Junkyard Find: 1998 Audi A8

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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junkyard find 1998 audi a8

I see so many stunningly depreciated German luxury cars in pretty nice condition at the cheap self-service wrecking yards that they don’t register in my consciousness much more than your typical Sebring or Sephia. These days, though, I’m making an effort to notice such cars, since it seems that many of you thought this big V12-powered BMW was interesting.

I was headed over to the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay last week, in search of some bits for my ’41 Plymouth project, and I resolved to find and photograph a high-end Audi. Sure enough, here’s this clean A8, not as new as I’d like, but still an excellent example of what happens to such cars soon after they get into the hands of their third or fourth owners.

The list price on the 4.2-equipped 1998 A8 was $65,000, or about 95 grand today. 300 horses out of this smooth runner. Don’t postpone the timing-belt replacements!

The body looked to be in good shape prior to the junkyard employees (or maybe the tow-yard guys) ravaging the trunk to get the lock opened.

The interior is nice, of course.

If you know how to work on these admittedly complex machines, you always have a rich source of replacement parts at your local yards. The A8 may be your biggest-luxury-per-buck investment in a cheap used car.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.

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  • NoGoYo NoGoYo on Aug 04, 2015

    Yesterday was the first time in a long time I had seen an older VAG product. It was a green B4 Passat TDI wagon. ...I don't think I've seen an Audi that's more than ten years old in a very, very long time.

  • Toadroller Toadroller on Aug 10, 2015

    Well now... As an owner of a 97 A8 over the last 12.5 years and 175k of its 245k miles, I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree to all of the above. I love it and, at times, curse the German engineers in Stuttgart. But when I picked it up end of '02, with 73k miles on it at a dealership for 18,900 + 2 for a warranty (I'm dumb, but I ain't crazy) I could have purchased maybe a new Accord with a 4 banger and a stick. I think I'm ahead in that game. It's a better driver's car than an Accord. Wouldn't you prefer to spend your time in a great seat? All told, probably 30k invested. This car is 18 years old now. It still looks modern. It has a built-in car phone(!!) and a cassette deck (which is great for hands-free cell-phone operation with a cassette adapter). Quattro. V8. 'Nuff said. Through the years and the miles, I've replaced the transmission (@104k, under that warranty), tires and brakes, a fuel pump, one set of drive shafts up front (DIY for $130), one set of tie rod ends and a few suspension bushings. And routine maintenance like the timing belt and water pump; a couple of batteries. I'm a break-fix kind of guy, not an "ooh, I have an expensive German auto-car and must keep it pristine" kind of guy. When it breaks I fix it. Oil... at least once a year. Sometimes twice. When things are failing, I wait until they fully revealed themselves. I put in low octane. Have since day one. In short, I abuse it. Today it's a thousand dollar car. I laugh when the state charges me $350 to register it every year based on a percentage of its original retail. "Guys, I could barely sell it for that!" When it dies, it dies. I've received more than my money's worth. It's a toy now. It'll never rust (it's aluminum). Weird Audi stuff that should have gone fritzy never has (dashboard lights, climate control, shocks, abs, sunroof, bun-warmers, electric dimming mirrors, muffler system). Stuff that should be bullet-proof has (headrests, rear sun-screen, heater blower motor, $10 plastic pipe between engine-block and oil cooler*). Every time I fill it up, I'm increasing its resale value. But it still gives me 25mpg on the highway at real highway speeds, 20mpg around town, and the 300hp/300ft-lb. 4.2 V8 with quattro is just a smooth thing of perfection and growl. Relatively fast in its day, it's still relatively fast. It's not slow. In the last six months, it's turned into a bit of a hobby, but I have other cars (including a B6 A4 V6 (145k miles. Pristine) and B6 S4 V8(179k miles, pristine) harrumbah!). The A8 shows its quality after a ride in the others. And when I return from a business trip with rentals of whatever is new, I'm always amazed at the refinement and willingness of this old beast, especially in the dark, cold heart of a -17 degree Maine winter's night, swimming up I95 from Boston to home. So here's to old aluminum in Denver junk yards! If I still lived there, I'd be out picking this one clean this weekend. Look at all those parts! Headlights, rear seats, trim, brake calipers, wheels, badges. Oh my! *http://toadroller.blogspot.com/2015/02/single-bypass-surgery.html

  • MaintenanceCosts I've worked 4-day weeks in previous careers. Unfortunately, my current business requires responsiveness to clients on all five business days, so it's not really an option for me right now.But 4-day weeks are outstanding. The longer weekend leaves you with a true day of rest after you complete all of the errands and chores that we all have to do throughout most of our weekends. I, at least, felt so much better during the work week when I had that third day off. Based on my own experience, I'm fully prepared to believe the studies and anecdotal reports that say employers are experiencing no drop in productivity when they move to a 4-day schedule.
  • FreedMike Pour one out. Too bad FCA let this get stale - I was always a fan of this car.
  • Theflyersfan I'm still trying to figure out the meaning of the license plate. This'll be the hill I'll die on, but I think this was truly the last excellent E-class model (W124). In 1995, for 1996, the W210 "radical front" quad headlight model was released and all signs pointed to this being the first model being built to a price point and not to engineering excellence, cost be damned. Future models were nice looking and had all of the latest tech, but for those of a certain age (read: older), the upright, wood-lined interior with the clickty-click buttons and the aroma of the old leather Mercedes used - that is the Mercedes that some of us remember. For $2,500, this Benz could be an interesting project car for someone with deep pockets and infinite patience. It's cheap enough to where if you get started and then realize that this will nuke the budget, you'd still be able to sell it and recoup something.
  • Tassos These cabrios, while mechanically identical to the sedan Es of the time, were incredibly expensive, $80k when the sedan was barely $40k, in 1990s money. This does NOT mean an $80k car today, but an $160k car or MORE.AND with $160k today, you can get the most wretchedly excessive E class AMG version.(Not the S class AMG 65 tho, this will set you back $250k worthless Biden dollars).Back to this cabrio, it's a great, timeless design that looks and feels solid, yet when you sit in the cabrio, and I did, it does not feel half as safe as in the Sedan or Coupe.The engine is way underpowered compared even to the one in the Es of 10 years later, gas or diesel.They are also smaller and lighter (the sedans) than their 'kids' and 'grandkids"This may make a good COLLECTIBLE 10 years from now. As a daily driver, it is rather spartan today, except for the luxury interior.Again, this is yet another one of Tim's collectibles misposted as daily drivers.PS the Great Bruno Sacco designed this E class series, as so many other iconic Mercs. But you need to have TASTE to appreciate the smooth design.
  • Lorenzo The 300 sedan was the last of the RWD American freeway cruisers. Even the somewhat decontented later year models were still the most comfortable rides on 200+ mile freeway trips. It was also formidable to smaller car drivers: I rented one for two weeks, and not one driver in a Corolla or Civic tried to cut me off! That was a constant occurrence with my Buick Verano.