At $3,800, Could This Classic 1978 VW Dasher Have You Dashing for its Purchase?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

The VW model we know as the Passat, started out here in the U.S. with another name—the Dasher. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Dasher is representative of that first, dashing model. Let’s see if its price represents too.

Possums feign death as a way to escape predators. You’d think that with their needle-like teeth and generally terrifying overall appearance, that fighting back might be a more successful strategy. Who am I however, to argue with millions of years of possum evolution? Perhaps nobody wants to eat a possum once it’s supposedly push up the proverbial daisies.


We looked at another form of fakery that also proved equally successful just last Friday. That was a car that was positioned as a 1957 Porsche Speedster replica. It was registered however, as the 1968 Volkswagen Beetle upon which it was built. That still kept it in the family, and it lookedand probably drives and smells—like a ’57 bathtub.

At $16,800, it also looked and smelled like a deal to the majority of you. That price won the car a solid 58 percent Nice Price win, and kudos for a classic experience that one could actually drive without fear of recrimination from the faithful.

Let’s talk a minute about what constitutes a car or truck being considered a ‘classic.’ Is age the primary criteria? I don’t think so because I would categorize somewhat modern cars like the Acura NSX or Ferrari 328 GTB as classics, while older cars like the Chevy Monza Towne Coupe (yes, an ‘e” on both names) I would not.


Maybe it’s a mixture of age and impact on the market? If that’s the case, could an old car that represents a tidal shift in one of history’s most relevant manufacturer’s model lines be a classic? If that’s the case, then this 1978 Volkswagen Dasher could very easily be considered a classic.

Why is that you say? After all, it looks like nothing more than a bee-stung Scirocco. Well, the truth of the matter is that, while not the first water-cooled and FWD car to carry the venerated VW badge (that honor goes to the NSU-donated K70), the Dasher is the first Volkswagen to bring that layout to the masses.


The Dasher, which carried the Passat name in other markets, was introduced here in the U.S. in 1974, a year after its debut on the Continent. The car shared its platform, engines and much of its exterior with the Audi 80, which was sold here under its own pseudonym—the Fox.


The observation, that in hatchback form, the Dasher looks like an overstuffed sausage of a Scirocco is not without its merit. Both cars were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Ital Design around the same time, and hence share a familial resemblance.

The big difference between the Dasher and the Golf-based Scirocco however lays in the orientation of the drivetrain. In the smaller sporty car the engine sits crossways with the gearbox mated on one side. In the bigger and more Audi-esque Dasher, the SOHC four cylinder sits longitudinally in front of a transaxle in the same plane.


This results in a long nose and an interesting appearance under the hood. There you’ll find the four canted over on its right side and next to that the radiator sitting in front of the brake booster. It’s a bit disconcerting but makes everything pretty easy to access.


Being a ’77, this one carries a fuel injected 1.6-litre. That was good for 78 horsepower—hey, stop that laughing—and offered reasonable mileage if at the expense of zero to sixty times in the mid-teens.

Backing up the feisty four is another four, a four-speed manual. The seller says that the car sports a mere 89,767 miles so all those mechanicals should still have some life left in them. Not everything can stand the test of time however, and so the car has recently seen new ignition bits, struts and shocks all around, brakes and filters as well as a new fuel pump. The seller claims it all ‘runs and drives great.’


It looks pretty great too. The Brilliant Red paint is accented by a set of what look to be Dasher-intended stripes and below those lie gold Rota wheels. The aftermarket paint has even been extended to the bumpers, which is a nice change from the factory grey. Yellow high beams give the car a bit of Euro flair, as do the rare wheel arch extensions that additionally are painted to match.


Inside things are equally nice. The vinyl seats look perfectly serviceable as does the carpet and dash. The top of that dash must have issues however as it’s wearing a rug. The door cards have some homeschool fabrication on them as well.


What’s not to like here? Well, the car has what looks like a nut shaker bass where the spare normally lives. That, and an aftermarket amp and head unit may not be to everyone’s liking. Nor perhaps might be the lowered suspension. In fact, the seller notes in his ad that the car overall may not be a good fit for some.

For those who are, we’ll now need to consider if the $3,800 is fitting as well. What do you think, is this (possibly) classic Dasher worth that kind of cash as it’s presented in its ad? Or, does that price dash all hope this seller has of unloading the car?


You decide!


Bend, OR Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to PunkRock for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.