In the mid-1980s, Volkswagen aimed its market sights upwards and tried to gain more traction in a niche market by offering…well, more traction. Starting in 1986, Volkswagen partnered with Steyr-Damiler-Puch and made a unique alternative to corporate partner Audi’s quattro drivetrain utilizing a viscous center differential. Puch was also responsible for design and manufacturing of the T3 Vanagon Syncro, which used a different viscous coupling system because of the rear-drive platform and nature of the Vanagon. In addition to the transmission of power forwards, the T3 also offered a rear differential lock while both center and front were viscous.
But in 1986, there was a third option. Because the Volkswagen Quantum (née Passat) shared nearly all of its internal architecture with the B2 Audis, fitment of the quattro setup from the Quattro and 4000S/CS quattro was possible – so Volkswagen did it. As there was no Audi B2 Avant, Volkswagen offered the new Quantum quattro – also badged Syncro – in Wagon form, and only in wagon form. This meant that there was no competition crossover between the 4000 quattro and Quantum Syncro in the U.S. market. The Quantum also continued to run smaller 4x100mm hubs versus the Audi, which allowed it to utilize the same “snowflake” Avus wheels borrowed from the GTI. Pricing was on par with period 4000 quattros, though – base price was $15,645, but equip the Quantum similarly to the standard 4000 with power windows, mirrors, locks and sunroof and you’d quickly crest $17,000 – about $4,000 more dear than a standard GL5. Unlike the 4000, Quantum Syncro Wagons came standard only with power steering, brakes, cruise control and air conditioning. You had to opt-in the power package to get the other items.
That made the Quantum Syncro Wagon very much more expensive than, say, a Subaru GL 4WD Wagon or the Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon. But both of those cars were part-time 4WD; in order to get a car with similar build quality and seamless drive of all wheels, you’d need to pony up a staggering $30,000 for the Audi 5000CS quattro Avant. Volkswagen only brought over 2,500 1986s, making them a rare treat to see today. But the condition which this particular 1986 appears in is staggering:
There was a point where it was very hard to find a clean Mk.1 GTI anymore, and consequently the values on them rose sharply and quickly. Predictably, the moment that occurred a bunch of really nice examples popped up for sale and have continued to emerge as the car has finally been recognized as a classic. Now, couple that scenario with the racing pedigree of the Quattro and sprinkle in a dash of ///Mania into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for some very expensive cars.
With only 664 originally imported to the U.S. and a fair amount dead, balled up in rally stages or repatriated to the Fatherland, the remaining cars that do emerge generally fall into two categories: well maintained examples that fetch high dollars, or needy chassis for the project-minded enthusiasts. Although today’s car looks quite clean at first glance, it’s not a perfect example. Yet it does sport some very rare (and very polarizing) period Treser bits, a great set of Fuchs wheels and is awesome Helios Blue Metallic. At $25,000 – the lowest price we’ve seen on a recent Quattro auction, is this a deal or a dud?
I’ve been thinking about this car for a week now since I spotted it. It’s a poignant follow-up to the Canadian Coupe I wrote up last week. That car cleared just over $4,000 – even accepting the silly stereo upgrade, it was a great deal. I also said in that post that it was rare to see early cars and, as if on cue to disprove me, another all-original ’82 popped up. It’s too good to not look at!
In an effort to explain just why I love the Coupe so much, I took my GT for a drive this morning. I’ve owned it now for over 20 years, and despite having far too much abuse at various points in its life, it is still a car that thrills. It’s comfortable, quick, has plenty of room, turns head and makes great noises. It’s never failed to start. It is supremely adept in corners, egging you on to push harder. It somehow rides even better than my newer car in spite of set-to-punish track-oriented suspension. It’s beautiful simplicity still makes me smile, too. Sure, I was pretty amazed when my son folded down the sunvisor and the vanity mirror light turned on. After all, I don’t get into this car expecting all electrical items to work. But I do get a smile out of this car every time I drive it. What more could you ask for $4,000?
Update 6/28/18: The best part of a year after originally being listed, this reasonably clean 1985 Audi Coupe GT is back in a reserve auction format. Since the Buy It Now was $4,950 last September, we can guess the reserve is probably at or over $4,000. The Coupe GT market has moved forward since last year, so will it sell this time?
The 1985 Audi Coupe GT debuted the aerodynamic B2 refinements in the 2-door version of the Type 85. Just like the 4000CS quattro I looked at the other day, smooth bumper covers front and rear were met with wide molding and new rocker covers. DOT-required 9004 halogen lights replaced the upright quad-rectangle arrangement on 1984 models, and the new grill sloped to meet stainless trim which surrounded the car. Inside was met with a revised dashboard with new softer-touch plastics, a leather covered steering wheel and few other changes. Mechanically, just as with the 84-85 4000 quattro, there were very few alterations between pre-facelift GT and the ’85. The same KX 110 horsepower inline-5 and 5-speed manual (3-speed automatic available) drove the car, but the ’85 up wore the same 4×108 hubs and brakes (in front, at least) as the quattro.
As with the 4000 line, most of the manual bits available in early B2s disappeared, and in you bought a late model it probably came standard with power locks, mirrors and windows. Most GTs also came equipped with a sunroof (manual and pop-out) and the rear wiper. Today’s example follows that convention minus the rear wiper. The package proved to generally be considered more than the sum of its parts, and in 1985 Car and Driver tested eight GT cars and proclaimed the Audi Coupe GT the best package available, beating ‘sports cars’ like the Supra, Mustang, and Camaro. One of the 3,586 sold in 1985, this Alpine White example reminds of a more simple time when you could drive a car at 10/10ths and still remain (mostly) at legal speeds:
It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been well over a decade since I bid farewell to my Audi 200. It was never meant to be; I had always admired the turbocharged Avants and so when one came up for sale for an incredibly low asking price, I jumped.
Turned out it was more than just me that needed a jump. And it turned out that the 200 needed a lot more than just a jump; the clutch was thoroughly fried, as were the brakes, and the fuel system, and a few other odds and ends. I patched it together and we enjoyed a memorable run of events. Of all my automotive calamity stories, about 50% revolve around both of my big body Audis. The V8 created more hair-raising events (such as the time the throttle stuck wide open and in an effort to stop it I managed to set the brakes on fire), but the 200 wasn’t to be outdone.
There was the time I left the tollbooth on the Mass Pike. The car was running particularly well that day, so I gave it WOT leaving the gate. First to second and the nose was pointed at the sky! Surely, everyone must be saying “WOOOOOOOW!!!“, and it turns out they were because I had blown an oil cooler line and was crop dusting Sturbridge with a thick coat of atomized 10W-40. Another time the voltage regulator died, leaving me to switch various electrical items on and off to balance the charge between 11.5 and 14 volts all the ride home from Cape Cod. It blew several tires while on the road, which admittedly probably wasn’t it’s fault but was exciting nonetheless. I found out that the ABS worked – well – in an ice storm on 95 one time as I passed a braking BMW on the hard shoulder. The coolant lines froze one day – a major feat, since there was theoretically coolant in them. It twice threw alternator belts, leaving me to drive home the length of Rt. 24 at 5am with no lights on. The air conditioner didn’t work. Actually, basically everything electronic didn’t work particularly well if I’m honest. The radio’s blown speakers weren’t enough to overcome the wind noise created by the necessity to have the windows down at all times if the outside temp was over 60. But the kicker? The kicker was that the brake lines collapsed, leaving the calipers to randomly seize partially closed. As a result, you had to go full throttle to maintain 50 mph which, as you read at the beginning of this passage, occasionally presented an explosive problem. I gave up eventually, unable to stomach this car consuming more of my money.
Sound charming? It was. But most of my issues probably would have been remedied if I simply had bought a better example:
Audi landmark Quattro has finally moved beyond cult status and into the greater automotive consciousness as a desirable model. That creates many problems, though. The first of these problems is that there just aren’t many Quattros out there. Audi only imported 664 examples of the original, meaning you’re statistically a little better than twice as likely to see an E28 M5 cruising around than you are a Quattro.
But in actuality, you aren’t. The chance is probably more akin to three or four times as likely, if not more. That’s because of the second problem – though the Quattro existed as a cult car since new, the fact is that for a long time they were pretty cheap. Pretty cheap cars generally don’t make collector cars, or at the very least receive collector treatment. You can see that in the M5; cheap for a long time, plenty have high miles and are basket cases though from the start they were touted as collectable. But the Quattro? This was a car intended to live in harsh conditions. Oh, and they didn’t apply any undercoating, or even fender liners. Problem three creeps into every seam on the car.
And then there’s an unpleasant truth: in its original U.S. form, the Quattro wasn’t a stellar performer. Toting around 2,900-odd pounds of early 80s tech, the lag-prone engine developed only 160 horsepower. The result was a car that could be caught off-guard by most economy hatches: 0-60 in 7.9 seconds, the quarter mile in 16.1 at 85. Forget the typical Camry or Accord joke; this is the kind of performance you get today from a Hyundai Accent.
Of course, the Quattro wasn’t about straight-line speed, and cars from the 80s all fall short compared to modern technology. This car, then, is more a time-warp to another dimension. A personal expression of devotion to rock-flinging rally monsters and television stars that liked to do things a bit differently. And those that have survived have been loved by their owners. Often, they’ve been upgraded, too, with later parts that solve the performance gap to their original European form. The result? Wow:
Update 5/18/18 – After failing to sell last year at nearly $8,000, this sweet and rare 1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V with some fantastic period-correct BBS RS wheels is back on eBay with an opening bid at only $4,000!
Just as they had with the development of the 10V Turbo for their top tier products, Audi’s work on the Group B, Sport and later RR 20V Quattro (along with the creation of the original S-series cars soon after) trickled down into the rest of the range, but only in a very limited fashion. The 7A 2.3 liter 20V motor was the beneficiary of that racing work, and it was at the time a pretty impressive unit. Out of 2.3 liters, Audi squeezed a very reliable 164 horsepower with a screaming 7,200 RPM redline. While it’s true this was down on peak power to racing motors like the M3’s S14, the adding of the second cam and a modern EFI engine management also yielded nearly 160 ft.lb of torque.
So why does everyone claim that this car was under-powered?
Weight. The luxury-oriented B3 was most popular in Coupe form, where at 3,300 lbs in 1991 it was in need of a diet. It was 30 horsepower down on the BMW, and weighed 500 lbs more, with a more frontward weight bias. A performance car this did not make, and the result was that the expensive Audis leisurely gained speed. Despite the near 50% power increase over the outgoing Coupe GT, a stock B3 Coupe Quattro shared near identical 0-60 times and cost $10,000 more.
But if you were a clever buyer, you could get slightly better performance out of the 4-door variant of the naturally aspirated double overhead cam inline-5. That’s because concurrent with Coupe production, the motor and drivetrain was offered in the slightly lighter 90 quattro 20V:
Let’s go back to the beginning of Type 44 production today and take a look at this Audi 5000S. To me, this car represents just about the least appealing model in the lineup for 1985. No turbo, no quattro, automatic, Kalahari Beige Metallic – it really doesn’t get more yawn than this. “But it’s a ‘S’ model“, you say. Ah, but continuing on the theme of Audi’s unconventional naming strategy in the U.S., there was cleverly no non-S model for a few years – everyone got a participation trophy.
As it turns out, there were a lot of ‘everyone’. The new 5000, which started selling in the U.S. in 1984, was a massive success for Audi. In fact, it was far and away the most successful model they sold in the 1980s. And while we love to see turbos and quattro and manuals, it was specifically this car – gold Audi 5000S front-drive automatics – that sold in droves. Audi sold 48,057 5000s in 1985, for example. Only about 20% were Turbos. And the quattro model didn’t launch until very late in the year. Even when it did, they similarly never accounted for more than 20% of sales of the Type 44.
Still, ~40,000 doesn’t sound like a bit number. But consider Audi sold a total of 26,000 other cars between the Coupe, Quattro and all 4000s the same year. And the 5000’s proliferation wasn’t just over one model year. From 1984 to 1988, Audi sold 171,494 Type 44s in the U.S. and was really only limited by the November 1986 airing of the 60 Minutes debacle. This ’85 is representative of how a majority were delivered, but is not indicative of the condition of most today:
The lineup of unlikely VAG survivors continues today with this second generation Volkswagen Passat, of course badged the “Quantum” for the U.S. market. This model replaced the lovely and popular Dasher model which had been available in several configurations. Briefly, the new B2 continued that and if you’ve ever seen a 1982 Quantum 2-door hatchback in person in the U.S., you might be alone. The model was dropped quickly, though continuing on was the Variant (VW-speak for wagon) model. And because the underpinnings were shared with the B2 Audi, things started to get pretty interesting for the upscale VW. And, confusing.
Volkswagen was happy to tout the Quantum as the sole “German engineered Grand Touring car sold in America that was available as both a sedan and station wagon and came equipped with a 5-cylinder, fuel injected engine, front-wheel drive, power assisted rack and pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension AND cruise control”. You don’t say, VW? Seriously, I think they could have left a few modifiers off that description and it still would have been true. The weird part is that the upscale Volkswagen actually tread on the toes of its even more upscale competition – the Audi 4000. Though early 4000s had the 5-cylinder available as an option, when it came to the mid-80s Audi saved the inline-5 only for the quattro models and Coupe GT/5000 front drivers. The 4000 grabbed the engine from the GTI, instead. But you could still get a 5-cylinder Quantum, and you could get a wagon version. Heck, you could even get a Syncro version of it, but only as a wagon!
Here’s where things get even more confusing. The 5-cylinder is usually associated with the moniker “GL5” – the upscale sedan with alloy wheels. And indeed the base Quantum Wagon in 1985 came with the 1.8. But in 1986, you could get a base Wagon with the 2.2 liter inline-5, and I believe the wagon was never officially badged the “GL5”. Weird? That’s VW.
I’ve been featuring a lot of really pristine cars of late almost entirely thanks to their low mileage. The reality is these cars are actually pretty few and far between. The overwhelming majority of cars, even German ones that hold a special place in our hearts, are used on a daily basis to rack up the miles and in turn, the wear and tear. But today’s car, a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300SD up for bid in California, managed to defy the norm and not only rack up a bunch of miles, but stay almost perfect in the process of doing so. How so? Well, it probably took the perfect storm.