By on October 17, 2016

1994 Volkswagen Passat GLX in Colorado Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

There was a time when many American buyers of family sedans — particularly European family sedans — ordered their cars with manual transmissions and didn’t think such a choice was a big deal or weird in any way.

Those days are gone, forever, but a trip to your local U-Wrench-It yard is likely to turn up something like this 22-year-old B4 Passat, complete with VR6 engine and five-speed manual transmission. We’ve had trucks for our last four Junkyard Finds, so it’s time for a car!

1994 Volkswagen Passat GLX in Colorado Junkyard, VR6 engine - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I spotted this car in a Denver self-service yard a couple of weeks ago, and its 172-horsepower VR6 engine is still there. It’s very rare for anyone to pull these engines from junkyard cars, so its presence did not come as a big surprise.

1994 Volkswagen Passat GLX in Colorado Junkyard, decklid emblem - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Someone added a Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe badge to the decklid, for some reason.

1994 Volkswagen Passat GLX in Colorado Junkyard, shifter - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The third pedal is likely one factor contributing to this car’s demise because shoppers for cheap, high-mileage cars can’t or won’t consider a manual transmission. Volkswagen enthusiasts tend to be the worst cheapskates in the entire used-car-shopping universe, so trying to sell this car to one of them would have been approximately 10,000 times more frustrating than just feeding it straight into The Crusher.

When doing the early-1990s version of online dating (that is, using a 45-pound analog cellphone), it turns out that specifying your Volkswagen year and model is helpful when trying to find your prospective mate.

“It comes from the belief that driving is passion.”

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

65 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1994 Volkswagen Passat GLX...”


  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I was selling for a VW dealer in 1997, mostly out of the used car building. I can still to this day recall selling a maroon low mileage 93 or 94 passat to a couple and just about begging them to not buy it. It was the worst car I had ever seen seen in terms of quality. It was on the lot for months and had to go to the shop weekly to get something else repaired after a test drive.

    • 0 avatar
      zerofoo

      So not much has changed in 20 years…

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I had a Black 93. It was a great car when nothing was wrong with it. That was rare though. It drove fantastic though. One of the most stable cars at high speeds.

      Also, correction to the article. These 94 and older Passats were B3s. The B4 came out in 95 and was basically a facelift.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      That engine compartment shot… it brought up trauma. My wife’s old B4 NEVER was completely working. Not the first day she bought it new, and never after that. The afterthought routing of the AC lines that interfere with EVERYTHING! The … never mind.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    These were notorious for leaking heater cores. They all leaked eventually, fogging-up the windshield with a slimy film.

    There was an easy way to fix this, and a hard way. Surprisingly, most techs went for the hard way, which involved 8-16 hours of disassembling the dash, one fastener at a time.
    The easy(er) way was to take the whole dash out in one piece, reversing the factory build process. You could get the whole job done in 2-3 hours with a little practice.

    • 0 avatar
      W.Minter

      Ha! Had one of those with the same problem (’96, Europe, 2.0), but it was like 10 years old then. My GF called it Aquarium car. Oh so funny in the winter. Had it at the official dealer, and the service rep told me: Sell it. One of those rare wise words.
      Fun fact: VW still hasn’t fixed the problem on the EUDM Passats (a relative has one, a 2008 afair, the issue started at around 7 years and 140k km). I assume VW just buys very cheap parts. That’s probably why *new* VW OEM / aftermarket heater cores are cheaper than *used* Toyota counterparts.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The problem was the pressure caps on the radiators. They didn’t release when they were supposed to, so the weakest link in the cooling system would blow instead, which turned out to be the heater cores. MKII Golfs and Jettas were the same. The shop that replaced mine had a jig they built that tested the new pressure caps before installation. The caps came in from Germany in bags of maybe a gross. They’d test all of them and return what seemed like at least half for being defective straight from the factory. This was in 1990, and it was a problem that had existed since at least 1985.

    • 0 avatar
      lon888

      A co-worker had one of these except it was the wagon in metallic purple (she really like purple cars). It had the same heater core issue but hers did on a yearly basis. She finally got rid of it in the early 2000’s when parts became a 6-week wait along with $$$$ repair bills. Totally unreliable car.

  • avatar
    Paul Alexander

    This car speaks to me, as I too prefer my turbo coupes to have four doors and natural aspiration.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    So how did we go from no grills to today’s monstrous yaps? I wonder if overheating had something to do with it.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Ah the VR6 engine – for whatever reason, I thought this was a pretty hot setup back in the mid-90s. Maybe from my love of the Corrado.

    I looked briefly at a VR6 Passat back then… but thankfully sanity took over and I ended up with a Nissan hardbody as my first out of college vehicle buy.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    The Crown Vic had the same front end look at that time, I believe.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    These cars and Jettas too had sort of a poor man’s BMW appeal. A lot of customers seemed to like these for their Euro mystique/sophistication- and they certainly were nice cars.

    The four cylinder had reasonable get up and go for the time but the VR6 came out at a really neat time in autodom: the market suddenly had a choice of mid-size cars with modern engines that made *more than* 150hp. There were these VWs, Maximas, Taurus, Intrepids, and quite a few more that I’m forgetting. There’s a good chance that the trade-in, for this junkyard Passat, was an old car with an 85mph speedometer.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A used BMW has sort of a poor man’s appeal :D

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      These cars were so much nicer than American and Japanese sedans. It wasn’t even close. You got good seats, nicely weighted steering that let you feel what the front-end was doing, controls that were logically placed, a suspension that didn’t feel like a Pogo stick in molasses. The interiors even looked nice (something VW could re-learn any time, as far as I’m concerned). They even came with good tires and a decent stereo!

      Sure, they had their downsides. The heater core issue, the sticking door handles (it took VW the better part of 30 years to fix that one!), peeling rear-view mirrors, electrical problems, and a few more.

      Fact is, they were way better to drive than anything else at that price, and there was a market for that.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Oh yes, the seats, steering feel, and suspension were also a big part of the appeal of contemporary Volvos (well, except for how the Volvo 240 would heel like a sailboat when you went around a sharp turn). I like the pogo stick in molasses, hahaha. That certainly appealed to some buyers (not me), the same ones who like to drive slowly for miles and miles and forget that their blinkers are blinking… some folks want their cars to handle like a floating air mattress in a swimming pool.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        In that same time period, I would SO much rather pick up a Camry sedan in LE V6 trim, which had the same MSRP as a GLX Passat. Awesome quality and refinement, fantastic long term durability/reliability. Okay worse road feel and not as engaging to drive perhaps.

        • 0 avatar
          thattruthguy

          No one really knew in 1993 that the Japanese would make much better upscale cars than the Germans. It was still anyone’s game to win.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          At gte:

          Even a first gen Camry would outlast most VW products of that time. Wont drive as well, but you wont be replacing the heater core either.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            I haven’t seen a first-gen Camry in over a decade, maybe even in this century. I do regularly Mk2 Golfs and Jettas.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            1st and 2nd gen Camries are rust magnets for sure. However I’ll put the 92-96 Camry up against just about anything in terms of corrosion resistance during that era. They’re just now starting to go pretty bad on unmaintained examples. Considering it’s a 20+ year old car at this point, that’s not bad at all. But it’s not difficult at all to find a very clean Camry in northern locales of that vintage.

            In addition to the good rust proofing, the longevity of the suspension components (struts, balljoints, control arms, etc etc) is nothing short of astounding (to say nothing of the long lived engines/transmissions and rattle-free interiors). I will put up a 3rd gen Camry up against anything from that era for scrutiny. They really went all out on that generation, and sadly retreated from that level off over-building in a mainstream midsize sedan.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            If we’re going to talk rust its hard to top the Volvo 940 of that time, Krhodes1 can attest to that in their salty climate!

    • 0 avatar

      My ’92 Passat wagon with 5-speed and 16v 2-litre 4-cyl was a hoot to drive. Quick, stable, spacious, sensible, and reliable with good driver feedback. It was much more fun to drive than the ’98 A6 wagon that replaced it.
      I have a soft spot for Passat wagons as a result. Glad to have owned one…even if it wasn’t the later 1990s VR6 I really wanted at the time.

      The quirky styling was part of the fun, IMO. Those who think this was ugly, look at the back half of a Camry wagon of that era. It is rivaled in its hideousness only by the rear end of Honda Crosstours and, of course, Aztek.

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      In the early 90’s, people still thought the Germans made a really reliable car maybe even better than the Japanese. It was the American cars that had a shattered reputation.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Nitpicking, but that’s a B3 Passat. The B4 generation appeared in 1995 in North America.

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      You beat me to it. Having owned a couple of these cars, I have some experience with them. The B3 Passat (switched to transverse FWD from the longitudinal architecture shared with Audi on the B2) ran from MY 1989 to 1993. There was no 1994 model year Passat in North America. The B4 Passat (heavily revised B3) appeared in early 1994 as early 1995 models. The car pictured here would be a ’93.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        There were 94 Passats. I believe they might have been VR6 only. I had a 93 made later in the year, and for certain parts I had to ask for a 94 because of some changes they made.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Am I missing something? If used VW buyers are the biggest cheapskates around, then why would they not prefer a manual?

    I have a good friend who fits the mold. Drives only 10+ year old diesel VW’s. Runs them on grease that he gets from restaurants. Has a homemade hopper in his driveway that is heated to keep the grease from coagulating and strains it before placing it in the hopper.

    The bits and pieces may fail but he generally gets 400k plus out of the engines.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    B3s made up a huge part of the stream of used German cars that flooded across the border by way of the Baltics into Western Russia in the early 90s (at the same time as used JDMs were entering the Far East by the boat load into Vladivostok). The jump in comfort, quality and driving characteristics of a B3 Passat to a former Lada driver probably felt equivalent to getting into a space ship. Everyone was fascinated by the lack of a grille, they worried about what was considered low ground clearance back then.

    Very well liked cars over there, they’re still out there in reasonable numbers, living out their final days as cheap beaters.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M00-vfYOdgU

  • avatar
    olddavid

    My first experience with “filled for life” transmission. Several blocks over was a garage sale with two Rectilinear III’s for the smashing price of $75. While loading I saw one of these sitting with the detritus of winter all over it. I asked, and she said it will not shift out of first, would I pay $200? VR6, leather, and sunroof for salvage value? I learned my lesson on VW but it took six months. Much like the Catera lesson I absorbed two years later. My brain thinks “I can fix that”, while my wife looks askance at my stupidity.

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    More nitpicking- I think that’s an Oldsmobile turbo coupe badge. At least, it sure looks like olds script to me.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    FYI…THAT was NOT a cell phone. It was simply a wireless home phone. Be more observant before professionally writing an article.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Surprised there isn’t more of a secondary market for these engines, given how cool they sound and how many older VW products they more or less bolt into.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    These are kinda neat, different looking cars, I’d sooner grab an Infiniti or a Crown Vic for this look though, as I dont exactly bode well with German engineering.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’m surprised no one has plucked the VR6 for their Mark II or III Golf or Jetta.

    The Turbo Coupe badge is right off of a 87-88 T-Bird. What other Turbo coupes were around then?

  • avatar
    whitworth

    That era of VW quality was so bad, I’m honestly amazed the whole company didn’t go under for something like Lemon lawsuits.

    It’s a shame because the styling of that era was great, I still think that Passat has beautiful lines.

    I remember a family member buying a used Corrado from a VW dealer that was like 3-4 years old, and it had the service paperwork and I kid you not, it was like $8,000+ worth of repairs that had already happened, about an inch thick of service papers from what I would consider to be a lightly used car.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    Speaking of early 90s VWs, just this evening on my way home I came across a Mk 3 VW Jolf. For those unfamiliar, the Jolf and related Getta were the results of swapping the front clip, lights, fenders, and hood of a Mk3 or Mk4 Golf with those of a Jetta. Since those cars were virtually identical from the rear axle forward, it was a direct bolt-in affair, and resulted in two cars which each looked a little bit more unique.

    Back in my VW forum days, ca. 2003, people would post online looking for someone with their cars’ counterpart in the same colour to swap parts with. I find it kind of fun, though I think that the Golf got the better end of the deal.

    I’m surprised to see that interest in VR6 donors has apparently waned. 10 years ago or so, guys would step over their mothers to get one to swap into their Mk2s. Even the humble 2.0 16v, with its 135hp was coveted to take the place of the 100 hp 1.8.

    • 0 avatar
      never_follow

      You don’t even need to swap fenders, just hood, grille, and lights.

      Extra bonus points for throwing E-codes in so that you can actually see at night, the Gti headlights are ok, but the Jetta lights are first gen Chrysler Intrepid bad.

      The VR6 is a fantastic motor, but sadly it’s on it’s last legs thanks to the rise of the turbo 4. If I recall, while the Mk3 swap is super simple, something about the B3/4 swap is a pain in the ass, which is why nobody plucked this one.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Those Mk4 Jolfs look really great. The Gettas just look stupid.

      Of course, they’re still Mk4s, suitable only for DIYers with endless reserves of patience.

  • avatar
    Augie the Argie

    Had a 91 GL model with sun roof in Metallic Light Green, loved the way it drove for an unusually large Veedub, nice torquey 2nd gear. Nobody mention the enormous back seats with a reclining feature! Until as it was mentioned before the leaks of antifreeze, oil and all started… All the happiness turned into disappointment after another, gave it many chances as the car looked good and drove well. I know by now these were the malaise era for VW but my dad and I never considered one anymore. It lasted only 90k and when I crashed it I had a guilty sense of relief.

  • avatar
    macmcmacmac

    When I worked the VW lot back in the early 90’s, there was one Passat that always had a wet carpet after a rainstorm. The owner told my brother and I to find the leak, which we did, after basically stripping the entire interior of the vehicle. Someone on the line neglected to install a rubber gasket around one of the tail lights. The head mechanic was furious, telling us we had removed some parts he had never laid eyes on in his entire career.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • jkross22: The QX50 was a very pleasant surprise. It needs a tidier one screen infotainment set up, but it’s a...
  • Chocolatedeath: I love Infiniti so much that when I finally got to a point in my life where I can buy a brand new one...
  • Jeff S: Unfortunately highdesertcat that seem to be the way most manufacturers are going. The Toyota V8 and the...
  • Chocolatedeath: I dont even know what that means but thanks for the laugh. Without knowing what it means I would give...
  • Steve Biro: It’s another CUV. Who cares?

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber