Dodge Daytona Turbo Z or VW Quantum GL-5: Which RADwood Rarity Would You Rather Repair?

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Welcome back! On today’s edition of Shitbox Showdown we’re going to take a look at a pair of almost-forgotten ’80s classics that both need some mechanical help. But first let’s see how our two hypermilers fared yesterday:

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The Rabbit wins! Though in this version of the story, it’s the hare that’s slow and steady. The VW is one of very few cars you could probably drag-race against that Metro and lose.

The ’80s are back! Whether it’s Stranger Things, RADwood, or re-releases of Tamiya and Kyosho classic radio-control models, the nostalgia train has parked at the 1985 station and it’s not showing any signs of moving. The only problem with this, for those of us who lived through it, is that we’re constantly reminded just how very long ago it was, and how little progress we’ve made. I mean, we’re seven years past the setting of Back To The Future II, and those hoverboards still don’t exist, let alone instant pizza. What’s taking them so long?

Oh well. At least we still have the cars (even if we don’t have The Cars). Let’s see if one of these two is just what you needed.

1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z CS Edition – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter turbocharged inline 4, 3 speed automatic, FWD

Location: DuPont, WA

Odometer reading: 130,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yes, but engine knocks

The “CS” in this car’s lengthy name refers, of course, to the great Carroll Shelby, who followed his friend Lee Iacocca across town to Chrysler in the ’80s and spent the decade making K- and L-car derivatives go as fast as possible. Sadly, when I visited the Shelby museum and factory in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, his involvement with Chrysler was an afterthought – nothing more than a wall graphic or two, no cars on display. The twelve-year-old in me who very much still wants a Shelby Charger was disappointed. But then, tell someone you actually aspire to own any ’80s Chrysler product and they just smile and back out of the room slowly, so maybe it’s not surprising.

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But I still think Daytonas are cool, and if they were good enough for Dee Dee McCall, they should be good enough for the Shelby museum.

This particular Daytona is the early body style, with the best-looking of the three front ends. The later pop-up headlight nose makes the front overhang look even longer than it is, and the final revision looks too much like a LeBaron of the same era. This 1986 model lacks the digital dash, and is too late (I think) for the talking “Vehicle Information Center.” And, of course, there is the incorrect transmission.

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However… the 2.2 turbo four has developed a knock, and the seller says it’s “down on power.” Sounds like a bad rod bearing to me. Time for an overhaul. And if you have to pull the engine anyway, there’s no rule that says you have to put the same transmission back in with it. I don’t know how hard a manual swap is on these, but it’s worth investigating. I owned this car’s sister model, the Chrysler Laser, with the same drivetrain, and the automatic is definitely the Fun Police.

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It’s a sharp-looking car in good shape overall, and you certainly won’t see one in every parking lot (anymore). But you will need to put in some work before hitting the road.

1988 Volkswagen Quantum GL-5 Wagon – $1,400

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter inline 5, 5 speed manual, FWD

Location: Fort Worth, TX

Odometer reading: 240,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yes, but won’t go into reverse

Another day, another VW seller that can’t take a decent photo to save their life. But it’s an interesting car, so we won’t let the lousy photos stop us.

The VW Quantum was the name of the second-generation Passat in the US. The first generation was known as the Dasher; we didn’t get the Passat name until the third generation arrived in 1990. The Quantum was available as a sedan, wagon, and three-door hatchback, but the only hatchback I’ve ever seen was at a VW dealership in 1982. The sedan and wagon are rare enough.

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The GL-5 model was equipped with Audi’s 2.2 liter five-cylinder engine, but lacking the all-wheel-drive system of the Syncro model. This one has a five-speed manual that refuses to go into reverse, though it does have a new clutch. It could be something was reassembled incorrectly in the linakge, or there may be internal damage. You’ll have to be willing to pull the transmission to find out, or find yourself a good Quantum mechanic. These are hard to find, however, because they are very small, and it’s impossible to say with any certainty exactly where they are at any given moment. (No, I didn’t pick this car so I could make that joke. Not just so I could make that joke, anyway.)

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Otherwise, it looks to be in good shape, and wears its 240,000 miles well. And I have personal experience with these cars as well: a sign company that I worked for in California had a Quantum GL-5 sedan as a shop runabout. It was a nice car, and fun to drive. I imagine the wagon is the same, but you can bring more stuff with you. [Editors Note: I love how this thing is named after gear oil, and has a problem with its transmission. -DT]. 

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Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, as they say, and it’s possible that neither of these cars is as good as I remember. But misty-eyed reminiscence is the name of the game at RADwood and other ’80s-centric events, and pulling up in either of these cars will turn heads your way. Rebuilding a Chrysler turbo engine or troubleshooting a VW/Audi transaxle is the price of entry; which one do you choose?

 

Polls

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68 Responses

  1. IF the Dodge was a manual, maybe. Since it’s not, and an overhaul does not sound fun, I’m going with the VW wagon with the manual, since a transmission repair will be a lot cheaper than an engine rebuild.

  2. Don’t get me wrong, Daytona’s, Lasers, or any other variant had the looks to kill. In the 80’s and early 90’s you couldn’t beat these for style. The turbo could have an electronic oil pump installed to keep it from burning up but the 2.2 had enough issues as it were. The CV joints had issues. The automatic was slush and the 5 speed, though German made, was a ticking time bomb. My father is to this day a Mopar loyalist, but after seeing all his issues with his numerous 2.2L’s and experiencing mine with a Lebanon GHS (I seriously think I experienced everything but Turbo bearing failure) I couldn’t run fast enough from these. Even with 100k more miles and a missing R gear, I think the VW is the better choice for longevity and quality.

  3. As the owner of the better version of the quantum gl5 (a quantum syncro wagon) I had to vote wagon. That being said I have a huge soft spot for the Mopar Shelby’s, but this gen daytona with a slushbox is among the worst models to bear the nameplate.

  4. I love me a CS Dodge. Among the things I know about the Daytona is that it’s being sold by someone who is either a liar or a stooge. Even in “today’s market” that’s a hard no. $1400 to roll the dice on whether or not it’s worth it to fix the transmission isn’t a good idea, but it’s better than THIS Dodge.

  5. I voted Daytona before I even read about the cars or even what the other car was. I had an ’86 Daytona Turbo Z when I was 17. I loved that car. Red, black interior, 5speed, sunroof. Rode like a log truck, seemed to have mechanical issues quite often but I still have a fondness for the car. I would take another one in a heartbeat now. I remember a guy in school who had a Shelby Charger (around the same year as my car but don’t remember specifically) wanted to race me one night. I didn’t think I stood much of a chance but I ended up winning by quite a bit. Driver error maybe? Who knows. He says I chirped the tires shifting into 3rd gear, don’t know about that but I know that I could in 2nd quite easily.

  6. I opted for the Quantum of Solace. I would rather shift gears surrounded by quality trim than a laboring slushbox and Iacocca era nickel and dime plastics.
    Plus I liked the Quantum, I like wagons and we had an Audi 4000 Quattro so it’s sort of familiar.

  7. I dislike both of these quite a bit. I really don’t like anything from the 80s except for Priest, Maiden, and AC/DC, so I am definitely not a Radwood guy. I briefly considered the Quantum because of the stick shift, but since even that doesn’t work right, I’ll just take the lame-o Dodge because it’s somewhat less ugly.

  8. Oh, Lord God Almighty, save me. In 1984 I bought a new Daytona Turbo Z. Worst car I’ve ever owned. Problems started at 900 miles. Too many to list. In the shop so much I had to get a lawyer to make them give me a loaner. Traded it a year later and took the beating of my life. I thanked God for delivering me from that evil. Good looking, though.

  9. Unrelated to the vote, for a hot minute I thought about getting the Kyosho Optima. I built one when I was 13, great learning experience about how things worked on cars. But realized I don’t drive the RC car I already have enough.

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