It’s Hip To Be Square: 1986 Audi Coupe GT and 1987 Audi 5000CS Quattro

There are probably a few out there reading this who will remember Huey Lewis and the News, or perhaps you’re a fan of Christian Bale and his performance in American Psycho which prominently featured a notoriously catchy song by the band, “It’s Hip to be Square”. While the song itself was a relative hit, for me it’s Bale’s character’s critique of the band that is particularly poignant when considering Audis from the 1980s:

“You like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my taste, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor. I think their undisputed masterpiece is “Hip to Be Square,” a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also a personal statement about the band itself!”

Audi reinvented itself in the 1980s; with crisp, clean new designs that stood apart from their countrymen. They were boxy but aerodynamic, clean and economical – yet at the same time, they were really noticeable, looked expensive and have stood the test of time. Yet few people partook in these 1980s Audis compared to some more period marques. If Mercedes-Benz was the sign that you had made it to opulent wealth and still made good decisions, BMW was the sign that – well, you’d just made it to wealth. But Audis, though quite dear in price, were always a bit different; outsiders in their own land. Whilst everyone else took tried and true paths, Audi forged ahead through unusual means – small displacement, turbocharged motors feeding locking differentials and all-wheel drive, for example. Every model seemed to be a statement within itself that the company was different, and few embody that ethos quite as well as the 5000CS quattro and Coupe GT:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 5000CS Quattro on Craigslist

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Beige-off: 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Wagon v. 1987 Audi 5000S Avant

One of the unintentionally funny quotes from Stephen King’s Pet Semetery was the haunting warning from the crusty old Jud Crandall; “Sometimes, dead is better“. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “What, Carter? You’re the biggest Audi/Volkswagen fanboy who writes in complete sentences on a daily basis! And now you want to suggest that these two classic VAG wagons shouldn’t have been buried in the Micmac Indian burial grounds?” Well, I wouldn’t go that far but it does seem that 1980s Audi and Volkswagen products of this ilk are resurrected from the underworld because we see them so infrequently. And for enthusiasts, inevitably they’re not quite the cars we wish had been saved. As a result, besides both being beige in color, these two wagons are completely beige in their totality. Neither was a top-spec car originally though they were both fairly expensive – the Volkswagen stickered at around $14,000 in 1986 without options, while the Audi was the best part of $22,000 base price in 1987. Both come with the long lived but rather forgettable KX-code 110 horsepower inline-5 engine, and both original buyers opted to pay an astonishing $1,000 extra (from memory, it’s been a while) for the dull-witted 3-speed automatic. And then, if that wasn’t enough, both buyers selected their respective marques’ beige tones in a celebration of their mediocrity. Yet here we are, nearly 30 years later, smiling just a bit to see both in overall very good shape. Who wins the “race to watch the paint dry” competition?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 5000S Avant on eBay

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1984 Audi Coupe GT v. 1986 Volkswagen Scirocco

I’ve always pondered how the Audi Coupe GT compared to the more popular Volkswagen Scirocco. For the past 17 years, I’ve owned one GT or another and obviously I’m a big fan; I think they’re massively underrated compared to many of their contemporaries. The Scirocco, similarly, seems to be the odd-man out in the Volkswagen lineup; yes, it has tons of fans, but most of the attention over the past few years has concentrated on the rapidly appreciating Corrado SLC models and earlier Giugiaro-designed first generation Scirocco. Of course, in appreciation of both seems to pale in comparison to the highly sought and much more common E30 BMWs, but in their own way each offers a unique alternative. In the Scirocco’s positive column is a slick design that’s low and lean; 16V models got the great motor coupled with 4-wheel discs and some cool teardrop alloys and a nice bodykit. In the GT’s positive column is a much more refined and polished package, capable of carrying 4 in comfort with it’s more upright sedan-based stature. The drivetrain is a wash; the Audi has more torque and horsepower from its inline-5, but then weighs a bit more than the Scirocco too. But mid-corner balance has to go to the Audi, plus the equal-length drive shafts eliminate the typical torque-steer prone FWD problems and the Audi feels more neutral on the fly than the Scirocco. The best of the bunch are the last run “1987.5” GTs with 4-wheel discs and the upgraded 2.3 engine with more torque and horsepower. Plus, the Audi has the better WRC soundtrack – at least, in my mind. While today I don’t have a 16V Scirocco v. 87.5 GT comparison that I think would be very interesting, I nevertheless have an interesting comparison – a later Scirocco that’s quite clean compared to an earlier GT that shared some of the traits of the Scirocco. Which is the winner?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Volkswagen Scirocco on eBay

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1986 Audi Coupe GT

About a week ago, Paul sent me a link to Daily Turismo which was reviewing this very Audi Coupe GT. In the comments were the all too predictable Audi stereotypes; nothing electric will work, it’s overpriced, not worth getting unless its a quattro, I didn’t maintain mine well and so it was unreliable, etc.. The truth about the GT could not be farther from those descriptions; those that have driven them almost always report enjoying the experience, and those that have owned them and have moved on still pontificate how great of a car they are. To me, it’s cars like this that exactly underscore what’s wrong with the e30 market – here’s a very nicely styled, classic GT car. It’s well balanced and fun to drive. For the purists, it’s a 5-speed and has a race-bred soundtrack. They’re notoriously long-lived, with many (including this author’s) well in excess of 200,000 miles. There simply isn’t much electronic equipment to break on them. Yet, even a shining example such as this can be had for only $2,500:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Audi Coupe GT on Craigslist

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1986 Audi Coupe GT

Despite praise from critics when it was new, a great design by Giugiaro and a motorsports legacy second to none, the Audi Coupe GT has remained since new a fringe car in the United States. Compared to the E30 2-doors, Audi produced less than half the total production of BMW’s venerable small coupe with only around 170,000 made over its 8 year production run. Of those, many less were imported to the United States and even fewer survive today. They’re downright rare to see running around anywhere – the legacy of poor residual value more than anything. Those that have owned them love them – a great looking, unique coupe with awesome handling that is both at home on the highway and back roads. It’s easily capable of carrying a sizable load of adults and luggage since, like the E30, the GT shared its platform with a sedan – but where the GT differed was in drivetrain layout and the slinky roofline that has helped the car age particularly well. On paper, the GT doesn’t make a great driver – a big iron lump hanging out entirely ahead of the front axle line to allow for the all-wheel drive system we didn’t see in the GT on these shores, an open differential and a slightly heavier curb weight without much more power than the coupes from Volkswagen. But statistics don’t tell the whole story, and GT is a great example of that. Extremely well balanced and neutral out of the box, the longer wheelbase provides excellent stability while the equal-length driveshafts eliminate torque steer and help to put power down better than the Volkswagens. The package is refined and shows why the GT was successful in its own right as a racer in Europe. Plus, you get that wonderful off-beat, throaty inline-5 providing one of the more unique soundtracks from the 1980s:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Audi Coupe GT on Hemmings

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Broken Arrows: 1984 Audi Coupe GT and 1993 Audi S4 quattro

It goes without saying that not every older German car is perfect, and that leaves a large amount of cars that are a bit of a “project”. Depending on your tolerance and your desire for a particular model, that level of project can vary greatly from a car that has some minor needs to a complete rebuild from scratch. Today I have two “broken” Silver Arrows from different generations – each with a devoted following and somewhat rare to see these days. Both could function as daily drivers with some work if you’re game. Let’s start with the Coupe GT:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Audi Coupe GT on eBay

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1987 Audi 5000S Avant with 45,000 Miles

When it comes to memorable Audis from the 1980s, the 5000 undeservedly gets little attention. That’s especially true when you back out the turbo and quattro versions of Audi’s flagship sedan. But in many ways it was the success of the large Audi sedans that allowed for the more exotic Quattro development – and the 5000 was a revolutionary success. Compared with what was on offer from rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW at the time, the 5000 was downright futuristic and more modern in every way. It was an aerodynamic marvel, quiet and capable of returning excellent fuel economy. It was also hugely practical, too – especially when configured in hatchback Avant spec. Though the sloping rear glass dropped storage space a bit, it wasn’t much – and it’s amazing what can fit inside of these cars. Indeed, I used my 200 Avant to bring a complete 7A inline-5 home; the hatch actually assisted this since we could get the engine hoist over the car – something that would be impossible in most wagons. Still, most enthusiasts want the turbocharged quattro version, leaving the few front drivers that remain throwbacks to a time when a 120 horsepower large wagon was a reasonable option:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 5000S Avant on eBay

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1986 Audi Coupe GT

Do you think you know Audi and Volkswagen products from the 1980s well? There are a lot of people who claim to, but it seems that at times even VAG didn’t know what it was producing. Take, for example, this 1986 Audi Coupe GT. Now, according to most sources for a long time, if you wanted to get the digital dashboard in a 1986 Audi Coupe GT, you had to get the “Commemorative Edition” GT which came only in white or graphite. Yet as the owner of what was originally a Oceanic Blue non-CE Audi GT with an original digital dashboard, I can attest that in fact cars outside of the normal production run were fitted with the somewhat quirky bit of 1980s fad technology. If you talk to most Audi folks, they stand firmly in two camps. The small camp says that the digital dash is really, really cool; the far larger camp sees it as a glitchy gimmick that seldom works properly and is hard to service. But having owned one for the best part of two decades now, I can say mine has never experienced much of an issue. It had neat features, such as the “shut off the entire dash” feature which left you only with a speed reading. I think I used it once, only to show someone that it existed. At startup, you could tell your friends that you had programmed the cover art to Ghost in the Machine by The Police into your dash. Much more fun, though, was the ability on the fly to switch the dash from English to Metric units; if you were alone on the highway with an unsuspecting passenger, you could flip the dash into metric and then brag about how you were going “150” with ease. Okay, maybe I was the only one who thought it was funny, but there really weren’t many advantages to the digital dash otherwise. Despite that a smattering of 1986 and 1987 (non-“Special Build”) cars, seemingly with no particular order or logic, were fitted with the Atari-esque bit of technology:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Audi Coupe GT on eBay

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