By on August 23, 2018

Air-cooled engine at the back, two upright, circular headlamps at the front, and classic gold metallic paint.

It’s not a vintage Porsche 911, but it is a cousin — a Volkswagen 412 from 1973.

Volkswagen’s Type 4 was a brand new type of car for the company. It was the first time VW offered any family car with four doors. It also introduced a more modern type of build to Volkswagen customers, as it was of true unibody construction. Other advancements included coil springs, a manual transmission with a hydraulic clutch, and a suspension featuring MacPherson struts up front and trailing wishbones at the back.

This was no basic compact — all Type 4 cars had no-charge metallic paint, radial tires, and undercoating. Inside was full carpeting, a clock, rear window defrost, and an auxiliary heating system (via a gas-operated unit with its own spark plug).

The Type 4 hit dealers in 1968, labeled on the outside as the 411. Considered a midsize family car at that time, two- and four-door sedans were available, as well as a three-door wagon. Though successful elsewhere, the 411 was not imported to North America until 1971, near the end of its life.

1972 saw the introduction of a second-generation Type 4, the 412. The new version had revised headlamps on a new front end, and that was the extent of exterior changes. At the rear, engine changes in 1974 upped the displacement from 1679cc to 1795cc, with both engines being of flat-four layout. Transmission options included a four-speed manual or the three-speed automatic in today’s golden example.

As 1974 drew to a close, Volkswagen had a newer, water-cooled sedan ready as the Type 4’s replacement. Americans called it Dasher, and the rest of the world knew it as Passat. A successful global model, Volkswagen shifted over 367,000 Type 4s over six model years. Of those, about 117,000 were sold in the United States. But that was a very long time ago.

Today’s Rare Ride is located near Madison, Wisconsin, which is south of the Canadian province of Ontario. It needs a few odds and ends, especially where the interior is concerned, but comes with a couple boxes of spare parts.

It’s yours for $6,900.

[Images: seller]

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38 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Rear-engined Volkswagen 412 Wagon From 1973...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    OMG, OMG, OMG. High school kid giggles, mixed with some Woodstock style ‘flashbacks’.

    A Type IV shooting brake was the car that got me through much of high school. Did not think that any still existed. They were rare, even when new in North America.

    An excellent design, on paper. Wonderful use of space. An actual ‘flow through’ ventilation system (see the vents in the instrument panel) superior to that of domestic vehicles of the time. For the period excellent steering ‘feel’.

    Unfortunately it also foreshadowed VW’s decline in quality. Brake squeal regardless of what you did to fix/maintain them. An electrical glitch that caused the right front headlight to ‘blink’ when you tooted the horn. Electrical short that often drained the battery.

    Our Type IV shooting brake (auto) was preceded by a Type III shooting brake (MT) that was much better ‘screwed together’. And prior to that a Beetle that was indestructible.

    Still, if I had the money ………..

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Here’s some additional information on the Type IV. Note how closely it claims to mirror the Porsche 914 in engineering/design.

    https://www.vwheritage.com/blog/2015/07/30/vws-ugly-duckling-vw-411-412-profile/

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I had a couple of neighbors with these. One had a orange four door that an electrical fire. The other owned a wagon like this one that caught fire due to a bad fuel line. Apparently these issues were endemic on 411/412’s.
    From experience the Type III fastback and square back were better built.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    This one doesn’t have the optional heater. Based on the lack of interest (comments) here there probably is not that much interest on the market and maybe I could get it ‘cheap’?

    Would probably like seeing your high school girlfriend, 45 years later.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    $6900 + $4000 for a new interior and you would have a nice $3500 car.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Wouldn’t want it as an investment. But the memories are priceless.

      Road trips, concerts, to and from school dances, games and parties and the drive-in.

      It didn’t take much to string curtains around the rear and back windows.
      The back seat could be moved with little ingenuity.

      Remember my younger brother asking me why there were footmarks on the headliner in the back/wagon part.

      Oh no, now I am starting to sound like a Baruth! :-(

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      I had a friend in college with an old VW bus. He thought that $4500 bus was junk. Well, that same bus is selling for $45000 or higher now. I could see this 412 Wagon being in that category. This is a gold mine. Better bet right now than our bubbling stock market.

      • 0 avatar
        rocketrodeo

        I let my ’62 splittie go in the early 90s with no regrets. Whatever sentimental space VW buses occupy in the minds of folks too young to remember what slow, ungainly, and outright dangerous vehicles they were, those of us who owned and drove them back in the day are under no such illusions. I save my nostalgia for old motorcycles and meanwhile thoroughly enjoy all the power, convenience, and safety advantages modern cars and trucks have to offer.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          The Type 2 (VW van) was perhaps the most dangerous vehicle on the road. Tippy. And if you have ever seen one that was in a front end collision, you would never want to drive one on the highway.

          Great space utilization, however. Might still want a Westphalia, except their prices are now stratospheric.

          • 0 avatar
            pwrwrench

            Remember that the OG VW van was built as a vehicle to drive around town for delivery of people and materials. In those days most places had a top speed limit of 45-55 MPH. The design was mostly by the Dutch VW importer who saw modded VW bugs at the VW factory that were used to move people and parts around. Not all that much was done to adapt the bug parts, transaxle, frt susp, etc to the van body. The few unique parts of the 1st version, besides the body/frame, were the steering and gear reduction axles.
            In the early 1950s there was not as much thought about vehicle safety as now. IIRC the first real studies, by UCLA, were some years away. They drove, remotely controlled cars into walls while being filmed with high speed cameras. That’s when it was found that things like head rests were important. A crash test dummy’s head and neck got wrapped around the seat back. The metal ashtray on the seat back punched a hole in the dummmy’s “skull”. A mystery solved, that is how people in rear end collisions got holes in the back of their head.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Mine had the ‘heater’ and the Blaupunkt radio. As in all VW’s of that era, so equipped, they continued operating/running after you turned the ignition off. So had to remember to manual turn them off.

    Well Corey, this one has garnered even less interest than they attracted from North American consumers when they were first released for sale here.

    Yet in comparison to the Pintos, Mavericks, Vegas, and British and even some Japanese imports of that era, despite my complaints, they felt light years better in terms of ride, handling, space utilization and overall ‘refinement’.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My dad had one of these briefly in the late 70s. Unfortunately, the reverse gear decided to strip while the car was parked facing downhill in someone’s driveway. We all had to get out and push the thing back up to the street. The car was gone a few days later.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I saw one of these the other day, first time I’ve seen one in many years. I live about 50 miles SE of Madison. Could there actually be two in Wisconsin?

    • 0 avatar
      ShoogyBee

      I bet there are two even in Madison! There’s a garage on Monroe St. that works on air-cooled VWs there. I’m sure those cars still have somewhat of a following there.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    Woo hoo…a rare rides I used to own! Well, actually mine was the 4 door. Close enough.

    Parts were getting hard to find for these a decade ago when I had mine. For instance, stuff like the rubber windshield gasket is probably unobtanium these days. A fair number of parts were not shared with other air cooled VWs of the time. It is a lot easier to keep a Squareback or Beetle or Thing on the road than a 411/412.

    IIRC, VW only made a few hundred thousand of these across the production run, worldwide. A substantial number of them ended up in Nigeria, I think. Anyway, whatever the production numbers were, it was very small by VW standards. They were never thick enough on the ground to warrant a large amount of parts support, and whatever infrastructure there was faded out about 20 years ago, at least.

    Basically the Type 4 was VW’s Edsel. As soon as they could get the Dasher and Rabbit going they swept the 412 under the rug as quickly as possible.

  • avatar
    ShoogyBee

    I’d rather have the Mercedes-Benz SLC that is parked next to the VW.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Beautiful car. It gave me some High School flashbacks.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I love it, I’ve never seen one even in pictures until now.

  • avatar
    W.Minter

    Inspired me to look for some pictures of the ’61 Lakewood, the Corvair wagon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Lakewood
    Compare it to the ’68 411 wagon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Type_4
    Spotting differences is quite hard, depending on the angle. Probably there are not many different approaches on designing a rear-engined, air-cooled wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I always wanted a Corvair Lakewood with transplanted flat-6 from a later Corvair and the suspension fixes that the later cars got.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      If you think that this looks like a Corvair, check out the Type 34 (Karmann Ghia replacement/upgrade). Particularly the side and rear views.

      • 0 avatar
        pwrwrench

        Odd that I never noticed that. The VW 34 Ghia came out about a year and a half after the Corvair. I had wanted one of the 34 Ghia’s. The 1969 model that had the “4-joint” rear suspension, not swing axle.
        I got to drive a few of them, one with the 1500S (higher compression) engine. For a VW aircooled car it ran quite well.
        That motor would not survive on today’s gasoline as it required what was then called “mid-grade” or “premium” fuel. If those yellow stickers were on the pumps then they would read “100” or higher octane.
        Imagine, 100 octane fuel for about $1 per gallon in today’s money.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    One of my neighbors has a 411 that’s significantly rattlier than this. When I smell oil smoke in my house, I know he drove by. Don’t understand the appeal at all; it’s a funny-looking, slow, loud, not-fun-to-drive old car.

  • avatar
    Garak

    My uncle had one of these back in the day, the engine seized while he was driving up a steep hill. A pretty common problem with these engines, I’ve heard.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    The Type 4 was a well-made car, but the public didn’t like it. The first year, with the single oval headlights and the sluggish-even-for-Germany 1.7 litre, 68 bhp engine, ruined the car’s reputation — “411: four doors, eleven years late”, as they said.

    VW quickly addressed the problems, and the 80 bhp version was reasonably quick and looked better with its dual headlights. The Variant (wagon) especially was an interesting car with its dual boot setup — sadly they neglected making a five-door. The chassis was on par with the latest Mercedes (/8), which had just ditched the swing axle that year; the build quality was great; the optional EFI was not available in the competitor’s offerings; the Type 4 engine was virtually bulletproof, and makes the basis for all those 2.8 litre, 250 hp performance aftermarket Bug engines to this day.

    It all didn’t matter. This could have become the best car in the world (it wasn’t, but it wasn’t far behind either), but the customers had made up their minds about it: this was a car to laugh at, and that was it.

    The 1974 Passat/Dasher is a cheap and tinny sh*tb*x by comparison. Sold in droves. Rusted almost as quickly.

    Type 4 survivors are rare, because most were gutted for their engines in the 1980s. Apart from the Bug tuning crowd, the Type 2 people were happy takers, since the Type 4 makes almost a drop-in replacement engine for Buses from 1972 on, but with more power than their Type 4 engine versions.

    So yes, “Volkswagen’s Edsel” comes close, except for the scandal.

    • 0 avatar
      pwrwrench

      All the 411/412s in California had the fuel injection. The 412 was the first, along with the 914 1.8L with the AFC Bosch injection system. Consequently, few mechanics understood the system and the instructors at the VW service school knew even less at the time. Hence getting the thing fixed was frustrating for owners.
      There was also the aforementioned fuel leaks. This, and the resulting fires, was the result of VW’s choice of fuel hose. It was the same as in the Type III and only lasted a few years in the heat and smog of SoCal. So it would need periodic, expensive replacement. IIRC the 412 had at least 10 sections of hose. Most had crimp type clamps that need to be cutoff to remove the leaky hose. The dealers were supposed to have a kit with new clamps and a crimping tool. I never saw a dealer with one. They became available at a reasonable price some years later.
      One aggravating aspect of this was the short sections of hose on the fuel injectors. When these began to leak VW told you to replace the injector with a new one, about $1,200 each in today’s money. Obviously not very popular. Some mechanics would remove the crimped on sleeve retaining the hose and attach a new piece with a regular screw type hose clamp. When the VW district rep saw this he hit the ceiling and ordered an immediate halt to “improper, unauthorized” repairs.
      Later when VW had their ears burning with customer complaints, warranty claims, and some insurance company lawyers after them (for fire totaled cars) they came up with a “compromise”. They said mechanics could replace the little hoses (about 1 inch long) but they called it “modifying the injector”. I guess the VW engineers thought there way was the only way.
      Later cars got better hose sourced from Mercedes and Porsche cars which lasted at least 10 years. That is until those great “emission reducing” fuel blends came along in the 1980s. With MTBE and ethanol in the gasoline one would see VW owners at the side of the road looking for some coat hangers and marshmallows as their car/van went up in flames, due to swelled cracking hoses. Wonder what that did for air quality?

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I would assume based on the popularity and exorbitant prices associated with the Type II, that engines from the Type IV and perhaps even the Type III would be ‘valuable’.

      Or perhaps a swap into a 914 or Karmann Ghia, both of which appear to be highly priced vehicles.

      Agree that the Dasher was not a success, at all.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    These were awful cars. I worked at a VW dealer in the early-mid 1970s when these were new. They were constantly in for warranty problems. 95% of those in SoCal were automatics. The torque convertor seal was not up to the heat of the SW USA. It took some years for a better seal to be produced. In the meantime the 411/412s would be in about every 6-10K miles for a new seal. It was a nasty job as the entire underside of the car was dripping with ATF. Don’t ask me how it got up front on a rear engine car, but it did. And to top it off the warranty rate to the mechanic, in today’s money was about $75 for 5-6 hours of work. Someone figured out how to get the transaxle out and leave the engine in, VW said to remove both as a unit to service either. That made the job slightly easier, but still a losing proposition.
    The “seizure” problem was usually broken exhaust valves. This would happen after 30-50K miles. Later versions of the motor, used in the VW vans, got hydraulic cam followers (lifters) and that problem disappeared. The lifters can be substituted for the solid lifters, but my experience was that nearly all the 411/412s were dead and gone by 1976 when the lifters were available. VW finally caught up to GM who introduced hydraulic lifters in the mid 1950s.
    Another fun problem was that the battery was under the driver’s seat. The voltage regulators regularly malfunctioned (unlike most Bosch electrics) and delivered 17+ volts to the battery. This would get the driver’s eyes watering and destroy the seat with acid fumes. I recall several of those cars sitting in the dealer service lot waiting for warranty seat replacement. In today’s money the seat, only came in pieces, frame, jute padding and covers, was about $1,200. VW was reluctant to pay for it.
    This being the SW USA, unlike the frozen North where the aux gas heater was optional, most cars had AC. At the time VW had never heard of AC so all systems were aftermarket add ons. The installation made servicing the engine much harder with the compressor and hoses in the way. Replacing the compressor drive belt was a min 3 hour job as it was behind the fan housing. Those belts would fail about every 2-3 years. The AC also compromised the electrical system as the installers, and designers, did not care how much they messed up the wiring. If one of those cars came in with strange electrical troubles the first place to look was at the AC wiring.
    This is just getting started. At the dealer the 411/412 was nicknamed “The Whale” as it was like Moby Dick, constantly giving you trouble and you could never conquer it.
    And don’t get me started on the replacement, Dasher. Suffice to say it was quickly named the Dishwasher. It shared a problem with the 411/412. There was a single seal between the auto trans and the final drive unit. The seal, like the torque convertor seal, would regularly fail. This would allow the ATF and gear oil to intermix, ruining the final drive gears. Big $$$$.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @pwrwrench: Thanks. Confirms my memories. The placement of the battery in the 411/412 was even worse than in my C4 Corvette which was in a ‘cubby’ behind the driver’s seat.

      Being in Canada, I can’t remember ever seeing one with A/C.

      Did you also experience problems with the brakes, not being up to the weight of the car?

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Yes, the brakes were essentially the same as the Type III. With the extra weight of the 411 they wore out rapidly. That was one of the changes on the 412. The rotors got thicker and the pads thicker and bigger. Since the front suspension was very similar to the Super Beetle installing the disc brakes on the Beetle was a popular, if expensive idea. People also retro-fitted the larger 412 brakes onto disc brake Ghia and Type IIIs.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Around this time our neighbor across the street had a 411 wagon (along with a ’73 Chevy C-20 pickup, that they used with a slide-in camper). The thing I remember most about their 411 was the lopey idle, courtesy of the Bosch D-Jet fuel injection and its “electronic brain” (a phrase used in a Hot Rod magazine article at the time).

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