Yup, it’s still brown.
Wheel. Of steel.
Ready to dash off.
Groovy yellow indicator lenses
Interior = good. Seat covers = bad.
Nice aerodynamic recess over the rear window and boot lid
As The Stranglers once sang, “Golden brown, texture like sand…” Well, we were driving along on our way somewhere and it was the colour I saw first. And then the shape, and then I realised this little brown car was really worth having a close look at; it’s an exceptionally decent little car indeed, quite apart from being an exceptionally brown little car.
The Passat was launched into the European motoring scene in 1973 as a replacement for a whole variety of cars that VW had been struggling to get people to buy as they tried to make the transition away from their trusty but very old fashioned post-war Type 3 (as in this previously featured 1600 Variant) and Type 4 rear-engined air-cooled designs into something much more modern and up to date, both from an engineering and a design perspective.
They had a first stab at the apple with the VW K70, a car designed by NSU as a smaller brother for their Wankel Rotary engined Ro80. When VW bought NSU in the late 1960s they immediately saw the potential in this baby NSU and quickly rebadged it as a VW and sent it out to make it’s own way into the world. It didn’t do so well. People were wary because of the terrible reliability of the NSU Ro80′s Rotary engine, and didn’t trust a car that looked quite similar even though the technology was totally different. Also VW’s dealer network struggled to make the transition from the old rear-engined cars in terms of servicing and maintenance. And then there were the looks – just a bit too square and upright and old fashioned at a time when sleek modernity was much more appreciated.
So in the end they turned to their other sister company, Audi, and borrowed the platform, mechanicals and body of the 1972 Audi 80, repurposing it to make a fastback version of the almost identical Audi 80 (aka the Fox)saloon. The body types offered originally were two and four-door saloons (like this one) and similar looking three and five-door hatchback versions. Externally they all shared the modern fastback shape, styled by the celebrated Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. Success at last! And this original Passat, the B1 version, soldiered on until 1981. Perhaps more famous than the Passat were its offspring, the VW Golf and the coupe variation, the Scirocco, which took the world by storm and cemented Giugiaro’s reputation as the man to turn to for mass market design success.
Ok, you say, that’s enough history for now. What makes this car so special, apart from the colour? Well the thing that caught my attention was that little “Dasher” badge and then “Fuel Injection” and then those big impact bumpers and I thought to myself “Aha! This is not the Passat I remember from my youth!”. Indeed, you’ve probably guessed that this is, in fact, the North American model. Renamed “Dasher” for reasons unknown although probably following the same thinking that led to the Golf being rebadged “Rabbit” for North America, it was exported to the USA from 1974 touting a carburetor fed inline four cylinder 1500cc engine under the bonnet giving 75hp in 1974, dropping to 70hp in 1975 until in 1976 it was upgraded to a Bosch fuel-injected 1600cc unit that produced 78 hp.
A facelift came along in 1978, placing this particular little car as being sold right about the time Jimmy Carter became President. But, how did it get here to Egypt? And was it wearing those terrible black seat covers when it arrived?
I’m particularly taken with this car – I like the way the owners have cared for it these last thirty six years, polishing that lustrous brown paint to a shine but not worrying when a few scrapes and bruises find their way past those huge USA-spec bumpers and not even bothering to respray the rusty old steel wheels. Someone has diligently reattached the “Dasher” badge a little bit crooked when it has fallen off at some stage, and I love the script on those badges – leaning forward ever so progressively, driving VW decisively onward into the modern era away from the noisy and cramped Beetles of old.
I like the interior too. There is a trace of 1960s sports car in the rounded profile of the gauge binnacle, soon to be lost forever as the Golf ushered in a radical new square gauge dashboard with those iconic coloured LED warning lights. The short shift gearchange is a nice sporty touch, but it’s a shame the steering wheel from a later VW Golf has been fitted, though no doubt it feels nicer to hold than the larger original.
And most of all I like the way it just sits at the kerb, in repose with the mirror folded in, but with it’s oh-so-brown paintjob in your face, reminding you that it’s ready to dash into action the moment the key is turned.