1 Feb 1974
By CHRIS HARRIS
THE original Passat, released in Australia a year after its 1973 European arrival, finally freed massively debt-burdened VW’s reliance on the senile rear-driven Beetle and Type-3 models.
It was a twin of the 1972 Audi 80 – a connection the 1998-2006 B5 re-established fraternally with the first Audi A4 of 1994 – and was assembled (rather haphazardly) in Clayton, Victoria until 1977.
But that didn’t stop the attractive front-wheel drive mid-sizer winning a coveted car-of-the-year award.
Two advanced (for their time) four-cylinder engines were offered – a 44kW/93Nm 1.3-litre OHC unit tied to a four-speed manual in the base single round-headlight Passat 1300 two-door sedan, and a 55kW/116Nm 1.5-litre OHC 1500 model, mated to a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic gearbox.
The later proved the most popular, powering the Passat LS four-door ‘fastback’ sedan and wagon, as well as the sportier, quad-headlight Passat TS two-door, until the end of 1975.
The arrival of the first VW Golf in February 1976 brought a paired-down Passat range. A new 55kW/121Nm 1.6-litre OHC unit powered the remaining LS sedan and wagon models.
After the ensuing quality woes VW AG pulled the pin and sold its local operations to Nissan Australia.
So from 1977 the German-assembled Passat GLS arrived in new three-door hatchback, four-door fastback sedan and wagon – identifiable by their four round headlights instead of the square units.
But skyrocketing prices saw Passat sales plummet drastically, and these were withdrawn from sale in late 1978.
Not even the 37kW/82Nm 1.5-litre OHC diesel from when petrol prices were high during 1979 could save the facelifted Passat from the same year.
It soldiered on until VW pulled the plug on its passenger car imports to Australia at the end of 1982.