Junkyard Find: 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel
Having taken my driver-training classes, circa 1982, in a VW Rabbit Diesel, I thought I’d experienced the slowest car available in the United States during the second half of the 20th century. I was wrong! The oil-burning Dasher (which is what the V.A.G. called the first-gen Audi 80 aka VW Passat in North America) had the same 49 (!) horsepower diesel as the Rabbit, and it weighed between 100 and 400 pounds more. I hadn’t seen a Dasher of any sort for at least a decade, and I don’t recall ever having seen a Dasher Diesel, so this find in a San Jose-area self-service wrecking yard was startling.
The entire spectrum of Malaise Era signifiers may be seen here, from the brown-and-orange tape stripes over tan paint to the rear-window louvers to the gigantic 5 MPH crash bumpers.
Since the Rabbit Diesel could be purchased with an automatic, I must assume that the same power-robbing option was available on the Dasher. This one has a 4-speed, which meant that its 0-60 times were probably around 150 seconds instead of 180.
Someone bought the diesel engine, for reasons that probably made sense at the time.
Just 119,341 miles on the clock, which is only about 3,500 miles per year… or 20,000 very economical miles per year followed by 28 years of sitting in a driveway.
Wait, the engine— or at least the long block— is still there!
We laugh at this car now, but the owner of this Dasher almost certainly did a lot of gloating as his ride cruised right past the gas lines caused by the Iranian Revolution-triggered energy crisis.
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