Rare Rides: A Rear-engined Volkswagen 412 Wagon From 1973

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 38 comments
  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Aug 24, 2018

    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.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Aug 24, 2018

    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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  • Michael Gallagher I agree to a certain extent but I go back to the car SUV transition. People began to buy SUVs because they were supposedly safer because of their larger size when pitted against a regular car. As more SUVs crowded the road that safety advantage began to dwindle as it became more likely to hit an equally sized SUV. Now there is no safety advantage at all.
  • Probert The new EV9 is even bigger - a true monument of a personal transportation device. Not my thing, but credit where credit is due - impressive. The interior is bigger than my house and much nicer with 2 rows of lounge seats and 3rd for the plebes. 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, around 300miles of range, and an e-mpg of 80 (90 for the 2wd). What a world.
  • Ajla "Like showroom" is a lame description but he seems negotiable on the price and at least from what the two pictures show I've dealt with worse. But, I'm not interested in something with the Devil's configuration.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I really like the C-Class, it reminds me of some trips to Russia to visit Dear Friend VladdyPoo.