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.
Friday, the stellar low-mileage, significant history and great condition 1985 Audi Quattro I wrote up this past week sold for $81,400. It’s definitely a signal that there’s been more interest in the mid-80s Audi market in the past few years, as finally these cars get a bit of sunlight shone on just how great they are. The problem? There are very, very few good examples left of any mid-80s Audis. Most of the really nice ones are coveted by their owners (this author included) which means they come up for sale infrequently – frankly, there’s not been a reason to sell them up until this point, as no one has been willing to pay a reasonable market value.
But $81,400? I’d wager no one with a 1985 Quattro today has that much invested in theirs. So while I’m sure there will still be a plethora of fans who want to hold on to theirs longer, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the trickle of nice Quattros we’ve seen hit the market over the past two years start to increase.
With that in mind, if you’re a fan of the inline-5 all-wheel drive recipe, you’ve got to turn to ‘lesser’ models, just as the E30 and 911 crowd has. And if you’re a big fan of the original model, there’s only one that makes the most sense – the 1984 4000S quattro.
As much as I like to talk about the high prices being fetched for Corrados, GTIs and Sciroccos, the reality is the biggest numbers being asked and pulled from 1980s and 1990s Volkswagens are the vans. They’re not something I generally cover, but once in a while one pops up that is surprising and worth note. Today’s is no exception.
What attracted my attention first was the year – 1991. Of course, the main problem there is that in the U.S. market, the Eurovan didn’t launch until 1992. Volkswagen of America was still selling the niche and expensive T3 at that point. So was this a case of a transposition error or just an uninformed seller?
I love a really well-kept Mercedes-Benz W116. Maybe because I own one, but I can’t be alone in feeling this way. These cars feel as solid as anything when everything is sorted and won’t cost you a ton of money to buy and maintain one. All the gas-powered W116s are fine cars and the first ever production turbo diesel car to go on sale in the United States in 1978, the 300SD, was a gem as well. I have a hard time justifying ever selling my 300SD because for the money, nothing can replace it equally and frankly, there is nothing wrong it. So when I see these W116 300SDs come up for sale now and then I always take a closer look to see how other owners treat theirs. Today’s 1979 model for sale in Oregon has me envious and jealous thanks to a few OEM upgrades.
While usually our ‘Double Take’ features look at one model, today I’m going to look at two cars that share a brand, and idea, and a price point. Both of these Audis represent a huge leap forward from their predecessors; versus the front-drive Type 81, the Type 85 B2 was much more modern-feeling, refined and introduced all-wheel drive to the mass market (excusing its bigger brother, and twice as expensive and exotically flared Quattro brethren, of which only 664 sold here) and the C4 S4 introduced the U.S. market to S-cars and merged the 200 20V’s setup with a modern body and more sporty interior along with even a bit more power. Both are legendary in the 4-ringed circles for their longevity. Both have cadres of fans who seek each model out. And both are hard to find in good condition.
So here we go, Alice – red or green pill? For your $6,000 investment, which of these inline-5 all-wheel drive legends would be your choice?
Edit: After selling last year on Bring A Trailer for $5,050 after we featured it in April, the current owner of the 1985 Audi 4000S quattro with some nice modifications has decided it’s too nice for a winter beater. It’s back up on eBay with a $5,000 opening bid and reserve auction format with few changes since we saw it last year, but it’s still one of the better ones out there for sale.
If you like yesterday’s Audi 4000S quattro, finding a later example is likely to be more fruitful for you. About of the roughly 16,500 4000 quattros imported into the United States, roughly three quarters of them – about 12,000 – were the updated 1985-1987 model years. Changes to the package were mostly visual. Outside refreshed bumper covers with integrated turn signals and reflectors smoothed out the look far before BMW caught on to the idea in the 3-series. Aerodynamic headlights replaced the sealed-beam quad-headlight arrangement and a sloped grill eased the transition. In the rear the trunklid dove down to the trim line and held an entirely revised set of lights. Rocker panel covers made the 4000 appear a bit lower than the ’84 model had, though the ride height was unchanged. And a rolling change to flush fitting covers on the Ronal R8 wheels subtly changed the look to more aerodynamic. Inside, electric rear windows replaced the manual roll-up variety, and new door cards with pulls now matched the revamped dashboard. The gauges also changed, as did the locking differential panel. But mechanically under it all, few changes were seen to the workhorse. While numerically speaking you’re more likely to find a later car than the ’84 only style, if one car we cover better epitomizes the axiom “ridden hard and put away wet”, I’m not sure what it could be. Finding any reasonably clean 4000 quattro is a cause for celebration among B2 Audi enthusiasts, and this one sure looks great:
An interesting counter-point to the very low mileage Canadian ’86 4000S quattro is today’s same year, but U.S. market, 4000CS quattro. Mechanically, there was nothing separating these cars, and indeed even from a trim perspective little was different. Branded the “CS” after 1986 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the automobile, the only real change was the full-time addition of flush centers to the Ronal R8 wheels (it was done haphazardly on some of the ’85 models) and the addition of the mandatory third brake light. However, unlike the Canadian edition car we looked at the other day, U.S. model 4000 quattros all came with the signature polyurethane spoiler painted in the body color.
Options were few on the 4000CS quattro; most came fully loaded with all power accessories and power venting and sliding sunroof. You could opt for a trip computer and heated seats, as well opting for a leather interior. This car, at least from the appearance, has none of those options. However, what you do get is a shining example of the breed in a very unique and not often seen color of Oceanic Blue Metallic:
Now that I’ve looked at some cool and not so cool Mercedes from across the pond, I’m back to our regular left-hand drive cars. Fear not for our international readers as I’m not back to the United States just yet. This 1985 300CD from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada gives us the best of what the W123 coupe has to offer. Much like the other prime W123s for sale, this one isn’t coming cheap, but I’d argue that it’s not exactly the worst deal in the world for what you get.
Engine: 3.0 liter 5-cylinder
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 91,034 km (56,565 mi)
Price: $14,500 CDN ($11,319 USD)
1985 Mercedes 300CD Turbo Diesel – 91000 KM All Original – Rare Color Combination Dark Grey on Mahogany Leather – Never winter driven – Garage kept – Never rust – Impeccable Kept – Records kept since new – Everything works as new – Nicest one I’ve ever seen – $14,500. Obo
Taking a broad look at this car, this one looks like a real winner. Extremely clean without any issues I can see on the outside, the interior looks even better. The Sienna MB-Tex is relatively rare for any W123 let alone a coupe and I’m glad to see it’s held up great for 56,000 miles. Under the hood, the OM617 looks prime with lots of cadmium plating still fresh. Being a 1985 W123, the last year of the chassis, it benefits greatly from a 2.88 rear differential as opposed to a 3.07. This translates to much better highway miles per gallon figures to the point where owners of prior year W123s seek out 1985 cars to swap in the differential.
At $14,500 CDN ($11,319 USD), it is probably priced on the higher end of the market in general. But being in a snowy Canadian city where these cars are pretty rare in this condition, I don’t blame the seller for asking this price. If you want close to the best, you are going to have to pay for it and that is the case with this one. I doubt this one will sell quickly, but I’d imagine if the buyer softened the price up a little, it will make a new owner very happy.
Thanks to reader Chris for sending this in!