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 1987. No turbo, no quattro, automatic, Almond 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 big 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 ’87 is representative of how a majority were delivered, but is not indicative of the condition of most today:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 5000S on eBay
Engine: 2.3 liter inline-5
Transmission: 3-speed automatic
Mileage: 94,000 mi
Location: El Segundo, California
Price: No Reserve Auction
About this vehicle
This 1987 Audi 5000 is an original. The owner has had it for 5+ years. The vehicle runs great and is mainly used for weekend drives.
1987 Audi 5000S. Excellent Condition. Low Miles. comes with several options for 1987 model. Heatable front seats with temperature controls, Anti-lock breaking system, Expandable ski/storage sack (never used), sunroof, cruise control, AM/FM stero cassette. All records. All new tires in 2019. Brand new Battery. Heavy Duty Bilstein shocks. Recent new exhaust work. Runs great and handles great. AC not blowing cold. Will need new ac condenser and dryer. Rock chip on driver side front window. See picture.
This car is pretty standard in terms of its options; you got a trip computer, a sunroof, anti-lock brakes, heated front seats, and automatic climate control. The Almond Beige exterior seems to also have been the go-to for later 5000 FWD models, and the NF 2.3-liter inline-5 almost always seems hooked to a 3-speed automatic. Condition is certainly impressive, but this isn’t really a particularly desirable car. So, it needs to be a no reserve auction format to have any appeal, and that’s exactly what we see here.
There’s a sect of people who really like these larger Audis, and indeed they’re nice highway cruisers. If you want to make a splash at Radwood, though, or really enjoy the driving experience, this probably isn’t the car for you. Bidding so far is just over $2,000, and it should remain under ~4K$, as there are far more desirable Audis to buy over that amount.
I have quite a few thoughts on this model, and this is a good time to put them down for all the world to read:
– Great cars in terms of value and technology for the mid 1980s.
– Unfortunately Audi felt it was necessary to offer US buyers automatic climate control, so many of them came with a GM head unit. And it was obvious that it wasn’t an Audi design as it didn’t have the same quality as the other switch gear. Just stood out as a half assed attempt to appease the US buyers.
– The 5000s developed a poor reputation for reliability that it did not deserve. It was reliable enough overall; not Honda, but probably just average. Problem was that someone would buy a new $24K Audi 5000 in 1986, then 60 minutes lied, and suddenly the car was only worth $10K overnight. Soon people were buying up used 5000s that had no ability to afford the maintenance and repairs, and the exponential spiral of deferred maintenance and repairs would plummet 5000s into rolling $2000 wrecks within a few short years.
– What was cool about the type 44s is that Audi designed different dashboards for the turbo models. The turbos had “larger” dash with more features. When was the last time you saw 2 cars in the same model range with different dash designs? Audi did it again with the B6/7 cabrio dash, which was must more stylish than the sedan.
– Turbo models also received a unique front end as well (grill/headlights). Cool way to differentiate the models rather than just a badge. Audi did this once again with the B6 cabrio, and again with the B8/B8.5 sedan vs coupe.
That’s all for today’s lesson in Type 44 history.
“Anti-lock breaking system” 🤣
Having owner three Type 44s, I can attest to their strengths and quirks alike. In addition to the climate control, the power seat controls were sourced from GM, and the turbo headlights also came from others (the same units were featured on some Astons, I believe).
Are the center caps for this wheel style the same as the caps for the multi-spoke Ronal wheel supplied on the 4000 models?
The headlights were all-Audi design, and then Aston used them because Aston couldn’t afford the tooling of headlights on such a low production car like the Vantage/Virage. Also the taillights were from a VW Scirocco, and the front amber lights I think were from a 951.
Best use of Audi turbo headlights; in the 1990s the trams that ran people to the gates at Orlando International Airport used them. They were easy to spot.
I recall a review of the 20V 200 Quattro (inC&D i believe) that cited the headlights as ‘weak’ but they didn’t make the same observation on a Aston with the same units. Different standards for a sedan vs a luxury touring coupe, I suppose. I bet they were more than up to the task on the airport tram!
JasonM – I can’t remember where I left my wallet, but I do remember that exact article and comment from 30 years ago. I think they said that given Audi’s rough experience with litigation in the USA, they should have put better lights on the car.
Maybe the Aston used the Euro glass units, which were probably a heck of a lot better. And the Orlando Airport tram lights were Euro, because they had the silver side reflectors rather than the amber US reflectors.
Time for someone to surface pics of the that old people mover at MCO! The clear / silver reflectors looked way better.
I moved away from Orlando 14 years ago, but still fly through that airport from time to time, and a few years ago I thought to look, the front of the trams were different, so they might be newer trams or updated front ends. Back when they were running the 200 headlights, we didn’t have cell phone cameras, so I never got a pic.
@Wojciech – Amazingly, no. There are at least four versions of that nearly identical center cap, and they’re all slightly different in shape and size. The 5000S and 5000 15″ aero wheels have different center caps that look identical, and the 4000 FWD and Coupe GT/4000CS quattro center caps are also similar in look but different in size.
Interestingly, the later 16″ Fuchs wheels on the S4 and the 90 quattro/cabriolet 15″ Votex wheels use exactly the same center cap.
+1 The Euro Headlamps were phenomenal…for the time. Blame the DOT. Mine had relayed 100W High beams, people moved over the the right.
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