The Spark of Life: 1987.5 Audi Coupe GT Part 2

About a month has passed since my introduction piece on the new-to-me 1987.5 Audi Coupe GT “Special Build”, and since then a fair amount of work has occurred. There have been a few successes and a few setbacks; as with any project, some things were unexpected and have complicated matters slightly, but then this is a car that has been sitting outside for over a decade non-running – it was never going to be a cake walk. Still, I’m quite a few steps closer to it being a viable car again, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to update the readership as to just how well it is (or, isn’t) going.

When the car arrived, I attached a battery pack and with some motivation, the car freely turned over – but didn’t catch. Some diagnosing (mostly, the absence of noise from the fuel pump area) led immediately to the belief that the car needed a fuel pump. Of course, the gauge also read completely empty; after adding a few gallons of gas, that didn’t change. Out came the fuel sender, which appears to be a corrupted unit after some diagnosing. Unfortunately, that’s not an easy fix on this car and I’m still trying to source a good sender so that the gauge will work. With the digital cluster, the “empty” reading preempts the trip computer and it madly flashes that you need to fill up in a hurry, so it’s more than just an annoyance that the level doesn’t read. It was more than just the gauge though, as it became quickly clear that the pump didn’t work. A new pump and filter were ordered, and while I waited I turned towards the exterior.

In several places, the paint was downright chalky. I wasn’t sure if it would come back, but I loaded up my buffer, every polish I had at hand, and set to work. A wash down, followed by clay barring were where I started. I followed that with Griot’s Complete Compound with a correcting pad on the 6″ orbital. Two passes with the orbital and the paint was really shining up. I took quite a bit of time on the compound, though in all honesty it’s going to need to be taken down and re-done a few times again before the paint it really good. I followed the compound with Machine Polish 3 and then One Step Sealant; the results were much better than expected. In particular, the area of the passenger rear quarter, where there had been a previous paint repair, matched much better following the polishing.

I also cleaned the engine bay slightly; there was plenty of built up dirt that you can see in the before:


And after, the paint was remarkably clean. I used Sonax engine bay cleaner which doesn’t seem too harsh but still does a good job. Spray on, let it sit, and some agitation before a rinse off. Now, just to get it running…


The fuel pump and filter arrived, and primed with a few more gallons of gas I headed to the shop. Some advice from the quattroworld 4000/GT fanbase suggested that draining the tank would be prudent, so after pulling the bracket, old pump and lines, I drained out the 2 gallons I had previously added. In went the new pump, filter, and a few gallons of gas. With a touch of excitement, I hooked up the battery pack and jumped in to flip the key. The pump certainly worked; in signature CIS fashion, there was the priming buzz as it fired to life. A few cranks and the engine caught, then died. This on several tries, until a spray of carb cleaner into the intake freed the apparently stuck air metering plate. With some coaxing, the 2.3 NG fired into life at last! A walk around the back revealed a spoiled winter harvest for some critters…


Almost immediately, more problems reared their heads. After firing the engine began heavily smoking from the engine bay; but it was evident that it wasn’t internal. The alternator bearings were frozen and the belt was spinning on the pulley. I lopped the belt off and added “alternator” to the growing list of needs. I didn’t have to wait long to extend it, as the auxiliary radiator collapsed and began spewing fluid on the belt drive. Finally, after idling for a bit remarkably well but predictably noisy, we gave the transmission a try.

The good news was that first and reverse worked. The bad news was that the transmission wouldn’t shift into 2nd or 3rd. This was a somewhat common problem on these 3-speeds, and may be able to be remedied with some new seals. However, I was finally able to drive the GT – all of 50 feet – back into its parking spot. I tried the next week to remove the radiator and alternator; both turned out to be rusty bears as an ever increasing amount of parts came off the front of the car to get those problems out. This culminated in all but the stainless trim being removed to get to one frozen bolt; the alternator was stuck in place, and the aux. radiator couldn’t come out without the alternator out.


This eventually required the removal of the brackets for the air conditioning and the alternator mount because the bolt still wouldn’t move. While there, I refreshed the headlights since the passenger side had a hole and damage. I stripped and repainted the brackets, along with polishing the corner lights and hardware. The reflectors were also in poor shape, one was fairly broken. I pulled it apart and painted the delaminated back silver again, then resealed it. Without buying new bits, it was as good as the front would get for now, and will wait to go on.



Next on the list are bypassing the auxiliary radiator until I can find a better solution, installing the alternator and belt along with a new battery. At that point, the car should be able to run on its own and I can spend some more time diagnosing the transmission. Of course, a thorough tune-up and timing belt service won’t be far behind. And there is some rust repair that will need to be sorted, along with wheels, tires and brakes. The list of needs currently far outstrips the completed items, but progress is being made.


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  1. Have at it Carter!….

  2. Great update. Don’t stop detailing your progress. I enjoy your enthusiasm.

  3. That’s quite a bit of work. Although we have lots of problems here in California, thankfully no rust issues.

  4. Hi Carter. Mine is the 4500 ask car that you pegged at 4000. It is definitely very rust free. Since trying to sell it, I’ve begun driving it much more regularly. It’s not particularly fast but with the close-ratio 5-speed it is definitely fun to buzz around town in. I need to get the driver seat redone and free up the rear calipers parking brake action. It needs at least one window regulator and the windshield is cracked. I have a beefier 4kq front sway bar and an Addco rear bar on it which really works great. I’ve got 94 90q sport wheels on it (15-inch) with 185/55-15 Toyos which grip well while keeping it feeling light and tossable. Not sure how interested in selling I am anymore ;-).

  5. Christian Longwolf

    Not to worry Carter, I know how to fix that transmission. Manual swap! I know, you are probably tired of hearing that from me!

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