Junkyard Gem: 1987 Volkswagen Quantum GL5 Syncro Wagon

Murilee Martin
·2-min read


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One great thing about Colorado junkyards is that you can still find examples of long-forgotten four- or all-wheel-drive cars as you walk their rows. Remember the Toyota Previa All-Trac? Just spotted one with a 5-speed. The Mercury Topaz AWD? Still shows up in the Denver boneyards. The bewildering Eagle Summit AWD? Certainly. The strange-O Nissan Stanza 4WD wagon? Hai! Every outdoorsy Subaru you could ever imagine? Of course! Volkswagen got into the AWD game pretty early here, soon after the AMC Eagle sold better than expected and Audi developed the Quattro system, with the Passat wagon getting a Quattro drivetrain starting in 1984. You could get one of those cars on this side of the Atlantic, for just a few years, and I've found a rare '87 GL5 in Denver.

The North American-market Passat was known as the Dasher (1974-1981) and then the Quantum (1982-1989), prior to getting the European name over here. The GL5 version of the Quantum got the Audi five-cylinder engine.

However, all US-market Quantum Syncro Wagons got this five-cylinder engine, so the trim-level badging seems redundant (though it makes sense on the sedan version, for which the 5-banger was an extra-cost option). This one made 115 horsepower when new.

Audis have always required conscientious maintenance, so the ones that get abused and/or neglected tend to end up discarded before their time. This car made it past the 150,000-mile mark, which is decent by mid-1980s standards. Quantum Syncro owners seem to love their cars, and so I do find the occasional junkyard example with amazingly high final mileage reading (though nothing approaching what 1980s diesel Mercedes-Benzes get).

Look at that, a five-speed manual transmission to go with that Syncro-badged-Quattro drivetrain! Unlike the Toyota, Honda, and Subaru four-wheel-drive wagons of this era, this car has a genuine full-time all-wheel-drive system that requires no driver input when switching from the slippery stuff to dry pavement. Once Subaru went to true AWD a few years later (and AWD on all US-market vehicles starting in 1996), sales skyrocketed in Colorado.

It appears that Curbside Classics got to this car before I did (I think Jim Klein and I photographed it days apart), and you can learn even more about it here.