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.
Junkyard Find: 1976 Audi 100 LS Sedan
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.
Junkyard Find: 1979 Audi 5000
Before the Audi 5000 (the 100 or 200 outside of the US market) became notorious for playing the lead role in the first unintended acceleration fiasco (technically, the Ford “park-to-reverse” fiasco involved unintended shifting, not acceleration), it was known as an expensive, luxurious German car purchased by a handful of car-savvy California orthodontists. Sales of the first-generation 5000 began in the 1978 model year, so this high-mileage ’79 is a rare one. I spotted this lil’ beige devil in a Denver-area self-service yard last week.
Junkyard Find: 1994 Audi 100 Station Wagon
We examined part of the endgame of the Audi 5000 debacle in the United States with a junked 1990 Audi 100 Quattro sedan in Denver. Having banished the toxic Audi 5000 name, Audi called these cars Audi 100s until everyone was thoroughly confused, then renamed it the A6, which they still use today.
Here’s a sort of unusual example I saw at a Denver yard a month ago: the final year of the Audi 100 name in the United States, and it’s a wagon.
Junkyard Find: 1990 Audi 100 Quattro Sedan
The C3 Audi 100 was sold in the United States badged as an Audi 5000 … until the “unintended acceleration” nightmare nearly killed Audi in North America and the company decided, after a few years of abysmal sales numbers, to go ahead and call this car the 100 over here. Because so few were sold, the 1989-1990 Audi 100s are very, very rare these days.
Here’s one that I spotted in a Denver-area yard a couple of weeks back.
Junkyard Find: 1984 Audi 5000 S, With Voodoo Incantantion To Ward Off Unintended Acceleration
The Audi “Unintended Acceleration” debacle of 1986, which whacked American Audi sales by about 75% within a few years, makes the 1982-86 Audi 5000 an historically significant Junkyard Find. The 60 Minutes piece about the 5000’s allegedly malevolent behavior turned the car’s image from masterpiece of aerodynamic science to bloody-clawed multiple murderer, with predictable effects on resale value for existing cars. This means that the 5000 of the Unintended Acceleration era that managed to stay on the good side of The Crusher until 2012 is a survivor of astonishing tenacity.
Who Says You Shouldn't Slam an Audi 100?
When I was 16 and just beginning to contemplate expanding my personal automotive fleet beyond a ’69 Corona sedan, I had the opportunity to buy three Audi 100 s for 350 bucks. Actually, the deal was more like 3.75 Audi 100s, what with all the random engine parts stuffed in the trunks and oozing oil onto the upholstery. None of the three ran, but I figured I could play mix-and-match with the parts and make one runner, which I would then customize in the finest 1982 style (shudder). I ended up passing on the tripartate-O-100s, due to what I thought was the inherently uncool image of the marque (back then, only orthodontists drove Audis), but the question remains: what can be done to fix the stodgy-yet-vaguely-sporty image of the C1 Audi 100?
An Illustrated History Of Automotive Aerodynamics – In Three Parts
[Note: A significantly expanded and updated version of this article can be found here]
That air presented the greatest obstacle to automotive speed and economy was understood intuitively, if not scientifically since the dawn of the automobile. Putting it into practice was quite another story. Engineers, racers and entrepreneurs were lured by the potential for the profound gains aerodynamics offered. The efforts to do so yielded some of the more remarkable cars ever made, even if they challenged the aesthetic assumptions of their times. We’ve finally arrived at the place where a highly aerodynamic car like the Prius is mainstream. But getting there was not without turbulence.