By on April 19, 2018

Today’s Rare Ride is a reader submission by one Eric T. Perusing Craigslist in Frasier Crane’s hometown of Seattle, he came upon this quite uncommon Volkswagen Passat wagon. It’s a variant never sold by American dealers, but available on the Canadian side of the border in very limited quantities.

It’s all-wheel drive, has a manual transmission, and is supercharged.

Rare Rides recently featured this wagon’s older brother, in the form of the 1986 Quantum wagon. In 1990 the Quantum became the Passat, when VW consolidated model name variations in its lineup. Volkswagen gave in to aerodynamics this time around, and the new Passat featured much smoother styling its predecessor. This one also dared to go sans grille, much like the new Infiniti Q45 which also debuted that year.

Built in Emden, Germany, the B3 Passat was available in fewer configurations than prior generations: gone were the two-door sedan and the three- and five-door hatchbacks. Around the globe, customers chose a sedan or wagon with either four or five doors. Rather than sharing a platform with an Audi like the prior generation, this Passat was based on Volkswagen’s Golf (A2), extended in all directions. This same versatile platform underpinned the Corrado, Jetta, Seat Toledo, and a couple of awful Chinese cars. The A2 platform is still in use today, underneath the Chery A11 being produced in Jordan.

While American market Passats received 2.0-liter inline-four or 2.8 VR6 engines, Canadians had another option: G60. In use between 1988 and 1993 on sporty Volkswagen offerings, the G60 engine was a larger version of the G40 which had been around since 1986. At 1.8 liters in displacement, the supercharged G60 engine produced 158 horsepower. In the United States market, the expensive Corrado was the only vehicle ever available with the G60 engine, and only between 1988 and 1992 (replaced by the VR6).

Alas it would seem a manual transmission, all-wheel drive, supercharged Passat wagon did not hold great appeal for Canadians. The seller indicates only 200 people opted to purchase these wagons new, though this is an unverified figure. This light blue one was imported across the border from the affordable Seattle suburb of Vancouver, in British Columbia. With 170,000 miles on the odometer, the seller reassures that many Syncro components have been recently replaced. The windshield is new, and the metal moonroof panel has been replaced with the glass one from a ’97 Passat. The owner has also installed a US instrument cluster (an interesting decision) to avoid “the mental math of kilometers.”

After spending over $10,000 on the Syncro, the seller is willing to let it go for $4,500.

Are you like Eric, with your own Rare Rides to submit? Send it to me on Twitter, or email [email protected]

[Images via seller]

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50 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1992 Volkswagen Passat Syncro G60...”

  • avatar

    Money pit. An interesting one, at least.

  • avatar

    “It’s all-wheel drive, has a manual transmission, and is supercharged.” And, best of all, a VW. Buy it if you have an extra ten grand in reserve for the inevitable repairs.

  • avatar

    Didn’t they make a Corrado with that same engine around the same time?

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    In 1997 i worked for a vw store selling in the used car lot.

    Early 90’s Passat might be the worst cars ever produced, surpassing Yugo or certain GM product.

    Nothing on these cars worked for very long. Only god could help if the car had a sunroof.
    It was fun selling 4 year old low mileage units in 1997, potential victims, err customers who would get awed by 24k mile 93’s in 97′. Clearly not understanding the car spends a minimum of 6 months annually in the shop.

    • 0 avatar

      @ 87 Morgan – A friendly tip: In a contraction of a year, the apostrophe replaces the omitted numbers. 1993 is contracted to ’93; 1997 is contracted to ’97. I say this not to flame you but because your comments are worthwhile.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        No worries, hard to believe i am married to an English teacher. We can agree she is not the one who married up…

        • 0 avatar

          Thank you for taking that in the spirit in which it was intended.

          Adding to the confusion is that English speakers of a certain age (mostly Americans who grew up in a world before electronic italicization) were taught to pluralize letters and numbers using apostrophes. Arthur’s use of 1990’s below is completely correct according to what I learned in grade school. Nowadays, the convention seems limited to lowercase letters. It can help when counting BMW 328i’s and 328is’s. But with Pontiac GTOs, there is no confusion.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a ’93 sedan with a VR6. It was both the best and worst car I have ever owned. The sunroof was flawless however. The important thing with sunroofs is to use them regularly to keep the mechanisms from seizing, and keep the drains clean. The engine however always needed something. It was starting to cost as much as a lease payment to keep it going, and I was doing the work myself.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        The vr6 was a fun motor to drive, for the time the 176 hp (i think that was the rating) was a lot. The Jetta and Golf were a hoot to drive with it. My first experience with massive torque steer.

        The first run Passats were a special kind of hell to keep functioning properly, but great driving cars.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I knew someone who owned a early 90’s Passat back in the late 90’s. Inherited from a relative it was a nice ride, for a while. Then came the electrical gremlins as well as cooling system issues. I had surmised that the cooling system problems were because of the grillless facade but the ductwork under the bumper in front of the radiator seemed to provide adequate cooling.

      • 0 avatar

        A good portion of my problems were cooling system related. The cooling system was needlessly complex and made from very poor materials.

        • 0 avatar

          “needlessly complex and made from very poor materials”

          That could describe a lot of German engineering right there.

        • 0 avatar
          Hellenic Vanagon

          You are right but for the wrong car.

          You are not talking about a Passat Syncro g60.

          For 26 years or 29~.000 km there is no glitch from the, engine’s, cooling system, using always, with no exceptions, the G11, G12, G13 VW’s coolant additive.

          If you are preoccupied, you can have an opinion for any car on the planet, of course.

          My friends, with cars of the late decade, of any manufacturer almost, can have up to 30-40.000 km, at most, without major problems on, almost, any system of their cars.

          The reality is distorted continuously.

          The Syncro Heresy.

  • avatar

    Hard to justify the added complexity of supercharging here. The NA 2.0 made 135/135; this G60 was only good for 158/166.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Worked out for a while with a guy who purchased an early 1990’s Passat wagon (non synchro and not supercharged). It seemed like a good idea at the time. Actually seemed quite nice the few times that I got to ride in it as a passenger.

    We cannot list the names that he eventually got around to to using to describe it, the manufacturer and the service department at the dealership.

  • avatar

    The added complexity is due to its country of origin.

  • avatar

    A very unique car, but it’s for looking at, not owning. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment from the angry German car gods.

  • avatar

    Nice car though a daunting ownership prospect. Out of all the Passats, the ’88-’93 B3 models were the best-looking.

  • avatar

    Extremely rare and excellent find. Knew a few with G60 Corrado’s many years ago. They had a lot of overheating issues. Still a great find and in good condition.

  • avatar

    Given how strong the deutschmark was in the late 80’s/early 90’s, VW must have lost an absolute fortune importing these things. The current owner is just keeping with tradition.

  • avatar
    Hellenic Vanagon

    The Syncro Heresy presents to you a detailed introduction of the Passat Syncro g60:

    You are welcome.

  • avatar

    Strangely, at least when judging from the comments here, the 35i Passat held up very well on its home turf. G60 and VR6 were rare beasts even when new, though — most buyers went for the sensible inline fours, of which we also got the 1.6 litre, and of course the Diesels. They weren’t quite as bulletproof or rustproof as the Golf 2, but they were very much a part of the scenery, especially in Variant form, until the big “stinker” junking waves set in in the ’00s; the only delicate parts were the wire-operated shifters on early models — and of course the G-Lader. Most of the Passat 35i drivers I knew replaced them with Tourans, feeling the successor Passat hat become too big and heavy for their tastes.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Behold, my favorite grillen’t.

    • 0 avatar

      So how did these no-grill cars manage to get enough air flowing to the radiator? Combination of fans and duct work?

      • 0 avatar

        The lack of grille is an optical illusion. The B3 has a huge scoop on the lower front fascia. For some reason VW thought it would be smart to move all of the cooling equipment below the bumper. Still not sure why they did it, but it made for an interesting look.

        • 0 avatar

          Most cars only need a small amount of frontal air intake, most modern grilles are for show rather than neccessity.

          “Still not sure why they did it, but it made for an interesting look.”

          Was it not both a homage to earlier air cooled VWs but also a nod to the new aerodynamic era?

          Sadly lost when the facelift model got a Golf style grille, though the B5 at least got back to interesting aero shapes.

    • 0 avatar

      Love the look! 1992 was notable for the lack of grilles — Civic and Crown Vic to name two others.

      • 0 avatar

        Much of the Ford lineup – Escort, Mustang, Taurus, Crown Vic, Thunderbird, and their Mecury counterparts, just to name a few — went grilless in the 1980s and early 1990s. Civic, Infinity Q45. Many of the initial offerings in the new jellybean shape did not have a grill; pulling all the air they needed from under the bumper.

  • avatar

    I owned a ’93 Passat GLX

    The sedan version was already quite rare, even in an area where VW’s sold well. B3 Passat wagon with AWD, G60 and manual is a genuine unicorn. Surely one of the rarest vehicles on the continent.

  • avatar

    There are 7 Passat W8 4Motion on Autotrader. Now that’s a rare bird.

  • avatar

    Is the generation Passat with the engine management computer under the floor in a specially designed pocket that collects all the water from a leaking sunroof?

  • avatar

    The B3/B4 Passats are quite literally still a daily sight here.

    I do not believe the negative talk that these cars are not dependable or durable, especially when the Japanese competition from the same era have all disappeared from our roads.

    • 0 avatar

      Here’s a thought: instead of sitting in Germany advising us North Americans that what we experience(d) with rubbish German cars is all in our imagination, book yourself a vacation to come here and actually ask people what their experience with VW, say, has been.

      Just because you don’t believe the B3/B4 Passats are rubbish because some decrepit old relics are still crawling around your neighborhood in Germany, doesn’t mean you’re going to find many here. Haven’t seen one in ages.

      The seeming attitude of disbelief you exhibit reminds us all of VW’s inability to build a popular car for the North American market. Poor sales prove it. Abjectly poor quality, reliability and durability in service back this up. Dozens of web and formerly magazine articles would ponder why VW would issue cars and tell us to love them because they knew better than us what we needed. It seems to be the top-down German approach, i.e. it’s not our superior cars that’s at fault, so it must be the stupid customer’s fault when things go wrong. Correct me if I’m wrong, but no other country’s car makers seem to take this approach.

      Just in case you think you can get one by me, I’ll admit to buying into the big lie myself. I owned 5 brand new Audis from 1975 to 1996, and deluded myself into thinking that their quality was normal.

      I am on only on my second Subaru since then. Do the math on longevity. And please wake up and realize that just because you don’t believe something does not make it the only truth in existence. Read some Consumers Reports by subscription to see how many old VWs, MBs, Audis and BMWs are Not Recommended as used-car buys. Surely the last thing we need around here is someone from Germany telling us we’ve all been wrong about VW/Audi for decades. Too much collective experience points the other way, no matter how much it astounds and annoys you. Frankly, you’re just incorrect.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s more about the dealers than it is about the cars, obviously. Maybe also the mentality with regard to maintenance. VWs certainly are no Toyotas, but as I’ve written numerous times, they are completely unremarkable for premature wear and failure here.

        I get the feeling that cars last longest in their country of origin. French and Italian cars, for example, have a tendency to not last well in Germany. But go to France or Italy: plenty of them, yes old ones too, bravely soldiering on despite looking like having been pulled from a junkyard. And look at those Russian road crash videos on Youtube: old Ladas everywhere — they’re all gone from western Europe, and they were not rare cars in their day.

        And it’s precisely the same with VWs in Germany, believe it or not.

        Lastly, is this site for North American readers only? Are Europeans and others discouraged from commenting here? Is it actually, “The Truth About Cars in North America”?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure that has absolutely nothing to do with the ratio of VW cars vs. Japanese sold in your area.

    • 0 avatar

      The Japanese cars from that era have gone 250K or miles by now, and have been worn out. Where I live, you still see them (no rust here).
      An undependable car might stick around longer because it doesn’t get driven much.
      A co-worker of mine just sold her 2nd-generation Tercel with almost 400K, and it still ran well, but the paint was getting faded.
      Dependable cars get used as commuters, and are used up in less than 20 years.
      If you have two cars to choose from to drive to work, which would you choose – the dependable, economical Japanese car that almost never breaks down, or the German car that costs a fortune to fix?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll sort of back up Thomas in so much as I believe that in his locale that might very well be the case. In European parts of Russia and across Eastern Europe, the B3 Passat is still an absolute stalwart. Most of them in more basic trim with smaller naturally aspirated engines, manual transmissions, and not too much in the way of options. They are quite sturdy cars from a chassis perspective IMO, and again with a more agrarian motor the rest of the vehicle isn’t really more trouble prone than a similarly ancient Japanese car at this point. In this same former Warsaw Pact environment there were simply fewer Japanese vehicles brought in to begin with, so old Germans rule the roost. They are indeed more resilient to rust as well.

      Modern Russian review of a very well worn B3 sedan in St. Petersburg:

      • 0 avatar
        Hellenic Vanagon

        The Russian b3, in the video, is a totally another league: it is a 2wd, not a Syncro, not a 190 hp, (if, very easily, chipped), g60. It is another car, similar only as appearance.

        Do not confuse it, please.

  • avatar
    Hellenic Vanagon

    My 1992 Passat Syncro g60 has 295.000 km (about).

    I am the second owner.

    Up to now these are the repairs:

    1)Front cv joints, (4 pieces), change.
    2)Rack and pinion seals, change.
    3)Hydraulic steering pump, change.
    4)Front shock absorbers, change.
    5)Three engine hydraulic mounts, change.
    6)Front ball joints, change.
    7)Front suspension silent blocks, change.
    8)glader, change at 250.000 km.
    9)Climatronic temperature sensor, change.
    10)Climatronic ECU one capacitor, DIY, change.
    11)Climatronic inner unit seals, DIY change.
    12)Front ABS sensors cables, change.
    13)Wabco air compressor for auto leveling, DIY repair.
    14)Brake rubber tubes, change.
    15)Brake calipers, service.
    16)Central locking, DIY air pump regulators adjustment.
    17)Rear windshield shade unit, (please forgive me, I don’t know the real name of it), DIY repair.
    18)Front left door handle, DIY cable repair.
    19)Gear box 5th gear synchro, change.
    20)Gear lever shaft bushings, DIY repair.
    21)Rear cv joints boots, change.
    22)Electric windows, preventing maintenance.
    23)Fuel pump, change.

    All the above are well between the expected wear/service cycle, for a 4×4, on/off road, high performance, 26 years old car.

    To be honest, I do not know any other car, European, American or Japan,
    working, within it’s specifications envelope, for a so long time.

    That is why it is called the “Mercedes of the VW”?

  • avatar
    Hellenic Vanagon

    Consumables for the Passat Syncro g60, up to now:

    1)250.000 km, (about), clutch kit, (3 pieces, disk, plate, ball bearing).
    2)Oil/filter change, every 20.000 km, purely synthetic, Red line group V, 5w30.
    3)Total transmission oil, (front/rear), & gearbox at 250.000, (Red line perfect).
    3)Brake pads, front/rear, 20.000-30.000 km, depended on the brand and the circumstances.
    4)The first owner changed the 4 disk plates at 106.000 km..
    Now, 180.000 km after, (about), seems that they have 50% wear.
    5)Belts, of all kinds, every 100.000 km.. The small, updated 11 cm glader belt, every 50.000 km. (Two small belts for every glader service at 100.000 km).
    6)Tires changed 30.000 km before and seems to have life for another 10.000-20.000 km, (Bridgestone adrenalin r002).
    7)The spark plugs, Bosch platinum, last for a very long time but I cannot say for how long exactly since I changed them in order to construct a plasma ignition with surface discharge spark plugs.

  • avatar

    A lady I used to work with had a wagon very similar to this one. She bought because it was her favorite color – purple. By the early 2000’s it became the typical VW nightmare and she only got to drive it 3 or 4 times a year. She would drive it for a week and then some then something would break. The part would have to be ordered from Germany. It would take around a month or two to get the part and them wait for another month for it be installed. Then the whole process started all over again. After 2 or 3 years of this she gave up her beloved purple Passat wagon for something completely sensible – a Nissan Maxima.

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