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?



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68 Responses

  1. As someone who grew up in the ’80s, in a Mopar family, whose uncle rocked a Daytona Turbo Z and later an ES 3.0, the Daytona is a bucket list car for me. 14-year-old me would never forgive me if it wasn’t. Manual swap the Shelby while the motor’s out for overhaul.

    1. Again: this is not a C/S.
      You want it to be a C/S? Get out your wallet and prepare for severe pain. The real C/S springs don’t exist in the open market and have to be custom made. They’re entirely unique to the ’86, and there is no aftermarket. Same for the shocks and struts.
      Rebuilding the motor? Good luck finding a 2.2 block that isn’t clapped out to all fuck. Idiots who coked the turbo and decided “hey I’mma bore 030 for power” on the budget rebuild, spun bearings that just went to max oversize, shadetree turned cranks – a Dremel’s as good as a CNC right? – abound, Chinese eBay turbos everywhere, and actual expertise is nonexistent.

      Like, seriously. I think there’s a total of three of us left in the entire world that can fix a 2.2 Turbo IV VNT correctly. (No, hacking it up to disable the VNT is not fixing it. It’s blind ignorant hammering.) If I were to have a workable 2.2 shortblock, I’d have to be the one giving the machine shop all the measurements and tolerances. They have no clue. And you better believe that goes triple for the ‘rebuilders’ at Jasper who literally just slap parts they’re given together.

      If somebody who can diag and fix a VNT to this day without going to the FSM except for tolerances is running away, you should be getting in the nearest hypercar and flooring it. There are much better examples to be found for not much more money.

  2. As the resident turbo Dodge guy you’d think it’d be obvious which I’d pick.

    First of all, this Daytona absolutely is not a C/S. Never was. End of discussion. The C/S package required selection of the A525 5 speed as part of AGA. This is an automatic. The automatics are miserable. It’s also riding too high on the wrong wheels. An actual C/S rides on 15×6.5’s with P225/50ZR15’s. Those are 16’s riding 50’s, meaning it was a 14×6 car.
    And knock is guaranteed to be bottom end, because it was rode hard and put away wet. 2.2’s have low margins in the oiling system, particularly under hard cornering. The pan has insufficient baffles resulting in crank starvation. Once you have knock, the bottom end’s gone. Which also means the turbo’s gone, as well as the head.

    The VW’s gearbox parts should be far easier to source and the Audi 2.2 5-cylinder has a cult following. Making the Quantum GL5 into a sleeper or just a daily will be much cheaper and much easier.

      1. What, no love for Gary? 😉
        ’86 real-deal C/S here, but it’s the permanent project car. Someday I’ll have the time and money to get to the IRS RWD conversion. These were never, ever meant to be drag cars.

      1. Not VIN. VIN won’t tell you anything on these, by design. It’ll only give you 2.2 turbo. That’s it.

        Have to decode the body plate and preferably broadcast sheet, but the sheet is usually long gone. Body plate is located on the core support and riveted in. Contains all of the specific build codes. Body, paint, interior, engine, transmission, gearing, suspension, special codes, etcetera.
        The A525 in the real deal C/S has a very high propensity for grenading the carrier bearing and sometimes the #3 synchro. But you would never auto swap one of these unless you were building a pure drag racer (which for some insane reason, is what so damn many had done to them. Often badly.)

      2. Right, and IDGAF personally, it’s the Daytona all day. The rest of the car is worth a drivetrain swap and all I want to do is drive the fucker, so I give 0 fucks about it being a “real” this or that.

        I should also mention that it was already on my favorites list.

  3. The Cars sang Let the Good Times Roll, but I’m not sure you could do that in either of these “classics”. Although in theory the Dodge will roll in two directions, I went with the dub for no reason at all.

  4. VW because manual and wagon. Neither one is a great color inside or out but the VW’s ribbed velour is a plus.

    The Daytona is in the most boring possible color combination in sharp contrast to the K-car wagon from week one in very ’80s champagne beige with maroon velour. If it were that color combo, or better yet red with maroon velour, it would get my vote.

    1. Hell no. It’s a complete fake with the base (garbage) suspension that was rode hard, put away red. It is not an AGA. If it was, somebody’s already fucked the gearbox and suspension into oblivion at least once.
      You literally could not order an ’86 AGA with an automatic. Chrysler would not build it.

  5. Man. This one is hard, and not for any good reason. Which one is worse? I honestly don’t know. The daytona would be alright with a manual, but FWD is a big no no for me, as is a 3 speed auto. The VW holds absolutely no appeal to me, but does have the right transmission and is in better shape theoretically… Ah screw it, Daytona it is, but just because it would make the better lawn ornament.

  6. As a teen in the 80s my parents had a Chrysler Conquest (Mitsubishi Starion) which looked very similar to the Daytona/Laser with the exception of the B pillar. The Conquest was constantly mistaken for a Daytona even though it was the better car no matter how you measured it so I’ve been biased against Daytonas for 3.5 decades now. Even still, I voted Daytona today, at least it makes turbo noises.

    1. The Conquest has the Mitsu 2.6 which is without question the most garbage, worst fuel injection setup of all time. It’s beyond abysmal. Given 10 years, the only fix for it would be to completely redesign the entire intake, turbo, and injection system. I mean really, fucking 2 injector TBI so they could use a carb’d turbo design?! Lunatics.
      The Conquest’s handling is also a total joke compared to a real Daytona C/S (as is every other Daytona, but apparently people like not having their spine broken by every frost hump.)
      This one is not a real C/S.

      1. Agree on the goofy 2 injector TBI setup. Even though it worked it was awkward and hard to find anyone who knew how to work on it. The SOHC 2.6 4G54 engine was a product of its time, the 4G63 that came after it in the DSMs was far superior and not an uncommon swap into a Starquest.

        Completely disagree on the handling. Perhaps I’m biased because I grew up in, learned to drive in, and my first two cars were Conquests, but the handling was excellent.

        1. The Starquest’s handling was excellent for it’s time, not disagreed.
          But the GVS24’s are on an entirely different level. It’s like going from a 1980’s pickup truck to an F1. You have to actually drive a properly maintained one to actually understand just how completely insane the G-body is.
          Everyone assumes that being FWD it’s going to understeer hard. Yeah, no. Not far out from factory alignment, and you have never driven a car that will ever rut hunt half as hard. Every shred of understeer is from just having too much grip. Especially on modern tires. It has more aggressive tires than a

          Understand, the C/S? Did. Not. Fuck. Around. 2700lbs, wide as hell magnesium-alloy wheels (with atrocious airflow,) the highest performance tire Goodyear could make, the quickest ratio rack ever put in any car I’m aware of, and swaybars the size of your forearm. The fact is that the ’86 C/S suspension is simply too extreme to be tolerable for 99.99% of the population. And could really only be made more extreme.
          Like, seriously. I absolutely could not in good faith recommend one to anyone who hasn’t driven a Mazdaspeed Miata with upgraded swaybars, solid poly bushings, higher rate springs, and said “I want an even more spine-shattering ride.”

    2. I’ll vote for the Daytona just because of the Dee Dee McCall reference (she was referred to as the Iron Cupcake in the pilot). Also it reminds me of this cars appearance in the movie Black Moon Rising. There is another car that is one of the great custom (80’s edition) cars ever. Truly peak 80’s film.

  7. How the hell did that Rabbit win a voting contest against anything? A bike is better transportation.

    As for today’s lineup, the best I can say is at least the Daytona is attractive.

  8. Love those Quantums! I rode in many during my travels to China. They made them under the “Santana” name through 2012! It was like their Crown Vic – built for for 30+ years on the same platform and used as taxis and police cars.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. That Dodge does hit the nostalgia button as I had an ’85 Plymouth Duster Turismo as one of my first cars. The problem is, I kind of hated that car – it looked good, but it had an automatic and gave my ’71 220d a run for the money in straight-line performance. Meanwhile, I currently have a fairly solid ’88 VW Parati (VW Fox – I prefer the Brazilian name) in my collection that this would go with nicely, especially for what’s essentially “shrug money” these days.

  19. They both look like too much work to bother with, if you ask me. Not that major drivetrain work is always a deal-killer, I just don’t see it being worth doing here for what you end up with. If I had to pick one I guess I would take the Quantum, since if we’re pulling engines and transmissions and stuff anyway, it would be the funner one to turn into a sleeper. If you’re going to take one of these cars apart and put it back together you might as well make it faster in the process, and a fast Quantum would be funny. Also, you can fill it with crap.

  20. Quantum for me. My aunt had a very neglected Passat GL5 estate which I had to fill with oil every time I visited and the electrics only worked every other Tuesday but all would be forgiven with a push of the accelerator and hearing the 5 cylinder yowl (or maybe that was the dogs trying to get out of the boot).

  21. Manual wagon? Say no more. Plus the quantum looked good then and looks good now.

    Inversely, the Daytona has been ugly for going on forty years. Disqualified before you even see the gear selector. Disqualified again before you learn about the knacked engine.

    C’mon, these are too easy.

  22. Sonofabitch.

    $2,000 for a car with a turbo engine knocking like it wants to tell you the good news about our lord and savior? I don’t feel comfortable in this market anymore.

    That Quantum is an easy “yes.” Save $600 over the other shitbox and see if you can hunt down a new gearbox to swap in. Eh…who am I kidding? I’d spend it on beer because reverse is for people with regrets.

    1. Yea if that’s all that’s wrong with it then I’ll save the money too. Just put in neutral and roll it back. If you get tired of doing that you could always fix or replace the transmission with the money saved from buying the cheaper car.

    2. You should see the shit around here.
      Salvage titled, HARD wrecked Scion xB. Took a pickup to the rear quarter, the entire structure is folded. But it runs and drives relatively straight. Can’t open the rear hatch, can’t open the rear doors, can’t open the driver’s door.
      $5,000. And it sold in less than a week.

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