Okay, I’ll admit that we don’t spend a lot of time on pre-War German cars. The why is quite simple; outside of an occasional Mercedes-Benz model, there just weren’t a lot of pre-War German cars exported to the United States. Heck, there just weren’t a lot of pre-War German cars, period.
Contrary to popular belief, German wasn’t a nation of drivers until well after World War II. It was something that Mercedes-Benz and upstart conglomerate Auto Union lamented to a certain then-new German Chancellor by the name of Adolf Hitler. Hitler agreed; he wanted and needed the automobile industry in Germany to prosper to help resurrect the economy. But he also needed German car firms to take to new markets. The results you likely know; Hitler spurred the industry through lowering of automobile taxes, and more notable, the encouragement and funding of international-level automobile racing. It’s one of the few times in history that a government has undertaken full sponsorship of a race effort, and without a doubt it was the most successful and evocative. Should you care to on this blustery and very cold late December evening (at least here in New England, where temperatures are struggling to reach double digits), you can read all about it in my dissertation:
Motorsports Monday Special: Racing to Sell – The ‘Silberpfeil’: Part 6
The result of all of that racing and support of the automobile industry was that both Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union prospered – for a while. The unfortunate side-effect of the buildup for the Spanish Civil War and World War II, along with re-arming several areas of taken from Germany through the Versailles Treaty was that by the late 1930s, automobile production had ceased to accelerate because of artificial shortages of items like metal and rubber. Couple that with the fact that most Germans, though much better off in aggregate following the NSDAP takeover in 1933 than they had been during the Great Depression from 1929-1932, still weren’t very rich.…
The Phaeton is a very perplexing car. It was established as a plan to produce a no-expense spared, world-beating luxury car – and, in many ways at the time, it was world beating. It offered similar luxury and performance to the established German standards – Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class and BMW’s 7-series, but also challenged stable-mate Audi’s A8. Yet it was available on a more Volkswagen budget – at least, in theory. That’s because if you walked into a Volkswagen dealer in the mid 2000s and wanted a basically optioned model, you’d be out about $75,000. For reference, that’s about three times what my expensive-for-the-category Passat cost in 2002. And the big problem with that was how the Phaeton looked, because a bulk of the population wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart.
But that wasn’t the point about the Phaeton. Nor was it that you could get the lighter, aluminum version of what appeared to be the same car from more upscale Audi that would arguably attract much more attention for not much more money. And it was this exact confusion that befuddled the market; why would you ever pay $75,000 for a Volkswagen? The trick came in realizing what you were getting, which actually shared little architecture with the Audi corporate partner. Park a Phaeton next to an A8 and you’d swear they were just about the same car with light badging changes, but you couldn’t be more wrong.
Although the model shared components with the D3 A8, it also shared much more architecture with other side of VAG’s portfolio – the Bentley Flying Spur and Continental. This meant a steel chassis rather than the aluminum space frame, and that meant more weight – a lot more weight. To mitigate this, Volkswagen upped the power slightly over the A8’s V8 to 335 and dropped its axle ratio to 3.65:1.…
The “Honorable Mention” post from last week seemed to be a popular choice, so I’m back this week with another selection of cars we didn’t get a chance to get to. We’ve got one from each major manufacturer this time around which makes for an interesting and diverse group. Which is the one that deserved a better look this time around?
At first glance, you’d be excused thinking that the Volkswagen Phaeton and Audi A8 were the same car underneath. Especially when it came to the D3 chassis, the Audi and Volkswagen shared many styling cues, as well as engines and transmissions. However, the Volkswagen is actually quite different underneath – instead of the typical platform sharing that occurred between Volkswagen and Audi, VAG instead turned towards their upscale brands for the Phaeton. That’s right, underneath the Phaeton is a budget Bentley. You can tell the difference when you step inside, too – back when these were new, a Phaeton showed up at a Winter Driving School I was instructing at. I hopped in the passenger side and shut the door; the sound was a unique sound of sealing the rest of the world out. All of the sudden I swear I could hear my heart beating. It was eerily quiet, as if I had entered a sound booth. It was also eerily competent on the snow and ice in spite of the over 5,000 lb. curb weight. That’s a few hundred pounds north of the Audi A8 even in “L” guise, and it wouldn’t surprise me if 300 lbs of that difference is noise deadening. A generation on, you’re now able to get into a Phaeton or its cousin the Audi A8L for about the same price. Which would you choose?
Maybe you’re lucky, and it’s sunny and warm where you’re reading this. Or, perhaps you’re stuck under a rock – or in the case of Buffalo, several feet of snow. But like it or not, winter is upon us a bit early this year, and if you are in Buffalo you probably need some sort of snow-cat to get to the local store. Hopefully, that’s not the case for most of you but I wondered what sort of all-wheel drive car you could get on a $10,000 budget. As it turns out, you might be able to get a little more than you expected – so here’s a few offerings from the different manufacturers, starting with the folks that started it all:
The Volkswagen Phaeton has been, since introduction, quite an intriguing car. Generally passed off by those out of the know as a rebadged A8, every time I see one I’m blown away that Volkswagen pulled the project off. Despite what the American enthusiasts think, the exclusive executive sedan has been very popular in Europe and specifically Germany – where it’s much more in vogue to fly a little lower on the radar. Fly low the Phaeteon does; for many, at first glance it doesn’t look much different than the B5.5 Passat, and many of the styling cues were incorporated into the B6 Passat sedan. Couple that with a general resemblance to the D2 Audi A8, and not many notice this serene Volkswagen shuttling its passengers in near silence. I say near silence, since the only noise you hear inside is the slightly slower beating of your heart and heavy breaths as you soak in the luxury. They’re disturbingly quiet inside, thanks in no small part to extra thick glass and soundproofing. Every conceivable option available in the Volkswagen catalog was thrown at these cars, including the top-spec W12 motor. Shared with the Audi A8, Bentley Continental GT and Flying Spur, the W12 is a monster of power – easily capable of propelling the very important people riding along with you quite close to 200 m.p.h. when deregulated. This is especially shocking given the Phaeteon’s weight – a staggering 500 lbs heavier than the Audi A8 you’d presume was the same car, the Volkswagen was simply in another weight class and quite different than the D2/3 chassis. Yet, despite the exotic Bentley stablemates that share many components and the D1 platform, today you can pick up one of these expensive cars that were a bit of a sales flop at a substantial discount:
Years ago, the thought of a twelve cylinder Volkswagen would have been unthinkable. What was devised as the “People’s Car” during World War II has now turned into a dominant force in the global car market, controlling a number of different brands spanning almost every market segment. The Phaeton was the car that took the battle to the luxury car segment directly to the competition’s doorstep, mainly Mercedes-Benz, BMW and even in-house brand Audi. While it is still on sale in Europe, few noticed on these shores and the car disappeared from the lineup after three model years. Now these large sedans represent a bargain if you are, of course, brave enough to battle the potential pitfalls and repairs that comes along with such a complex machine.
While most Phaetons had the 4.2 liter V8 under the hood, this W12 for sale in Missouri is the pinnacle of the flagship line for Volkswagen, with an engine similar to the one found under the hood of certain Bentley models.
The Volkswagen Phaeton may have been too far of a reach for the brand to sell well in the US, but the car itself was a serious accomplishment. The W12 is a monster while the 335-hp V8 is more than capable for a large and luxurious all-wheel drive sedan. It may look like an overgrown Passat and have the achilles heel of overcomplication, but some Audi wheels can address the prior and finding low-mileage examples like this one can at least delay the latter. Meanwhile, you’re going to be cradled in an epic luxury sedan that you bought for the price of a base-model Golf.
Engine: 4.2L V8
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Mileage: 65,846 mi
Price: $17,888 Buy It Now
Up for sale is a 2004 Volkswagen Phaeton. This Phaeton is one of Germany’s FINEST ON EVERY LEVEL. This is Volkswagen’s most LUXURIOUS cars ever! This beauty has a CLASSY BLACK EXTERIOR with a COMPLIMENTARY TAN INTERIOR!!!
The 2004 Phaeton has a 335-HP V8 Engine that will put you in your seat. It has a ROCK-SOLID BUILD and has an EXTREMELY ROOMY INTERIOR.
This Phaeton has a Certified Carfax & Guaranteed Autocheck!!!
Options & Features:
Power Front Seats
Memory Front Seats
Power Lumbar Support
Power Rear Sunshade
Rear Side Sunshades
Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control
Heated Front Seats
Power Tilt Steering Column
Steering Wheel Audio Controls
It may not be the fastest or flashiest, but some pragmatic German car fan is going to snap this up for pennies on the dollar and feel awesome rolling around with as many features as an S-class or 7-series. As a long-term proposition, the maintenance issues are known but Phaeton prices can’t really go much lower, can they?…
The Volkswagen Phaeton is a polarizing car. Some people see it as an overpriced Volkswagen. Others appreciate it for what it brings to the table in terms of engineering and exquisite detailing. Before he retired, Ferdinand Piëch, Chairman of the Volkswagen Group, wanted to develop an uncompromising luxury sedan to beat the likes of Mercedes-Benz at their own game. While he may have succeeded, the market dictated otherwise. By 2006, four years into production, a little over 25,000 examples of this luxury sedan had been produced. The domestic market is by far the strongest, but the US market was a different story. Under 1,500 Phaetons were sold here in 2004 and for 2005, a mere 820 cars found homes. The writing was on the wall and Volkswagen ceased US Phaeton sales the following year. This Phaeton in for sale in Massachusetts represents a lot of car for not much money.
Pristine Black/Beige V8 Phaeton with 54,500 mileage and covered by 2 year comprehensive Platinum RealDriver Warranty till 12/2013. Cold Weather Package Premium Audio Rear/Front Heated/Ventilated/Massaging Seats AWD with refinished wheels, small areas of curb rash. Immaculate exterior recently detailed and compounded, slight scuff behind rear passanger wheel. Pristine interior with small crack in passenger rear speak grill. Looks and drives like new, all service done at Wellesley VW, MA and can provide service records.
Has had air shocks replaced, new TPMS sensors, and recent front brakes/rotors. Includes over $5,000 in extras including. Two year Platinum tranferrable warranty ($3,000), front end clear film protection ($995), built in rear radar/laser detector K40 ($1,200), Smartphone holder with Aux in and Satellite hookup ($895), all-weather custom rubber mats including trunk, original mats pristine ($225) A/C ice cold. All scheduled maintenance, always garaged, excellent condition. Factory GPS system, fully loaded with all the goodies.
I’m into cars from the 80s. That’s my thing. Maybe it’s just that’s when I was born, and those cars got burned into my forming mind in a way that modern cars simply cannot. Maybe it’s that 80s cars seem simpler, the greatest extrapolation of purely mechanical cars before computers and “safety” weight took over. Maybe it’s that, for the most part, awesome examples can be had for very reasonable prices. Or maybe I’m just weird and got hooked on them for no logical reason. Whatever it is, I think someday I’ll see the value in cars from the ’00s, if for nothing else than their extreme value due to shocking depreciation. This VW Phaeton is for sale for less than 20% of what it cost just 8 years ago. One-fifth. And the great thing about the Phaeton is that, while they bring hefty maintenance costs, they weren’t bad cars. In fact, VW did the luxury thing pretty darn right. Americans just weren’t ready to drop that kind of coin on a “Peoples’ car,” so it acquired the stink of failure. Well, let’s continue to buck what everyone else in this confusing country wants and get AWD, V8 power, and acres of leather and wood to recline in while we look way richer than we are.
No real insight to the car from the description other than it’s in good condition inside and out and doesn’t smell like smoke. Works for me. 90k miles and a Buy-it-Now of $14k makes this a deal any way you look at it. If I really wanted to get crazy, I’d hold out and find a W12, but that’s begging for trouble. Don’t get crazy, just get rational, and get a top-tier luxury car for Nissan Versa money.