Rare Rides: 1986 Volkswagen Quantum, From Volkswagen of Yore

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides 1986 volkswagen quantum from volkswagen of yore

After our last few Rare Rides were utterly luxurious and brougham in nature, it’s time to get back to the basics of motoring. A practical box where the windows are manually operated (quaint!) and number of buttons on the dash can be counted on two hands.

It’s a Volkswagen Quantum wagon from 1986.

The Quantum arrived at an interesting juncture for Volkswagen, as the automaker’s first real midsize offering in the North American market. For 1986, Volkswagen’s American division offered a total of five models: Golf (regular and Cabriolet), Jetta, Quantum, Scirocco, and the Vanagon. Quite a contrast to VW in 2018, which spoils North America with twice that number (or more, if you’re generous with what separate model means).

Though the Quantum was a brand new entry for North America in 1982, it was in fact the second-generation Passat in most other places around the globe. Based on the same platform as the Audi 80, the Quantum was available with three doors in weirdly-shaped hatchback form, or as a four-door sedan or wagon. Various displacement inline engines of four or five cylinders were offered, with either front-drive or four-wheel drive Syncro. Syncro versions came with the top-spec Audi 2.0-liter inline-five, which is the one powering today’s Quantum.

In addition to the Audi platform underneath, the Syncro components were straight from an Audi 80 Quattro. Quantum Syncro sedan owners paid the price for their skinflint nature in purchasing the cheaper Volkswagen offering; they had no spare tire well because of the four-wheel drive’s axle layout. On the Quantum wagon, Volkswagen tried a little harder and swapped the axle with one from a Vanagon in order to offer a flat rear floor. This was a worthwhile endeavor, as there was no competing Audi 80 wagon.

The Quantum would live on through the 1989 model year, when it was replaced by the third-generation Passat for 1990. Volkswagen was fond of renaming the Passat throughout the world. In addition to Quantum, it was known as Carat and Corsar. In the Japanese market, it wore a Nissan badge and carried the Santana name. Finding huge success in the Chinese market, that very same traditionally boxy Santana would remain in production there between 1985 and 2012.

The grey box we’ve been admiring today is located on Craigslist, in Idaho. With a single owner and 86,000 miles on the odometer, it’s in just about museum-quality condition. The seller is asking just $4,000 for the 32-year-old family hauler. Feel like taking a Quantum Leap?

[Images via seller]

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  • NN NN on Mar 28, 2018

    I lived in China 2002-2003. The VW Santana at the time (this car in sedan form) was the most popular car, and the taxi of choice in Shenzhen--at least the more expensive nicer and legitimate taxis. They also had "Tianjin Xiali" which were re-branded Daihatsu Charades, and of course motorcycle taxis. VW sold millions of these Santanas. The taxi drivers in Shenzhen, at the time all new to driving, drove these things like their arses were on fire. Full throttle all the time, slam on brakes, full speed right into intersections (cars going straight yield at last second), tailgating and lane splitting the norm. It was basically a time when everyone on the road had the driving experience of 16 year olds in America, and no road safety laws were existent or enforced at all. It was the wild east! It was insanely dangerous but I developed some serious respect for the way these old VW's handled at those limits with those insane drivers. I go to China these days for work and the road conditions have calmed down incredibly to where it doesn't seem that much more dangerous than here. Shenzhen has old Hyundai Sonata taxis. I wonder if there is a correlation!

  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Mar 28, 2018

    I remember the Quantum. Did not see very many in the shop, but more of the Audi version. The turbo models had some add-ons to fix some troubles noted earlier. All the VW/Audi 5 cyl models I saw had the radiator off towards the left headlight with an electric fan. This arrangement worked fine unless the system was contaminated, low on coolant, or the water pump failed. Gasoline turbos had an oil cooler (sourced from an air-cooled VW)with more of that "cardboard" duct work. Also an electric fan and plastic ducts to put air over the intake manifold and injectors. The injector O-rings would get hard from the heat and crack. The intake leak would make the engine run badly or even lead to burned valves and failed headgaskets. Later 1980s engines had an extra electric water pump. That would keep the coolant circulating through the engine and the turbo bearing housing when the engine was shut off. Keeping these systems working would be troublesome and costly as the cars got older. If they did not work the car would soon be non-functional. With all those add-ons the engine compartment was a real shoe-horn situation.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?