Shifting Gears: 1987.5 Audi Coupe GT Part 3

Has it already been two months since my last update on the project 1987.5 Coupe GT? It seems hard to believe, but the date doesn’t lie. In that time there have been, predictably, some successes and some setbacks, coupled with a fair amount of waiting for both parts and diagnosing the problems. If you want a refresher, you can check out the introduction piece on the new-to-me 1987.5 Audi Coupe GT “Special Build”, or Part 2 when I finally got it running. Now, what’s next? Well, as it turns out, a whole lot….


The main problem with getting the car running was that meant there was more fixing that would be required. But ran the car did, and as I promised in the last installment the first operation of order was to get an alternator. With the alternator out I was able to pull the auxiliary radiator which was leaking. The main radiator seems sound, so a small graft between the auxiliary input tubes sealed the system. A new alternator from Autohaus was ordered – unique, of course, for the 1987.5 GT. With a new belt, adjuster bolt and cleaned and painted brackets, the car generated its own power. I also installed a new battery, and once in the car burbled and idled well on its own, amazingly. While I was there, I also changed the notoriously difficult to get to air filter since the lights were out. Two cut hands and an hour of struggling later, and the dirtiest air filter I can recall seeing emerged.

Next up was to try to fix the fuel gauge. Some diagnostics revealed that both of the sending units I had at my disposal were bad, so a request to the quattroworld list yielded a working replacement after some time. With a new gasket installed and a few hiccups, the gauge worked. It was semi-imperative not necessarily just to know the fuel level, but when close to empty the on board computer with the digital dash begins flashing frantically that you’ll run out of gas, bypassing the other functions on the trip computer. It was survivable but annoying, so I’m glad it’s fixed.

I also worked on some rust repair on the front end. Some scraping of the affected areas and treatment by a rust preventative was applied, then I painted the areas with the appropriate L90E Alpine White. Not perfect, mind you, but it was better. I made my way around the car to touch up some outstanding spots where the paint was chipped or missing. I repaired a torn front bumper and touched up most of the road rash so it appears a bit better, too. The refreshed lights went back in, along with a replacement hood rod and hood rod clip. There are still a few areas that need attention – most notably, the rear bumper which is currently off for work.

I ordered up a host of tune-up and timing belt parts for the car, but wanted to hold off with replacement until the transmission was functioning. A bit more cleaning and prep work on items like the cam cover prettied old parts up a bit, and I decided to retread some BBS wheels that I’ve been sitting on for far too long. Mounted up, they look much more purposeful than the non-original 4000CS/5000S wheels that came on the car.

However, I also started working on a replacement set of original Ronal R8 wheels. Originally, they would have been Alpine White on the white Special Builds and the wheels I sourced were silver – so sanding was underway and I had to source some centercaps. Again, my paint work isn’t the best, but they’re coming out reasonably well. One interesting thing of note was that there were 3 different R8 style wheels on the donor car. They were minor differences on the back of the wheel, but what was amazing was what that added up to. The early (1985 production) wheel weighed over 16 lbs, while the lightest wheels (1988 production) were from a later 80. With carved out spokes and a sectioned hub, Ronal managed to cut over a pound from the weight of the earlier wheel.

There were other minor successes, as I sourced the original radio from a friend, some replacement bits like unbroken blinkers, and some floor mats. Once hooked up, the radio worked and so does the electric antenna, though two speakers don’t function. It’s still indeterminate if the heated seats work and currently the mirrors don’t function, though broken door wires are common and might fix the system.

With a lot of busy work completed, it was finally time to take a look at the transmission. This past week the car went back up on the lift and the valve body of the transmission was pulled as we try to diagnose why it’s not working. With seals on order, I’m going to attempt to get the car to shift without pulling the transmission out – because as my mechanic pronounced as we stared at it, “If that f*%&ing automatic comes out it’s not going back in!”

I took advantage of the car being up on the lift to work on a few spots of surface rust as I got some clips for the original mudflaps, as well as polishing the tail lights which were quite scratched and pulling the rear bumper for a mild refresh. Over the next week or two, the hope is the car will either be shifting on its own and tune up, brakes and timing belt will be next on the docket – or the project gets much larger.


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