By on July 17, 2017

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The Audi 100 was the car that made most Americans aware of the Audi brand for the first time. The 100 wasn’t particularly reliable in American hands, to put it mildly, and most examples were long gone by the time the 1980s came to a close.

Here’s a long-neglected ’76 that just showed up in a Colorado Springs self-service wrecking yard.

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, 100 LS badge - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The mid-grade LS was the only 100 model available in the United States from 1974 through the end of first-generation 100 sales in 1977.

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, dealership badge - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
This one was sold new in Colorado Springs, and it will be crushed in Colorado Springs.

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, leaf litter buildup - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The heavy buildup of leaf litter, rodent nests, and twigs in and on this car suggests that it spent at least a decade sitting outside, possibly awaiting repairs that never came.

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, HVAC controls - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The duct tape blocking operation of the HVAC controls tells a sad story of flaky 1970s VAG electrical components, and may be an indicator of the (most severe) problem that parked this car forever.

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, fender badge - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
I saw this car while harvesting vast quantities of parts during the All-You-Can-Carry-For-$59.99 Junkyard Sale, so I grabbed these cool-looking fender badges.

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, emissions sticker - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Not legal in 1976 California!

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
These cars were comfortable and reasonably luxurious for the price, and a 95-horsepower straight-four was acceptable power in a 2,531-pound car during the depths of the Malaise Era.

1976 Audi 100LS in Colorado wrecking yard, decklid badge - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
List price was $7,100, which comes to about $31,280 in inflation-adjusted 2017 dollars. For less than half that price, American car shoppers in 1976 could have had a cruder, rougher-riding, but orders-of-magnitude-more-reliable Chevy Nova. In hindsight, the bulletproof $9,172 Mercedes-Benz 230 was worth the extra money to American car shoppers seeking European sophistication and styling.

Exactly like a Cadillac Eldorado or Ferrari Dino!

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47 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1976 Audi 100 LS Sedan...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Honestly do not remember ever seeing one of these on the road in Canada. But did know 2 owners of Audi Foxes (Audi 80). To describe these as ‘luxury’ or ‘near luxury’ is an attempt at re-writing history, for at the time, the PLC and Brougham ruled the roads among the mass public.

    The Audi (and BMW and SAAB) were derided for their spartan, austere, black on black interiors with little in the way of what was considered to be a luxury in that era such as illuminated vanity mirrors, power antennas, front and back seat ashtrays/cigarette lighters, opera windows, coach lights. The lack of a V8, standard transmissions and manual A/C were certainly not considered anything other than utilitarian, even then for owners of Town Cars and Fleetwoods.

    Only someone with a European background, or those interested in rallying would in that era, consider one of these over a Monte Carlo, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      “The Audi (and BMW and SAAB) were derided for their spartan, austere, black on black interiors with little in the way of what was considered to be a luxury in that era…”

      Volvos too, but these anti-ostentatious traits were part of the appeal of all four brands to a kind of iconoclast personality.

      And Volvos and SAABs had the best seats of all back then so their buyers weren’t completely out to lunch. The over the top velour couches and armchairs made a strong first impression of comfort when you first sat in them; you’ll definitely feel a difference after a looooong drive though. The Swedes knew what they were doing with seats…

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @JimC2. True, academics, those still protesting against America/capitalism, those with artistic pretensions would prefer a ‘Northern European’ auto, if just to demonstrate their difference. Hence the film ‘Smart People’ where the small college professor is easily identified by his SAAB.

        However if you wanted to ‘score’ at the Disco, then a Brougham/PLC was the vehicle of choice.

        • 0 avatar

          To this day whenever I see someone in a SAAB it reminds of this: “You want to be an individual, right? You look like you’re wearing a uniform. I mean, you look like a punk. That’s not rebellion, that’s fashion.”

      • 0 avatar

        Owned a 99 and a 9000. Great seats for a full days driving. Why some of the majors don’t get a clue about seats is beyond me. My wife bought a 2015 Camry SE due to the comfort of the drivers seat. She could not have cared less about the minimal sporting pretensions of the car. How much extra would it cost to make decent seats?

        • 0 avatar

          Buick was well-known for the comfort of its seats. I think the deterioration in the quality of American seats has to do with weight savings in the cheapest possible way, combined with the afterthought of space allocation. Makers of small cars have it figured out, but makers of big cars, forced to downsize their offerings, still haven’t. It’s telling that the splitback bench seat in my ’63 Rambler was more comfortable than the optional buckets in my ’91 Lumina (owned for two weeks).

    • 0 avatar

      “Honestly do not remember ever seeing one of these on the road in Canada”.

      Oh? Which neck of the woods were you hanging out in? I lived in Halifax, was a new field engineer Atlantic for Sangamo, and bought a 1974 2 door 100LS in June 1975. It was curbureted, as I got fed up waiting for the fuel-injected ’75’s which were delayed. So got a good deal. I wasn’t a hippie or an effete Euro snob, far from it and the car was twice as nice to drive as a Volvo 144, me being a Volvo owner prior. They made them here in Halifax, Volvos that is, so I had been a loyal customer. Now there was an overrated car. There were comparatively a fair few of these Audis around in their day.

      The car itself had emission control problems, and wouldn’t idle properly, so I mapped out the vacuum and control hoses and purchased a load of golf tees. With them, blocked up the primitive egr controls and other factory bodges typical of malaise era cars, and the thing ran fine. In fact I loved it, skinny tires and all. Boomed right along, never failed to start and freaked out Maritime Electric personnel when it got around Charlottetown after a 22 inch snowfall that stopped the PEI ferries for three days. Front wheel drive versus the standard rear drive of the day. No comparison to Detroit, the Audi was much nicer, and things weren’t assembled askew. It was Volvo price, not Caddy. Just normal big car price at the time.

      Laughed my head off at your description of the Detroit cars on the market then. Opera lights, lol! Luxury! Two inch travel soft suspension on Ford Elites that bottomed out on mild turns at the airport at 25 mph and the tires not even squealing. Stayed well away from that kind of rubbish. If you want obstreperous try a ’76 Volare with a 318 – they didn’t idle much at all and surged just going down the highway. Fairmonts that needed 20 minutes of warmup before they’d keep running like my parents’. Etcetera. Malaise era, incredibly poor sheet metal fit and finish, upholstered park bench seats with no shape. No thanks, Detroit. That’s why Hondas and Toyotas and Datsuns became popular.

      Sold the 100LS to my brother the law student in spring 1980 with 89,000 miles, and bought a new Jetta, now that was indeed a load of old rope. Got rid of it in a year and a half – brother found that funny. The 100LS had a steady appetite for mufflers, one every 18 months, which was about the only continuing problem I had with it. They were of Midas quality but not available there for your lifetime replacement guarantee, only at the dealer. Catch 22.

      So on behalf of all the incompetent VW/Audi mechanics who couldn’t make it work, including the one who didn’t tighten up the oil pan bolt that I luckily caught before I left the dealer lot, I apologize to the other owners who had a bad time with the car. Electrical problems – one ignition module.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        The GTA and very close to VW’s Canadian Head office, where the parents of a number of my schoolmates/friends worked. Hence the Audi Foxes. Not to mention invites to Mosport every year, lots of time in Westphalias, ownership of Beetles, Type III’s and Type IV’s and many midnight runs in 911’s etc.

        VW had and still has a great lease/ownership program for employees, yet I do not remember once seeing a 100 of that generation on the road.

        And yes, self destructing exhaust systems seem to have been endemic.

        As for the D3 product, glad you caught the tone of my posting. The cars of that era mimicked the styles of that era as far as longevity.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @Conundrum: Wouldn’t living on the East Coast, being an engineer (and working for a European owned/based organization) and owning a Volvo automatically categorize you as the stereotypical ‘target’ market for German engineering?

          Heck you probably even support universal medical care.

          Sorry that I can’t post a ‘winking’ emoji. But, did enjoy your post.

  • avatar
    Shinoda is my middle name

    I luh’s me summa dat creamy Audi goodness….

  • avatar

    Before my late great-uncle switched over permanently to his W123, he had one of these. As I was only a wee lass, and quite taken by all things befitted with a Roundel in those hallowed days of growing up in Germany, I don’t truly remember much about it. I do have fonder memories of another uncle’s old VW Type 3 notchback and then the really slick first gen Ford Fiesta he had.

    I did wind up years later owning first a 1980 5000S diesel (slow, but my GF dug being driven around in an Audi) and later a 1985 4000S that I’d soon rather forget.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Lol at all the fake Benz styling.

    • 0 avatar

      Looks like *every other 1976 car* from Germany, to me.

      BMWs, MBs, even the B1 Passat had a bit of that.

      The only really-MB-ish thing is the underline on the “100”.

  • avatar

    “a 95-horsepower straight-four was acceptable power in a 2,531-pound car”

    That was slightly more favorable than the first model year K-Cars (80~ish hp for virtually the same curb weight, though upgraded to 90~ish for the following model year)… although this Audi was a little more upmarket than those.

    The 6° **ATDC** base timing made me cringe and cringe again. I would have been one of those guys who set timing by advancing it until it pinged during hard acceleration, then back it off about five degrees.

  • avatar

    I well remember these rolling turds when new ~ amazingly un reliable and for whatever reason un fixable by anyone they filled the junkyards a few years after being sold .

    6° A.T.D.C. ignition timing ?! holy crap they must have been sluggish too .


    • 0 avatar

      Off the line they were.I don’t remember them being any worse if not better than most of the crap then. My Dad had one. What I remember of the car was the ignition points being extremely touchy to dirt.So much so that it would quit running and you would have to pop the distributor cap and clean the points.It would fire right back up after that.This car also out handled lots of cars back then and if I remember correctly,second gear recommended shift point was about 60 mph on a 4 speed manual.So it was no slouch for the power involved.

      • 0 avatar

        Second gear in my Volvo 240 (4sp + overdrive) would redline at just a hair under 60mph. It wouldn’t hurt the engine to go over by a few mph or a few hundred rpm, although that put the rpm into diminishing returns. The Volvo head breathed very well for the time and it was very similar to many 8V OHC heads in contemporary German cars (Volvo and Porsche worked together on the design). I’ve always assumed that VWs, Audis, and the early water cooled Porsches all had similar torque-rpm characteristics… just slightly livelier performance seeing as the Volvos had “thicker” curb weight for similar engine displacement.

        My car had the economy rear axle ratio; other available ratios were about 10-15% shorter (available on paper in the back of the Haynes manual anyway).

  • avatar

    Never seen or heard of this car till now.

  • avatar

    Remember those well, as the little hippie chick who lived next door to me at 8th and Liberty in Erie, PA had one. Obviously, a well-off hippie chick whom mummy and daddy doted on. She was usually a source for some pretty good acid.

    My ’73 Vega GT was definitely plebeian in comparison to that Audi. Which was definitely European luxury to those of us who despised broughams.

  • avatar

    How can something so seemingly simple as one of these or an old MG have been so unreliable? With everything out in the open, repairs look like they’d have been pretty easy.

    This was well before my time, but compared to a newer Audi this looks like elementary-level sophistication.

  • avatar

    Because I had a lot of British sport cars people thought I liked funny European cars and so I got a free 100. It was chalenging for me to work on this car since I was use to 1950s British tech. But some brake work, which was a real pain, and some electrical work I got it running. Considering it was pretty rough, it ran nice, I kind of liked it, but I flipped it for about $50 in profit. Little did I know some 30 years later I’d get an A3, which is still my favorite new car.

  • avatar

    I always liked the ad theme about all the features from expensive cars the Audi 100 had, but they always forget to put in the part about the reliability of 1970s Jaguar and the durability of a 1970s Fiat.

  • avatar

    Is that some kind of fan inside of the grate on the right (in the fourth picture where it shows the wiper cowl)? If so, that’s a strange place for one.

    • 0 avatar

      That looks like the heater fan (HVAC). That’s a perfectly fine place to put it- most cars have the cabin air intake right there just under the aft lip of the hood and below the windshield, it’s just harder to spot on some cars than others. The fan’s gotta go somewhere- either just inside the intake or buried lower down…

      You mean the picture with the wiper motor on the left (the one with German writing on the yellow label), right?

  • avatar

    That’s terrible how the dealer bolted its name plate onto the rear of the car.

    • 0 avatar

      That was pretty common practice back then. My ’68 Pontiac Bonneville had a dealer emblem (Taylor Pontiac in Dallas) held on by two small screws. My ’78 Audi Fox had a license plate frame instead (Forest Lane Porsche+Audi, in Dallas).

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      We used to negotiate that no dealer plaques, etc would be affixed to the vehicle. If we were getting one off the lot that already had one permanently attached, we would ask for a reduction in price of up to $250 as an ‘advertising fee’.

      Now they are considered to be ‘collectibles’.

      • 0 avatar

        I have seen cars that had decklid rust start right where those screws or pop-rivets went through the sheetmetal.

        Giveme a dealer license plate frame or vinyl letters any day.

        Which remind me to try remove our most recent purchase’s dealer logo tomorrow while it is hot.

  • avatar

    Without a doubt the most faded Agate Brown (yes, that’s what it’s called) paint I’ve ever seen. I blame the 100 LS for my later ill-conceived decision to buy an Audi Fox, a Colibri Green ’78 four-door that stickered for $7428 (with automatic and a/c, but no radio, which I had added by a local stereo shop).

    In high school, a friend’s parents had a ’73 100 LS (red with a black vinyl top), and I got to carpool to school in it a couple of times. The memory of riding in it, along with magazine articles, brochures, and TV commercials, succeeded in brainwashing me into thinking that buying a Fox would be a good idea. Of course the subpar reliability, first rearing its ugly head when the car was a mere four months old, slapped me out of that trance.

  • avatar

    I have a pretty vivid memory of riding along with my parents on an *ahem* “spirited” test-drive through Highland Park, IL by a speed-addled salesman. Was fun and terrifying, in that order, accustomed as we were to slow-witted ‘murican iron.

    They bought a Buick Century (2-door, pontoon front fenders, 350 V-8) instead.

  • avatar

    How Road & Track loved these cars!

    As a kid, I thought these looked ‘old-fashioned’ compared to the “new” Audi 80 (the Fox you got).

    Audi quality was not good though. Audi outsold BMW in the early 70s I think. Yet today, look at how many 70s BMWs (not to mention Merc-Benzes) are for sale–yet Audis are non-existent.

    My HS buddy had a fuel-injected Fox in the early 80s. It was fun to drive, but later I learned he added a quart of oil often. He replaced it with a …. new 83 Ford Escort. Yikes!

    • 0 avatar

      “later I learned he added a quart of oil often”

      Sounds like he had the optional chassis self-lubrication/underbody self-rustproofing system! That was a popular option on various malaise era and earlier cars.

      • 0 avatar

        I put 4 shocks on my Dad’s 1979 Cutlass Supreme which he refuses to get rid of. He has that same option.

        • 0 avatar

          “my Dad’s 1979 Cutlass Supreme which he refuses to get rid of. He has that same option.” .

          As do most older British cars regardless of care / maintenance .

          ” The LUCAS flow-through oiling & anti-rust system !” .


    • 0 avatar

      Worn valve guides and valve stem seals were pretty common – mine puffed a little blue smoke on startup before it hit 50k. Also, on wide left turns (like from a left turn lane in an intersection), it would drop from second to first, probably due to the transmission fluid pickup in the pan becoming uncovered during turns. Also, the exhaust system needed replacing before 25k, along with the outboard CV joint boots.

  • avatar
    Jeff Zekas

    Walked by a guy’s NEW Audi the other day. “Nice car!” His reply? “Nice if you don’t own it!” Spent 20 minutes comparing the unreliability of Audi vs BMW! Some things never change.

  • avatar

    My Dad used to have a 100 LS of similar vintage back then, which was decidedly not a luxury car, maybe on par with the offerings from Opel and Ford. It wasn’t particularly unreliable or bad either — but then it never got a chance to get old, as it was totelled in a crash at age five or so. Mum hated it, because the Renault 16 it replaced was much more comfortable. Its replacement OTOH was a Chrysler-Simca 1308, which was worse in every conceivable respect.
    I had a ’77 Audi 80 LS, Fox for you, in the early ’90s, passed down from Granddad. Also not luxury, but reasonably comfortable and quick for its time. Not unreliable at all, the only mechanical failure was a water pump, which is allowed to fail after 15 years or so. Rusted quite badly though, which spelled its end after a couple of years of fun, of random-coloured replacement body parts, and also of perpetual brokeness due to its excessive thirst.

  • avatar

    My 100LS anecdote…and I don’t know if I should be proud to be in semi-obscure TTAC elite land for having actually owned one of these, or perhaps this admission is less than flattering. I’m guessing the latter…

    Circa early 1990’s, I bought a navy blue ’74 100LS for cheap. Had never seen one in the flesh before, and I’m a sucker for oddball stuff like this.

    Mistake. Parts were almost impossible to source for Audis of this era, even 20 years ago. Lack of the internet as a resource didn’t make it any easier.

    The car had some quirks. The brake calipers were inboard mounted, somewhat unusual. The engine itself was tilted to the side in the engine bay, ostensibly to allow the hood to be lower. If I recall correctly, there were separate fans for upper dash and lower ventilation. Unlike most FWD cars, the engine was mounted front to back, similar to a VW Dasher of the time.

    Mine was carbed, and never ran particularly well. The fuse box was poorly placed. One night I was driving across Kansas (already a stupid move in an old Audi) and I accidentally kicked the fuse panel with my left foot. My headlights instantly died due to a crack in the fragile fuse panel. Sourcing another one was really fun with no online resources. Even OEM parts were nearly nonexistent…I remember Audi themselves not being able to supply me with new rear shock absorbers. None were in inventory anywhere in the USA.

    At one point, I called around to a local import specialty shop in Manhattan, Kansas, to inquire about having some work done. The guy on the other end of the phone asked me to repeat the type of car I was calling about. Audi 100LS, I replied. At that point, the mechanic says, hold on, and I hear him yell to the other guy in the shop that there is a guy on the phone with an Audi 100LS. I hear laughter in the background. Guy number one comes back on the line, and asks me if I was aware that the Audi 100 of that time period was “Adolf Hitler’s revenge on Americans for losing WW2”. Basically, I was told that the 100LS was, in the opinion of the guys at this German import shop, the worst car ever foisted on the American public.

    Eventually, someone dumb enough to pay me $400 for the thing came along, and they were the proud new owner.

  • avatar

    “Theres a brown Audi in my parking space! Get a tow truck over here, and have it hauled away immediately!”

    -Judge Elihu Smails

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    These became fairly popular in the suburbs of NYC where I grew up. Some folks had tired of or had bad experiences with what was coming out of Detroit but were not quite in the income bracket for a Benz bought these. A few even moved up to the 1st generation 5000 when it was introduced in 1978. I guess their ownership experience was ok or their experience with the big 3 was so bad that the repairs on these seemed normal.

  • avatar

    Really, what I am reading seems typical “reliability” of all cars in that period.

    I once helped out a damsel in distress whose Audi (I think a Fox) just flat wouldn’t run: on most cars of that period after a couple years you could expect the EGR valve to fail open and constantly feed exhaust gas to the intake; OK at speed, but it meant the car would not idle or run at small throttle openings. You could diagnose it quickly by pulling off the vacuum line and holding your finger over it. If the car ran normally, it meant the EGR valve had failed open. My usual fix was to cut a piece of aluminum drink can and slip it between the valve and the gasket to block the hole in the intake manifold, then reinstall the vacuum line on the EGR valve. Fast and easy if the gasket didn’t get torn when you pulled to separate the EGR valve from the intake.

    Unfortunately, all I got from the damsel was a heartfelt thanks, no date…

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