By on October 2, 2019

Before Audi revolutionized rallying and four-wheel drive cars with the Ur-Quattro circa 1980, the company made front-drive vehicles underpinned by Volkswagen platforms (some things never change). Today’s Rare Ride 5000 hails from the waning days of Audi’s front-drive era, not long before an all-new 5000 set the template for aerodynamic sedan design.

The car North America knew eventually as the 5000 was called the 100 by nearly every other market in the world. The 100’s first generation emerged under Auto Union ownership, shortly before that company’s consolidation into Audi. The model name signified the number of horsepower available in the small sedan and coupe. Based on the C1 platform, the 100 sold over 800,000 examples in a first generation that ran from 1969 through 1977. Toward the end, Audi was already experimenting with what would become Quattro; in 1976 the company produced a four-wheel drive prototype which never moved past the development stage.

A second-generation (C2) 100 entered production in 1976 and was the first instance of Audi offering an inline-five engine in its midsize sedan. No longer interested in making a coupe, the C2 generation was offered primarily in five-door liftback guise, as well as a standard four-door sedan. A short-lived two-door sedan appeared, too, but European customers proved uninterested and the model was quickly dropped.

A range of engines were made available across Europe, among them four- and five-cylinder models in naturally aspirated and turbo guise, in gasoline and diesel, and with displacement between 1.6 and 2.1 liters. Horsepower figures ranged between 84 and 134 in the 100 model. A few years into production, Audi expanded the 100 range into the 200. A top-of-the-line offering, the 200 appeared in 1979 and offered only five-cylinder engines, with and without turbocharging. The top trim 200 was a fuel-injected 2.1-liter with a turbocharger, producing a raucous 168 horsepower in a 2,500-pound sedan.

North American examples utilized only five-cylinder power, in gasoline and diesel varieties. A turbodiesel was not offered in the U.S., and the naturally aspirated diesel was only available with a manual transmission. Adding to Audi’s diesel woes (sound familiar?), the brand’s engines were not compliant with California emissions regulations, and thus were off-limits in that market. 1980 was the first time U.S. customers got their hands on the 5000 I5 turbo; a 200 to everyone else. Emissions changes to the engine meant horsepower totaled 130 on domestic shores.

Keeping the subject domestic, in the U.S. the 100 was an alternative sedan choice. Between 1976 and 1982 Audi shifted 133,512 cars in America, but nearly 1,000,000 globally. Within that timeline, top brass at Audi decided a name change was in order, and in 1978 the 100 became 5000. The company also started its climb toward luxury with the 5000, delivering over 90 percent of its cars in the U.S. with the upscale S equipment package.

The company came into its stride a couple years later when the aerodynamic C3 5000 launched for the 1983 model year with Quattro four-wheel drive.

Today’s recently-sold Rare Ride is a superb yellow and brown example from 1980, equipped with a naturally aspirated gasoline engine and an automatic transmission. With 57,000 miles and lots of tweed, it appropriately asked $5,000.

[Images: seller]

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38 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Original Audi 5000 From 1980...”


  • avatar
    dal20402

    I always liked the look of these, and for late malaise era stuff the 200 5T was legitimately quick, a proper competitor to the BMW 528i despite being front drive. (Of course the US only got neutered versions of both.)

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I owned a ’78 Fox for three years, and when I bought mine (new), I didn’t think that the 5000 looked that much like the Fox, but now the 5000 looks to me like a giant Fox. The only real difference is that on the 5000, the rear quarter windows are part of the C-pillar instead of being on the doors like the Fox.

      The 5000 has that same cheap cardboard shroud around the radiator, like the Fox, and the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, the biggest headache on my Fox.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I had an ’87 5000. It was the slowest car on the road, unless it was raining, in which case it was the fastest car on the road.
    No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to bust the tires loose in the wet.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Bet you were able to bust the door handles loose, though.

      • 0 avatar

        That awful sound.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Those door handle triggers are the worst.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          My ’81 Rabbit had the same ones this car does. They refused to stay attached to the body. My dad’s ’85 5000 wagon had them too, and sure enough, they had the same problem.

          • 0 avatar

            They didn’t like cold weather, made em stiff. Also, little moisture would get in there and freeze things up. CRUNCH.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            …yep, cold weather was bane to these handles, and my Rabbit spent four years in Iowa. Tell me how this movie ends.

          • 0 avatar
            pwrwrench

            The cheesey door handles on the Audis and Vws of that time were used as quick entry by thieves.
            Use a large screwdriver or pry bar behind the handle and break it off the door. Then the latch is easily unlocked. Break out the ignition lock cylinder and turn the switch with a screwdriver.
            Also the 5000 power window mechanism would fail sooner than most. There was a soft metal piece on the cable that raised and lowered the window. It was a safety device in case someones arm was in the closing window and it would break. At first the only fix was to replace the complete mechanism with the motor, about $800 in today’s money. Later aftermarket companies made fixes for about $50.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike Beranek

        Mine weren’t too bad, even in winter. But my buddy had an ’83 944 that was terrible- the doors wouldn’t open, and then once they were open, they wouldn’t close. I remember once having to hold the passenger door closed on the highway on a zero-degree night.

        • 0 avatar

          The fix for the easy hack door handles were a set of shields that went below the handle. They’d stop the screwdriver, and actually looked better than OE. Had a set on my Golf GTi 16v….after the doors were popped. I’d already learned to make sure the Escort wasn’t in the car and the radio was pulled. I miss the DIN chassis….

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Cool, I needed something to burn ritually, and here it is!

    Actually, I’ll be serious for a second. I’ve put on a few pounds since I moved in with the lady friend (semi-married life has been good to me), so I need an excuse to run. And here it is! I’ll buy it and run away from it 24/7/365. A few weeks of that should do wonders for my cardio.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Some of them burned on their own. The 5000 Quattro automatic suffered several fires. One of my sisters owned one and couldn’t park in parking garages in Boston – they were banned, even though hers was a manual transmission that didn’t have the problem. The automatics also had unintended acceleration problems. Maybe those reputation blemishes should have been mentioned.

      • 0 avatar

        Where to start.

        1) There was no 5000 Quattro automatic. The first Quattro with automatic was the V8 Quattro years later.

        2) Everything you’re talking about with regard to acceleration happened on the C3 5000. This is a C2 5000 from years’ prior.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Look at greenhouse / all that glass! – things I say now when I see older cars.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    No C3, no deal.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Made some $ back in the 1980s fixing these. The speculation was that Audi changed the 100 to the 5000 in the USA market because the mid-70s 100, usually with LS suffix, had such a horrible reputation for reliability and expensive maintenance. The inboard front brakes were a sore point.
    The later model from 1984 had a lot more room in the engine compartment. Although it had a Climate Control system that was sourced from GM and was prone to malfunction and fails.
    The Quattro was a nightmare to service and repair.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    These were fairly popular in the NYC suburbs where I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s.
    Folks who bought them were either people who moved up from American iron that disappointed them or the VW is too downscale and can’t quite afford to go for the Benz.
    Of course they frequented the local European auto repair shops.

  • avatar
    TR4

    Acceleration
    Unintended
    Driver
    Implicated

    1980s driver’s nightmare: get stuck in traffic with a Pinto in front of you and an Audi behind.

  • avatar
    detlump

    Seeing this Audi reminds me of Magnum PI and Higgins often driving it (though sometimes Magnum too).

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The split CV joint boots are no surprise; both boots split open on my Fox by 35k. The dealer had a recommend axle service (clean and re-pack all four joints, and replace outboard boots), done every 30k, at $90 a side (1979 dollars; $318 a side today).

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      My girlfriend’s dad had a Fox when she was in college. It was trash. She convinced her dad to let her borrow it to visit her boyfriend, and a few hours from home, it tapped out on a mountain road. It turned her off to the brand so much that she won’t even *sit behind the wheel* of my A3.

  • avatar
    HaveNissanWillTravel

    A lot of folks may not remember that in the early 90’s Audi and more importantly VW very nearly pulled out of the US market because sales were so low. The 5000 debacle didn’t help an otherwise great car IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m curious – on what basis would you call the 5000 a great car? My dad had one, and it was (good-handling) rolling garbage.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        My MY90 100, a renamed 5000, was a great car and good to me. Maybe by then the kinks were worked out?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Could be. My dad’s had reliability issues, and was S-L-O-W. You had to turn off the A/C to make it up some hills without slowing down. That’s OK in a base model compact car, I suppose, but not in a luxury car that would go for around $60,000 today.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yeah I don’t recall mine being particularly fast and I can’t remember if my A/C even worked or not (I’m leaning toward not). The 86-90 2.3 I5 was only good for a whopping 134 bhp and your dad’s 2.1 only 103 [!]. However the C2 only weighed about 2,500lbs, I can’t get a good curb weight on the C3 but given the period it won’t be much more. The B8 platform A4 weighs 3,726 lb (curb) and the US model sports 2.0 220hp, but with a turbo. Remove the turbo and we’re what, maybe 150-160bhp? For 25%-30% more weight? Not much has changed without the turbo it seems.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    A friend of the family bought an ’80 Audi 5000 diesel and took European delivery of it. That car was absolutely amazing for its time. When the Audi arrived Stateside I rode in my first German car apart from a Beetle. Everything about it seemed to be many notches above every other car I had been exposed to. I know realize that his ’80 Audi 5000 literally changed my life since I’ve owned German cars for decades since.

  • avatar

    We bought a new Audi 5000 with gas engine and manual transmission in 1982. We thought the Audi was a lemon and traded it for a 1986 Mercedes 300E, which was equally unreliable, maybe worse. We didn’t realize that all German cars were that bad.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Some had bad results with the 5000 and some had good.
    At the time, IF all systems worked, it was a pretty good car. That is a very big IF.
    Forgot to mention in the earlier post; the combined power steering brake boost. It was similar to GM’s Hydroboost. When it was working it was quite nice. Good brake and steering feel. If anything failed, the most common was the pump, the repair bill was expensive. Metal debris would travel through the system and ALL parts needed replacement. If only the pump was replaced the debris would ruin the new pump and, soon, the brake booster and steering rack.
    The “Unintended Acceleration” was a non issue. About the only concrete thing that was ever found was a slightly different pedal placement.
    After 60 Minutes and Consumer Reports got through with their bogus coverage Audi could not give them away.
    Used examples dropped 50-75% in price in a short time. People chiseled the 5000 logo off the back and sometimes the AUDI as well.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    For me this is one of the most beautiful Audi designs ever styled; it even looks acceptable with the North American add-one. It combines carefree 1970s car design with the emerging straight and sophisticated [understated] lines of the 1980s.

    When I was growing up these were a common sight on our roads. Actually they remained a common sight well into the mid-1990s and beyond. Some of the Diesel models were even pressed into taxi duty but never dented the Mercedes-Benzes dominance. All C2s suffered from rust and that is what killed most of them. They were very popular with elderly buyers who did not like (or could afford) a BMW or Mercedes-Benz and for whom an Opel was too unremarkable.

    While vacationing in Mali in the early 2000s I was amazed that some of these were being used as bush taxis.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This was in no way a “VW platform” – the longitudinal engine platform predated even being part of VW – it is fundamentally similar to the platform of the NSU Ro80 and the NSU that became the VW K70. And eventually Audi.

    We did get turbodiesel 5000s in the US, and they were all 3spd automatics, as were all the gas turbos in this generation, and IIRC all FWD gas turbo C3s were autotragics too. Friend of mine in high school drove a hand-me-down turbodiesel. Wikipedia says the US got them in ’83, and that sounds about right – it would have been a 3yo car at the time. Also per Wikipedia, the TD was a 50-state car, it was the n/a diesel that was not sold in CA.

  • avatar
    threeer

    It was 1989 and my Mk1 VW Rabbit had bit the dust. Went looking for a used car, and came across a 1980 Audi 5000S, diesel. I somehow convinced my parents to buy it and drove it for several years before it succumbed to the rear end of a malaise-era station wagon. My GF thought I was fairly well-off if we could afford an Audi. Yes, the diesel was painfully slow, but once underway, it was supremely comfortable. Loved the crank-sunroof and the velour interior. Mine was maroon-metallic. And I still love the basic box-design to this day.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    The optional larger wheels (14 whopping inches? maaaaybe 15?) looked great on this car. Neighbor had one with the “big” wheels, matching silver paint, and blue leather interior. I thought it was the coolest.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    these were nice cars ‘during the day’.

    Kinda slow for all that dough.

    The turbo was credible–but it was overpriced for what it was (in 1980-81). Still, even at 4000 rpm, the car was smooth and quiet at 80.

    Door handles? I’ve had several VWs, no problem.

    But here’s my issue with Audis in general: why are there used 1977-95 Audis so rare?

    Because owners love them? Probably not.

    Because owners didn’t like them, or they were not worth fixing, or lemons? PROBABLY.

    More of these were sold than Rabbit GTIs. Yet I can find used Rabbit GTIs


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