COAL #18: The ’74 Audi – A Fox Joins the Family


My piece on the ’70 F-100 should rightly have been COAL #17, following as it did the brief piece on my father’s ’64 T-Bird. So we’ll get back in chronological order with the vehicle that replaced the pickup – which became my first new car. But first, we need to wrap up the pickup’s story. As you will realize a bit further on, that’s unfortunately an intended pun.

While back home during the spring and early summer of ’74, I needed to make the F-100 usable as my cross-country moving van. The first priority was to enclose its eight-foot cargo bed. Since a new (or used) truck cap or topper was financially out of the question, the local Pennysaver was once again pressed into service. A classified ad indicated that a gentleman not far away in Boonton, NJ had a homemade truck cap for sale.

A phone call confirmed that the cap was sized for an eight-foot pickup bed. After inspecting the item, I haggled the seller down to $40 (I was still a starving art student, after all) and drove the newly-enclosed F-100 away with a redneck-inspired wooden topper with gray exterior paneling, jalousie side windows, and a flat roof rendered relatively water-resistant by a copious application of tar. Fortunately, no photographic records exist showing this monstrosity.

With no immediate job prospects after graduating from Art Center in September 1974, I loaded up the F-100 and proceeded back east without incident, except for a dead battery outside of Salt Lake City (on a Sunday, of course). As soon as I got back to New Jersey safely, the cap, having served its purpose, was dismantled and unceremoniously disposed of at the local landfill.

Shortly thereafter, the F-100 was advertised for sale. We needed to thin the family fleet and I had grown tired of fueling a pair of thirsty V8s (the F-100 and the Mustang) at the then-outrageous price of $0.53 per gallon ($3.83 today, suggesting that gasoline pricing hasn’t quite kept up with inflation).

The F-100 surprisingly attracted little interest, just a few lookers who focused only on the corrosion beginning to appear on the front edge of its bed. Fate intervened late one fall evening, however. Neither Dad nor I remembered hearing the actual crash, but we were both jolted awake by the following silence. The pickup, which had been parked in front of our house, had sustained a high-speed left rear corner impact from a mid-1960s Chrysler four-door hardtop. The impact pushed the F-100’s cargo bed into the cab, and pushed the entire truck (which had been parked in gear with the emergency brake on) about twenty-five feet, finally coming to rest and just missing a roadside telephone pole.

As a result, the unbelted Chrysler driver made involuntary contact with his car’s windshield. Not fully coherent, he complained to the police of having shards of glass in his eye but seemed otherwise not badly injured. He was taken away in an ambulance and the non-driveable Chrysler was soon flat-bedded away, leaving us to call the insurance company later that morning.

The F-100 was deemed totaled, and in due course, Dad received compensation from Allstate. With the insurance proceeds and some cash from my variety of odd jobs, it was time to begin the search for replacement wheels. In late 1974, my post-OPEC car purchase priorities were significantly better fuel economy, smaller size, better handling, and decent visibility.

My initial suspects included the then-new Mustang II and Mercury Capri, but my car-designer genes rebelled at the former’s grotesque re-interpretation of the model’s iconic styling cues, and while I found the latter to be sportier as well as a decent handler, its interior felt claustrophobic with poor outward visibility.

These were the first two models I considered. Not in love with either, I broadened my search.     (Source:


What to do? One of my frequent Sunday-morning jaunts to local car dealers ended up at Gardner Motors, then-owners of Volkswagen and Porsche-Audi stores diagonally across the street from each other on Bernardsville, New Jersey’s main drag. Though one of my best friends in high school had owned a VW Beetle, I couldn’t quite see myself in that retrograde shape, and Volkswagen’s water-cooled revolution had not yet arrived.

Unfortunately for me, the VW Scirocco hadn’t been introduced in the U.S. quite yet. (Source: Bring a Trailer)


On the other hand, Gardner Porsche-Audi had a single dealer-demo (and not for sale) Audi Fox on hand. Since the Fox’s 1973 U.S. debut, I had become a fan of its purposeful and trim exterior design, and buff-book road tests typically scored it among the winners among the new crop of small, fun-to-drive imports then challenging the sporty-car norms in the U.S. market.

The brochure was available, but the cars themselves were in short supply during the fall of ’74.


Not long thereafter, a test drive was secured, with the salesman whipping the demo Fox through the on- and off-ramps of nearby I-287 at speeds that would have put me into the weeds in the ’69 Mustang (let alone in the F-100). I will sheepishly admit that when it was my turn to take the wheel, the salesman (who was also the dealer principal’s son) had to remind me that the Fox’s floor-shifted manual gearbox included another gear available beyond third.

After the test drive, I was sold. I put down a deposit on May 30th, 1974 and just over four months later, I was informed that my car had finally come in.

The sales invoice. The dealer had traded cars with a Massachusetts Audi store to find a Fox in my first-choice exterior color. My first new car had 324 miles on its odometer when I took delivery.


Fortunately, I was able to drive away in an Atlas White Fox, my first choice, though I had been asked to provide my second-choice (Agate Brown) and third-choice (Maroon) exterior finishes just in case… and will you be trading a car in, Mr. Hansen? What’s that, a ’69 Mustang? Sorry, we can’t take any American V8s in trade right now; you’ll have to sell that car yourself. Such were the realities facing buyers of economical “foreign cars” in the fall of ’74.

If my first-choice color hadn’t been available, I could have written about my “quick brown fox…”. It’s probably just as well.


There’s much more to tell about the Fox, which turned out to be one of the longest-serving vehicles in the family.


Related CC reading: Curbside Classic: Audi Fox/80 (B1) – The Foxy Mother Of The Modern VW/Audi Era