Home » Rare And Broken Volkswagens From Days Of Yore: 1973 412 vs 1976 Scirocco

Rare And Broken Volkswagens From Days Of Yore: 1973 412 vs 1976 Scirocco

Sbsd 6 21 2023
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Good morning! On today’s Shitbox Showdown, we’re looking at two of Wolfsburg’s forgotten cars of yesteryear for sale here in my hometown. This week is all single marques; yesterday it was Buick’s turn. Let’s see how the votes went:

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An absolute blowout for the little Reatta. A lot of you expressed a fondness for the Buick Roadmaster in general, but thought – and I agree – that this particular example was just too sketchy to deal with.

Volkswagens these days are so often derided as unreliable and overly complex that it’s hard to remember that up through the 1980s, VW made sturdy, mechanically simple, reliable cars. No, really. Basically every Volkswagen up until the mid-1970s was a variation on the Beetle theme, and everything after that, at least up to 1990 or so, was pretty much a Rabbit or a Dasher when you got right down to it. So for today at least, let’s forget about the Passat W8s and the Jetta 1.8ts and all the rest of the typical modern Volkswagen classified detritus and get back to a time when Volkswagen actually made people’s cars. These two are uncommonly-seen variations on their themes, which makes them interesting potential projects. Wait – projects? Yeah, neither one of them runs right now. Sorry about that. Let’s check them out.

1973 Volkswagen 412 – $1,350

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.7 liter overhead valve flat 4, three-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Damascus, OR

Odometer reading: 123,000 miles

Runs/drives? Nope, one of those “ran when parked” deals

If this car looks familiar to you, it might be because Stef Schrader, friend of the Autopian and stuffed-animal enthusiast, has a similar car that has led a colorful life since she got it. It was, and I believe still is, a Lemons race car. Stef’s car is actually a 411, the predecessor to this one, but it’s the same basic idea: VW’s “pancake” style air-cooled flat-four engine, a four-door fastback body, and a whole lot of questions from onlookers, even VW enthusiasts, who’ve probably never seen one.

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The 412’s 1.7 liter engine is fuel-injected, fancy stuff for the early ’70s. But like early American fuel injection systems from Chevy and Chrysler, a lot of these were ripped out and replaced with carburetors by mechanics who couldn’t be bothered to learn something new. This one looks intact, but it isn’t functional. The seller only says it “won’t start” and that it “ran when parked.”

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Unfortunately, this 412 also features an automatic transmission. The Volkswagen Beetle was America’s ideal “second car,” but the main family-car role was filled by a Ford or a Chevy or a Plymouth. Volkswagen wanted that position in the family garage as well, and that meant not only four doors, but an automatic. There were manual Type 4s, and I imagine a conversion isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but a full automatic in an air-cooled Volkswagen might be worth keeping intact just for the novelty value.

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This car is a perfect example of what I love about the car culture here in Portland. It’s a nearly-forgotten old car, not really special in any way except that it’s probably one of the last of its kind, and just a little offbeat and oddball. You don’t see cars like this on every street corner around here, but keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see some rare gems you thought had long since vanished from the earth.

[Editor’s Note: I always liked these strange Type 4s a lot. They’re a fascinating development of the Beetle concept, and I know these were a flop, but that makes me like them more. Plus, Brooks Stevens did the facelift on the 412s! The guy who designed the Jeep Wagoneer! – JT]

1976 Volkswagen Scirocco – $2,750

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed manual, FWD

Location: Clackamas, OR

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Odometer reading: 142,000 miles

Runs/drives? Not since 1989

Now here is a car that is near and dear to my heart. My first car was a 1979 Scirocco, and I loved it. It’s my favorite example of Giorgietto Giugiaro’s “folded paper” era of design, one of many cars he designed for Volkswagen and Audi at the time.  It’s also my favorite type of car: a small, lightweight fastback coupe. Mechanically, the Scirocco was identical to the Rabbit, but it looks and feels like a completely different car. A little bit of style goes a long way.

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In addition to the sharp kamm-tail styling and quad round headlights, the early Scirocco also has the best factory steering wheel of any car I’ve ever driven. It looks great, and feels fantastic. I liked it so much that I kept mine and installed it in the ’85 VW Golf that replaced my Scirocco. This one is in good shape, as are the black vinyl seats. Even more astonishing, the dashboard top appears un-cracked. The door cards are missing, but I think I see them in the piles of parts that are included.

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In ’76 the Scirocco and Rabbit were still carbureted; Bosch fuel injection wouldn’t arrive until 1978. Unlike the 412, this Scirocco has a proper four-speed manual transmission. Automatic Sciroccos did exist, but they were fortunately rare. This car hasn’t been on the road since 1989, which by a strange coincidence is the year I got mine. The seller says the engine turns over by hand, so it could potentially be revived, but there are lots of two-liter Golfs and Jettas and New Beetles around that could become an engine donor for a far cooler car. You could get a fifth gear out of the deal that way, too.

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First-generation Sciroccos were prone to rust, and this car is no exception. Weirdly, according to the ad, it was painted white by a previous owner as a way to protect and preserve it. I’m not sure how that was supposed to work. It was originally a really nice shade of blue, and it could and should be returned to that color. The rust looks repairable; in fact, annoyingly, it has quite a bit less rust than my Scirocco did, thirty-four years ago:

My Scirocco

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Man, look how happy that dorky sixteen-year-old kid is. That is the power of the Scirocco: not speed, not luxury, not even handling. It’s a magical machine that spreads joy wherever it goes.

These cars are what I think of when someone says “Volkswagen,” not the complex, high-maintenance fussbudgets of twenty years later. I’m glad these cars are still around, and I hope someone puts both of them back on the road where they belong. If that someone is you, which one are you going to revive?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers, except the last one, which is credited to Joe Tucker)

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Scott
Scott
10 months ago

Mark, any chance you could include links to the for-sale page if these cars you feature are indeed for sale at the time you write about them? Or, are you already doing this and I just don’t see it due to an excess of Ambien still left in my system this morning? Thanks. 🙂

Lokki
Lokki
1 year ago

Pop Quiz:

If you misplace one small but important Sirocco part every two years between 1989 and 2023, how much vital stuff is missing as of today?

I will say though that I’m not touching that 412 until the fuel injection has been removed. Back in the day my sister’s boyfriend had a 411 which I remember only because it burned to the ground after an high pressure injection system line sprang a leak and sprayed gas all over a hot engine… Fuel injection was a new technology for VW and there were a few things that didn’t occur to them when they designed it.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
1 year ago
  1. I knew this would be the siren song that called Stef to her doom
  2. 412 all day long. It’s so damn unique (and easily swapped to a 4-speed manual). Hell, put a 2.0L Porsche 914 motor in it and call it a day!
Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
1 year ago

$1350 for anything that well preserved is a good deal! Type 4 for me!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

412 412 412!!!!!!!! It’s the updated version of my beloved garbage son! YOU COULD HAVE THE DREADED LARAMIE’S LITTLE BRO! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Join me in the land of bespoke-to-Type-4 no longer available parts. The upside is, the 914 used the Type 4 engine, too, and there’s a ton of help and support for that lump.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

(only mildly tearing up at the mention of my beautiful trash baby, the 411)

AlienProbe
AlienProbe
1 year ago

At the time of this post 141 Autopians are clearly smoking crack. That Scirocco is a trainwreck.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago
Reply to  AlienProbe

The Sirocco has promise, which is what our crushed hopes and dreams are made of. (Although I was only tempted, but not swayed.)

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
1 year ago
Reply to  SlowCarFast

Similarly tempted but not swayed, mostly by that rear 3/4 photo of the Scirocco. Yum!

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago

A tough one, as usual. If the bozo had tried yo preserve the car with blue paint (How clever!) then I’d give the Sirocco a try. But the quirky 412 with fuel injection is too interesting and closer to Go Mode.

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