COAL: 1995.5 Audi S6 Avant – I Found My Unicorn But Let It Go Free…

 

AudiS6.5

Working in San Francisco during the dotcom era, I had a job that I found boring but that allowed me a lot of time to surf the internet without any hassle.  Of course I spent much of that time visiting car forums, looking at car ads, etc.  At the time I still had my 1993 Audi S4 and always kept an eye out for what I really wanted…

…A 1995 or 1995.5 Audi S6 Avant.  While they did come up for sale from time to time, mostly they were either nowhere near me, had a very large number of miles, or the color was not right.  Then, one day, I finally found it.  Being sold by Sunset Porsche-Audi in Beaverton, Oregon, was the perfect car.

AudiS6.2

But first, a bit of history.  Audi had sold the S4 between 1992 and 1994, then when the Audi 100 was slightly updated and renamed the Audi A6, the S4 was renamed the S6 (which made sense since the A4 was being introduced for the 1996 model year in the US).  However, as a bonus, Audi also decided to sell the S6 Avant (Audi-speak for wagon) over here. 

Why 1995.5?  Well, as of 1996 all cars sold here were required to be OBDII-compliant.  Audi knew that a new A6 was around the corner and did not want to do the necessary modifications just for this market for what was a very low-volume model.  Hence, the S6 was sold here as a 1995 and after that model year, continued to be sold as a 1995.5 through 1996. 

There are 1996 and even 1997 S6’s in Canada, but not in the US.  This was also the last car that was sold with Audi’s turbo 5-cylinder engine, the roots of which go back to the late 70’s, even though in recent years there has again been a different 5-cylinder turbo available in some higher-end TT models.

Audi S6.8

As far as the Avant goes, it is one of the rarest Audi’s ever sold over here.  A total of 435 were sold over the two years in North America.  Sticker price was just over $50,000 when new and the wagons command a premium on the used car market to this day relative to the sedan version. 

Like the sedans, over here they were all 5-speed manuals, with a 5-cylinder 20V turbocharged engine producing 227hp and 258lb-ft of torque that is easily modifiable to well into the 300’s for both numbers without much effort at all.  They came pretty much loaded, the wagons all even included the rear-facing bench that flipped up from the cargo area floor. 

There were some minor differences between the 95’s and the 95.5’s on top of all the minor body changes after 1994, most notably to do with the central locking and some minor differences in the dashboard, but also the ABS system was updated to a newer version as well as later cars not having the locking rear differential but gaining a very nice 3-spoke Audi Sport steering wheel that is a popular upgrade to older models.  The easiest way to tell the year is to look for the little nub on the outside of the driver side B-pillar, if it is there it’s a 1995 or earlier car, it has to do with the central locking.

AudiS6.1

Back to mine – the one I found was Black with Ecru leather and was being offered for around $22,000.  It had 61,000 miles on it and was a one-owner car which had been serviced exclusively at the selling dealership until being traded in on a Porsche.  The car looked fantastic in the pictures and after speaking with a salesman over the phone, everything still sounded good. 

I was a bit nervous about buying it without actually seeing it, so I posted a request on the Audifans page for someone in the area who could eyeball it for me.  Very quickly a person in Portland said he’d be happy to do so the next day.  Well, he called me from the lot and basically said if I did not buy it, then he was going to figure out a way to get the money together himself, there was nothing at all wrong with the car, it was like new and visually flawless.

So I called the salesman, we haggled for a bit and in the end I paid around $21,000 for the car.  I put a deposit down via credit card and told him I’d be up on Saturday morning.  I discussed it with my friend Jim and we decided the best thing to do would be to rent a car to drive up from the Bay Area after work on Friday and then get the car and drive back on Saturday.   Which we did, we ended up arriving at the dealership around 5am, it was just getting light, and after walking around the lot we realized the car was locked up inside.

AudiS6.3

So we napped in the rental and waited for the dealership to open.  Once they did, we went in, introduced ourselves and looked the car over.  It was as described and would not have looked out of place on their new-car showroom floor, it was that clean. The salesman gave me a copy of all of the receipts and had someone top up the coolant as it was a hair low and after doing the paperwork we headed off with the car, first to the airport to drop the rental off and then back South on I-5 towards home.

As an aside, most of the pictures here are from a recent for sale ad for someone else’s car.  My friend Jim saw it and alerted me to it and we both spent some time trying to figure out if it was my actual car.  It turns out it was not but the car is absolutely identical in every aspect to mine.  If you go back to my S4 post from a few weeks ago, my S6 can be seen lurking in the background in several pictures.

AudiS6.4

I was just in seventh heaven, the car was gorgeous and drove fantastic.  Obviously very similar to my ’93 S4 but different in a few ways, the wagon body has a different rear suspension which reacts slightly differently and of course my S4 had been fairly heavily modified.  When we stopped for lunch, we noticed a slight puddle under car, which turned out to be coolant.  Both of us owning these cars, we popped the hood and quickly realized it was coming from the auxiliary water pump, which continues to circulate coolant throughout the engine after shutdown and has a history of cracking at the connections and requiring replacement.

Since the level was still fine, we continued and made it home without incident.  Monday morning I ordered a new pump, which I installed a couple of days later in a matter of minutes.  It is SO nice to work on a car with which you are familiar and knowing how to do a repair that you had to do on a previous one.  I guess the only thing better is not having to do the repair in the first place!

Over the next few weeks I transferred the turbo, manifold, ECU, Porsche brakes, larger wheels and the other items I had modified on my S4 to the S6 and sold the S4 since that was the deal I had struck with my wife.  Truth be told, having five cars and a motorcycle was a little much for the two of us (plus baby) in a small house without any land and it was time to whittle down the fleet a bit.

AudiS6.6

The car looked great and performed exceptionally well.  However, over the next year I realized I missed the S4.  While I loved the wagon and couldn’t believe the condition it was in, I was still commuting over the bridge and parking it in San Francisco.  I lived in some fear of getting dinged or scratched and/or deteriorating the car; nowadays I am pretty much over those kinds of things (it’s just a car!) but at the time this car was (to me) something of a preservation item.  

I’m not sure if a lot of people will understand this mindset, you have to be a diehard fan of something in particular and know that there are not many like it (although the populace at large would not care at all).  I was also hesitant to drive around in this car with our baby, mainly because I realized how messy the other cars had become and she had a bit of a penchant for car sickness at the time. 

The other thing was that while I had always been supremely comfortable in the S4, to be honest this S6 felt a bit different sitting in it.  After checking around, it appeared that Audi had changed the type of leather on the surface of the seats and also apparently mounted the seats slightly higher on the newer cars.  It just did not feel like the same kind of “pocketed” seating feel that I was used to even though the seats were comfortable and technically there was nothing wrong with it.    

AudiS6.7

Eventually I came to realize that while I loved the car, it was time to move on.  Between the nagging  fear of somehow messing it up somehow and the fact that in the end I did like the old S4 better (for no objective reason), I ended up taking off most of the modifications and selling them on eBay for significantly more than I had paid for them (yay to currency exchange fluctuations over time!) and advertised the car for sale.  Fairly soon another Audi fan from the San Jose area came up, looked the car over, couldn’t find any faults and in the end paid me slightly more than I had paid for the car two years prior.