Rare Rides: The Original Audi 5000 From 1980

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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rare rides the original audi 5000 from 1980

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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  • TomLU86 TomLU86 on Oct 04, 2019

    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

  • John M John M on Aug 07, 2021

    I owned one. Not a world class car, more of a bigger Volkswagen. The silly 5 cylinder engine was just a 1.5l VW 4 with an extra cylinder added! Same cam, spacing, everything. Cheap ass crap! Still, I got on "huge" 215 width tires (front only), put shorter, cut down springs from a much heavier car in front, bolted the subframe directly to the car (it originally used rubber bushings), giving it some crazy cornering ability. Had no power though. It didn't help I was using Castrol 20w50 oil which eventually ruined the engine but I learned the hard way. Drove that thing in NYC, up and down the east coast, and then to San Francisco. Never let me down. It was wide enough to sleep across the back seat, almost comfortably! Bosch K Jetronic mechanical fuel injection was not responsive but was dead reliable. Unfortunately mine was an automatic. Never had any unusual issues with the door handles but I was the type that would be tightening things up or shimming something at the first sign something was loose. I know I had them off at some point. The color was "Dakota Beige". Great color. I was spraying some repairs once and asked someone watching if they wanted a tan (answer: NO). I also removed all the stupid black trim strips and filled the holes, giving it really clean custom look, plus mine was a 79 and it had the 4 round headlights with the weird silver plastic trim, which was really strange and unique and I liked it. Blacked out windows in back, sunroof (sometimes would drive through the park with someone standing up through the roof like a staff car!), had a lot of fun with that thing. If I took the front wheel of my mountain bike it would easily fit in the trunk! So much room in that thing. It was great in many ways.

  • Tassos Unlike Tim, I don't use this space as a wastebasket for ANYTHING BUT a proper used car.If you seriously need a car AND you are as destitute as Tim's finds imply, HERE IS A PROPER ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS:You can probably get it for only $4k, WITH Leather, Factory Navigation, plenty of room and a V6.https://www.cars.com/research/toyota-camry-2005/I even considered getting it myself as an extra reliable car.
  • Jeff Of all the EV trucks I like the Rivian the best but I am still years away if ever from buying an EV.
  • Kwik_Shift I definitely like the looks of the newest 300s over the Chargers.
  • SCE to AUX "Should car companies shack up with tech giants in order to produce legible infotainment systems and the like? Or should they go it alone?"Great question(s).The River Rouge days are gone, where Ford produced whole cars out of raw materials entering the plant at the other end. Nearly everything is outsourced these days - sometimes well, sometimes disastrously.But the problem with infotainment systems is that they are integrated with the car's operation. VW has delayed entire products for issues with infotainment.For me, the question boils down to a contractual arrangement - who owns and maintains the code forever? Since more and more of the car's function is tied to the infotainment system, I'd argue that the car mfr needs to own it - especially the larger ones.Do mfrs really want to share intellectual property with Huawei just to fast-track some code they've managed themselves in the past?
  • Kwi65728132 I always did like the styling of the 300C and it was on my short list for a new (to me) rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated V8 luxury sedan but I found a Hyundai Equus that was better optioned than any 300C I could find and for several grand less.