Rare Rides: The Original Audi 5000 From 1980

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]

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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.

  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
  • Inside Looking Out Why not buy Bronco and call it Defender? Who will notice?