Motorsports Monday: 1988 Audi 200 quattro Trans Am

One of the things I love the most about Audi is that for some time they liked to do things differently. Now, if you’re Porsche and you’re able to build a reputation around that insistence to do things differently through racing, then you can be a successful company. As such, the closely linked cousin Audi was taken racing by some of the same team from Porsche. The first big attempt in the 1980s was the push to win the World Rally Championship with their new Quattro model. Highlighting turbocharged technology coupled with a semi-revolutionary all-wheel drive system, the Quattro was a positive sensation until the mid-1980s and the death of Group B. Audi then took on Group A with the non-turbo Coupe quattro briefly, and also enjoyed some unlikely success rallying with their 200 sedan. But even success in World Rally Championship events wasn’t enough of a reputation boost for what lay ahead of Audi next, as 60 Minutes highhandedly nearly took the company right out of the marketplace. In order to rebuild the reputation of the company in the U.S., Quattro guru Jo Hoppen convinced Audi to go racing in the SCCA Trans-Am series. Headlining that series were tube-frame V8 behemoths that outwardly laughed as a production based luxury sedan with a measly 2.1 turbocharged inline-5 hanging way out the front pulled up to grid. It turned out they didn’t laugh too long:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Audi 200 quattro Trans Am at Auto Collections

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1988 Audi 5000CS quattro Avant

Recently, I saw a picture of the new Volvo V90. It’s a handsome and striking design, wide, low and some rakish angles – especially in the rear. Where Volvos have traditionally been pretty square, this one reminded me in many ways of another large wagon, but one from 30 years ago – the Audi Type 44 Avant. Pardon the pun, but it was pretty avant garde for the time; much more aerodynamic and futuristic looking than its contemporaries, arguably it still doesn’t look particularly old today. Okay, you can point out some of the 80s styling elements – large black rubber moldings surround the car, the wheels look tiny in comparison to the modern 19″ or 20″ wheels that seemingly everything wears, and there are no fancy LED strips and clear taillights. But this uncluttered design still looks great and stands apart from most other 1980s products. While the Type 44 range was topped by the 1991 200 20V model that most lust after, a clean earlier 5000 example like this is neat to see:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Audi 5000CS quattro Avant on Providence Craigslist

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Honorable Mention Roundup

We get a lot of submissions from readers – something we greatly appreciate! But the reality is that we don’t get the chance to write up all of these cars, and some deserving examples slip through the cracks. For some time I’ve wanted to do a roundup of all the examples we missed out on, so today I’m doing just that. Here’s a group of neat cars that we didn’t get a chance to look at in more depth. Thanks again to all of our devoted readers who have sent in some of these suggestions – we really do love getting your suggestions, so keep sending them and tell us if this “Honorable Mention Roundup is a good idea!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 Mercedes-Benz 500SEC on eBay

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1989 Audi 200 Turbo

So synonymous with the Audi brand is the all-wheel drive moniker “quattro” that you’d be forgiven for assuming that the brand didn’t offer two-wheel drive vehicles in the same vein as Subaru. But before quattro fully gained traction, Audi’s bread and butter was the front-wheel drive market and they produced some great examples. In part, that was because unlike most other modern platforms that copied the Mini’s transverse engine configuration, in the 1980s and forward to the Golf-based Audi built their platforms to accept the rearward heading drive shaft which necessitated a longitudinal engine configuration. While this pushed the engine weight farther forward than most other front-wheel drive packages, it also balanced power delivery and the driving experience in all of the non-quattro Audis in the 80s was remarkably sprite. Models like my favorite Coupe GT have gained a popular following as great drivers, but the large sedans – especially in turbo configuration – are less frequently seen:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Audi 200 Turbo on eBay

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3 C3: Audi Type 44 Roundup

A sleek aerodynamic design, modern electronics, luxurious appointments, all-wheel drive and available small displacement turbocharged engine. This is the recipe that nearly every luxury automaker has taken on in the past few years, but in the 1980s there was only one available car in this configuration – the C3 Audi. Okay, it’s taken the best part of 30 years for that blueprint to be the go-to design, and the market has changed in many ways since then, both from a buyers prospective and from the regulations that govern cars. But to say that the Audi Type 44 was an advanced car in its day was no leap – it really was about as technically sophisticated as cars got in the mid 1980s. Under the aerodynamic and efficient body lay a rally-bred drivetrain which was robust enough to carry the torch after the Group B cars had extinguished. Indeed, it was the Audi 200 quattro (5000CS quattro in the U.S.) which went on in 1987 to win Audi’s next major rally – the Kenyan Safari Rally – where the luxury sedan went 1-2 with Hannu Mikkola and Walter Rohrl. Not satisfied, Audi then took the large sedan racing; first in 200 quattro form in the Trans-Am championship, then later in the modified D11 V8 quattro DTM car. It was an unconventional race car which was very successful – something Audi excelled at, historically. But nearly extinct are the road-worthy versions of the early 5000 quattro; the complicated pattern of electronics and hydraulics systems, originally its strength, being the downfall of many. Today I have the three rarely seen variants of the 5000 that were available in the mid 1980s; 5000CS quattro, 5000CS quattro Avant, and 5000S quattro. Which would you want to take home?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Audi 5000CS quattro on eBay

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Audi’s Other Front Drivers: 1985 5000S Avant and 4000S

You’d be forgiven for thinking, based solely on my 1980s Audi coverage, that there was only one front drive model available during those times – the Coupe GT. True enough, the 2-door is my favorite of the front drive Audis from that time, but in fact Audi produced many two wheel drive cars right up to the 2000s. Few remember, for example, that there was a front drive A8 available briefly with a smaller 3.7 motor. A few generations earlier, though, and it was a different large Audi that was initially available in front drive only – the 5000, before it was a quattro, was powered only by the leading wheels. Indeed, even its famous appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was, while a Turbo model, still front drive only. And while it’s been the quattro versions of both the Coupe and 4000 that were more popularly remembered, both the 5000S and 4000S enjoyed a popular base and were good cars in their own right. Today we have two of these forgotten and forlorn Audis to take a look at:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi 5000S Avant on eBay

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10K Friday: Gimmie Five – Audi 5-pot-off

Today’s 10K Friday is something a bit unique; instead of a normal comparison between similarly valued cars, I’m going to chart the development of the venerable Audi inline-5. While, due to a dearth of examples, we won’t go back to the very early days of the I5 in the U.S., I’ve rounded up some of the more notable configurations that the engine appeared in the U.S.. Since, save some exceptions like the legendary Quattro and RS2, nearly every used Audi with this motor fits the under $10,000 limit (or comes close to it), that gives us the opportunity to see Audi’s continual technical changes to the inline-5. Though not as memorable as BMW’s inline-6 or Porsche’s flat-6, this motor was extremely important to the company nonetheless and was a character-defining attribute of Audis for nearly 20 years. So, let’s see how they kept it relevant from the 1970s into the 1990s:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 4000CS quattro on Craigslist

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1990 Audi 200 Quattro Avant

We all have our favorite marque of choice here at GCFSB, and if one person is the resident Volkswagen/Audi fan, it’s Carter. He’s owned many of these cars over the years and knows them inside out. I’ve owned a few Volkswagens, but the Audi has always been that elusive car in my garage. One of the Audis I’ve admired over the years was a car from their dark days in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The C3 Avant. This 1990 200 Quattro Avant isn’t the much prized 20V model from the end of the production run, but with Quattro and a 5-speed manual, you could still have fun with this car.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Audi 200 Quattro Avant on eBay

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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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10K Friday “80s Classic” Edition: 924 Turbo v. 5000CS Quattro Avant v. Golf Rallye v. 535i v. 300CE

One thing I really love about writing up these 10K posts is a odd combinations pricing allows me to come up with. For today’s post, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of maximizing the budget, I decided to look at it from the perspective of what was a classic 1980s car that you could buy and maintain well under $10,000. Obviously, if you’re willing to shill out much more, there are countless classics you can jump in to turn-key; but under $10,000 means with almost certainty that the car you’ll be getting in to today will be at least in part a bit of a project. Is there anything wrong with that? No, I think there’s an inherent appeal to trying to save and resuscitate a car that was in part neglected or just needs attention. Certainly I’ve tried to do that several times with 1980s cars – with mixed results. Today, I grabbed one classic from the 1980s (give or take, we’ll see…) from each of the major manufacturers – which is the one you’d like to save?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 Porsche 924 Turbo on eBay

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