By on July 20, 2020

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsVolkswagen 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.

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, decklid badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost 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!

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, diesel engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFour 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.

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFortunately 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.

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSomeone 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.

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, cassette dispenser - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese 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.

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, emissions Jesus keychain - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe religious keychain and dash stickers suggest that this car’s final owner belonged to some denomination of Orthodox Christianity.

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, religious stickers - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese saints watched over the car for 35 years, but now its journey is over.

1985 Volkswagen Quantum in Colorado junkyard, glovebox badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

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14 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1985 Volkswagen Quantum GL Turbo Diesel Sedan...”

  • avatar

    These came (or should have) with a head gasket, cam/diesel pump belt, and an injection pump in the trunk as you would need those soon.

  • avatar

    Cosmetically, it looks pretty good. When I was a teen I was car shopping with my mom and there was one of these on a used lot somewhere (white with blue interior IIRC) and I sat in it thinking it was nice and somewhat roomy. This was when car dealers sometimes left cars unlocked. It was only a year or 2 old, yet the front tires were completely chewed up. There likely were dozens of other red flags I missed.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Not only is this a Junkyard Find; it’s a Rare Ride as well – well done!

    That Quantum is in amazing condition for 35 years old.

    Growing up, we had family friends who swore by VW diesels, buying one after the other from the 70s on, including the normally-aspirated ones. I guess 50 mpg made up for the struggles they had in the winter.

  • avatar

    That front overhang is comical, and the longitudinal engine, far forward makes no sense. I’m trying to figure out the transaxle, but I’m sensing a Bug setup going backasswards?

    • 0 avatar

      ” and the longitudinal engine, far forward makes no sense.”

      Say hello to Audi, lol.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, pretty much that. Dunno if any parts interchange, but same like VW backwards.

    • 0 avatar

      It does resemble a reverse Beetle layout, but VW really got the idea from NSU, which used a Wankel engine in the Ro80. With that compact and light engine out front, McPherson struts, and inboard disc brakes to reduce unsprung weight, the car handled very well and provided a lot more cabin space than other longitudinally-oriented front-engined cars.

      Of course, the Wankel was a bust so Audi bolted in a four-cylinder instead. The five-cylinder was a compromise: Audi needed more power but didn’t have space for an inline-six, couldn’t afford a V6, and didn’t have a turbo (yet).

      The layout happened to be perfect for an AWD system, which is probably why Audi kept it for so long.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Volvo offered the VW D24 Six cylinder diesel in the 740 series here in the states in early to mid 80’s. I had a neighbor with one and it was well built and fairly trouble free.

    • 0 avatar

      Volvo used the turbo version of the D24 in the 740 and 760. Until the BMW 524TD debuted, they were the fastest diesels you could buy in the US. If that was too scary, you could get the D24 without the turbo in a 240. Smooth but slow.

      From the factory, they actually aren’t great motors, but at this point the issues are well-known and fixable. Most of them died pretty young compared to gas Volvos.

  • avatar

    My best friend had a Dasher diesel, the accelerator was really more of an on/off switch. It was painfully slow.

  • avatar

    I dated a Jamaican woman who had a Diesel Jetta and absolutely loved it .

    About as fast as a bicycle .


  • avatar

    Same colors as my ’85 Quantum wagon, which was 2WD (non-synchro, unfortunately) and had the gasoline 4 cyl. Not a bad little car. The seats were great!

  • avatar

    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??

  • avatar

    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.

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