Home » Cars You Should Know »The Carchive » Currently Reading:

The Carchive:- The VW Dasher

Chris Haining December 16, 2013 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 16 Comments


Welcome to The Carchive, the Xclusive-To-Hooniverse featured series that no other web-based automotive magazine would even consider hosting. As usual I’ve put my blindfold on and grabbed a handful of random documents to take us through the week, three original sales documents that have probably out-lived the vast majority of the cars they were trying to sell.

Todays machine is coincidentally very festive, being (presumably) named after one of Santa’s reindeer. In Europe it was the Passat; in the US it was the Dasher.


“When a car takes you where you want to go in comfort and style, that’s called luxury”

This is a brochure from ’76, at which point the car had been on the market in the USA for two years, and in Europe for three. As far as I can see, though, it was never actively sold as a Luxury car. The closely related Audi 80 may have been, of course. But considering that the Passat and Dasher were only one evolutionary step divorced from the Type Four family that had gone before, and which could never realistically be described as luxurious.

No, what this brochure was all about was extolling the many virtues of the Dasher; how it was supposed to be many cars rolled into one. A luxurious Sedan was the first suggestion.


“When it lets you take all you want with room to spare’ that’s called practicality”

A willing beast of burden was the next. With the engine at the front, and front-wheel-drive, the rear end was immediately at an advantage compared to the 411 and 412 in terms of their ability to accommodate loads. The floor was low, with no transaxle and, especially, no engine beneath it.

Unlike the Audi 80 which was so mechanically similar, the Dasher and Passat were offerred only in longroof and fastback forms, the latter with three or five doors but both sharing the same smooth tail treatment. Both models had space for plenty of luggage; the wagon extending to 51.6 cubic feet if you dropped the rear seatback.


“When it offers features like fuel injection and rack-and-pinion steering, that’s called engineering”

Fuel Injection had appeared for ’76 on the Dasher, a Bosch system being used mainly for emissions reasons rather than in the search for outright high-performance. There was never really a Dasher that deserved the name Dasher, to be honest; Plodder was probably more apt; 78hp was your lot, good for a 101mph top end at the death.


“When a car offers you all of this and craftsmanship as well, it’s called Dasher.”

It was a strongly engineered car, as the headline rightly stated; certainly they went on giving sterling, if not especially exciting, service on European roads for many years, although I couldn’t tell you when I last saw one.

From my perspective, the three-door Passat was one of the most memorable shapes in VW history, looking very much like an upsized version of VWs original Scirocco which was penned by the same chap, Mr Giugiaro.

Today, survivors are few and far between, and those that do turn up have invariably fallen into the hands of the DubScene fraternity, so finding one which still has travel left in the suspension and the ability to pass over speed-humps may be a challenge.

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me on a miserable, wet, dark December day. Copyright remains property of VW Group, whose folded-paper school of design is sadly missed)

  • $kaycog

    "Now Passat! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On Comet! On Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!"

    Yeah, Passat just doesn't get it.

  • mkep819

    February of 1983, 18" snowstorm blows into PA. Next day I am out shoveling my car out, the neighbor comes out & comments on my car, ( 1980 Plymouth Arrow) then starts telling me/bragging about how great his car is. His words were, "Can't beat a Volkswagen!" With all the snow I could only see bright yellow, so as we cleared the snow away I could see it was a Dasher, and he proceeded to get in to start it. He tried for about half an hour. As I finished up my portion of the sidewalk, he was still at it. Before going inside, I looked back & said, Yup, cant beat a Volkswagen.

    To be fair, His was a beater, so no real surprise that it wouldn't start. Obvious signs of poor maintenance, but funny how the mechanical things pick the right time to embarrass you.

  • hubba

    I can identify four cars in that list off the top of my head. Is there a Dancer, Prancer, Cupid, or Donner?

    • Metric Wrench

      Nobody really talks about Donner wagons, after the incident up at Truckee Lake.

      • Vairship

        They are known for their passing performance, though!

  • Irishzombieman☆

    Hey, wow.

    I just saw one of these yesterday in Fresno. I had no idea what it was and almost got a ticket chasing it through traffic. I could tell it was a VW, but it made a red light that I almost ran (in front of a cop) and disappeared before I could see the model name.

    Plate o' frickin' shrimp.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      The last one I saw was a wagon that I chased in a similar fashion, but couldn't get close enough to see well (it had been debadged, I believe, and my glasses aren't what they should be). I figured it had to be exactly what it turned out to be – when I saw a Craigslist ad for it a few months later.

  • Van_Sarockin

    I once bought my mom a used Dasher wagon. I thought it was a fine car, especially for trips. Great gas mileage, and it didn't have to have unleaded gas, so it saved a fair bit there. It'd cruise just fine at 85, and didn't take so long to get there, even with a four speed. Storage wasn't immense, especially with the rear seats up, but it got the job done. That Bosch FI was a way station to something good, though. It just loved to leak onto the air cleaner. I also didn't love adjusting the valves with those shim discs… But it was comfortable, light, tight, responsive, and pretty simple.

  • Jay_Ramey

    I have recently had the honor to witness a beige diesel Dasher, which unfortunately was not in running condition.

  • HSA❄

    Oh, once again the 1st gen Passat. Make mine with 1.9 liter naturally aspirated diesel offering the performance of a half-dead cow, brakes that are mostly imaginary (that is, on par with the acceleration), no parking brake, speedometer optimistic by some 50% and worn windshield, which makes things interesting when the sun is shining really low. Sounds familiar.

  • dukeisduke

    The K-Jet was definitely about emissions – my '78 Audi Fox was able to meet emissions standards without needing a catalytic converter, and could burn leaded or unleaded gas. In fact, I bumped the timing up and ran leaded premium in it for awhile.

  • There's a guy here in Columbus who lives near where I go to church. I pass his house every Sunday and his cars are:

    1970-ish Nova SS
    late 70s 911 with a whale tail
    Dasher Wagon

    The Nova is usually the lone garage dweller, the Dasher seems to be his daily driver. The 911 either found a home next to the Nova or he sold it as it's been missing the past few weeks, but it normally seems to be driven regularly too.

    I want to stop and knock on the door just to congratulate him on his hoonworthiness.

  • “When a car takes you where you want to go in comfort and style, that’s called the first 2,500 miles of Dasher ownership.”

  • Let's take a moment to realize that the Mitsu Mirage that Jeff reviewed the other day — which is embarassingly underpowered for today's market @ 74 horsepower — makes just 4 fewer horsepower than this car.

    It's a good time to be a car guy.

  • Redfive

    I grew up in a Dasher wagon. My parents bought one new in 78 and kept it till 87 when it was replaced by a more iconic wagon of the time, the Volvo 240DL (5MT). Both cars were beige with brown interiors, too. I remember my parents taking us on many road trips with it loaded to the gills and a roof rack. We did CT to FL one summer with no AC. And lots of camping trips. Good thing that was back in the day of the double nickel speedlimit, because I highly doubt that car could hit 70mph.
    I don't recall it stranding us anywhere but I do recall there being issues with it later in life. My parents sold it to the shop that did all the repair work and it lasted for many years as their shop runabout/loaner.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Highs: Better than a '76 Pinto

    Lows: It's still crap

    These cars are one reason I, to this day, equate Audi and VW, in my mind. Audi, to me, is to VW like Lincoln is to Ford.