was comfortable, roomy and not cheap. Couldn’t quite get the magic 50 mpg which was such a big deal back then, but I came very close. I believe the Dashers were larger and had the same engine, so people complained about their sluggishness even back then.

    If no one has mentioned it, diesel was considerably cheaper than gas back then, which considerably added to the allure of the 50 mpg. I forget the difference, but its like now, only flipped.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DJUN2M3D-E skip to 7:00 if you read quickly, 6:00 otherwise.

    Ron, like his Dasher, was all used up.

    The morning sun shone down on the little white car, his elbow hung out the window and the sea breeze furled Ron’s equally white hair. This Sunday morning was so quiet, hardly another car on the road. These long secluded drives gave Ron some sorely needed solace. He pulled his arm in to hold the wheel and retrieved the cigarette from his ear. He lit the cigarette and blew smoke out of the window at the ocean. The little diesel joined his effort to blow smoke as it putted along heading north on the Pacific Coast Highway as Ron began to remember why he came down to California in the first place.

    Ron first met Janice in high school. She was just shy of seventeen at the time, five foot six, blonde, thin legs, big brown puppy-dog eyes. He had landed a job as an aircraft mechanic the previous summer after graduation. They decided to get married when Janice first got pregnant, although Ron felt funny about it. He loved Janice but something felt odd about it, as if something deep down was telling him to pass on the wedding. Something just didn’t feel right.

    Janice’s parents combined her high school graduation party with her engagement party, and Papa bequeathed his 1980 Volkswagen Dasher as a present to the couple. Sure, it was incredibly slow, but Papa said “Life goes by so fast, maybe goin’ slow gives you a chance to take it all in”. Ron remembered those words well. He also remembered Janice had been so excited when she was accepted to UC San Francisco and Ron put in for a transfer out of Juneau. Janice miscarried not long after.

    The trip down the coast was a long one but aside from a flat tire was uneventful. California, like Janice, was rich in natural beauty. She kept their apartment clean and warm meals on the table, most of the time anyway. He spent his nights repairing the McDonnell Douglas aircraft as they came in for service at SFO. Every so often they took the Dasher to trips out to Yosemite and lake Tahoe, even after he bough her a used Civic for school. Things was good, for a awhile.

    Life does go by pretty fast, as Ron found out. They left Juneau the summer of 1990 and before you knew it, it was the eve of a new millennium. He used to fly his in-laws down on Alaska Air and her Papa was always so proud to say his “son” kept those planes flying. They were kind enough never to ask about grandchildren. Ron couldn’t quite understand what the problem was, but after years of trying and crying Janice had accepted it. Work had been steady but monotonous, but he quickly rose up the ranks. He started to question some of the maintenance procedure modifications the airline was making, but was quietly reminded of his position. They said they prototyped it with McDonnell Douglas. They said these cost saving measures were approved by the FAA. They said the savings would pay for two more men on his shift. They didn’t understand why he’d been so sour the last few years.
    The flight went down in the sea early that winter.

    Ron took up smoking again, having cut back all those years. Nobody was to blame they said, and yet the ground crews blamed themselves. Just like nobody was to blame for Janet’s miscarriage… or terminal cancer. All these years and all he had left was this little worn out car and the contents of their apartment, their life together. He took a left off the highway and proceeded toward the ocean.

    The sundial was a magnificent site in the early morning sun, as this wasn’t the first time he saw it. He sat on the hood of his car and removed his worn boots. He emptied his pockets onto the driver’s seat through the open window and barefoot he started walking on the beach. Soon the Pacific was swirling around his ankles, then thighs, and waist. Ron just kept walking, walking until he couldn’t feel anymore.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alaska_Airlines_Flight_261_Sundial.jpg

  • avatar
    Mr. K

    FWIW I had a dasher 5 door gas 4 speed (I think).
    I loved that car very much and for the day it was very refined, smooth riding, able to go 80-100 as long as one had the guts to drive that fast (back then enforcement was more enthusiastic)

    I had just minor problems with it but I took care of it. The CV boots seemed to be a weak spot, AC was not up to it’s contempories from GM and ford, but was better then Japanese cars from that era – plenty cold, not enough vents…

    This reminded me of a car from long ago I liked a lot, thanks1

  • avatar
    Quopar

    A buddy of mine had a diesel Dasher just like this one, except pea green, in high school. Late 80s. His parents got it for him because they thought it was too slow for him to get into trouble. They were wrong. I remember driving in that thing fully loaded up Vail pass to go skiing. Redline in second gear all the way belching out more smoke than a coal locomotive. The noise, smell and vibration were infernal. Forward progress was practically nonexistent. He drove the bejeazus out of that thing for about 3 years until it finally exploded.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Be glad the euro competitors Princess 18-22 (BL) and Renault 20 didn’t make it over. Recognized Dasher as 70′s Passat from those rear quarter windows shared with the those two. B Passat was big improvement on Type 3/4.

    Those manuals should have been removed & shredded. IATA/Corp Sec these days would see breech.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Definitely. Especially since the MD-80 is still in use! If a terrorist wanted an inside look on the plane, there’s enough stuff there to really cause a problem.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    I was shipping quite a few VW rabbits to Ireland back in the eighty’s for use as taxi cabs. One day a 2 door 84 base model showed up in the warehouse to be shipped and at the last minute we were told not to ship it as it was a 2 door. The car only had 12,000 miles on it and the shippers offered it to me for cheap. It only had a radio & heater and was as clean as they come. I used the car for about 6 years running up 125,000 miles and sold it to my buddy’s son to go back and forth to college. He ran up approx 200,000 going back and forth to school and finally after getting married brought a new car. In all those miles the car only required brakes, tires, clutch & a new injector pump plus a few glow plugs. and for the record i got a ticket in Pa. for doing 82 miles an hour in that car.

  • avatar

    In different counties, the Passat also called Carat, Corsar, Dasher, Magotan. From outside, the used Volkswagen Passat does not look like other German cars.

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    Gah, my grandpa brought one of those back from Germany. Aviators must have a thing for them because he was a pilot. I remember it smelling “like a german car”. It broke a lot, but it hung around for 20 years and probably 400k mi on at least 3 engines before my aunt pawned it.
    We’d borrow it when on vacation to see him in San Diego. My biggest memories of those vacations were sitting under an underpass in the desert waiting for a tow truck, and getting a bump start at Disney Land from a Japanese Micro truck. Also LA traffic.


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