Junkyard Classic: 1977 Audi 100LS – My Dad Was The Lord Of The Four Rings

Our family had four of these, the Audi 100, the first generation of Audi’s larger sedan (C1 generation, current model now called A6).  Two in Germany, and two more over here in Los Angeles, the first of which followed an Audi Super 90 and a DKW before that.  All were acquired used; even in Germany a used Audi is a better value than new.  Our first 100 died an inglorious death on the Autobahn while my Dad was driving it on a business trip when I was very little.  The second was sold when we moved here but was rusty anyway.  The third (a ’74) was rear-ended very badly in L.A. traffic and the fourth (a ’71) never seemed to run correctly.  After that one I think either my Dad was tired of them or there were no more to be found in Los Angeles and he never owned another Audi.

And they’ve been somewhat rare finds over here ever since.  Until today, that is, when I came across this final-year example outfitted pretty much the way ours were.  We never had a silver one though, the German ones were both blue (one with a red interior) and the first US one was white with the last one being a light blue.

The 100 was Audi’s most successful model after being introduced late in 1968 and was produced in four door form over 825,000 times.  There was also a 2-door version of the sedan and of course the 100 Coupe which was never officially sold in the US.  Ours were all four door versions.

The ones we had in Germany as well as the ’71 we had here all had the smaller, prettier bumpers; for 1974 these larger safety bumpers were fitted and they certainly give it a bit of a bumper-car look, easily extending the dimensions of the car by several inches in both length and width.  Audi used to actually put their name on their cars back then and into the 1990’s (at least on the front door badges at the end) but now you’ll be hard pressed to actually see anything but the four rings on the back as well as the model designation.

It was named  “100” for its horsepower output upon introduction, but that changed up and down a bit depending on year and market.  The US version started on a high note here in 1970 with a 115hp 1.8l unit, mounted longitudinally as are all “real” Audis (i.e. chassis not shared with VW) even today. Even back then though most of the engine was ahead of the front axle, giving it a 60/40 front/rear weight distribution.  Note the side mounted radiator here, as continued with the later generations.  A couple of years later the engine was enlarged to a 1.9l unit but power was dropped to 91hp, and then rose back to 95hp for 1975 once fuel injection was fitted.  As with all Audis prior to the 1980’s introduction of quattro AWD, this one is FWD as well.

Also note the large frosty AC unit towards the back of the bay.  Yes, this one has AC, which was one of the more common problematic items with this car back in the day.  This was early on a very frosty morning, Audi can only wish that this unit produced air this cold.

Back in the pre-quattro days one got a “Fuel Injection” badge to show off Audi’s technological might.  The ones we owned curiously were all automatics, and they got a small “Automatic” badge under the right side model designation, much like some cars would get a “5-speed” badge if so fitted.  One of those trans-continental differences I suppose as automatics of any kind were somewhat rare in Germany back then, certainly more so than over here.

It would have been right up there below the numbers.  That 100LS script looks very much like the Mercedes ones, come to think of it.  Perhaps due to Mercedes owning Audi not too many years prior to this, a curious bit of history that most Audi owners have no knowledge of.   The “D” sticker/sign is right where we always had ours in Germany too, nowadays it’s incorporated into the license plate itself.

Yes, I am sort of dancing around the fact that I don’t have a picture of the inside of the trunk to share.  I did take one but apparently moved on before the picture was captured so it was more a picture of the dirt on the ground (which is also visible here if you’re interested).  The trunk is in fact quite spacious, we used to take these cars on six-week vacations to Yugoslavia and multi-week trips to England and seemed to fit everything in it that a family of four needed back in the 1970’s.

That brings up an interesting point (for me at least) – I’ve likely spent more cumulative time in the back seat area of Audi 100s than any other car.  The back seat cushion is normally lower than this one, I just nudged it sort of back into place here.  But there was plenty of room in the back and in the days before seatbelts my brother and I used to get quite rowdy back here – until of course eventually the infamous blindly flailing arm would emerge from the front with dire warnings about not making anyone stop this car and so forth.  Good times.

If you can look beyond the ravages of time, that dashboard is almost the spitting image of a Tesla Model 3! Well, at least it has the continuous wood strip all the way across. For the 1970’s this is quite modern, note that the dash is fairly light visually and not at all imposing.  And cracked just like ours were.

Even the gauge cluster has a wood veneer around it and of course a clock front and center.  No tachometer on this one though, but since this one IS an automatic it has the indicator and then a fairly complete set of auxiliary info and lights.  I don’t recall the indicator on the German ones though, as the floor shift mechanism has the legend right next to the positions (barely visible in the first interior shot above) and would light up the selected gear initial or numeral, thus (theoretically) negating the need for a redundant display on the dashboard.

I found it interesting how they used the blanks for more gauges to fit the AC controls into, that’s fairly clever but shows how the car doesn’t seem to have been really engineered from the start to offer Air Conditioning.

Jeez, the keys are even still in it and judging by the condition of the key ring this car was stored in a damp-ish environment for quite a few years before arriving here.

The build tag is a little odd in that it does not in fact have the build date on it.  It is supposed to be in the upper right hand corner and would be the same type of punched dot format as the VIN at the bottom.  There was a supplemental emissions tag that did state it conformed to the 1977 year so that at least was confirmed.  My data indicates that the last 100 built of this generation had the VIN ending in 006350 as opposed to this one’s 005715, note that by this time the C2 generation Audi 5000 (100 elsewhere) was already being produced.

These cars generally aren’t fondly remembered over here in the US, they had various issues, and apparently weren’t easy to have fixed by your average mechanic, but in Germany they were considered pretty good cars overall. While at the time suffering a bit from a “fuddy-duddy” image over there, Audi has certainly made quite a few strides (in various directions?) over the last half-century but this is the car that pretty much started things off over here at least.

The ad above is for a 1972 model and while perhaps a trifle over the top, certainly gets right to the point regarding the car’s attributes.  I don’t know if it can be rightly compared directly with any of the others, but it isn’t incorrect in regard to the facts presented and was probably a good way to help introduce the car over here.

Related Reading:

Curbside Classic: 1970 Audi 100LS – Ingolstadt’s Table Setter by The Professor

Cohort Capsule: 1973 Audi 100LS – Keep It Beautiful by Perry Shoar