Friday, January 30, 2015

7k: Olive Oil Burner: 1985 Volkswagen Passat Diesel, 36k miles

The Volkswagen Passat first debuted as the Dasher, then the enigmatically sophisticated Quantum, and finally the Passat in 1990. A well-bronzered Dasher may never be collectible. However, a stick-shift diesel-drinking Quantum wagon certainly would, except that America never got that version (par for the course, America). Some brilliant specimen of a human being scratched that forbidden itch by importing the car you see here in 2010. With a scant 36,000 miles and no evidence of rust, it's again up for grabs at a reasonable price. Find this 1985 Volkswagen Passat diesel wagon for sale in Portland, ME for $6,500 via craigslist.

This Passat spent the last three years and 11,000 miles shuttling potential tenants around rental properties. Along the way, it was christened "Olive," and probably sat at the dinner table with its owners. In its people-moving duties, it usurped a Jeep Wagoneer, and is now being replaced by a Honda CVCC four-wheel-drive wagon. This reveals quite a bit about the seller. If you had to trust someone with having keys to your home, why not an unapologetic car nut?

These non-turbocharged diesel four-bangers are slow. "How slow are they?" Well, they came with an analog clock in the instrument panel so you can measure its acceleration by the minute hand. Fifty-four horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque will at least feel entertaining through the four-(or five-?) speed manual transmission. A fresh feel and unfiltered driving feedback will likewise make for a pleasurable commute. Someone could easily justify paying $6,500 to get in this thing. "But how much would they pay to get out of it?" These are the jokes, folks.

If you weren't interested in meeting the seller already, you will be after reading the thorough and refreshingly candid description. Everything works except the odometer, but the mileage has been verified and is supported by this 2010 blog posting that documents the car's arrival into America. That paint job is new because the paint code for the door couldn't be found after a minor incident, and it was easier to paint the whole thing in Split-Pea Soup green. Given its lofty (40 mpg) efficiency figures, ample cargo space, and low price, being green has never been easier.  

See another well-kept German rarity for cheap? Email us at:

PhiLOL actually likes the tuna here, but abhors structural rust. Save the manuals.


  1. Somebody please, I'm begging of you, save this poor car from Maine. That state is the very definition of a "meat grinder" for cars. It is second all time in my mind to Quebec (tied w/NYC) as "the worst place to own a classic car in the world if you don't like rust".


    The previous owner of many a beloved, daily driven classic that fell victim to the tinworm, fed by the road salt "slurry" they seem to use by the metric ton in Maine.

    1. By looking at the pictures of your roads, it would appear they are actually paved with salt.

    2. I grew up just across the Ottawa River from Quebec, and have driven through Maine in winter, and I would have agreed on the ultimate "meat grinder" statement until I moved to Alaska. Salt isn't used on the roads - that would encourage the moose to hang out and lick it - but Alaska is not so much a boneyard as a hospice for clapped out Subies, Suburbans, Volvos and Veedubs that are on the cusp of death but never actually pass on.

      Everyone is happy to bring their beaters and 4-wheel-drives up here, but no one is willing to pay to have them shipped back when they leave, or they fear they won't survive the drive on the Alcan. That said, I'm always pleasantly surprised to see the range of oddball cars here. This Passat would fit right in. But it's too nice.

  2. True that, Ryan. Just seeing it sitting on what is an apparently salty drive is making me nervous. While these are underpowered, they have enough of a cult following to make them pretty valuable, especially in diesel form.

  3. Looks like a large scale VW fox.

  4. Well, the great thing about owning this generation of VW diesels in Maine is that it is likely to remain rust free, since it probably will refuse to start most days from Dec-March.

    A buddy had a Rabbit Diesel in the early 80s. There were days when I had use my Fairmont wagon to push him around the parking lot at work for 5 or 10 minutes, to generate enough cylinder heat to sustain combustion. Cured me of any desire to own a Diesel in the winter... ever!

  5. Horrible car rust like crazy shake and fall apart even with 36K

  6. Fleetwood T. BroughamJanuary 31, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    At the risk of sending you guys on a wild unicorn hunt, I need to let you know that they actually did make a manual, diesel Quantum wagon for the US. The only thing they didn't offer was a manual, syncro, diesel wagon (those only came with the 5 cylinder gas engine), but they definitely made a wagon with a stick and a turbodiesel. I've ridden in one many times.

  7. Then there is the fact it is the slowest thing I have ever driven. I am saying SLOW to the point of angering everyone behind you slow. Only if they knew no matter how fast they try To go in town, you will see them again and again at every intersection.

    1. For me that title will be forever held by a 1980 VW Dasher diesel. I don't ever remember being able to go above the 55 mph speedo hashmark on flat ground, and getting there took an absolute eternity (the car was ~20 years old and had 200k+ miles on it by then). The one time I took it onto the freeway is still firmly etched in my mind as one of the three times I thought I was actually going to die behind the wheel of a car. Getting passed by 18 wheelers going roughly double the speed you're going will help you quickly find religion.

      Fun fact, this car met its end when we shot it with a flare-gun loaded with 12 gauge buckshot. The gun exploded and set fire to the 6x6 beam we had tied it to (we tied a string to the trigger and hid behind a pool table we'd tipped on its side), burning down the barn that the car was stored in long after we removed it from the road due to rust.

  8. That VW looks like you'd get tetanus just walking by it. I'd have one of these instead. Not sure if the liftback/wagon body could be ordered with the diesel, though. None of my books specify and I can't remember off the top of my head. Here's a 1986 sedan for $1900.



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