Junkyard Find: 1985 Volkswagen Quantum GL Turbo Diesel Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Volkswagen of America used model names that didn’t match up to those of its European counterparts for much of the 1970s and 1980s. The Golf was the Rabbit through 1984 and the Passat started out as the Dasher and then became the Quantum over here. I find the occasional Dasher or Quantum during my junkyard voyages, but nearly all of the Quantums that have survived into our current century will be gasoline-burning Syncro Wagons. Diesels? After the Oldsmobile Diesel 350 debacle of the late 1970s and early 1980s, few Americans had the guts to buy a new oil-burner.

Here’s an extremely rare ’85 Quantum sedan with turbocharged diesel engine and manual transmission, finally laid to rest in a Denver self-service yard last month.

Most American Quantum sedan buyers in 1985 went with the five-cylinder Audi gasoline-burner, rated at 110 horsepower. The turbodiesel was the only other engine available in the ’85 sedan, and the original buyer of this car said I’ll have that!

Four cylinders, 1.8 liters, 68 horsepower (and a tolerable 98 lb-ft of torque). American VW shoppers in 1985 could get this engine in the Golf and Jetta, too; if they really wanted to be cheap, they could opt for the naturally-aspirated version of this engine, rated at a horrific 52 horses. That was pretty good power compared to the Diesel Rabbits of the late 1970s, which offered just 48 horses.

Fortunately for everyone who ever had to drive this machine, it has the five-speed manual transmission instead of the Matsch-O-Matisch™ three-speed automatic.

Someone bought the gauge cluster before I arrived, so the final mileage figure must remain a mystery to us. The interior looks clean enough for this to be a well-cared-for low-miler.

These pop-out tape cassette holders showed up in plenty of German cars during the 1980s. You push the button on the right and out pops a little drawer containing a cassette (presumably something by Laid Back or Nena, or maybe even some Nina Hagen). The next junkyard-parts boombox I build will feature several of these.

The religious keychain and dash stickers suggest that this car’s final owner belonged to some denomination of Orthodox Christianity.

These saints watched over the car for 35 years, but now its journey is over.

The final Quantums (Quanta?) sold in the United States were 1988 models. Starting in the 1990 model year, we got Passats over here.

It’s German and it’s cheap!

Sensible, too.

Perhaps we’d be better off learning about this car in its native language.

If you enjoy these junkyard tales, be sure to head over to the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™, where you’ll find links to more than 2,000 more.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • JimC2 JimC2 on Jul 29, 2020

    If we're talking music selection for those cassette tape holders and a fine, but slow German automobile, perhaps something by Accept would be suitable??

  • Shane Shane on Sep 19, 2020

    I remember back around 1994, I was in high school, a buddy of mine had what I believe was an ’85 Quantum. I took special interest because I drove an ’86 Audi 5000S, and recognized the Quantum as basically a slightly downmarket Audi 4000. I remember it being a decent car when he first got it. Next time I saw it, not long after, it didn’t run anymore and seemed to never run again. It was weird.

  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.