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.

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QOTD: What's the Most Unreliable Car You've Ever Owned?

Ah, a lack of reliability. No, we’re not talking about your friends or employees, but cars. Whether it’s a reliable Toyota or something German, if you’ve been driving for any extended period over a number of different vehicles, you’ve likely got a story about unreliability.

Today you get a chance to let it all out — tell us the tale of the most unreliable vehicle you’ve ever owned. We’ve got the tissues handy.

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QOTD: What Models Were on Your First Car Shopping List?

Recall the days all those years ago (probably over a century for some of you), as the time approached for you to start driving. Some of you may have been prescribed a vehicle by the gift of a generous or perhaps spiteful relative. Others received a set stipend from the Bank of Parentus, while the rest worked at a low-end job to scrape up funds for an automotive purchase.

Today, we want to know what your aspirations were at the time; which vehicles did you desire and shop for as your first car?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • EBFlex They are getting rid of the Charger and Challenger for a modern day Neon?just end it Dodge, you had a great run
  • Garrett Frankly, I don’t understand why some of the manufacturers haven’t lobbied for more areas, or built their own. Imagine being able to access a local Jeep park, at a reasonable membership fee. Or a Land Rover one for a lot more. That’s money worth throwing down.
  • Lou_BC Developing "off-road parks" in areas with higher populations and a lack of public access land would be a good idea. It would be great to be paired with licensed off-road instructors. Set up costs would be relatively low. I took an entry level off-road course a few years ago with my son's Cherokee. It was fun. I'd like to take a winching course and an advanced driving course.
  • ToolGuy If you want a new Toyota, plan to buy it in the next 4 years.
  • ToolGuy The real question is - with all the value they add and all the sacrifices they make - do automotive journalists make too little. 😉