Volkswagen Type 4

The Volkswagen Type 4 was a mid-sized 2 or 4-door saloon or 2-door estate built by Volkswagen (VW) of Germany. It was produced between 1968 and 1974.

The Type 4 was larger than the Volkswagen Type 3 and had a more powerful engine (1.7 - 1.8 litres, as opposed to 1.5 - 1.6 for the Type 3). The Type 3 and Type 4 were the last of the company's air-cooled models, following on from the Volkswagen Type 1 ("Beetle"). They were succeeded by the massively successful Golf/Rabbit and Dasher/Passat.


The Type 4 introduced many firsts to the Volkswagen range. These included: unibody construction, MacPherson strut front suspension, rear suspension with coil springs and trailing wishbones, a hydraulic clutch (for models equipped with a manual transmission), and one of the first fully automatic transmissions (the first was in the 1969 Type 3 models) in a Volkswagen. (Previous cars had used an automatic (vacuum-actuated) clutch, but gears still had to be changed manually.) The Type 4 was also Volkswagen's first 4-door car. The MacPherson strut front suspension was later successfully employed in the 1302/1303 ("Super Beetle").

The Type 4's battery was located under the driver's seat. In the rear of the car was located a gasoline-operated heater (an Eberspächer BA4) that was fired by a glow plug accessible from a hidden rear window deck plate. The cloth covered rubber fuel hoses made the engine prone to fires.


The Type 4 was marketed as the Volkswagen 411, produced from 1968 to 1972, and, modestly improved, as the 412 from 1972 till 1974. Both ranges included a fastback saloon and an estate version. The car at launch came with a 1679 cc twin carburettor engine: just one year later, in 1969, this was replaced with a fuel injected unit, increasing claimed power output from 68 to 80 bhp, and making this one of the first mass production vehicles to include the feature — along with the Volkswagen Type 3, which also had received electronic fuel injection in 1968. Fuel injection was indicated by the suffix letter 'E' (for Einspritzung) in the model's name: the 411E's 80 bhp engine was shared with the mid-engined Porsche 914 also launched in 1969. The most obvious visual change in 1969 was the replacement of single rectangular headlights, behind windcheating covers, with uncovered twin headlights

For the 1973 model year the Volkswagen 412, featuring a slightly larger, 1795 cc engine, replaced the 411. The 412's headlight surround was reshaped and the nose panels were reshaped, to give the car a slightly less bland look.

The design of the Volkswagen 412 Variant was followed when the Volkswagen Brasilia was produced in Brazil, primarily for the Latin American markets.

Sales and marketing

During a six year production span, just 367,728 Type 4s were produced. That was better than the 210,082 achieved by the contemporary Volkswagen K70 (which effectively had only a four year model life). Nevertheless, Type 4 sales levels must have been disappointing when set against the volumes achieved by the Type 1 (Beetle) and Type 3 models. The domestic market dominance of GM's Opel Rekord, its production running at about 300,000 cars annually, was not seriously threatened by Volkswagen's 411/412 in the family sedan sector.

In the United States, where the Type 4 was on sale for four seasons, it was regarded as too underpowered. The Type 4 was in fact a sales disaster in the U.S., selling only 117,110 units over a four-year-period.

Popular perception

In contemporary German vernacular, the 411 was called "Nasenbär" ("coati") or "Vier Türen elf Jahre zu spät", meaning "four doors coming eleven years too late" because it was Volkswagen's first 4-door sedan. . (The Opel Rekord had been offered with four doors only since 1959, but already in 1957 Auto Union had offered a four door version of their small family sedan.)

The powerplant lived on

While the Type 4 was discontinued in 1974 when sales dropped, its engine became the power plant for Volkswagen Type 2s ("Kombis") produced from 1972 to 1979: it continued in modified form in the later "Vanagon" which was air-cooled from 1980 until mid-1983. The engine that superseded the Type 4 engine in late 1983 retained Volkswagen Type 1 architecture, yet featured water-cooled cylinder heads and cylinder jackets. The Wasserboxer, VW speak for a water-cooled, opposed-cylinder (flat or boxer engine), did not enjoy the reputation for longevity that the original air-cooled design had forged. From the very start, the engine suffered cylinder-to-head sealing problems, mostly due to galvanic corrosion, often a result of slack maintenance schedules. Volkswagen discontinued the engine in 1992, upon the introduction of the Eurovan.


Sources and further reading

External links

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