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.
The folks at Audi got really confusing with their American-market car names for a couple of decades and I have given up trying to sort out from memory, say, when the 5000 became the 100 or the 200 or whatever the hell it became in the chaos following the Unintended Acceleration Debacle. The Audi 80 was sold in the USA as a 4000 or something — it’s all a blur — but then Audi badged it as an 80, except for the sedans, which were 90s, I think.
Anyway, this California ’94 sedan has 90 S badges and it’s a fairly interesting car.
No, this car isn’t this kind of Fox, though it is a sibling of the first Volkswagen Passat aka Dasher. The Fox was the name given to the Audi 80 for the United States market, and we can all be forgiven for not knowing this (as very few were sold). This completely used-up, not-so-quick brown Fox jumped over the lazy junkyard dog after a life spent almost entirely in the East Bay, and now it rests in a self-service wrecking yard about two miles from its owner’s longtime place of employment.
Having taken my driver-training classes, circa 1982, in a VW Rabbit Diesel, I thought I’d experienced the slowest car available in the United States during the second half of the 20th century. I was wrong! The oil-burning Dasher (which is what the V.A.G. called the first-gen Audi 80 aka VW Passat in North America) had the same 49 (!) horsepower diesel as the Rabbit, and it weighed between 100 and 400 pounds more. I hadn’t seen a Dasher of any sort for at least a decade, and I don’t recall ever having seen a Dasher Diesel, so this find in a San Jose-area self-service wrecking yard was startling.
We have so many facets of VW history to cover, and in the inimitable randomness that defines CC, we’ll do it non-linearly (except for Honda). But the Passat (and that’s what I’m going to mostly call it) plays a very pivotal one. It marks the beginning of VW’s successful entry into the modern world of light, roomy FWD cars, and it presaged the Golf, the mother of its category. But before we give VW too much (any) credit for this brilliant car, let’s not forget that the Passat was nothing but an Audi 80 (US: Fox) with a sloping hatchback rear end.
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