By on May 12, 2015

03 - 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The original Volkswagen Passat (aka Audi 80) was sold in the United States as the Dasher, and we’ve seen a few of them in this series. Then, when the second-generation Passat came out, the US-market version was called the Quantum. These cars, which were available here for the 1982 through 1988 model years (after which VW decided, what the hell, they’d call its successor the same thing they called the European version), weren’t what you’d call hot sellers, and just about all of them are long gone. That makes today’s Junkyard Find a rarity for the 21st century.
08 - 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The GL5 had the Audi five-cylinder engine, which would be a lot cooler in this car if the original buyer had opted for the manual transmission.

10 - 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

It’s in very nice condition. No rust, body is straight, interior is nice. Why is it here in this Denver wrecking yard?

11 - 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

I found the original owner’s manual and a big stack of maintenance records inside. The original owner took great car of this car for many years.

18 - 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The records stop after about 120,000 miles and the odometer shows 143k, so I’m guessing that something broke a decade ago and the car sat in a garage until now.

19 - 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Check out these pop-out cassette tape holders!

In Brazil (and many other places, including China), this car was called the Santana.

They just stopped making this car in China a couple years back.

The 2000 Chinese model had a George Baker soundtrack.

Engineered to give you a great exit… and a grand entry.

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72 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Volkswagen Quantum GL5 Sedan...”

  • avatar

    Today’s Rare Ebay Find: A US-built 1987 London Sterling Taxi, in LHD, with factory limousine package. (That felt odd to type.)

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I’m surprised this has the Ford 2.3-4. Many of these had a Nissan Diesel.

      • 0 avatar

        Is that just a 2.3 from an Escort? I’m really only familiar with larger Ford engines. I’d be glad in a limousine not to have a Nissan small truck diesel in the 80s.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          Since it was produced in the US it’s the 2.3-4. The same engine that powered the Pinto, Mustang II, Fairmont etc. The turbo/intercooled version was in the Merkur XR4Ti, SVO Mustang and T-Bird Turbo coupe.

  • avatar

    These always just looked like a 90% sized Audi 4000. I’ve seen a two door Quantum hatch/wagon around here before, I think. If in fact such a thing exists and it was not actually a Fox.

    And man somebody really cared about this car, for a long time. Imagine all the crap they had to put up with for 20 odd years.

  • avatar

    Wow, I had completely forgotten about this vehicle altogether until this was posted.

    This was exotic elixir material in metro Detroit in the late 80s, and at least one preppie student at my suburban high school drove (and may have been bought) one of these. VWs were typically of the Cabriolet variety, and driven by students living in Grosse Pointe, though there were a few basic VW Fox’s trolling the parking lot, also (more of a middle class St. Clair Shores stock thing).

    Can’t wait to see what Crabspirits does with this if he’s so inclined.

    p.s. – On a major off topic note, there have been weird rumors of some gravity regarding goings ons by my clients involved in auto supply business of late.

    • 0 avatar

      I dated a girl in high school that drove a Quantum. Good thing she was faster than the car.

    • 0 avatar

      Rumors of what DW?

      • 0 avatar

        Tier I’s stressing out employees trying to get mass M&A deals done really quickly, and manufacturers aggressively pressing for cost reductions more so than at any time than he can remember (he started in 2002).

        • 0 avatar

          So a demand to further cheapen out the parts?

          Hey did I mention the front A/C on my MY14 Town and Country from Enterprise just happened to inexplicably stop working after turning the car off to fill up in central Virginia and has not ever come back on? Seems these days everything is being needlessly beancounted.

          • 0 avatar

            Pretty much. Over burgers at Red Coat Tavern he told me legal & accounting departments are collectively angry as they’ve been short staffed since 2009.

            This guy is a major networker, too, working for a big Tier I.

            Aside from the broken A/C, how is the T&C?

          • 0 avatar

            This one runs well but the one they initially gave me had a severe transmission shutter going in reverse at 29K. My advice is don’t buy Chrysler vans from fleet, ever, as they can’t take the abuse apparently.

          • 0 avatar

            Minivans are perpetually under-transmissioned across the board, IMO.

            p.s. – Cadillac CTS is joining ATS on a now abysmal, long term sales decline into the sink hole. The 3rd gen CTS is a massive failure even as judged by GM standards.

            Cadillac CTS Sales Down 42% CY15; Trim Level Changes Considered
            Automotive News

            May 11, 2015


            Euro purse puppy Ellinghaus (who should stick to selling pens) now says reshuffling trim levels will cure ATS/CTS illness. These people should be comedians.

            Look at post #12 in that thread by Ed753, who also posts a link to proof:

            “What Cadillac wants (price) and what the customers want (to pay) are mis-aligned, it is either that or Cadillac hasn’t yet found it true customers.

            GM is still advertising 2014 CTS on GM Family First (employee) site with $21,000 discounts: LINK (and ELR’s with $37,000 discounts).”


  • avatar

    All of the taxis in Shanghai, and a good number of the ones in Guangzhou, are Santanas. I loved the 80’s flashback I got from riding in them a few months ago.

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    A common theme in Junkyard Finds (esp. since the junkyards are usually in the dry West where body rot is often not an issue) is that the car appears to be in good condition and yet here it is in a junkyard. I don’t think this is strange at all. Probably in most cases, the car needs major work (or replacement) on the engine and/or transmission. If it was drivable, it would be on the road, not in a junkyard. If it costs $3,000 to put the vehicle back on the road and when you are done, the value of the vehicle is $2,000, it makes sense to junk the car. This car is of no interest to most collectors and the average person doesn’t want to be seen in a 30 yr old car, so who wants it?

    I just went thru this with my ’99 A6. It was (reasonably) well maintained and the body was in (reasonably) good condition with just over 100K on it and I would have kept on driving it, but one day the cam chain tensioner took a dump and the valves had an unfortunate meeting with the pistons and that was the end for me. It came that close to going to the junkyard, but some Nigerian kid bought it from me on Craigslist for a couple of hundred more than the junkman was offering, with plans to make 1 vehicle out of 2.

  • avatar

    “this car was called the Santana.”

    The song was renamed “Oye Como No Va” as a result.

  • avatar

    Obviously since this 29 year old car has been found in a junkyard, there is an opportunity here for someone to drone on about VW reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Most of the stuff in the maintenance list looks to be age-related (although that set of pads and rotors should have lasted more than 2 years). The stripped spline in the torque convertor is unforgivable, and whatever killed it in 2004 was probably equally galling.

      I wonder who’s buried in Toledo?

  • avatar

    I always liked these cars a lot. My Dad, who loved his 5000S, came awful close to buying a Syncro version. Even though it wasn’t as slick looking as the Audi, he loved the idea of getting essentially a 4000CS Quattro under the skin at a discount.

  • avatar

    Much more likely that the VDO speedo broke (as they all do) and it has a bunch more miles on it than what shows. Almost certainly junked due to a blown slushbox, those 5s are pretty darned bulletproof.

    These were quite common in New England back in the day, particularly once the AWD version came out. Haven’t seen one on the road in ages of course. 29 years is a long, long, long time in the land of salt.

    • 0 avatar

      The 5s are bulletproof, but everything around them crumbles. Electrical gremlins took many of 1980’s VWs/Audis to an early grave.

      • 0 avatar

        Damn electrics and vacuum lines, accompanied by brittle plastics once they’re 10 years old, and failing hoses.

        VAG really needs to use better engine and mechanical implement plastics. My 10 year old Audis were brittle and cracking under the hood – I didn’t have such issues with 10 year old Infinitis, or a 10 year old Lexus. Or for that matter, a 15 year old Impreza wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah. My 300D came with a broken VDO speedo (it was 23 years old at the time).

      I fixed it [a simple matter of roughing up the bearing surface where the drive gear meets the input shaft, so it no longer spins freely and can do its job again].

      It broke again maybe 8 years later, same fix.

      (On the other hand, I must admit the original VDO analog clocks in those *usually* are working, even almost 40 years on, which is impressive.)

  • avatar

    The owner couldn’t find any Quantum mechanics. (somebody had to say it)

    • 0 avatar

      Well done :)

    • 0 avatar

      Dearth of mechanics familiar with this brought about final Quantum of Solace (not remotely as funny, or funny at all).

      • 0 avatar

        That has to be the worst Bond movie I’ve ever seen.

        “Oh I am an evil eco terrorist – I will steal all the water from Bolivia! They have lots of money for me to extort!”

        Also, here’s an opera. And an eco-friendly party. Oh no here comes James Bond and he’s in an electric Fiesta and an electric Escape!

  • avatar

    Completely forgot about these as I have not seen one in a long time, but the Chinese definitely dragged it out and I believe did 3 or 4 cosmetic refreshes

  • avatar

    Two notes about the interior:

    #1 Leather wrapped. wheeeel.
    #2 The dashboard reminds me of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata’s.

  • avatar

    I think I’ve seen one of these once…and a Fox too.

    But what I’ve never seen is the “aero” Passat that followed it. I’m not sure if they were even sold in America that way…

    • 0 avatar


      We got those, in sedan and wagon format. Last year I saw one of these in wagon, AND it said TDI on the front grille! They’re just very rare.

      Here’s one in the revised grille version.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, that. Never seen a single one.

        I’m mostly familiar with the early 2000s Passat. B5?

        • 0 avatar

          Yep, B5 is the famous, pretty good looking one (with awful turbo lag in the turbo’ed models).

          I honestly think these looked so old by the time the B5 came around, and were so worn out, that they all went away. As we can see above, it was a very dated platform it was riding on, only suitable for 40 years of Chinese taxi.

  • avatar

    I remember them very well. In the 1980s, they seemed so futuristic to me. Even the name. Quantum. Now, it just looks like space junk.

  • avatar

    Jeremy was dealing with a loss of consortium.

    Jeremy watched the men start to go to work. One of them fired up the Ford 555D backhoe. Once it settled into a melodic sputtering idle, the Hispanic man at the controls finished the task of making his former best friend one with the earth. Most of the family and friends of the deceased had already left. This was Jeremy’s intent after that embarrassing display with the godforsaken Quantum, expiring in the middle of the funeral procession. “Who’s that with the POS?”, Jeremy theorized to himself, “Oh, that’s Jeremy. Matt’s high school friend. Poor guy probably doesn’t have a pot to piss in, driving a car like that.”

    “Sure as shit.”, Jeremy said. His neatly pressed trouser leg hung out of the open driver’s door. “BEEE-BOOO-BOOO BEEE-BOOO-BOOO BEEE-BOOO-BOOO”, repeated the Volkswagen’s comical chime. Jeremy tried the key again. “WEEEeeeeeEEEeee” The starter cranked the 5 cylinder with varying tempo, trying to skitter alive, but not quite on the cusp. He popped the hood, and studied mechanisms he knew very little about. He went to the vacuum checker thingy. He looked over the part, restrained and shored up with welding wire. “Make sure you get another one of these.”, the fanatical previous owner told him. He blew off the suggestion over time. “Ain’t spending any more money of this fu$%er.” Now he was paying for it. The laundry list of repairs the seller printed out for him to gloat the VW’s virtues should have conversely been a red flag. He caressed the plastic tubing and attached device, hoping his touch would impart a healing quality like that of E.T. Then, he tried the key again.

    Jeremy gave it a rest. He shut the door to silence the melodic annoyance. “Such a happy chime.”, he thought with sarcasm, “Probably to help you feel better when the car takes a giant crap.” The excavator boom rattled away nearby as it pushed more soil into the void. It gave him a sense of perspective. He ratcheted down the clunky seatback and sighed, then twisted the knob on the Pioneer deck to provide more volume.

    No, it’ll never stop,
    My hands are in the air, yes I’m in love.
    My heart is beating like a jungle drum
    Tokka dum da dum tokka dum dum dum

    Jeremy sat in the stranded Quantum and daydreamed of Emily. He hadn’t seen his old crush in years. She got better with age. Hopefully, she hadn’t seen him pushing the stalled Quantum off to the side of the intersection. A ghostly thought of Matt mocked him, “You’re never gonna talk to her.”, he would laugh. Jeremy grabbed the key again. The engine fired and sputtered. Surprised, Jeremy flipped his seat upright again and prodded the pedal to keep it alive.
    My heart is beating like a jungle drum….
    The Quantum turned onto Central Ave, and smoked it’s left front tire back towards Toledo.

    Jeremy was delighted to see Emily’s Civic still in the parking lot. Before he could process what he was doing, he was standing in front of her, trying to figure out what to say. The conversation was excruciatingly cordial. One of Emily’s friends stole her attention. Then, with a departing, “It was nice meeting you.” she was gone. Jeremy sipped some watered down lemonade, and crunched a Chips Ahoy. Matt mocked him in his brain again, shaking his head. Jeremy crumbled the plastic cup before tossing it into the bin, then headed back out to the parking lot to have another go at hot-starting a 1986 Quantum.

    Jeremy didn’t shut the VW off again until he reached the Iowa80 truck stop. He regretted it. After a quick nap in an uncomfortable seat, he set off again for Denver at 3AM. Just as he was crossing the state line out of Nebraska, the sun silhouetted the stilted VW on the highway ahead, into the stormy darkness.

    The extremely vague Craigslist ad didn’t do Jeremy any favors.
    “1986 quantum GL5. Not sure whats wrong with it. Needs work.”
    Finally, a man arrived with a tow dolly to relieve him of his burden with $300 cash in hand.
    “I’m gonna take this, and go get some beer. Good luck with that thing.”

  • avatar


  • avatar

    I drove an 1987 four-door sedan identical to this–same color and interior, same five speed–for five years. It was a nice car for its day. Not a speedster but with the manual it was fun to drive and handled well enough. The seats were very comfortable and the cloth upholstery opened my eyes to its advantage over leather–warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Some odd ergonomic details, i.e., window switches for the front were on the driver’s door, those for the back were stuck at the front of the console, just below the cassette holders in the photo.

  • avatar

    My first car was an 84 Quantum. Given to me with only 7k miles on it by my parents in 87. Very tough car, in 2 years of high school and 4 years of college I put 80k miles on it it survived whatever indignities I threw at it. Neutral drops to get tires to spin, slamming into medians, didn’t faze it. Any faster or any less handling and I’d be dead. Loved the car. Radiator sat sidewise in it. Got rid of it in 93 when I bought a new Ford Probe GT.

  • avatar

    I owned a 1984 Quantum. Even then, nobody knew what they were, so I bought one a year old with 20k on it for about 50% of MSRP. I beat the pulp out of it, autocrossed it, towed trailers with it – it was the only Quantum I’d ever seen with a trailer brake controller, but I racked up over 25,000 miles towing 2,000 – 3,000# trailers. The car and engine was better suited for this than you might think.

    Had the usual replacements – one water pump, one radiator, one alternator, one clutch. The only irritating failure was its penchant for a front wheel bearing every 40,000 miles. It lived out its last 120k in the arrow straight roads of Michigan’s upper peninsula and northern Minnesota; never lost a wheel bearing in those final days. One electrical issue – a failed fuel pump relay. Rust finally did it in, and I sold it with 310,000 miles on it, with water entering the trunk through rust-holes in the bottom of the rear fenders. I really wanted a Syncro or a turbo-diesel, or even just a wagon version, but I’m still fond of the sedan I owned.

  • avatar

    These were very popular in Mexico in the’80s–my best friend in high school had one (went to the American School of Guadalajara)

  • avatar

    I had no idea VW ever did a “European Delivery” program. When did they stop this?

    • 0 avatar

      The stopped it when they stopped making VWs for Americans in Germany. Since the early 1990s, the strong Mark/Euro resulted in most of our VWs coming from their Mexican plant.

      Maybe they should start a Mexican Delivery program. ;)

  • avatar
    Tomas De Torquematic

    Long time reader – first time commenter! It’s taken me this long to finally register but, WOW! Those cassette holders!

  • avatar

    I bet cassettes entered those little drawers and never left again until the car was sold, broken into, or scrapped.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Nissan Version of these they made in Japan and sold in a Nissan dealership!

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