Your Ride: 1979 Volkswagen B1 Passat
As a child, Jack Smith fell in love with Herbie. Ever since, this Melbourne, Australia native has been a Volkswagen fanatic. A neighbor drove a VW B1 and he constantly found himself seeking out this model at car shows. B1s, according to Smith, “seemed like they had become the forgotten black sheep of the VW family. I love an underdog so I decided to find one that was down on its luck and needed some loving to get back on the road.” Smith shares with BoldRide the complete restoration process and introduces us to his very own Herbie, “Frank.” BoldRide: How did you acquire the ride? Smith: I found my car on eBay in December 2008. There was an auction battle between myself and two auto wreckers. I scored the car for a whopping $512. This car had been in an accident and was heavily damaged in the rear quarter. It had a dodgy paint job and looked neglected. It was perfect: just what I was looking for. Stupid me, I had never restored a car before and had no idea what a pain in the ass car restoration could be. If I knew then what I know now, I may not have done it.
Does it have a name?
Frank, short for Frankenstein. It took some time to figure out Frank’s name and for several months it was just “The Passat.” One night, after attaching a new quarter panel, I looked at the car as it was covered in pink and yellow filler, green sanding dust, a white and red door with loaner seats and wheels. The name just came to me. The car looked a bit like Frankenstein’s monster, all patched together from various body parts.
What have you done to make it a bolder ride?
I painted the car Mars Red. This is a really bright shade of red that VW used on several models in the seventies and is also used on Porsches. I wanted to keep the car looking great but also accurate for the time period. It’s vibrant and really pops on a sunny day.
We restored the bumpers with K & H Plastic Bumper Paint, and the brakes by using custom Audi 80/Fox B1 parts donated from the Golf and a 1998 Audi A4. We utilized the front seats from a Mk3 Golf and the retro Aero alloys on an Audi B3 for the rims. The exhaust was replaced entirely and it’s truly a work of art: it looks and sounds fabulous.
What was most challenging about the restoration process?
Finding the correct parts, especially the damned taillights! Since Audi made the B1, a lot of parts are unique to the first generation B1. There isn't much flexibility for using other parts from newer cars. My car is a facelift model, the final version of the B1, and was only made from 1977 to 1980. The taillights are unique to the facelift model and are as rare as hen’s teeth.
What's an inside fact about the B1 Passat only an owner would know?
They handle completely different than the Golf. The longer wheelbase and the longitudinally mounted engine position makes it feel nothing like its cousin, the Golf.
What do you love about Frank?
Look at it. Talk about weird looking, right? I do love that Frank is completely different from anything else on the road. Frank is quite a hoot to drive. He also has fabulous Giorgetto Giugiaro styling; sharp creases and lines that are so very distinctive of the era. I do love that some Volkswagens got new names in the States. The Mk1 Golf became a Rabbit and the Passat a Dasher. I decided to rebadge my car because it's funny and adds to the confusion behind Frank.
Favorite and dream place to drive Frank?
I live near the Dandenong Ranges, a beautiful part of Victoria with lots of winding roads enclosed by trees. Frank loves the hills and cruises up them effortlessly, zipping around bends and outpacing much newer cars. The roads can be intimidating to the unfamiliar but are incredibly scenic and have awesome curves to hug. I would like to take Frank to the ‘Ring. Not for hooning, but just to say I did it. It would also bring Frank back to his birthplace, Germany, which would be pretty cool.
What do you feel like when you drive him?
I feel like smiling. I spent a long time fixing the car up and it makes me grin to have him on the road. Plus, the confused looks I get from other drivers and pedestrians make me laugh. Hardly anyone knows what it is, especially with the big white Dasher stickers down the sides.
Model: B1 Passat
Engine: 1.6 Liter
Horsepower: Estimated 139 hp
Car Type: Hatchback
Overall length: 4300mm
Curb weight: 1,940 lbs.
To learn more about Frank's restoration visit VWDasher.com
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