Unloved Hero: 1985 Audi 5000S

Update 11/11/18: This 5000S was relisted and is listed as sold again at $1,525.

Update 10/3/18: This 5000S sold at $1,325.

Back in May I took a look at a 1985 Audi 5000S. As I said at the time, the 5000S was just about as undesirable as an Audi got from that period for me. Most were boring color combinations with a boring 3-speed automatic and boring performance as a result. But, importantly, they existed. And without them, Audi probably wouldn’t have for our market.

Sure it would be exciting to look at a 1985 Quattro. But they only sold 73 of those. The 4000 quattro? 4,897 left dealerships. The GT? 3,586 were sold. In fact, if you combine all other Audis sold in 1985, you still come up short to the number of non-Turbo 5000s that left dealers. At nearly 40,000 spoken for, this car here represents the bulk of Audi sales and the bread-and-butter of the company’s appeal in the 80s. In fact, 1985 Type 44 sales were the most prolific of any Audi chassis from 1970 through 2000 in the U.S.. That was why the 60 Minutes sham had such impact on the company. By 1988, the number of Type 44s sold here was down to 10,000 from nearly 50,000 high point of 1985.

But in 1985 the “unintended acceleration” wasn’t yet a new item and these were still selling like the proverbial hotcake. So let’s take a look at this claimed low-mileage example and see if we can see some appeal today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi 5000S on eBay

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Roll the Dice: 1990 Audi V8 quattro

Update 9/26/18: This V8 quattro sold for $1,775.

We’re going from one of the best 200 20V quattros out there to the more typical comparison point for an early 90s Audi – a project. I won’t bore you with all the details of what made the V8 quattro unique because I did so back in August when we looked at a very clean and tidy ’90 in Indigo Blue Metallic. Sufficed to say, they’re neat cars that all too often are parted out rather than going through the laborious task of keeping them afloat.

So here we have a ’90 V8 quattro. Like the majority, it is a 4-speed automatic in Pearlescent White Metallic. Generally speaking, I mentioned in my last few V8 posts that the cars to have are the rare 5-speed manuals, the less often seen 4.2, or the absolute best 3.6 you can find. But there are a few reasons to be interested in this particular one – let me tell you why:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Audi V8 quattro on eBay

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1991 Audi 200 20V quattro

Update 9/13/18: This 1991 Audi 200 20V quattro sold for $7,900

Although 60 Minutes had disasterous effects on its U.S. sales, the confabulation by the television program failed to halt Audi’s rapid developments in the late 1980s. First to launch was the V8 quattro in 1988. Although we wouldn’t see the model emerge until late ’89 as a 1990 model year car, Europeans got a jump start on Audi’s top-tier luxury performance sedan. However, Audi simultaneously upgraded the 200 model with a new performance version, and in 1989 launched the DOHC 20V version of the model. This car sat in between the V8 and normal 200, with the familiar 2.2 liter turbocharged inline-5 just where you’d expect it but now with more spunk. Producing 217 horsepower and 228 lb.ft of torque, it was down on grunt to the PT V8’s 240/258. However, at 3,350 lbs, it was also down on weight nearly 600 lbs and equipped solely with a 5-speed manual, and consequently the 200 20V could scoot to 60 in around 6.5 seconds and the boost didn’t run out until 150 mph. The V8 and 200 20V shared some bits, such as the front “UFO” floating rotor design, forged 7.5″ BBS wheels and some interior trim, as well as the obvious body similarities. However, the two cars had remarkably different character and driving styles thanks to their drivetrain and engine differences.

Both have become hard to find in today’s market; the V8 because of expensive repairs, and the 200 because of scarcity and parts pilfering. Because the 3B came only in the 200 to these shores, plenty have been used as a basis to build S2 clones or upgrade an older 4000 quattro chassis. Audi claims they built a total of 4,767 sedans and 1616 Avants worldwide, Audi sold around 1,200 total 200 20Vs here, with the vast majority being sedans like today’s example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi 200 20V quattro on eBay

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1990 Audi V8 quattro

When it came to the late 1980s, Audi’s monopoly on the all-wheel drive market was coming to an end. Not only were new turbocharged pocket-rockets being born seemingly every day, but Mercedes-Benz had introduced their new “4Matic” designed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch. While you could make a pretty convincing argument that Audi’s design was superior in extreme conditions, there was at least one aspect of the Mercedes-Benz that trumped Ingolstadt’s design – you could get an automatic.

Now, to most enthusiasts that probably sounds like a bad idea. But when it came to selling car – especially expensive luxury cars – the overwhelming majority of buyers wanted the car to do most of the heavy lifting. Audi’s response was the next generation of quattro drivetrains; like Steyr’s system, with a series of clutches in the center differential that helped to transfer power and allowed the car to be mated to an automatic transmission. That transmission – the ZF 4HP24A – was a derivative of the 4HP24, the same automatic found in the V12-equipped BMW 750 and 850s. Like the Mercedes-Benz, Audi employed Bosch ABS and a locking rear differential. But unlike other Audis with their manual- or electronic-locking rear differential, the V8 quattro used a Torsen rear differential with helical gears which would automatically split torque in up to a 3:1 ratio to the wheel with grip.

But the V8 quattro wasn’t only about its unique new form of all-wheel drive. The moniker obviously indicated there had been a change in motivation, too, and indeed the V8 launched a new all-aluminum 4 cam, 32 valve V8 displacing 3.6 liters dubbed the PT. Rated at 240 horsepower and 254 lb.ft of torque, it was the most powerful Audi for sale in the late 1980s and brought the brand to a luxury level it had previously not competed at. In the U.S., these mega-Audis were met with mixed success. The 1990 launch of the V8 resulted in reasonably good sales; Audi sold 2,823 between late 1989 and the end of 1990 which represented over 10% of their yearly sales. Consider that the legendary Quattro never even broke 1% of Audi’s annual sales here; in its most successful year Quattros comprised .62% of the overall sales for the company.

But it was downhill – sharply – from there, as Audi nearly left the U.S. market and top-flight executives hit a notoriously bad sales patch. That meant that in total only 3,868 V8 quattros were sold in the U.S. This might be one of the best ’90s left:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Audi V8 quattro on eBay

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1989 Audi 200 quattro

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been well over a decade since I bid farewell to my Audi 200. It was never meant to be; I had always admired the turbocharged Avants and so when one came up for sale for an incredibly low asking price, I jumped.

Turned out it was more than just me that needed a jump. And it turned out that the 200 needed a lot more than just a jump; the clutch was thoroughly fried, as were the brakes, and the fuel system, and a few other odds and ends. I patched it together and we enjoyed a memorable run of events. Of all my automotive calamity stories, about 50% revolve around both of my big body Audis. The V8 created more hair-raising events (such as the time the throttle stuck wide open and in an effort to stop it I managed to set the brakes on fire), but the 200 wasn’t to be outdone.

There was the time I left the tollbooth on the Mass Pike. The car was running particularly well that day, so I gave it WOT leaving the gate. First to second and the nose was pointed at the sky! Surely, everyone must be saying “WOOOOOOOW!!!“, and it turns out they were because I had blown an oil cooler line and was crop dusting Sturbridge with a thick coat of atomized 10W-40. Another time the voltage regulator died, leaving me to switch various electrical items on and off to balance the charge between 11.5 and 14 volts all the ride home from Cape Cod. It blew several tires while on the road, which admittedly probably wasn’t it’s fault but was exciting nonetheless. I found out that the ABS worked – well – in an ice storm on 95 one time as I passed a braking BMW on the hard shoulder. The coolant lines froze one day – a major feat, since there was theoretically coolant in them. It twice threw alternator belts, leaving me to drive home the length of Rt. 24 at 5am with no lights on. The air conditioner didn’t work. Actually, basically everything electronic didn’t work particularly well if I’m honest. The radio’s blown speakers weren’t enough to overcome the wind noise created by the necessity to have the windows down at all times if the outside temp was over 60. But the kicker? The kicker was that the brake lines collapsed, leaving the calipers to randomly seize partially closed. As a result, you had to go full throttle to maintain 50 mph which, as you read at the beginning of this passage, occasionally presented an explosive problem. I gave up eventually, unable to stomach this car consuming more of my money.

Sound charming? It was. But most of my issues probably would have been remedied if I simply had bought a better example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Audi 200 quattro on eBay

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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

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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

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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. The result? Sideways. Totally awesome, controllable drifts at nearly any angle you wanted for as long as you wanted. I drove through a blizzard, seat heaters set at “just so”, automatic climate control dialed in to 70 with the exterior temp suggesting it was Saskatchewan I was in rather than Southern Massachusetts. The V8 ate the miles up leisurely. It was the most comfortable I’ve felt in a very bad driving environment, and I’ve driven through a few in some pretty good cars.

Then there’s the ‘whether’. It’s more than whether or not you live in a climate where my scenario will play out for you. It’s more than whether or not this car is worth purchasing. It’s whether or not you’ll be able to find parts. It’s whether or not all of the items work. Heck, with a V8 quattro, sometimes it’s whether or not it’ll feel like starting. And when it does, it’s whether or not it’ll feel like shifting, too.

Whether be damned, these cars still capture my imagination every single time I see one.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Audi V8 quattro on eBay

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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.

Being a V8 quattro owner isn’t particularly rewarding. No one has any idea that your car even existed – sometimes, not even Audi dealers. And it will break. Often. When (not if) it does, it will certainly be very expensive to fix. But like an Alfa, occasionally it all works and suddenly you have the greatest car ever conceived. It’s comfortable, quiet, sporty, refined, simple in ergonomics but has everything you need. The steering is sublime for a 90s Audi. The brakes were fantastic. The transmission was a big step forward in design for Audi from the venerable 3-speed. It had a great radio, greater seat heaters and one-touch power windows. It was cutting edge.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Audi V8 quattro on eBay

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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. But the Turbo? They sold 6,849 of them. Why are they so rare to see then?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 5000CS Turbo on eBay

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