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.
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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