By on August 8, 2013

05 - 1990 Audi V8 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAudi has been building cars with V8s for decades now, but the very first Audi V8 came installed in a car named, appropriately enough, the Audi V8. These cars cost plenty when the buyer signed on the line that is dotted, and they continued to cost plenty over the life of the car. I used to see quite a few of these cars in self-serve wrecking yards about five years ago, but now we’re seeing the long-term survivors whose owners took a look at the most recent repair estimate and, finally, barked GENUG! Here’s a high-mileage example that I spotted yesterday in my favorite Denver wrecking yard.
02 - 1990 Audi V8 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin247 screaming German horsepower, fed to all four wheels and providing a good living for Audi mechanics.
07 - 1990 Audi V8 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember factory car phones? Do any phone companies still provide the analog connections they need?
11 - 1990 Audi V8 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin250,525 miles! Who needs a Camry? Note the fuel gauge calibrated in gallons.
09 - 1990 Audi V8 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAfter the “unintended acceleration” debacle of 1986, Audi printed up vast quantities of these stickers and applied them on the shifter bezels of most of their automatic-equipped cars until, what, sometime in the mid-90s? They also recalled older cars and slapped stickers on them as well. Did these stickers prevent elderly drivers from mixing up the gas and brake pedals? Let’s hope so!
14 - 1990 Audi V8 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNow that Audis are packaged as carefully as any Apple product, we can assume that the company would rather sell itself to FAW-Hongqi for 11 bucks than slap a sticker this hideous on a door panel.
10 - 1990 Audi V8 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot satisfied with the ECON/PWR transmission-mode choice available in the Lexus LS400 (and most other slushboxed Toyotas of the era), Audi V8 drivers could choose between “Sport,” “Economy,” and “Manual” modes, courtesy of this switch.


Here’s a nice German-market mini-movie advertisement for der Audi V8.

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42 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Audi V8...”


  • avatar
    Sam P

    I saw one of these in Seattle with a manual gearbox. IIRC, that went from 0-60 mph almost two seconds faster than the slush box.

    Didn’t these things have an insanely complex brake system with the calipers mounted *inside* the discs?

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      Yeah, they did, and the rotors warped with depressing (SWIDT?) regularity.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Interesting article on that:
      http://www.spannerhead.com/2011/10/21/technical-curiosities-audis-ufo-brakes/

      TL;DR: Audi wanted better performance than could be conventionally stuffed inside a 15″ rim. Given AWD I suppose inboard discs weren’t an option.

      • 0 avatar
        Spannerhead

        That article’s my handiwork; I appreciate the link!

        I’ve personally experienced these brakes behind the wheel of a friend’s ’91 200 20v, and they do bite very hard. No empirical numbers, though; just an anecdote.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Of course Audi solved a problem later solved by simply fitting larger wheels…But 15 inchers were pretty standard in the day, though 16s on a flagship not unheard of, the contemporary Corvette was running 17s and 13″ PBR brakes.

          BTW nice site, reading about the Nivomat dampers right now…

          • 0 avatar

            Indeed. My ’95 BMW 540i/6 (frustratingly) was fitted only with 15-inchers from the factory. :(

            And thanks! The Nivomat post grew out of my Volvo 780 fixation.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        AWD would actually make inboard brakes easier to integrate, since the driveshafts are all there to transfer braking forces to the wheels. What might have killed the idea for Audi was their history with inboard brakes on the 100LS, which were one of the most problematic features of a troublesome car.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          I was thinking the same thing. Are there any examples of inboard brakes on non-driven wheels? I’ve never seen that, guessing it would be a bit complex.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The Alfa 75 has inboard brakes on the wheels, and it’s RWD.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            The 75/Milano had inboard brakes, but only on the rear wheels.

            The only example of inboard brakes on non-driven wheels I can think of was on Formula 1 cars in the ’70s. The Lotus 72 springs to mind.

            http://jtautomotive.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/lotus-chassis-engineering-greatest-hits/

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Aww I thought I had something there. :(

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I have only seen a couple of these in my life, I want to say one was maroon colored and the other pearl as seen above. I always thought it was a nice, substantial design, but really too close to the early A6 to be differentiated as a superior lux product.

    Were they having a date in the commercial? LOL.

    My 93 90S was that same color, and had the same wheels too. And the shift gate sticker. And steering wheel.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I had the 5-cyl version of this, ironically there were just a few bits outside of powertrain different between these and the 100. I miss that car.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Funny how similar Audis different models were in those days, even if some parts were different, they looked the same!

      I believe the claim by Audi on this V8 is that the body is completely different than the 100/200. The 100 certainly did have that taller front end with slightly different headlights for whatever reason and at the time only the V8 had that M-B style grill in the hood. The late 20v 200TQ looks almost like the exact same body though.

      My family had the 5000S and then the 80Q I always dreamed of the performance versions the ‘rents couldn’t possibly afford, but I am sure they were all maintenance intensive.

      The cool parts of the V8 were the UFO brakes and the rear torsen which no other Audi had at the time. We had the good old rear vacuum locker in our 80Q.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        There was 200T for sale not far from here in March which was the exact same color as what mine was, very tempted. Figured it was more trouble than it was worth.

        The V8 body may have varied slightly but I doubt it was very different, most of the interior bits would swap right into a 100/200. UFO rotors were very expensive to replace IIRC, I ended up having mine shaved.

      • 0 avatar
        doublechili

        I owned a 10 year old ’91 200TQ for awhile and absolutely loved it, but yes, maintenance was intensive and expensive (channeling Johnny Cochrane here). I later upgraded to a used ’95 S6 but actually liked the looks of the 200TQ better. I probably had each car for less than 2 years. The maintenance experience drove me to Honda.

        Still, if I had known that large, AWD sedans with manual transmissions would basically become extinct, I might have kept one of them….

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    this…. this thing, is a wonderful becnhmark of just how faw down in the cess pits a car maker can be and still claw it’s way back up to the top. All it takes is a dedicated plan and a quarter-century or so. A metric crapload of capital infusion doesn’t hurt, either.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d take the 100/200 version of this “thing” over any Audi produced after 1991. Fulltime AWD my ass, can’t even tell you have many decent condition but FUBAR driveline 90s Audis came through Manheim and Goodwill auctions that were worth more in scrap than to fix oddities with the Quattro. The previous generations had a button which could turn off power to the rear diff, not sure if the V8 did.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        As buggy as the older models can be I’d still take one to escape all the VW parts they’re slapping on newer models, as well as to avoid the insanely complicated but frankly pointless Quattro system.

        The V8 and 100 looking identical is no surprise, even to this day their mid-sized sedans are hard to tell apart, its just traditional German styling I think.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        There was no such disconnect in Audis, they had vacuum operated locking diffs that were replaced by Torsen center and traction control in lieu of a rear locker.

  • avatar

    No, the analog networks needed for phones like that don’t exist anymore in North America. I think one of the last ones to shut down was SaskTel’s in Saskatchewan, about three years ago.

  • avatar
    StaysCrunchy

    One of my favorite cars… despite the fact I once owned one! It was a pretty sweet ride for sure, but you’re spot on about the repair costs. I swear there must have been 250 relays in that thing, spread out among 10 to 15 hidden relay boxes. I guess if you bought it new and were under warranty you’d be OK, but buying a 15+ year old example probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

    I was happy as a kid on Christmas the day I bought it and even happier the day I sold it.

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    What a weird video. I love when he puts down the car phone and you see a doggy in the backseat…beautiful cars. Would never want to own one.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I feel a Crabspirits story coming on…

  • avatar
    lon888

    I’m still waiting for a former owner of one of these things to chime in on how “bulletproof” and/or wonderful they truly were…

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      That’ll be a long wait. I can tell you I loved my 5000CS and the powertrain was “bulletproof”. However, the electrical system was not.

    • 0 avatar
      StaysCrunchy

      Former owner here. It was indeed a wonderful car, but bulletproof? Hardly. In fact I think those foam Nerf bullets would do serious damage. I imagine when all the electrics were working and the engine wasn’t leaking from every seam, it was a fantastic car to own. I say “I imagine” because that’s the only place where a properly sorted Audi V8 exists… in my imagination.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This was a pretty cool ride back in the day. And this was when Audi began to do really, really nice interiors.

    Hopefully all the repair bills financed a nice stint in college for the mechanic’s kids…

  • avatar
    naterator

    I don’t think you’ll find any previous owners talking about how bulletproof it was. I say this, as a former owner of the car you see above. OK, maybe not the same exact car, but same colors, options, and fate.

    It was a marvelous car when it worked. Which, unfortunately, was about three days per month.

  • avatar
    BrewCity

    Thanks Murilee – your Junkyard Find posts are one of my favorite things on TTAC.

    Seeing this Audi V8 rusting away makes me kind of sad – we had one of these in our family for many years, purchased used around 50,000 miles (around the time I got my license) and kept until well over 150,000.

    Not bulletproof, but it had more than enough redeeming qualities and kindled my interest in German cars.

    That V8 was wonderful. Turning that switch below the shifter to ‘s’ meant the engine would race right up to the redline in every gear before it would shift — kind of a cool thing at the time. The whole car had that solid German heft to it, and it always felt very planted. And it was phenomenal in our Wisconsin winter snow.

    One of the problems with servicing this car was that beautiful V8 – it was nestled into the engine bay so tight it needed to be removed from the car to perform a full tune-up.

    But yeah… what a great drive.

    • 0 avatar
      StaysCrunchy

      I got a quote from a European specialist repair shop where a buddy of mine worked to do the timing belts on mine. My “good buddy” price was around $1200 if I remember correctly, and they weren’t exactly thrilled about having to do it. I sold the car instead.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I’d love to see the dreg of humanity Crabspirits would put behind the wheel of this one :-)

  • avatar
    segfault

    I love how it made it to 250,000 miles. A nice, round number… I’m sure it cost a fortune to keep running, but they had to hit the magical 250k number before junking it.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I keep thinking about this car. It was seemingly priced more like an S-Class, but was the size of the E and 5-Series? Is that why they sold so few? (Well that and the fact that AWD was not posh yet.)

    Course I guess they had not recovered from the 5000’s acceleration debacle.

    Speaking of, I have an acceleration story with my 5000. One cold morning I had started it up and let it run a minute (lifters still tap-tapping away). Foot on brake, shift to drive, and as I was letting off the brake the engine revved and the car lurched forward, probably 20 feet or so before I hit the brake again in a quite worried state. Once the revs dropped down, I went on my way and everything was normal after that. It only happened once, and I had ZERO feet on pedals, lol.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    The throttle on my auto-trans 1987 5000S would stick on a regular basis, especially in winter. The linkage had a pivot point mounted to the transmission housing that would gather mud, salt, ice and rust.

    That car along with my 87 5000Q and certainly the V-8 had parts no other car ever presumed to have, before or since. Wiggling the trunk lid to get the car started became second nature …

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Oh man mine was same year, same trim. Sounds like a poor design, really. Maybe some of their unintended acceleration problems stemmed from this throttle issue. It certainly was real for me.

  • avatar
    DenverInfidel

    The owner of the where I work has one of these, a ’93 I think. He is the original owner and still drives it occasionally. He must be an audiphile because he as a late model A8L.

    The first time I saw the V8 I remember thinking I would love to see the repair history on that thing (he is the kind who has every receipt saved and filed away). It must have been painful to stroke all those checks over the years keeping it on the road.

    I’ve always thought these were neat cars, probably much more fun while in warranty.

  • avatar
    MK

    I’ll bet it had that weird smell that all German leather interiors of the era seem to have.

    You’d think the Germans of all people could come up with a more pleasant leather aroma in their cars.

  • avatar
    autobahner44

    I had one of these, and it was a great car. Outstanding build quality, fast, and fun in any weather-a wonderful long distance driver. A rare and desirable real ass-kicker it was!
    Still, I don’t think I would trade my A7 for one…


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