By on May 14, 2015

00 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

With the 1986 Quantum GL5 Junkyard Find we had a couple of days ago, we might as well make this a VW junkyard week. With that in mind, I present this icky-looking Volkswagen Dasher today.
04 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

I shot this car in Northern California a few months ago, and it showed all the hallmarks of a car stored outdoors for decades: low miles, paint burned off upper surfaces, moss and lichens growing on the shaded areas. Look, not even 100,000 miles on the clock!

11 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

This one was a luxurious model with sunroof and air conditioning a diesel injection pump.

01 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

The 1980 four-door hatch version of the Dasher listed at $8,190, which was $2,300 more than the Rabbit four-door hatch. Meanwhile, the far more luxurious and powerful (keep in mind that 1980’s standards for luxury and power differ from the ones we might apply today) Datsun 810 wagon (soon to be rebadged as the Maxima) listed at $8,129. Not that Dasher and 810 shoppers were the same people, but these comparisons are fun to make.

03 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

Yes, I bought the MotoMeter clock… and it works!

The car of choice for Kentucky Colonels.

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68 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Four-Door Hatchback...”


  • avatar
    sirwired

    The A/C compressor ran off the timing belt? What could possibly go wrong? I’m sure servicing this was just DELIGHTFUL.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      Diesel injection pump. That caption doesn’t really fit the image.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Diesel explains the low mileage total. I remember diesel VWs sitting forlornly in driveways and yards in my neighborhood and my grandparents’, their engines having failed too many times before they were even paid off. People held onto them until some psychological milestone allowed them to let go of past mistakes, most of them being gone by the early ’90s.

        • 0 avatar
          Vega

          What do you guys in the US do to your cars? VW Diesels were near indestructible in the late 70s early 80s in Europe. Our 1980 Golf Diesel ran 380,000km (admittedly slowly) without engine trouble before rust sent him to his grave…

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            A friend of mine had an early 80’s diesel in what we in the US called the Pickup and the rest of the world called a Caddy. His lasted about eight years. What did it in was that the injection pump started to leak and spray fuel all over the engine compartment, which in addition to being a fire hazard, rotted most of the rubber parts. He traded it, I suspect it got junked. The pump was very expensive to replace and there were other issues as well.

            The only other experience I had with that vintage diesel VW was that a real estate agent I was working with had one. Whenever we came to a stop, she had to open the throttle a little, otherwise the dash shook like someone had put a plate vibrator on it. I suspect that is what did many of them in at an early age, the user experience was so poor that if anything significant broke, no one wanted to put any money into the car, and so it went to the scrapyard.

          • 0 avatar
            George Herbert

            I drove one of these in the tan color; my late grandfather had purchased it and used it until ~1988 when he passed, and then I got it.

            The block cracked about 1990. Blew up on my as I was driving through downtown Berkeley, on Shattuck Northbound as it splits approaching University. Right in front of a Berkeley PD officer, who ticketed me for excessive smoke before calling for AAA.

            Mom had the title; she took it to the dealer, who said “no problemo!”, “fixed” it, she drove it home to get it up to me and it blew up again pulling in at my parents house. Dealer then admitted that there was a fleet problem with the castings on the block on that Diesel in the Dashers, that the block was now cracked in a bunch of places, the replacement engine cost was more than the car, and it got junked.

          • 0 avatar
            EMedPA

            My guess, Vega, is that owners ignore timing belt changes. That’s what did in the brown diesel wagon (with a manual!) I had in 1990 as a summer beater. The seller said it had been recently changed. Apparently his definition of “recent” was different than mine.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Timing belts didn’t do in any of the people I knew that bought VW diesels new. They didn’t last long enough to wear or age out a belt. Besides, were they even interference engines? My Jetta wasn’t. I’ve known people that drove them until the belt broke for the shear(and cheap) insanity of it, then set the cam timing and put on a new belt.

          • 0 avatar
            Lack Thereof

            70’s and 80’s diesel fuel in the US was of terrible quality – frequently contaminated with dirt and water. It’s one of many reasons diesel passenger cars of this era didn’t survive.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Mercedes-Benz diesels survived and prospered during this era, just like Cummins, Peterbilt, Mack, and GMC 2-stroke diesels did. I’m not going to argue that our diesel fuel was the best. I’m just pointing out that good engines tolerated it just fine.

          • 0 avatar
            sat7

            The injection pump diesels were indeed bulletproof. The only problem was lack of maintenance by the owner lulled into complacence due incredible durability leading to ignoring the service manual ie: timing belt and valve adjustments OK, fuel filter and strainer basket too… Keep these maintained and they would last into the 1/4 million mile mark. Good stuff while they lasted in the U.S.

      • 0 avatar

        Whoops, assumed it was just some janky VAG corner-cutting measure.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    A silver, two-door ’77 Dasher is the first of our family cars I have a memory of. How my parents managed to keep their sanity and good cheer while constantly having to load two energetic kids into the back seat of that car I will never know. The series of Dasher posts you’ve done has really brought back some memories, Murilee. Have you ever found one with the corduroy seats? That would really trigger the old nostalgia mechanism…

  • avatar
    Rspaight

    I had to drive a brown diesel Dasher like this sometimes for a job I had in college 30 years ago. It was *unimaginably* slow. I think the 0-60 tested out to 20 seconds or more. You literally had to keep the thing floored constantly to keep up with traffic.

    These kids today complaining about underpowered 200-hp Scions don’t know how good they have it. (shakes cane, yells at clouds)

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      This. My first car was a ’81 VW Rabbit – my dad tried talking me into a new ’80 Rabbit diesel they had on the lot that they were practically giving away. Driving that thing was a MISERABLE experience.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I think that car’s a diesel. Check the instrument panel – there’s a glow plug light.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    That generation of VW odometers were failure-prone. The number tells you how long the odometer lasted, the car itself may have run longer.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I like how the little orange light in the middle tells you when the wiring has gone bad. Surely that was illuminated from year 5+.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Actually that’s a glow plug light. It told you when the engine was ready to be started. Diesels all had them back then.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Thanks.

          If you turn it over, it’s the symbol for the LavaLife naughty chat line they used to advertise (and probably still do) at night on channels like Fox or WB.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          My ’76 Mercedes-Benz had an actual glow plug coil in the dashboard. When the wire turned orange, the ones in the engine were ready too.

        • 0 avatar
          Perc

          They still do.

        • 0 avatar

          I see it’s also got the single indicator for the blinkers. No need for a fancy left and right blinker light!

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Yep, early ’80s VWs, like my ’81 Rabbit, had but one light for the blinkers. German engineering at its finest. “Vy do you need ze left und ze right blinkers? One blinker is all ve need to put in!”

            Unfortunately, these same uber-menschen didn’t figure out that if you put the hose that carries all the A/C condensation where it was in a Rabbit, it’d kink or disconnect, and the condensation all would run right into your right front passenger’s footwell, making it into a little lake. I guess the plus was that on hot days, my Rabbit did double duty as a sauna. Guess we all need a schvitz every once in a while.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Our ’71 Plymouth Scamp had that feature. We had a cylindrical Tupperware container that fit under the 1-piece rubber floor mat(remember those?) and lined up with the place the water ran out of the dash under the A/C vent housing. On summer road trips, we’d be dumping that two-quart container every couple hours.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    If I’m not mistaken, the actor in that ad is none other than James Cromwell, best known as Farmer Hoggett in “Babe.”

    And, of course, Zefram Cochrane in “Star Trek”.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Today’s Rare Ebay Find: Something just a couple of years newer, a 1984 very custom-from-factory Silver Spur Hooper St. James, with a stunning paint job and interior. It has interior fittings like I’ve not seen in similar vintage RR’s before.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/261878451210?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      That thing is awesome. You never see Rollers or Bentleys, really of any era, kitted out with that much tech. Must be nice to be a real-estate tycoon (google the guy’s name).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I had never heard of the car phone manufacturer (Harris). And I agree, you never see any with even a phone, much less this side board and center arm rest control setup. And almost all of them are 5-passenger as well.

        • 0 avatar

          Harris is actually a huge defense contractor, although it’s probably been a long time since they’ve made stuff for the consumer market:

          http://harris.com/about/

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            http://www.lctmag.com/technology/article/40982/harris-alpha-2000-car-telephone-allows-for-future-channels

            Interesting!

          • 0 avatar

            Depends…do you consider the Stingray “consumer telephone electronics” ? Harris realized there was a LOT more money selling phone equipment to secret corners of the Government.

            My FIL had two of the early VW diesels. They both made 200k….each was sold further down the line, one to someone who took it to the Caribbean. Both were suffering from tinworms, and each shook like no other car since. In return for the clatter and 48 hp, you got 50 mpg.

            They were both anvil reliable, save an unfortunate tendency to toss the alternator belt, because the alternator, suspended above the engine, would move. The mounting hole in the aluminum body of the alternator would go oval due to the relentless shaking.

            The cure was to not shut off the engine till you were home. It didn’t need a battery to keep running, and more than once the headlights were dimming as I pulled in to the driveway….

            Driving the current generation “clean diesels” has nothing in common with the A1…

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      I find it very ironic that it was purchased from a Datsun dealer.

      From a distance it looks very swank, expensive and timeless. But start looking closely at the details and it looks very 80’s with poor fit and finish. That and rust on a So-Cal car with 1500 miles!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I did notice the rust, and details like some of the gauges (and particularly the radar detector) are very sloppy.

        It looks like it was purchased from an RR dealer, where did you see Datsun?

        • 0 avatar

          The order sheet says San Jose Datsun. The title has it too, but has a DBA (doing business as) below it. San Jose Datsun was probably the corporate name, but they probably also operated a Rolls Royce dealership.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You’re teaching me all kinds of stuff today. Got to read and find out when Harris dropped consumer electronics.

          • 0 avatar
            gsnfan

            If you’re curious, there is now a Chrysler dealership in the place of San Jose Datsun (4100 Stevens Creek). The Nissan dealership moved a few blocks west.

        • 0 avatar
          greaseyknight

          The Certificate of Origin says San Jose Datsun DBA Cerrito Motor Coach Ltd. A Datsun dealer masquerading as a high class luxury car dealer. Nothing wrong with that IMHO, just funny!
          edit: @madanthony beat me to it!

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Lou Fusz in St. Louis also sold Rollers at its’ Nissan dealer back in the ’90s. Not sure if they still do. It was bizarre to see a Rolls next to a Sentra.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Gorgeous.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Whatever part sat on that back seat long enough to dent it like that, is a clue to it’s demise.

    I looked up Gilroy Auto Sales, and found this gem of a Google review:

    “I purchased a Dodge from these scumbags. I got a flat the first week and had no spare tire.The drivers side window fell in the second week. The radiator hose broke the third week.”

    Scum! Used cars aren’t supposed to break! Where is Steve Lang? I miss him.

  • avatar
    Pan

    I had one, a two door model for several years. A superb driving car; but, the plastic upholstery constantly degraded and left a film on the windows (our lungs?) and the electrics needed constant servicing for burnt headlight bulbs and the electric rad fan. Must be a European thing — electricity — as my Renault R16 had similar headlight problems. But, both cars were brilliant driving cars.

  • avatar
    Joss

    10-4 Renault 16.

    VW’s belated attempt at front drive family hatch. I think it was the premier Passat. The gas-powered Leyland Maxi was at least as noisy as this diesel.

    The 16 luxury edition launched in 73 came with electric front windows and electric steel roof. Rarities in this class of car at the time.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    VW junkyard finds are great and all, but I want to see something I have not personally seen on the streets in quite a while.

    A Mazda Navajo!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Bingo bango!

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mazda-Navajo-LX-Sport-Utility-2-Door-/141634965323?forcerrptr=true&hash=item20fa1a0f4b&item=141634965323

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I think I saw one in person a few days ago, but that was the first one in years.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          There is one parked near my office, faded but still soldiering on. Somehow I think these had a harder existence or more negligant owners than it’s cousin, the 2 dr Explorer.

          Navaho, Cherokee. Tribal or ethnic names for vehicles for $200. In the 50’s the entry-level Studebaker was called the Scottsman.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I wonder what causes someone to hang onto such a car for such a long time. It’s a nondescript family car, once it’s dead, why not send it to the scrapper? I can’t think there are many who intend to restore such a car.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I bought one of these new in ’77 to replace my totaled ’75 Scirroco (note: never, but NEVER, loan your car to anyone). 4MT and gas engine – never really failed to run and got consistently around 25 freeway mpg. Blue crushed velour-type seat material that was pretty much kid-proof. Kept it until trading for a new ’81 Vanagon. Managed to make it to around 85k miles. All in all a lot better vehicle than what was offered by most US manufacturers at the time but it had its issues. Weird stuff broke during the time I owned it; speedometer cable, fuel tank level sender, cv joints, plastic radiator head tank, radiator fan temp switch are all things that I remember off the top of my head. Everything broke between end of warranty at 36k miles and about 60k miles; I must have fixed all the bad stuff (I never developed a “relationship” with a VW service department and fixed it all myself) because nothing broke afterward and it ran pretty well. My air cooled VW’s were definitely more reliable and trouble-free – 130k miles and 7 years on the Vanagon is an example. This was my second foray into the world of water-cooled VW’s and it was “okay” I guess. Bought a new ’89 Fox wagon later for my ex-wife which, although a fairly bottom-end and basic vehicle, was much more reliable and trouble free.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Pathetically slow yes but the Dieselheads loved that _routine_41 MPG .

    They shook like paint mixers because Americans are TOO CHEAP / LAZY to ever adjust the valves ~ do that and they run smoother than Beetles .

    There’s still a bunch of old VW A1 Diesels running around , I hate ’em but they’re O.K. I guess .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      VW diesels were the MPG kings in the 80s. Buddy and I drove across Texas on one tank in a diesel Jetta. Or maybe not, it was a long time ago, but it went a crazy long time between fill ups.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      And once the shaking starts, they rapidly kill the motor mounts which makes it 10X worse. All it takes is a little maintenance…

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Also, none of us has noticed the rare 300E Coupe next to this thing! Those are worth enough that they keep getting fixed!

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      There are four of them in my local autotrader. Pries range from $2,500 to $7,000. Asking prices are higher for convertibles with low miles, but anything mechanical can still kill these cars.

      http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/searchresults.xhtml?zip=92109&modelDescription=300CE&makeCode1=MB&makeDescription=Mercedes_Benz&searchRadius=0

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Ah ha, but you’re in the magic of CA, where salt doesn’t kill things. I’m liking the 92 Sportline two tone black/grey with 117k and a perfect interior for $5100.

    • 0 avatar
      Mieden

      You beat me to it. Moderately clean 124 coupes are going for good money in states besides CA. Rare and pricey ignition module replacement was doing them in a few years ago, but prices are climbing and the super rare 94/95s are near 5 digits again. The value of late gen E32 BMWs (on the other side) has plummeted to nothing now. A clean one is $1300 sans V12.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Owned a 79 Dasher 2door, gas. like every VW/Audi I’ve owned it was a love/hate relationship. The Dasher had a fuel pump fuse that liked to burn thru every 6 months. Finally , after a 2001 Cabrio , I left VW for good. They get a lot of things right , but they don’t seem to learn much from their mistakes.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      The Bosch electric fuel pumps need a constant flow of fuel through them to cool and lubricate ~ chronically running the tank below 1/4 full or not changing the fuel filters enough , is the usual cause of rapid failure .

      Run it out of fuel , even _once_ and that pump’s a goner .

      Look into the inlet nipple , there’s a screen that’s nearly always full of crud , fix that simple thing and a $10 junkyard pump will last 100,000 miles .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Back in the late eighties i was shipping a lot of diesel 4 door sedans to Ireland for a local wholesaler. At the auction in the Bronx he purchased a 2 door 1984 VW Diesel in error and to dump it offered it to me on the cheap. Car only had 18,000 miles and ran like a top. The car was a stripper with only a heater and radio. Top speed down hill 85 MPH with the windows closed. Have a ticket i got in Penn showing 85. My daughters other half is a NYC Police Capt so i was able to get the ticket cancelled. I drove that car for 5 years and 85,000 miles with only tires and a battery. When my daughter got married i gave the car to her to drive to work. Of course after another 20,000 miles she got hit in the back by a hit and run truck and ended back in my backyard. My buddies son was going to collage in Ct at the time so he brought the car from my daughter and after 4 years of driving to school and seeing his future wife in Ct the car had another 125,000 miles on it. The car is still on the road with 845,000 miles going between Boston and Bridgeport every day. The owner drives with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver in case the car dies. This way he can walk away with the plates. All this on the original unopened engine. The oil was always changed on time and problems were attended to as they are all engineers. As for the matter of engine shake the front motor mount has to be adjusted every couple of years or replaced. A new mount is only $14.00. I wish i could buy another one just like it today.

  • avatar
    autojim

    With the power-to-weight of a Diesel Dasher being what it is, it’s possible the moss & lichens grew on the car while it was in motion.

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