Everyone talks a good game, but let’s be honest – few undertake the heavy lifting involved with a project car. I’ve certainly been guilty of it more than once, having had a Coupe GT racecar that I just couldn’t quite come up with the resources to get together. Then I was going to drop my spare Audi 4.2 V8 into a derelict 924 chassis that was kicking around. I still think that’s a good idea, but it has not occurred. And I’m not alone, judging by how often ‘project’ cars come up for sale.
One of the more prevalent dreams in the Audi swaps is to recreate what Europeans had the advantage of all along – 20V turbo power in the small chassis. While most take the Coupe Quattro route for their swap, some go the unusual route of choosing an 80 or 90 quattro. They’re not as popular for a few reasons – mostly, the sedan platform doesn’t look as neat to some, but another reason is that tire size is more limited on the sedan. But let’s not forget that Audi built about 300 S2 sedans themselves, so it’s not without precedent.
Today’s car has taken inspiration from that and done the heavy lifting for your project already. So is it the car for you?
Not everyone agreed with my thought that the low-mileage 1995 Volkswagen Passat GLX VR6 Variant I looked at a few weeks ago was overpriced. I really do understand in many ways; a well-cared for, low mileage example of an unusual car can be virtually impossible to replicate.
Lo and behold, here we are again. Admittedly, none of the trio I have here is quite as low mileage or quite as mint as that October example. But all are also priced a bit more competitively. We’ve got two sedans and a wagon to jump through, with two being automatics and one a manual. All are basically very clean stock examples. Are any of them for you?
Looking for a performance car? This isn’t it. It’s also about as far from a classic Audi as you could get in the U.S. market; there was no turbo, no inline-5, no manual and no quattro drivetrain. But the B4 Audi Cabriolet was ironically the last 1980s holdover for the company, and it survived until somewhat amazingly 1998 here, with the basic chassis construction from 1985. To the end, it remained a competent and handsome convertible, a conservative alternative to the more expensive Mercedes-Benz drop-tops and the flashier BMWs. The Cabriolet really only came in one configuration here, with the 2.8 liter V6 linked to the 4-speed automatic driving the front wheels. On the fly, this was a fine setup and certainly potent enough to rustle your hair, though it was far from lighting it on fire. Pricing at the end of the run was surprisingly high at $34,600 base price. Added to that were the packages many came with for the 1998 model year; Premium Package added a power roof, burled walnut wood trim; Kodiac leather seat upholstery, remote locking and alarm. To make it more palatable to most of the country, the “All Weather Package” added heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, and heated door locks. Also optional for the end of the run were the Votex Speedline Competition 16″ 6-spoke alloy wheels and even high backed sport seats; both (especially the latter) are very rare. Of course, the Cabriolet is rare full stop, with only 5,439 sold here between 1994 and 1998, or roughly 1,000 per a model year. This ’95 is one of 1,087 and might be one of the best left:
Just the other day on my ‘Distinctive Drivers’ page – a Facebook group that looks at unusual automotive finds – I stumbled across a ’92 Honda Accord 5-speed. Here was a rather sedate, base model Accord; yet, because of the rarity of seeing such a car, and its recent complete disappearance from the marketplace, there’s an odd desirability for what was otherwise just an average sedan.
The same holds true today. Here’s a Euro-market Audi 80 TDi. The B4 chassis was nearly a stranger to us and is fairly infrequently seen these days; not many were sold here, especially when compared to the B5 A4 which followed. There were only two configurations they came in; all were 90s, and all shared the 2.8 V6 either driving the front or all four wheels. The 80 had been discontinued after ’92 for the U.S. and it didn’t appear as a B4 here, as there was no 90 model in the ’92 season officially.
But in Europe, of course, the B4 included the 80 model, which was the cheapest Audi you could buy – so they sold quite a few. Engines varied quite wildly from the U.S. models; there were 1.6 and 1.8 models which ranged from 70 to 125 horsepower, then 2.0 models running right up to a high-output variant of the 16V we saw in the GTI and GLI. There was the tried and true 5-cylinder we saw in our 80, and then there were a few V6s – the 2.8 seen in the U.S., but also a lower output 2.6 model for better economy. But if you wanted real fuel savings, you opted for one of the two diesels – the 75 horse 1.9TD or the 89 horsepower 1.9TDi:
So here’s part one in a trio of strange, yet desirable in their own right, Volkswagens. There are plenty of popular Volkswagens that demand premiums, sometimes inexplicably. These special models have a draw and demand money that makes people laugh. Sure, in the car world, itâ€™s become accepted that vehicles like the 21 window Samba are now $100,000 plus fully restored; however, tell that to my father-in-law, who grew up driving them, and youâ€™ll get nothing but boisterous laughs. Other Volkswagens exhibit charm or were class leaders; the GTi, the Vanagon Westy, the Corrado â€“ stylish in their own ways, with charm to match. Then thereâ€™s the Passat. Despite the serious popularity of the B5 and B5.5 chassis, I still feel like I need to explain to people that theyâ€™re really quite nice cars. Do you know why?
Mostly itâ€™s because of the reputation of the B3 and B4 Passats. The B4 Passat will certainly not go down in history as the best made, fastest or even prettiest mid-sized Volkswagen. Poor build quality coupled with an unerring tendency of early 90s Volkswagens to rust heavily meant theyâ€™re an odd choice for the Volkswagen fan. And when I consider the B4 Passat, all I can think is that itâ€™s arguably the most vanilla Volkswagen ever produced. I praised Volkswagen when they launched the B3; smooth, aerodynamic with a distinctive wedge shape, it looked very different than any other sedan on sale at the time. Most of that distinction came down to the grill-less front end, but regardless it was cool. It was so cool, in fact, that no one got it. Of course, it didnâ€™t help that it was pretty expensive and not particularly reliable in the best trend of early 90s VWs. So it probably came as no surprise when the revised B4 Passat in 1995 went more mainstream. New wheels, mostly new body panels and some minor interior changes signaled its introduction, but thatâ€™s not what people sought. No, the big news was under the hood; Volkswagen moved the 1Z 1.9 TDi into the Passat â€“ and behind the headlines of the Vans, Corrados and GTIs, itâ€™s probably the most sought 1990s Volkswagen â€“ especially in 5-speed Variant form:
For such a relatively short-lived and obscure model in the U.S. market, the 90 model sure went through a substantial amount of changes. It makes nearly every model year unique in some way, and so few come to market they’re always neat to see regardless of the generation. The 90 replaced the 4000 for the 1988 model year with the upgraded Torsen-based quattro, the new B3 body and interior and the updated 2.3 NG 10V motor for the 88-89 model year, and was sold alongside the technically identical but less upscale 80 model for the same time. 1990 saw the introduction of the short-lived double-overhead cam 7A motor and some other minor changes, but scant numbers were brought over. Technically, there’s no ’92 90, but there are still some floating out there because…well, Audi. Then officially in ’93, the “B4” chassis arrived, with revised rear suspension, body bits and a new 2.8 liter V6. Even then, for the ’93-’95 B4 quattros, each model year was a bit different – surprising, given their very limited numbers. Available only in “CS” upscale trim, the 1993 90CS quattro, 1994 90CS quattro sport and 1995 Sport 90 quattro only combined for 2,855 examples. They’re pretty hard to find, though admittedly there are even fewer ’90-91 20Vs or ’92 80 quattros floating around.
Most of these cars were upscale and featured either the Speedline-made 10-spoke 15″ wheels or the later Ronal-made Votex 5-spoke design. A raised spoiler and limited badging were hallmarks of the later ’94-’95 sport models. Though generally not as desirable as the ’95 Sport model, the ’94 is more rare and just about identical to the ’95 model. So, when they arrive in near perfect condition with under 100,000 miles, the bids start rolling in for the devoted fans who love them:
Audi’s nomenclature took an interesting turn once again in the early 1990s. From the B2’s “4000CS quattro” – the only way the car was available at the end of the run, Audi had introduced the tiered 80/90 quattro for the B2 model range. That culminated in the 90 quattro 20V, but even though the run of the B3 was short in the U.S., by 1991 the model was already 6 years old for the European market. Audi then skipped the 1992 model year for the 90, offering only the holdover 80/80 quattro while it readied the 90’s replacement. That replacement was…the 90. But strangely back again was the S/CS model designation in this “new” chassis, the B4, which was a heavily revised B3 chassis with some new sheetmetal and trim. But the big news was new engines; gone was the NG and 7A, last of a long line of inline-5s that had populated the noses of small Audis since the late 1970s. In its place was the AAH 2.8 liter 12 valve V6. Rated at 172 horsepower and 184 lb.ft of torque, on paper it was the superior motor to the double-overhead cam inline-5 it theoretically replaced. But the power delivery and experience were entirely different. While the peaky 7A encouraged you to explore the upper realm of the rev counter, the AAH wasn’t particularly rewarding at the redline. Where it was superior was in low-end torque and it’s smooth power delivery, and though the cast-iron V6 was no lighter than the inline-5, it’s shorter overall length meant that some (okay, only a bit) of the nose-heaviness that had plagued the B2 and B3 series was forgotten.
But the ‘CS’ quattro moniker only lived a short two years in the U.S. before it, too, was replaced by the last-year oddly-named Audi Sport 90 quattro. These were also some of the slowest-selling Audis in a history of not particularly prolific sales; Audi shifted only 718 1993 models and barely more in 1994 at 773. You’re much more likely to find a last-year model, as the Sport 90 quattro and the slightly lower-spec 90 quattro accounted for nearly as many sales as the ’93 and ’94 years combined. As with the prior B3 90 quattro, the Achilles heel of the B4 was the price. The base price for the 90CS quattro in 1993 was nearly $33,000, and add your taxes and a few options – like this example’s leather and very expensive Pearlescent White Metallic paint option – and you had a budget-breaking small executive sedan:
Saying that you like the Audi Cabriolet is like saying you thought Jar Jar Binks was the best developed character in the Star Wars pre-boot.
Put aside the typical top-down motoring bias and stereotype. There were more reasons to single out the Cabriolet. They were soft. They came to the U.S. in automatic only. They were powered exclusively by the yawn-a-minute 2.8 V6. Inherently it’s not a bad motor, and it had more punch than the inline-5s did (barely). But inspired it’s not. And to top it all off? Perhaps that could have been remedied if they were available with quattro, right? No, FrontTrak only. That was Audi’s lame attempt to make the basic front-drivers sound like they had some cool system. Nope, this was a one-wheel drive wonder. So that’s lame-on-lame action when you’re considering an Audi.
So this is Rocky V, or The Sum of All Fears, or that horrible ninth season of the X-Files. But I have a guilty pleasure. No, I still haven’t watched ‘X-hibit C’ above because why on Earth would I do that? But I do really like the Audi Cabriolet. I can logically admit its many shortcomings, and yet every time I see one I’m drawn to the shape. To me, it’s just a pretty car, even if I can’t fully describe why it’s a pretty car. But above and beyond my visual stimulation, this particular listing has some fun stuff to go along with it and is worth the click alone:
With the news that in a short twenty-three years Britain plans on no longer having internal combustion engines for sale, I was struck with the idea of a theme week. We haven’t done one in a while, but what about looking at some of the cars that are available in England that won’t be welcome there soon, but would be right at home in my driveway? Sure, they’ll mostly be right hand drive, but I’ve done it before and for the price of some of these cars I’d be happy to offer them sanctuary when they’re no longer register-able in Great Britain.
With that in mind, I’ll start with what is likely top of my list – the Audi S2 Avant. I know, I know – most enthusiasts pine over the much more legendary, quicker and more rare RS2. But there are a few reasons for me to like the S2 even more. When I lived in England, there was a Cyclamen example that parked near my flat. I ran by it often, and even had a few daydreams as training miles passed under foot that I’d be rowing through the gears. So, it is with a bit of nostalgia that I view them every time. Next, I like the look more. The gaping guppy look of the RS2 became signature for the RS models moving forward, but the S2 is very handsome in a classic Audi way without being as shouty. But most of all, it’s the price. While RS2s are still treading in the $40-$100,000 range for decent examples, a very nice S2 Avant can be had for only a fraction of that amount:
While some may feel that my foray into BMW ownership has swayed me to the dark side of German motoring, I still have a very large soft spot for the classic inline-5 powered Audis. And one of the most outstanding deals, until very recently, was the S2 range. Oft copied in the United States as it was never offered, the S2 was available in frequently seen Coupe and far less found sedan and Avant variations. The last is best known in its ultimate development as the Porsche-built RS2, but even the standard S2 range was nothing short of impressive. With 220 horsepower available from the 3B and later ABY turbocharged dual-cam inline-5s driven through all four wheels, they weren’t the fastest off the line but could hang with their countrymen easily on the fly. As they near legal importation status, prices have started to rise slightly – but they’re still quite affordable compared to many other contemporary limited-run performance options. This ’96 is a great example: