1985 Audi 5000S

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi 5000S on eBay

1991 Audi 100

Today’s car is going to start a bit of a series of big-body Audis from the 1990s for me. Why start here? Well, the 1991 Audi 100 was a end of an era for Ingolstadt’s products in the U.S. For a little over a decade the big-body cars had been powered by inline-5 motors, and the NG 2.3 liter unit under the hood of this 1991 was at the end of its life span. 1991 would see the introduction of the new V6 motor that would become the staple of Audi for the nearly decade and a half. Late 1991 also saw the introduction of the Type 44/C3’s replacement – the all-new C4 chassis. Well, I saw “all new”, but inside it didn’t really look like it changed much. Outside, though…

There were other changes to the new 100 that I’ll go through in the next post. But let’s talk about today’s 100, which was really just a dressed up 5000. Like all the Type 44s, it received a revised interior with the nomenclature swap in late 1988. Dynamically, though, there were basically no changes from 1987. In fact, the ’87 5000 front-drive shared more in common with the Turbo than the later model which shared many components with the small chassis cars.

The front-drive 100 soundly outsold its more expensive 100 quattro and 200 brethren. Somewhere around 5,000 1991 100 front-drive sedans and Avants were sold here, but finding them today can be a bit of a trick:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi 100 on eBay

1990 Audi V8 quattro

Weather. It’s today’s weather that makes me instantly think back to my V8 quattro. Here in New England this morning I emerged from my weather-proof cocoon hidden carefully under several layers of blankets to reveal the foot-plus of powdery snow, blowing fiercely with a sustained 35 mph wind, and a temperature hovering around 9. Maybe for you folks in Minnesota that’s a nice Spring day, but I think it’s just brutal. Yet when it occurs, I instantly think back to the car I had that made me relish those conditions. It was my ’93 V8 quattro, without hesitation.

When the mercury dipped below freezing and the roads were covered in snow, that car was simply a monster. Audis certainly have a reputation for being good in the snow, it’s true. But here’s a hint – I’ve owned a lot and driven even more, and they’re not all great in the white stuff (ducks). They’re also very tire-dependent, perhaps moreso than other cars. Because with all-seasons on an Audi, you’ll have no problem going fast in deep snow, but you’ll have quite a few problems turning and more problems stopping.

But I had snow tires on my V8. Tiny little A4 steel wheels overshadowed by the widened flares with tires that look fit for…well, an basic B5 A4 rather than a large executive. When that white stuff fell – look out. It was unstoppable, but not in the bad way I just mentioned. And unlike the terminal understeer some of my other Audis suffered from (I’m looking at you, 200!), all you had to do in the V8 if the nose wasn’t heading where you wanted to was to give it a boot-full of throttle. A tremendous roar would emerge as the 4-cam all-aluminum V8 sprung to life, the multi-plate center differential channeled power towards the back, and the Torsen rear diff limited the slip of the unladen tire.…

1990 Audi V8 quattro

If there is one German car that is an honorary Alfa Romeo, it’s got to be the V8 quattro.

From the dated underpinnings of the Type 44 chassis, Audi emerged in 1988 with an all-new 4-cam aluminum engine that could be mated to an automatic transmission. While today most enthusiasts decry the death of the manual, it was still a luxury that people paid dearly for at other points in automotive history, and the technical achievement necessary to combine the two was not unsubstantial. It benefited from a new generation of quattro models, which instead of utilizing manual differential locks had a Torsen unit in the center to automatically split power. But the V8, equipped with the automatic, couldn’t use that Torsen in the middle, instead relying on a multi-clutch differential. Instead, the Torsen unit was moved to the rear of the car. Coupled with a more rearward weight bias with the shorter V8 and the gutsy torque on offer throughout the rev range, though much of the car was borrowed from the rest of the lineup it took on an entirely different character. That was matched with new, updated bodywork outside and a wider stance with flared arches. The effect? Magical. And, complicated.

The results of both were that the V8s developed a unique fanbase separate from most of the other models. The Phantoms of the Four-Ringed Opera, these cars have long-lived in the shadows, myths that are only seen rarely, cars no average mortal would consider owning. The social pariahs who do own them are even more strange, lurking in the dark corners of the internet muttering “NLA” to themselves while figuring out creative ways to keep their coveted creations running, mostly though cannibalization of others. It seems Audi managed to pull off the unfathomable achievement of creating a whole new and unique set of VAG problems specific to the V8.…

1987 Audi 5000CS Turbo

The gulf between North American and European market performance was wide in all manufactures in the 1980s, but no where did it feel more vast than with the Audi products. That was especially true with the turbocharged variants of the large chassis. In European guise, the Type 200 5T developed 170 horsepower even without an intercooler, while the U.S. 5000 Turbo managed only 130 from the 2.1 liter inline-5. That was a 24% drop in performance, and it didn’t get much better with the Type 44 replacement. Though displacement later grew to 2.2 liters in the MC1 and 2 codes, power output never exceeded 162 horsepower. That meant that the 1987 Audi 5000CS Turbo (and the turbocharged quattro model) produced only about 81% of its European equivalent’s power output.

Despite that, the 5000 was a great sedan. It was quite, comfortable, and more modern-feeling than its contemporaries. It was also good enough for notorious BMW-friendly Car and Driver to add it to their 10-Best list – even without the trademark all-wheel drive. With weight fairly far in excess of 3,000 lbs, the luxury sedan wasn’t a rocket off the line, but on the roll it was a competent and quiet cruiser. Audi claimed the automatic-equipped Turbo model would hit 60 mph in 8.7 seconds and flat out would do 130 mph – numbers that were barely better than its normally aspirated smaller brother Coupe and 4000S front-drive models (themselves not particularly notable for being quick!). But thanks to some notoriety in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and great press (ahem – well, for a bit anyways!), these Audis sold fairly well. For example, compared to the 4000 quattro and Coupe GT models, the 5000 Turbo was traded in much greater numbers despite its high price. In 1987, Audi sold just shy of 2,000 Coupe GT models and nearly 3,000 4000CS quattros.…

Right Hooker Week: 1983 Audi 200 Turbo

After yesterday’s South African 500SE, this 200 Turbo is an interesting counterpoint for several reasons. First, if the age is correct, it’s from the very beginning of Type 44 production. In fact, it wasn’t until September 1983 that the turbocharged variant of the new Type 44 – the 200 – was available for the marketplace. So this car represents the beginning of the run compared to yesterday’s run-ending 500SE.

What’s amazing to me is how little change there was in that period. Outside of the interior refresh, a slightly different exterior color and some small details, the 1983 and 1990 model years could pass for contemporaries. Try that in other model ranges today! Of course, one other reason this car is interesting is the turbo. This would be an early 2.1 liter unit, rated nominally at 182 horsepower – a healthy bit more power than the late NF motor (130 horsepower). What’s unusual in this case is that it’s mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Of course, these were the days before the quattro drive setup moved into other models outside of the halo Quattro, so you’re stuck with a front-driver only.

Oh, and one more oddity? Well, it’s being sold in the U.K., but it’s left hand drive.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Audi 200 Turbo on eBay.co.uk

Right Hooker Week: 1990 Audi 500SE

No, it’s not a typo. And no, it’s not an Audi 5000.

The Audi 500SE won’t be a model that is familiar to pretty much anyone on these pages. But in an interesting side note of history you do know, Audi tried to bring its large sedans to Africa in the late 1980s. After the banning of Group B and the cancellation of Group S, Audi took to Group A with both normally aspirated Coupe Quattros and turbocharged Audi 200s. The 200 was successful at the hands of Hannu Mikkola, winning Rally Safari in 1987. 1988 saw the introduction of the 200 quattro Trans Am to U.S. shores, but few remember that those cars were then used in South Africa in the 1989 Wesbank Modifieds Championship. They would continue on in 1990 and 1991 before being replaced by a rebody of the 90 IMSA GTO car in an S4 chassis – a car which was just on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

But without much need for quattro and without the smaller model range on sale, Audi’s showroom was filled with a rebrand of the Type 44. Produced in Uitenhage, South Africa, it was dubbed the 500SE, and it was available with either turbocharging or a normally aspirated motor. Unlike Europe (and later, the U.S.) the model designations did not change with forced induction. The specification was a bit strange, too; like the 1987 Audi 5000S quattro, the 500SE wore the larger brakes and wheels of the turbocharged model even when it did not have one. But unlike those cars, it also wore the upscale dual-chamber 200 headlights. Models like this particular 1990 were powered by the 2.3 liter NF motor that saw duty post 1987 in the late-5000 and early-100 front-drivers and quattros. They wore the later Type 44 updates like the smooth dash, too.…

1987 Treser Audi Super 5000

Ruf. Alpina. AMG. Treser.

Wait. Treser?

Yes, Walter Treser, creator of the most outrageous Audis in the 1980s probably deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the most famous tuning firms in the 1980s. After all, it was Walter who helped to create the Audi Quattro in the first place – but he didn’t stop there. Far from it! He built the first 250 horsepower Audi, the first convertible modern Audi, the first off-road inspired model to wear four rings. He also pre-dated Audi’s Avant in turbocharger form and stuck a huge chunk in the middle to create the first long wheel base out of Ingolstadt to compete with the Mercedes-Benz SEL. And when he was done with all of that, shortly before he folded to economic pressures in the early 1990s, Treser’s firm made a crazy mid-engine aluminum roadster, too. For a brief rundown of his more famous models, check out the article I wrote about them!

Despite the innovative technology and designs, finding Treser models in the U.S. today is very rare. Heck, finding just parts for a Treser is very rare. So when a whole Superpfeile model comes up for sale we should take notice!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Treser Audi Super 5000 on eBay

1993 Audi V8 quattro

Edit 7/28/2017: This ’93 has reappeared with the same plates (so I presume the same seller) from December 2015 in a no reserve auction. It no longer has black wheels but only a few more miles on the clock. Finding clean late model V8s is pretty rare and this one generally looks nice! Cleverly the seller stuck in the listing that the car’s odometer is broken, though you have to look. The original ask price was $5,000, so it will be interesting to see where the strong bidding ends.

Sometimes it’s something small on a car you’re looking at that brings up a great memory. In the case of this 1993 V8 quattro, if my emotions weren’t already stirred by the sight of another late 4.2 model like my beloved and maligned example from a decade ago, it was the wheels that really did it for me. You see, for a few winters I ran A4-spec 15×6 steel wheels with Michelin Artic Alpins on my Ragusa Green monster. Already small, the A4 offset is higher than the V8s, leaving the impression – especially head on – that the car was floating. The awesome flares that were the signature of the V8 hung out in mid air, the antithesis of today’s trend of fitting the widest wheel as close to the fender as possible. But the result in the snow was undeniable. The V8 on skinny rubber was virtually unstoppable, hugely controllable and a riot to drive. Pulling in from runs at a Tim O’Neils rally school, the rumbling eight would erupt in clouds of smoke, as if Vesuvius was on the verge of claiming Pompeii. Crowds would gather to look in wonder and slight bemusement at the smelly, crusty and leaking old Audi which so thoroughly trounced the newer models around the circuit.…

1985 Audi 5000S Avant

It’s hard to believe that only eleven years separate the genesis of the inline-5 Avant wagon design and its culmination with the 1995 Audi S6. Audi’s groundbreaking aerodynamic design for the C3/Type 44 looked from the start as if it were intended to be a wagon; a sleek, modern design with flush windows and a sweeping D-pillar. It would be two years until Audi’s quattro drivetrain would debut in the large package, which left you with the sole option of front-wheel drive for 1984 and 1985. Audi also opted to leave the KKK turbocharger out of the package until all four wheels could deal with it, as well – so basically this car was a luxurious 4-door Coupe GT for the first two model years. Thankfully, though you were only allowed about 110 horsepower, Audi allowed drivers to opt for a manual transmission even in front-wheel drive form:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi 5000S Avant on eBay