Junkyard Find: 1979 Audi 5000

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Before the Audi 5000 (the 100 or 200 outside of the US market) became notorious for playing the lead role in the first unintended acceleration fiasco (technically, the Ford “park-to-reverse” fiasco involved unintended shifting, not acceleration), it was known as an expensive, luxurious German car purchased by a handful of car-savvy California orthodontists. Sales of the first-generation 5000 began in the 1978 model year, so this high-mileage ’79 is a rare one. I spotted this lil’ beige devil in a Denver-area self-service yard last week.

That 221,818 miles on the odometer represents nearly 6,000 miles per year over this car’s life.

When you see evidence of recent attempts to fix electrical ailments in a junked German car, you can make a pretty good guess about what led to that final, sad tow-truck ride.

The traditional five-cylinder engine sits way up in the front of the 5000’s engine compartment, where the timing belt serves as a crumple zone during fender-benders.

The rear drums are surprising in a 1979 European high-end car. The list price for a 1979 Audi 5000 was $8,995, about 30 grand in inflation-adjusted 2016 clams or bones. This was quite a bit cheaper than the smaller, less luxurious (but slightly more powerful, 110 versus 103 horsepower) ’79 BMW 320i, with its $9,735 price tag. Of course, the 120 hp Datsun 810 sedan cost $8,129 that year and came with a phonograph-based Voice Warning System, but the Audi probably felt faster.

Road and Track stated, “For the money, we don’t see anything that can touch it.”

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Serf2k Serf2k on Jun 19, 2017

    My grandparents drove Jags in the '60s, then Volvos in the '70s...and when they looked for a new car in 1979 my aunt suggested that they look at an Audi. They ordered a 1980 5000S from the local dealer in Mexico Beige - to match the road dust as they lived in the middle of nowhere in the country. That car really had its work cut out for it - my grandfather was nearly totally deaf and the car was a manual...I remember sitting in the back seat as a kid while he tore along the highway with the car in third gear...until my grandmother would lean over and nudge him to shift. I recall that my grandfather had rear ended a couple cars with it....and had been rear ended himself once. My brother and I once delivered the car back to their house after one of these repairs and I remember loving the growl of the five cylinder after the second port in the throttle body opened up....it sure beat the 1981 Honda Civic wagon my parents had at the time. Once my grandfather opened the passenger rear door so my grandmother could put her coat in the back seat....she did, then got into the car without closing the door. He backed out of the garage and folded the door against the side of the car. After my grandmother passed away, the car was given to my parents. My dad used to refer to it as the "Panzer" because he said that it drove like a german tank. I became the caretaker of "The Panzer" when I got married....and I still have it. I would love to know if this car is still at the wrecking yard in Denver...there are some bits (like the cardboard radiator ducting) that you cannot find anywhere.

  • Gavix021 Gavix021 on Jul 25, 2018

    I still have a car like this one. It was actually my grandfathers car and I have kept it fully functional till now. I am looking for the door panels of this car. They are exactly as the one on the right front door I can see at the pics. Can anyone help me to get in contact with the owner of this junkyard in order to ask him if these door panels are for sale, or can anyone help me to find these door panels like the one shown at the pics?

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