Volkswagen 412, the nose bear

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In 1968 the Beetle was highly dated and the market begged for a bigger, more luxurious and modern car. And according to VW, that newcomer had to compete seriously with, for example, the Opel Rekord, of which Opel sold about 300.000 of them annually. The Ford Taunus 17M and the Peugeot 504 were clearly cars whose sales successes irritated the Wolf burgers. The Volkswagen Type 4 was produced as Volkswagen 411 from 1968 to 1972 and as Volkswagen 412 built from 1972 to 1974. 

The coatis

The car was marketed as a two- or four-door sedan and a three-door Variant. That Variant version became popular because you could fit almost an entire household in it. The Volkswagen 411/412 was a more spacious middle-class car than the previously available 1500/1600. And it was the largest air-cooled Volkswagen all time. It was 6,5 cm longer than the VW bus.

Rare, not expensive

The car is now a great example of classics, their rarity and their value. Because: Rare = Expensive. Well, that's the idea. Volkswagens restarting to the larger luxury class is now quite rare. There are still fewer than 85 on the license plate in the Netherlands. But one Volkswagen 411/412 is not (yet) priceless. However, the current approach is "Find one".

So air-cooled

Completely according to tradition, this car was also powered by a rear-mounted air-cooled boxer engine. Both aspects were already somewhat dated at the time. A 1679 cm³ and a 1795 cm³ version were available.

This line of large, luxury VWs was the first VW with a self-supporting body. The McPherson struts were not yet fully harmoniously incorporated into the concept. They were actually a bit 'too steep'. And that was a contribution to the somewhat unusual handling of the large VW.

The car had a fastback-like shape and the design had a serious tension. The back was drawn by Pininfarina, but the front came from 'own house' and actually looked quite ... Well ... clumsy. At the Volkswagen As we shall see, this was handled more elegantly. The double headlights made the car a lot more serious and the 412 lost its Playmobile muzzle. The interior was okay and the spring comfort was not wrong.

But otherwise, this series of VWs remained a bit different

With the four-cylinder 1,7-liter boxer of 68 hp, the large VW was in fact under-motorized. That made him very thirsty. And to reach the acceleration time to the top speed of 145 kilometers per hour, you needed a grandfather clock rather than a stopwatch.

Once up to speed, the VW was also very noisy inside

And the weight distribution over the wheels meant that every rider bought an option that was not on the list: A sandbag for the trunk in the nose. Experts later came up with a more subtle approach: concrete in the spare wheel well. But even with that ballast in the nose, the handling remained adventurous. Because when cornering you had to be careful. Initially, the Volkswagen 411 really had to be pushed into the bend, but if that at too high a speed. As if on a slippery road surface, the understeer suddenly turned into enthusiastic upset.

Despite the limited power, you could just end up backwards in the verge. Just like carting. How wrong the handling of these VW's actually was: Gijs van Lennep drove the Monte Carlo Rally a few times.


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  1. In 1975 I had a red three-door 412 with an open roof for a while. A 1.8. It was quite a comfortable car with good seats and room for five people. The disadvantage was that he wanted to become best friends with the Shell pump… The handling was not so bad at the time, unless you were going to tear it.

    • In my opinion, the Peugeot was not bothered by the VW …… ..
      As a child did not understand how one dares to market such a vehicle, still not now!

  2. According to a German joke, 411 at the time meant “four doors only eleven years late”. It was the very last air-cooled VW to be presented under Heinrich Nordhoff, the man who once determined that the Beetle should remain “eternal and unchanged”, while its competitors attracted customers year after year with fresh colors, water-cooled engines, lots of glass and plenty of boot space.

    However, the 411 was not only “the last” in everything but also “the first” four-door Volkswagen, the first with self-supporting body, the first with petrol injection (the 1700 E-engine had a Bosch D-Jetronic) and the 412 got the first Wolfsburg halogen headlamps. Which, by the way, are copied from the Brazilian version of the 1600.

    The 412 was screwed together in its last year in Salzgitter. In Wolfsburg he had to make way for the Audi 80-based Passat. With water cooling and front-wheel drive. The last Nordhoff VW was no more.

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