Rockin the Suburbs
Ahh – your first car. What can be said about it? The newfound freedom that comes with this mobility. Everyone remembers the feeling of their first drive, alone, without parental oversight. This was my first car.
Originally purchased by my father in 1994, new, the Volkswagen Passat was a cutting edge vehicle for its time. In fact, my father traded in his BMW 5-series to get into one of these – and all he had to say about it was “it handles better, its faster, its more economical and more comfortable”. Admittedly, the 5er was a 1984 car, so there’s a lot that can be done in 10 years with regards to comfort and performance.
That said, this car was a wonderful thing to drive. The steering was communicative and direct, despite the ever present body roll and the threat of understeer should the front tires get cooked. Paired with a 5-speed manual transmission and those sweet BBS alloy rims rocking some performance rubber I will admit that I readily pushed the limits of this car like any 17 year old boy would. Accompanying the chirp between gear changes from the front tires came some hefty torque steer – this was before traction control and electronic differentials.
What can I say about that narrow angle VR6 engine in this car? It was just so smooth – so free to rev and so full of torque from start to finish. This truly was the heart and soul of the Passat of that day.
The ergonomics of the car were just right for me, helping me perfect shifting a manual transmission to the point where I don’t even think about it anymore. The clutch was easy to work and the shifter was butter smooth.
Of course, the car itself wasn’t the most reliable. I remember going through a few water pumps. A wonderful “bonding experience” with the woman who would become my wife 6 years later involved the damned thing dying on a trip back from the Hamptons, forcing us to pull off the highway in the middle of Harlem. Luckily, there was actually a guy on the street who was helpful and even knew about these cars. His quick fixes got her dropped off and allowed me to make the drive 6 hours back to Rochester.
That, combined with its unwillingness to die after killing 2 deer, ripping the oil pan, and surviving a year of my sister driving the car while I was at college earned the car the nickname “The Bismarck”.