(first posted 9/25/2013) The Audi Fox, called the Audi 80 in Europe, was a milestone car for both Audi and Volkswagen. Introduced in 1972 in Europe and sold in North America from 1973 to 1979, the 80/Fox was the parent of every water cooled, front wheel drive Volkswagen that replaced the Beetle and its air cooled, rear engined progeny during the 1970s: Passat/Dasher, Golf/Rabbit, Jetta, Scirocco, Polo, the T4 Transporter, – all of them branched from the tree that Audi planted with this design, as well as all subsequent Audis too, of course.
As such, the Audi 80/Fox rightfully takes its place as the second most significant car in Volkswagen’s 75 year history alongside the Beetle. But unlike the Beetle, few Foxes seem to have survived, and the model has received little interest from the automotive press or enthusiasts on the internet so far. So finding a Fox parked at the local public library after decades of never seeing one was a surprise, and a chance to tell its big story.
The Audi 80/Fox was a major step in the evolution of Audi from its roots in DKW/Auto Union (full history here), a maker of two stroke cars with a heritage going back to the 1920s. Mercedes bought Auto Union in 1958-1959 somewhat reluctantly, and finding Auto Union’s two stroke model range to be outdated and unprofitable, sold 50% to Volkswagen in 1964 and the remainder in 1966.But along with the sale came a new four-stroke engine designed by Mercedes, which was intended to replace the two-stroke engine in the otherwise quite modern DKW F102 (above). This would herald the transition from the brand name DKW to Audi.
The re-engined model, called the Audi 72 (as well as 60, 75, 80 and 90 after its nominal horsepower), was a decent success, but VW forbid Audi to develop any more new cars, since their interest in acquiring Auto Union had really been for the desperately needed additional production capacity to build more Beetles.
But Audi’s irrepressible boss Ludwig Krauss secretly had the larger 100 developed, fearing that Audi might be reduced to just building VWs. The 100 was a direct development of the 60-90 range, but had a larger, more luxurious body with which to compete against BMW and even Mercedes. When VW’s Heinz Nordhoff saw the 100 prototype, he was so impressed that he reversed himself and greenlighted its production.
But that was just the warm-up act. In order for Audi to really establish itself solidly, it needed a fresh new middle-class car. Unlike the 60-90 and 100, whose origins were still from the DKW and Mercedes era, the clean-sheet 80 was a chance for the Audi development engineers to really shine. The goal was to make the most efficient, modern, lightweight, and best performing and handling car in its class. The result met and exceeded the brief, and solidly established Audi as a design and technology powerhouse for its parent company, as well as in terms of its reputation at large.
The 80/Fox established design principles that still endure today in Volkswagens and Audis. Although the front wheel drive drive train with its longitudinally mounted engine layout was inherited from DKW and the Audi 60-100, the 80’s engine was all new, the EA827, which begot a huge family of engines that are still being produced today. If for no other reason, the 80’s EA827 engine alone made the 80/Fox a cornerstone of the new water-cooled era of VW.
The 80’s drive-train configuration turned out to be ideal for the Quattro all wheel drive system and has continued in Audis and Volkswagens to the present day. The first experimental Audi with all wheel drive was an 80, utilizing components of the military VW Iltis.
The chassis used a MacPherson strut front suspension and a rear beam axle with coil springs, a layout that lasted into the early 2000s. And the 80’s body was a breakthrough in lightweight design/construction, weighing a mere 1885 lbs for the base version. That was one of the prime targets of its design,and the key to its sparkling performance and efficiency even with modest engines under the hood (European 80s had both 1.3 and 1.5 L versions available). Yet the 80/Fox was surprisingly roomy, for the times and its class. The 80/Fox was available as a two door sedan, four door sedan and later as a station wagon.
The 80/Fox became the basis for Volkswagen’s first water cooled, front wheel drive model. The Passat, introduced in Europe in 1973 and in the U.S. as the Dasher in 1974, was essentially an 80 with a modified fastback body style. The next Audi model, the 50 supermini of 1974, used the suspension layout of the 80 and a more space efficient transverse engine. The 50 completed Volkswagen’s transformation by serving as the basis for Volkswagen’s Polo supermini and Golf/Rabbit subcompact, which also used the 80’s engine.
A Fox in name, this Audi was more like a a smart, sensible girl with glasses, called Four Eyes by the cool kids, who would eventually bear many children. Audi made no attempt to add sex appeal to the 80/Fox lineup of sedans and station wagons with a sporty coupe or convertible comparable to the Mercedes SL or Volvo P1800, as it would with the Coupe GT of the next generation 80. A quarter century would pass before Audi would show the world its TT.
That’s not to say that the 80’s performance was neglected. In 75 and 85 hp form, the European 80 was already decidedly brisk. In the fall of 1973, a GT model upped that to 100 hp. And in 1975, with the addition of fuel injection, the GTE 1.6 L engine now sported a sparkling 110 hp, and its performance was stellar. This formula with essentially the same engine were to become legendary in the VW Golf GTI a few years later. A GTI appearance option package was offered on US-bound Foxes for 1978 and 1979, but did not include the higher-performance engine and goodies. Once again, Audi did the pioneering.
The 80/Fox entered markets worldwide to accolades. The 80 won the 1973 European Car of the Year competition, beating the Renault 5 and Alfa Romeo Alfetta. In the United States, the Fox received high praise from car magazines such as Road and Track, Car and Driver and Motor Trend for its space efficiency (room for five and a 15.4 cubic foot trunk in a car only 14.5 feet long), good performance for the time (0 to 60 in under 11 seconds) and handling.
With its upright profile, trim lines, thin roof pillars and large greenhouse, the 80/Fox really stood out as a compact and efficient design among the Broughams and American small cars of the 1970s. It continues to do so today, a sharp contrast to the bulging flanks and gunslit windows of automobiles in the 2010s.
Behind the US-market Fox’s grille was a de-smogged 1471 cc version of the single overhead cam four cylinder EA827 engine with an iron block, aluminum heads and carburetor, but still rated at a decent 75 hp for the times. Weight was listed at 1925 lbs. For 1975, the engine size was increased to 1588cc, fuel injection added, and power upped to 83 horsepower, making the Fox even harder to catch. The Fox had a decidedly better hp/weight ratio than a 1975 Mustang Mach 1 with the optional 4.9 L (302) V8.
Perhaps the complexity and high underhood temperatures of 1970s emissions controls may have contributed to the reputation for fragility and unreliability of the Fox and other Audis of this era, which usually rated “much worse than average” in the reliability surveys of Consumer Reports. As advanced as Audis of this era were technologically, they just were not built to the demands and expectations of the typical American consumer.
The end of the Fox came in 1980, when the new 4000 (B2) replaced it in the U.S. Still called the 80 in other markets around the world, the 4000 continued Audi’s invasion of the mainstream American automobile market with a new body by 1980s car design master Giorgetto Giugiaro and the Quattro all wheel drive system starting in 1984. With the last Fox sold in 1979, any surviving Fox out of the 142,500 that were imported is at least 34 years old, and most likely few have survived in the condition of this example.
What a good looking car. I’d all but forgotten. These were unusually plentiful — well, more like unusually not uncommon — here in Rustopia. I remember seeing them on the roads as a kid, at any rate. But it’s been 30 years since I’ve seen one.
Do you still want sale the Audi Fox
Is the Audi Fox still for sale? Please reply.
Long time since I’ve seen one as well Jim.I’ve never seen or heard of the GTE, did it ever come to the UK? ,
Yes the Audi 80 GTE did exist in the uk , as my family had 5 of them . The uk version of the GTE had the big American Type Bumpers . I remember reading that was because the sales of the Audi fox went down in America and they used them for the uk 80 GTE for the UK . That would make sense as the uk GTE had the brake master cylinder on the opposite side and there were steering linkages going from the left hand side to the right , to make it right hand drive for the uk . Also oddly the speedo only went to 100mph , when the car had a higher top speed . I’m not sure how many were made but i know they were very few . In fact i have only seen one picture of the true uk version of the GTE on the front of an old car mag . They were made in 1976 /1977. The only difference between the uk GT and UK GTE was that the GTE had a fuel injected engine and the big bumpers . The interior of both were virtually the same . As many know , the fuel injection made the GTE faster than the older GT and run much smoother , and that was the engine that was used for the MK 1 Golf GTI . Also some uk GTE’s had steel wheels and some had the alloy gt wheels . My Brother has a GTE that he has been restoring . I think it must be the only true british 1976 GTE left . One day he may finish it . But its amazing how little information there is on the British !976 GTE .
Good looking car, especially that celeste 2-door. Very popular with the Navy flight students in our town. But even as a kid I heard stories of poor reliability. I remember that the local dealer ran full page ads in the newspaper constantly around 1979. And then it seems they disappeared overnight.
Now a good mate of mine had a VW Fox, and that is another story altogether….
Excellent walk through this car’s history. I will echo Jim Grey, in that these cars seemed quite popular for a short time in the midwest. I knew at least 3 people who owned 4 of them. I even drove one of them that belonged to a fellow law student, who had ended up with the car in a divorce and was trying to decide whether to keep or trade it.
I remember that the car was a sheer delight to drive. It was quick and nimble and on the highway, just begged you to go faster because it felt so securely planted. It was everything we had always been led to expect from a “German road car.”
Unfortunately, the owner related a history of periodic expensive repairs, which fit perfectly with the stories of the other Fox owners I had known. One family had owned two Foxes at the same time, but both were so troublesome that they swore off of Audis (and German cars in general). You always wonder: Is it the car itself? Or is it that dealer networks, experienced mechanics and aftermarket parts are in such short supply that every repair winds up costing twice what it should? Probably some of both.
There are loads of aftermarket parts for VW’s and there were even back in the 1970’s. The Bug suppliers just brought in stuff for the newer models. Fact is, these things were no harder to work on than anything else of the day. Shops, especially VW dealers, jacked costs up because of the relative rarity of these cars. Speaking from personal experience, it isn’t that hard to keep a Fox/Dasher running once you get used to all the perennial VW foibles. My experience is these cars were no less or more reliable than the domestic stuff of the era. Problems always happened when Emmy-Sue would get her cousin Billy-Bob Beer-belly to wrench on the thing. First, he’d hate it since it wasn’t a Ford (or whatever) and second he wouldn’t have the manual for it.
Billy-Bob needs some Volkswagen parts ?
Call the Ludolf Bros in Germany, I think they have them in stock, somewhere….
(The guys had a TV show on the Discovery Channel)
I’m with you Canucknucklehead I think they were way easier to work on than a lot of other cars on the market of the day ! Greedy Dealers & Independent shops make a killing on repairs by over pricing parts & labor. I worked on my own & for a few friends & it was Easy to keep em up & if you shopped around you could find fair priced parts for them. Just as it was then So many Fear VW AUDI products Citing high cost Well folks Wake up all those recalls on Asian cars are going raise replacement parts Toyota has already jacked up prices too the moon I fear calling the Toyota dealer You have to sit down before they tell you the price ! Now the Airbag recall is going to jack up Honda prices & many other Brand make’s out there & then their is GM A whole other story. Moral of the story is the consumer always pays for these mistakes its just not they way you would expect it . I’ll be keeping my VW’s & AUDI’s
Having owned a ’75 2 door I can tell you they were really simple cars to work on. But it WAS the ’70s, and any rig with a “Fuel Injection” badge on it meant the price of repairs doubled, even if it was just a tail light bulb replacement. Aside from the fuel pump and a few other minor electrical bits, the K-Jet injection system was purely mechanical, and extremely reliable and usually the last thing that needed work on these cars. I imagine a lot of owners of these and other European cars suffered a needless wallet beating just because their car said “Fuel Injection” on it.
For a few years in the 90s I had a VW Quantum with a dealer sticker from Bubba Beck Volkswagen, somewhere in South Carolina. You expect someone with a name like that to sell Chevys or some such.
Damn nice set of headlights on the orange model. Quite ample. Luscious curves, even. Um…what was I talking about again?
I didn’t realize Audis had dual airbags in the mid-seventies!
The inevitable TT jokes. I could not resist making one myself in the CC text.
Was there an Audi in that picture? I can’t recall.
After college, one of my co-workers who became a good friend owned a ’75 Fox…he said his family was pleased with his selection (guess Audi was considered an aspiring brand then and now) and he had it about 6 years until the floor rusted out completely such that the drivers seat was tilted up and he junked it….being a family man he replaced it with a brand new (but stripped) ’81 Ford Escort, which had just come out at the time. Back then the interest rates were sky high, so buying a new car was a way to get a bit lower rate….that same year I bought my ’78 Scirocco and was paying 16 percent interest, which I thought was very good (another of my co-workers had a 21 percent interest loan on his used car at that time).
My Uncle later bought a 4000 (1984?), which I think to this day he still considers his favorite car of the ones he’s owned….he later had a B4 Passat (my Cousin has it now) and has a 3 series BMW now, but I guess he recalls the 4000 even more fondly.
Damm! I thought the 5.9% interest on my Versa was high!
Great looking car! My knowledge of early Audis is on the limited scope, so thanks for sharing!
I remember when these came out, and the first one I saw was a gray one on my air force base in early 1972.
Subsequent articles I read concerning these, as I recall, weren’t very good.
As to European cars, VW bugs were still king, but Audis? Well, I had never heard of them up to then. In California at the time, Japanese cars made the headlines, after the latest domestics.
I thought this article was going to segue into the late ’80s VW Fox. Guess I’ll have to wait for a good CC on that one.
I’m writing an arcticle about it here in Brazil. But it’s proving to be a dificult task. Infos are escarse and hard to find. VW seems to not give a damn about the car. But I didn’t lost hopes. I’m giving my best ’cause in someway this car have significance. It was the first brazilian made car with fuel injection (only in US and Canada bound models) and the first brazilian car to get exported in high numbers to North America. I’m thriving in “homework” but it will be a good one!
Isn’t the VW Fox based on the Brazilian VW Gol? I liked the original air-cooled flat four Gols! I think the floorpan was based on VW Passat / Audi 80 parts.
Edit… Just found this… Fox appears about halfway through the story.
Hello Boo!! Are you Brazilian? Because I am!! May I “resurrect” your comment? I think in that link you posted you noticed that they used the same name for another VW. The post material shows that in fact VW (and the car industry by extension) develops a body that is useful in various sizes and configurations, so that on the production line it is as easy as possible to change the factory plant to a model or other. As an example, VW at this very moment (and since 2012) is using the MQB platform, which structures more than 60 models of the brand in several different countries, from the small pole to the giant atlas, and intends to manufacture even utilities on a single platform by 2026, this In the year the seventh generation of the “kombi” was launched, and for the first time it would not have an exclusive platform, but a variation of the MQB used for the T-cross. So it’s not just floorboards and engines that share. I think the main issue is the salad that vw made in the late 70’s to make its models global, thinking about the marketing vision that this would bring in certain markets. In Europe the facelift of the second generation changed from “santana” to “passat” and in the new concept of globalizing the model, in the USA “dasher” became “passat” (and in this market this happened with the second generation circulating under the name “quantum “), in Mexico it became “corsair”, in Argentina “carat”… In Brazil, with the market closed due to the dictatorship, perhaps a globalized vision would not fit well, the models continued to be outdated (and during the 80’s they began to distance themselves from more and more) and the first generation (B1) continued to be manufactured as a “passat” only in fastback, while “santana” were those of the second generation in sedan and station wagon versions. This first generation underwent a facelift at the end of the 80s, for half a generation onwards, using the second generation engine, seats, wheels, and while in the first world in 1988 the 3 generation (B3) was launched, in Brazil the production of the B1fastback without ever having produced B2 fastback. The sedan and station wagon versions B2 only had updates in 1992 following the design of the B4, but without the commitment to sophistication and modernity of previous years, only offering what was already available in the European market 10 years earlier. Ending production in 2003 without ever having upgraded the factory to B3 platforms onwards. You mention the goal, a subcompact developed in Brazil. Instead of introducing golf (or rabbit) in Brazil, they preferred to modify and lengthen the pole’s MK1 platform. Because golf used mechanical and comfort items far superior to what was intended to be offered to the Brazilian market. So much so that at launch (already in 1981, 7 years after the first generation of golf and one year after the launch of the second generation) the engine was still a Volkswagen Beetle. The sedan and wagon versions that already existed for polo (or derby) and golf pickup (caddy) in 1981 were introduced in Brazil in the following years, as well as a more efficient engine (finally the EA827) In 1989 it received a facelift given to the polo in 1979, the design was updated and the variations of shapes were lost, leaving only the hatch, until in 2009 (called in Brazil “gol V”) it finally no longer used the legendary platform coming from the audi 50, but the PQ24, and as well as the engine was finally retired giving way to the well-known EA111.
Here MarcKyle64… The story of the VW Fox.
We bought a lovely metallic orange/brown Dasher which was perfect for city living as well as jaunts to the country. Though I found it a hoot, Wifey never really cared for it as it didnt have power steering (taught her around that one) nor a/c (taught her how to glisten while opening the metal sunroof). She renamed the car the Smasher after sliding into an outside corner curb on ice which bent the front frame enough to wear out several right front tires until it found a new handy home.
A co-worker had a more-fun version of the 4000, a “5+5” red coupe which IIRC had a 5 cylinder and 5 speed. That car was a treat to drive.
Agree: a handsome, peppy, roomy car that was always breaking down. A friend had one and it gave him a post-graduate education in DIY auto repair.
I had a ’75 2 door Fox sedan in the mid-90’s and had swapped in an ’83 Rabbit GTI 1.8L engine, and performance was STELLAR in that 1900lb beer can. The ’75s had a one year only fuel injection setup, and intake breathing was amazing. Had car 2 years, and only thing that ever left me walking was it would blow up right hand outer CV joints! Of course, since I had only $500 in the whole car, I did drive it like I stole it, but was so fun really hard not to! Still miss it, still can’t find my pictures to post!
I knew of one aquaintance that had an Audi Fox and new several people that owned VW Dashers and/or Quantums. My favorite body style is the pictured Dasher two door hatch and definitely in orange.
It was a very attractive car that flew into the face of everything Detroit was making at the time. What Detroit was making, was popular – take a look at yesterday’s Oldsmobile Cutlass coupe write up! A majority of the US market was not ready for such a simply designed box like the Audi 80/Fox.
Also, the brand was new and if you liked the Fox, you could always pop for a VW during that same time which were obviously knock offs. Finally, the Audi might have been considered “affordable” to editorial writers of car magazines, but considering the price of a new Fox, it definately didn’t look like a “value” to most Americans.
What we saw with the Fox was a slick cool new minimal small car design with a trunk. Other similarly styled cars of the era had hatchs, which were the hot new thing for new car buyers. Trunks – well, we all had cars with those. But hatches – well, that was fun, sporty and new. Sporty small car stylings were preferred over mini-sedan rectangular cars.
If you were in the market for a rectangular car, then why buy a Fox, when you could buy a Plymouth Valiant or Dodge Dart for less money?
Consequently, the Audi was ahead of it’s time and by the late 1970s, Ford got serious and started producing the Fairmont/Zephyr’s Volvo-esque, Audi-esque look with all that Detroit benefit of lower prices, dealer support and familiarity.
So, we can admire the 80/Fox, especially today for pointing cars into the styling direction of a Mies van der Rohe, and like that great architect, knew what they were doing in styling it. And like van der Rohe, America because seeing rolling cheap auto knock-offs of the Audi/VW/Volvo design as well!
Some freinds had a Fox for a while it seemed to go alright for a while but when it began burning oil they dumped it. the cost of rebuilding the engine was more than the value of the car, no such thing as cheap VW/Audi parts in Oz and a used engine in good order was impossible to source. But while going it wasw a nice car they were impressed with how it went and after having a Falcon V8 were happy about how little fuel it drank.
Wish I could find a comparison test I remember reading as a kid with the Fox and Opel 1900. The Fox was a ’75 because I remember it just got FI. IIRC the Opel won, mainly for handling, but the Fox was second and scored high for acceleration. Something like a 9 sec 0-60 which back then was unheard of for a fuel efficient car. I remember something about the front tires being toast after the test. It was the editors’ first experience with powerful FWD.
These are a bit Dixie cup like in their construction, strong but light. Felt solid new but they could loosen up like the Rabbits. Not the most reliable cars but they looked great and were fun to drive and pretty much started the small FWD thing even though the engines weren’t transverse.
They also weren’t very robust, haven’t seen one in the wild for 25 years. That Cutlass Supreme Tom posted the other day is as old as the subject car. Can’t image seeing a Fox that old in Germany doing the daily grind.
FWIW, that Cutlass has 13k on the odometer. It’s certainly not been doing “the daily grind”.
Bad phrasing on my part. I meant I see Colonnades and B-bodies locally in similar condition being used every day. More to the point the construction and materials used on 70s GM products give superior durability over 70s VW/Audi unibody. I would expect to see Mercedes W123s doing the daily grind but not similar vintage Audis. I may be wrong on that but I think it’s more than the hard-to-find parts that have kept them off the road here.
While there are no Audi Foxes around here on the streets, there are still a number of gen1 Passats, and a surprising number of VW Foxes. That’s not to debate your point, since that would be next to impossible on anecdotal evidence. But let’s also not forget that there were a whole lot more Colonnades sold (millions, actually) than the modest number of B1 platform cars in the US.
I’m not denying that these cars were built very lightly, and have their frailties, but folks can keep them going,if they rust doesn’t get them.
The Colonnades were tanks in comparison. In fact, it would be hard to compare more dissimilar cars that might have competed for the same buyer!
Yes the GM BOFs were built like tanks, so were the X-bodies like the Nova LN in the CandD comparison test. Like you said millions were sold and you would expect to see a few on the road, that’s why I’m wondering what the situation is like with the Fox/B1 in Europe where more were sold. Anybody know?
Even with the low volume you would expect to see a Fox here and there but I haven’t seen one at the curb (let alone moving) in 25 years. It’s too bad because they were really fun to drive. The snick/snick shifter was revolutionary in its motions and low effort and could not be matched by the cable setups in the Rabbits.
There was something different about the body structure on the VW Foxes. They were noticeably more stout new and I’m not surprised they out number the B1s.
Calibrick, the main reason to the Fox being so stout is that BX platform cars were built to endure in brazilian roads that were (and still are in the most) terrible! I’m not criticizing those roads without real knowledge. I’m brazilian and live here, so…
Hi, Paul. I’m from Brazil and I’m writing an arcticle about the VW Fox. But here It’s been really dificult to get info ’bout it. Do you have anything? Or know someone who has it? I’m kinda stuck but I’m not going to give up. Kind regards!
Is this Car and Driver six car comparison test from 1975 the review that you read back then?
I found it while writing the CC and was considering citing some of its findings.
That’s the one, thanks! It was fun reading the Fox section again. So many great cars in that comparo.
It really wasn’t until the ‘jellybean’ 80 of the late 80s that Audi got the rustproofing and reliability nailed- at least on the less complex models here in Europe. Sadly, the ‘runaway’ success of the 5000, coupled with the fact that only the bigger engined and more complex models were sold in the US meant that even by the time Audi got it right in Europe, nobody noticed in the States.
A 1.8 injection Audi 80 from the late 80s or early 90s is every bit as bulletproof as a Mercedes of its era. Even here by the seaside in Hastings, I have never seen one with rust. The same couldn’t be said for my 4000 generation ‘not-a-quattro’ GT coupe.
Audis are great driving cars though, and had a way with combining decent performance in 4 cylinder guise with very good- indeed diesel good- fuel economy and tidy handling.
Sadly, by the late 90s, their pursuit of perfect handling and uber performance reduced the reliability and required replacement of very expensive suspension components for every annual MOT inspection.
I must admit that all of these have disappeared over here- I’ve never seen one in the UK or in Europe for that matter. I think it is probably due to the fact that they sold to young drivers who ragged them out and the very poor quality steel that everybody in Europe used back then. I’ve seen a 100 coupe and a few 100ls saloons, but never a Foxy 80. Indeed, I think these are even rarer than the VW k70- which is the other half of the VW front wheel drive story.
Ah so you don’t see the Foxes in Europe any more either. I really wonder about the difference in steel between a 70s Fox and a Nova. Other than the gauge being heavier on the GMs was the steel itself really that different?
My college roommate’s dad had one of these – I remember thinking it was strikingly different than everything else being sold in the late ’70s. He was a doctor, so he could afford the constant repairs. It was the first of his 3 Audis; eventually he bought a Jeep Liberty as his last car.
I bought it’s big brother, a ’79 5000, in ’86 and held it for 2 years. Loved that car, but repairs were expensive and frequent.
Nothing drives like a European car, even the cheap ones…..
Great article and very well researched.
In my driving experience in the mid-late 70s, Audi Foxes and 100LSs had very high “Sitting By the Side of the Road” ratios – in central Ohio, you’d see them along the shoulder of the highway broken down quite frequently.
That colored my impression of Audi’s for some time.
I have to give Paul credit for the thoroughness of the historical narrative about Audi in the 1960s and the origins of the 80/Fox. I provided the photos of the silver Fox and most of the narrative, but the detailed historical knowledge was all from Paul.
Interesting write-up of cars I don’t have much knowledge of.
Regarding the presence in Europe, to be fair I don’t think you would see many old cars of any sort in Europe these days. According to a Bloomberg article the average age of cars in Germany has risen to 8.7 years, from 7.7 prior to the GFC, while in 2001 it was 6.8. Cars more than 15-20 years old are going to be much less common than in the US or Australia where the average age was and is 20-30% higher.
I had a ’77 or ’78 Audi Fox (I know it stated proudly on the tail that it was fuel injected) GTI for two years in college. I traded cars a lot in those days – but of all the cars in my college days (1979-2003) and considering the other cars I had (a CJ-5, a 73 200ci Mustang Grande (dependeple), and a 1981GLC I would like to have that Audi Fox in my driveway now.
Which car would you pick?
Yah she’s foxy I got a chubby LOL
In the mid/late 70’s I had a ’74 four-door Fox I’d bought used that I still have very fond memories of. I loved that car. It’s still the best driving car I’ve ever owned (to be fair I drive sedate vehicles these days, it’s not like I’m comparing it to a high performance sports car). Another buddy at the time had a ’76, and another had a Dasher. Now they’re more rare than Elvis sightings. What happened? The only issue I had was it ate brakes, like every couple of months! OK, I was 21 and drove accordingly, but geez. Also, somehow at 21 making little more than minimum wage I could afford an Audi, now, although I make pretty good money I can’t touch a new one. I guess that’s another topic….
If I ran across a 74-75 Fox in decent shape I’d buy it!
I had a ’73 Fox, I loved that car, but it did have a few quirks. I got quite good at putting the shifter back together after sorting out its frequent refusal to go into gear.
Memories! My father had a ?late 70s early 80s? Audi. I recall him always having trouble getting into reverse. He was always telling me his mechanic, after every repair would tell him: “Better than new!!”
Love my 1985 Audi 4000s (from the Audi Fox line) which I still use everyday. I’ve also owned a couple of VW Foxes, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. 4000s has been amazingly faithful and durable. Only significant issues have been electrical: ignition sensor and occasional taillight/turn signal failure issues.
I had the pleasure of owning two of the coupes, a ’75 Silver Fox and a ’78 silver coupe with extra gauges…I enjoyed both cars immensely, and wish I had one of them today. Perhaps my judgement is coloured by previously owning AMC’s, but they were delightful, competent and very comfortable. I wish they still made them today. I looked at buying a VW Fox, but it just wasn’t the same thing.
I bought a Silver Fox in 1976. My first new car. I bought it just after graduating from Navy boot camp. Honest to God, I remember it like yesterday, I was just driving by the Audi dealership, saw the silver lady and said “THAT’S the car I want!” Lordy I loved that car. I had her in Corpus Christi, Texas, for four years then she went with me across the Atlantic Ocean to Belgium and I drove her around Europe while stationed there. The salty air of Texas then twice crossing the Atlantic played hell with the clear coat and I knew ZIP about maintaining a car so I blame myself for her ailments by 1981 when I sold her. I couldn’t know that I’d never again have a car that made me feel so foxy. Thanks for helping me remember her.
No it was not, sadly. 81hp Brazilian Beater.
The engine on VW Fox was detuned to not steal Golf buyers. Here in Brazil, although the engine still used a carburettor, it had a more healthy 96 hp. The best BX plataform car in terms of power was the Gol (a hatchback Fox) GTi. It used a fuel injected 2 liter engine and had 120 hp. On top of It the car weighted 2147 lb. Imagine how joyful it was to drive. My mom had a ’89. Performance was great, in twisties it was amazing and the interior was nicely appointed. Fuel economy wasn’t great, but, who the Hell cares about this when you have those hallowed three letters proudly sticked in the back of the car!? I miss this lil’ car.
Great article! Here is a pic of the Dasher / Passat 5-door hatchback and station wagon. I always thought the hatchback had good proportions!
I owned a 1971 Audi Super 90 back in 1976.
Their were very few ever shipped to the USA. I used it for my daily driver and also towed a very small Jayco Flipper pop up trailer with it on occasion. The car was cheaply made and under powered, might of had 70 to 75 hp. My brother worked at Scala Obrien Porsche Audi in Chicago as the body shop manager back then and he got me the car on a Mechanics lien for $700.
When I was a kid I wanted a U.S. Fox 2 door so bad I could taste it. Hench my eventual 7 VW GTi/GLi’s….. good thing I was too young to buy Foxes because they would have failed me I’m sure of that…..
But Yah so you had Audi/SAAB/Volvo duking it out behind MB Jag and BMW basically, much like today! And 1978 Audi 5000T was amazing for its time with only 133hp IIRC but it was so elegant and poised, then came the Quattro…. etc. etc… I dig me some Audis, yes, especially the newer TTs as well.
I remember my mom’s 100LS that she acquired when she sold her ’65 Ambassador. She liked it a lot, until the front brakes needed service. Who in the USA in 1975 ever heard of inboard front disc brakes? – let alone knew the driveshafts had to come out to get to the rotors? A year thereafter came her first Volvo, the first of several over the next 33 years.
I was very impressed driving that Audi. It handled almost as good as my ’65 Corvair and was less noisy over bumps and potholes…and the steering was a revelation. Even with the torque steer it still was lightning quick compared to the recirculating-ball system in the Chevy, likely nowhere near as worn either. Moved out pretty good for a four-banger, too. Found myself doing over 90mph on Conn. Rte 2 en route to New London from Springfield one time. 🙂
Front drive and a shared dealer network with VW made these a popular choice in Wisconsin. Owners loved ’em – at 1st.
Unfortunately these things rusted even faster than a GM tailgate. Body perforations after a single winter were common. Then in year 2 the engines started using oil.. ..
Shit, BOOM! Found it. I remember this story and I knew I would have some kind of GTi in my World when I grew up. I was 13 in ’78.
Still haven’t grown up. SAAB 9-3 Convertible in Seattle, right.
The red Fox shown in the advertisement is a 73, I once owned a near identical red 74.
I’m not sure if I would call these early Foxes “fragile”, but I would say there was some pretty advanced engineering (for a small economy sedan) and a few “carry-over” ideas that should have been discarded in the 60s. In my 47K miles, the thermostatic switch that activated the electric fan, failed at least 3 times. Nearly every 10K that switch failed. The hubcaps were held on with clips that were 1 use only. If a hubcap was removed for any reason, the clips had to be replaced or you lost a hubcap. Yet, it was FWD, and the engine was quite peppy.
Oh, almost forgot, for some reason the clutch on nearly every Fox with a manual transmission, and apparently nearly every Passat, failed before 60K miles.
So maybe not fragile, but let down by a few key parts that for some reason were not as robust as they needed to be/could have been?
Must have missed this one back then. I don’t know whether I am fortunate of not to have driven both the Audi 100 and the Audi Fox back then. My mother had a 1978 Audi 100 for almost six years and so I am familiar with that car. I had a 1974 Fox as a company car for under a year till it was replaced by a 1974 Duster. The Fox was a 4 door auto in light metallic blue. Not a quick moving car to say the least but it was free so what the heck. I have not seen one around here since maybe the end of the 70’s and the same would go for the 100.
gimme the gal in the first picture with her top tied at the waist
holy crimeny she is leaving something to your imagination!
Photo # 8 —
Hubba-hubba; an Audi with Dagmars —
I thought they were only on the 1950’s Caddy’s!
I like that fraulein`s ‘assets’. But not enough to make me want to buy one.
My sister owned a Fox for about 6 years. I got to drive it when “something’s wrong with my car” was repeated several times to me by my sibling.
My impressions: Most comfortable, chair height seats, rather pleasing exterior body, lots of glass area & excellent visibility made it an easy car to drive in traffic, the dashboard top split in 3 places almost instantly (repaired with black silicone rubber), firm but compliant ride quality, lacking sound insulation, it steered quite hard for a car that size (first experience with front wheel drive weight over the wheels), clunky. vague 4 speed transmission shifter, sounded faster than it was (like ALL of my Fiats!), huge trunk and back seat for a car of that overall size, even in benign, road salt free New Orleans it was an early and serious rustmobile, the dealer add on air conditioning was irritatingly noisy and was just barely cool (not cold), dealer never had any parts in stock, always a 2 to 6 week wait.
Sis paid Big Bucks for that car (compared to it’s competition) and got next-to-nothing when she sold it, at the height of the Audi 5000 “Unintended Acceleration” debacle.
The EA827 engine really is a almost bullet proof engine, but the one flaw was valve seals that would harden and leak after a couple of years, making for a smokey and oil burning engine that would leave most owners believing the engine was worn out before it’s time.
By around 1980 VW finally came out with durable seals that would last the life of the engine. To VW’s credit they did issue a recall for them without age or mileage restriction, a job done in about an hour with compressed air and head still on engine. But VW only recalled the fuel injected and diesel versions, early carb equipped cars were not included though they had the same bad seals from the factory.
Not the most powerful engine, but used for over 40 years in various versions and hard to kill unless you were really trying.
I think the VW recall program for the bad valve seals started in 1979. My 1978 Rabbit started blowing a lot of oil smoke not long after I got back to Kentucky from the Air Force; this would have been early in 1979. I can tell you that I was extremely happy to get the recall notice from VW because I was wondering how I was going to find the money to get it fixed. If I recall correctly the car got fixed sometime in the spring of 1979. I drove the Rabbit until 1985 and oil consumption was never again an issue.
I owned three Audi Super-90s during the ’80s – a pair of two-door wagons and a 4-door sedan parts-car.
With about 90hp, I didn’t consider my Super-90 under-powered.
And compared to the Fox, they were NOT cheaply made. Back then, I got to drive and work on more than a few Audi Foxes and VW Dashers. While they were more agile and up-to-date than my Super-90s, the Fox & Dasher obviously had a lot of cost-cutting, with plastic chrome replacing the metal trim of the older Audis.
One Fox I drove had the faux-wood finish worn off around the heater controls and I could see right through the clear plastic the dash was made of!
And the Fox coil-springs and struts lacked the sophistication of the Super-90’s all-wheel torsion-bar suspension.
I will admit my Super-90s and the Foxes were somewhat fragile, became very trouble-prone as they aged, and developed oil-consumption issues.
Happy Motoring, Mark
Been a long time since ive seen one of these.
The American auto industry was in tremendous jeaporady with awesome cars like Audi getting noticed by more and more potential new car buyers beginning in the 70s. Older generation Audi’s did have some electrical glitches and fuel injection issues, but their engines and drive trains were practically bullet proof. On top of that they were very well assembled and are an absolute joy to drive.
That blonde leaning over the yellow car-Homina! Homina! Homina!
My first (purchased with my own money) car. I was sold by good reviews in the magazines, and fwd for snow in upstate NY. In general it ran well, but the relays failed repeatedly. I replaced it with a Dasher.
Back in 1981 when I worked at a local tiny auto junkyard I arrived to find a very shiny, super nice 70’s Audi 100 sedan parked outside the gate with no plates. When I asked my boss why it was headed for the crusher he pointed to the completely rotted out/ missing floors ! This gem ran great, didn’t have a scratch or dent anywhere and the soft trim, dash and seats were perfect. I was all set to purchase and do “street sign” floor replacement till he showed me that the rear brakes were in- board mounted discs. Never saw that before and was scared away…Next week a bought a 1971 Opel 1900 from him for $75 (it had floors at least)
Jag XJs had inboard discs on the rear. The inboard discs on the Super-90 and early 100 Audis were up front. The Fox never had inboard brakes.
Changing the pads was no big deal on the inboard discs, so long as you didn’t need rotors. Worst thing on these brakes was if someone installed aftermarket riveted pads. After so many miles, there would still be some pad left, but the rivets were already carving grooves in the rotors!
Happy Motoring, Mark
Inboard brakes are always at the driven end of the car… Rear on Rover P6, Jag XJ, Alfa Romeo Alfetta etc – Front on early Audis, Citroens, Alfasud, NSU K70 and Ro80, etc.
It’s a pleasant surprise to find this CC posted again after four years. It’s no surprise at all to find that the eighth photo with the blonde fraulein leaning over the hood continues to get so much attention! Alas, with the car over 40 years old, she must be well into her 60s now.
The featured Fox continues to be seen around town, usually in the grocery store parking lot, which happens to be the same place where I met Eric703. The car and its owner, who has owned it since new if I recall my conversation with her correctly, both appear to be still in excellent condition.
… but VW forbid Audi to develop any more new cars, since their interest in acquiring Auto Union had really been for the desperately needed additional production capacity to build more Beetles.
Ah! Had not heard that part of the story before. More VW “the rear mounted, air cooled engine is perfect and will go on forever” hubris. Answers my question of why the F102 wasn’t branded as a VW, to meet the new front drive models from Renault and Austin, instead of millions poured into the Type 4 that was obsolete the day the first one rolled off the line, then the rush to slap a VW badge on the K70, which proved to be a technological dead end.
VW didn’t yet own Auto-Union when the F102 was around.
VW didn’t yet own Auto-Union when the F102 was around.
As I understand the chronology, the F102 came out, as a DKW, with a two stroke 3 cylinder, while Auto Union was owned by Daimler Benz.
After the purchase of Auto Union, it was VW that instigated the substitution of a 4 stroke, 4 cylinder, and a slight change in styling to produce the F103, badged as an Audi. My post was not clear. VW should have badged the improved 102, the F103, as a VW, then introduced the 100 as an Audi when it came out in 68.
The new four stroke engine was designed 100% by Mercedes. The exact timing in relation to VW’s two-step acquisition of Auto-Union is not totally clear to me, but there’s no doubt it was a Mercedes design.
Badging the F103 as a VW would have been confusing and not done the Audi brand any favors. The Audi 60/75/90 sold reasonably well, and were critical in establishing Audi. Starting with just the 100 would have positioned Audi too high in the cost ladder. There’s no way Audi could have survived with just one car. In Germany, the 100 was hardly cheap. And in subsequent years, the Audi 80 became their high-volume car. Audi needed a palette of cars to support its dealers and the brand. Admittedly, they went down too far down into VW territory with the 50, but that didn’t last long.
The new four stroke engine was designed 100% by Mercedes. The exact timing in relation to VW’s two-step acquisition of Auto-Union is not totally clear to me, but there’s no doubt it was a Mercedes design.
Yes, I have read that the engine was a Mercedes design. The sources I have read said VW was the instigator of the engine switch and they selected the Mercedes engine as it was available, but that isn’t really the point I was trying to make. It just grates my cheapskate nature to think how much money VW poured into the Type 4, and the K70, when they already had a modern car in hand.
Badging the F103 as a VW would have been confusing and not done the Audi brand any favors. The Audi 60/75/90 sold reasonably well, and were critical in establishing Audi.
iirc, the Audi brand was inactive at the time of the VW buyout. When Audi first appeared at the Detroit show, iirc in 70, the literature talked about the Audi Front and the Horch, both from the 30s, as if they did not want to acknowledge the car’s DKW parentage.
You bring up a good point about a 1 model line. In Audi’s early days in the US, Audi always seemed to be dualed with Porsche, and Audi and Porsche were presented in the advertising as a single division of VW. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw an ad for a Super 90 in print or TV. All the adverts were for the 100, so Audi was being treated here as a single model line.
If I was running VW, I would have dualed Audi with VW, with the F103 badged as a VW, and the 100 in the same showroom, as an Audi, to step up customers from the 60/75/90.
How was Audi presented in Europe? Sold through the existing DKW dealers, or dualed with another VW brand?
I test-drove a Fox in 1976, when my two-year-old Corolla tried – and almost succeeded – to throw a connecting rod clear through the engine block. My mom had a 1971 100LS, and it was an amazing car; the Fox was a junior version, perfect for a single guy who wanted some room and some performance. They already were selling like hotscakes and the VW/Audi dealer wouldn’t budge on the price or the payments. I then found the second of my three Corvairs, and drove that until the Reagan administration took office…at which point, the Fox was history.
I guess I chose…wisely.
A famous legacy of the 80 is that some VAG engineers decided to try the 80GTE 110bhp engine in a Golf N 3 door body with LS instruments and stiffened suspension.
This worked out well enough to go into production as the Golf GTi, which did rather well for itself.
PS… The past tense of forbid is forbade.
If the 5-cylinder engine was derived from the EA827 engine, what prevented Volkswagen / Audi from developed an inline-6 version of 2305-2770cc+ or even other 6-cylinder engine projects?
Was it simply down to the FWD layout or could that issue have simply been remedied by 4WD-only variants?
There was a 6 cylinder version, but it was too long to fit in the front of Audis. It was a diesel version and used in the VW LT van/truck, and also used in Volvos (240/700).
While the 6-cylinder was out of the question for most existing Audi models during that period, could it have worked on a hypothetical Audi version of the RWD Porsche 924 (or even the Porsche 928)?
Hypothetically yes. But Porsche had moved on to its own big four cylinder engine for the 944 by then. And it would have been too small for the 928. And possibly a bit too long for either/both of them. Porsche did not want to use Audi/VW engines back then any more than necessary. Today it’s of course a different ball game.
Was basically referring to an Audi version using the 6-cylinder (along with possibly the 5-cylinder) for its version of the Porsche 924 as a way of further differentiating it from the Porsche variant, both in terms of engines as well as styling.
Pretty much of the opposite of what happened with the Porsche and Volkswagen versions of the 914.
I was doing a sandwich degree as a mature student with a year’s industrial placement at IBM HQ. We weren’t well off, not been together long and each brought two kids to the party. We bought a very clean 8 year old Audi 80GL and I felt I could hold my head up in the car park. A lovely timeless design, still looks good today. Every inch the junior exec car in the UK, quite different from how it was regarded in the US.
A red 1974 2 door was my first brand new car. No a/c, didn’t come with a radio (added aftermarket) and had a 4 speed manual (my dad hated that). I had it for 6 years and 110,000 miles. It was totally unreliable, broke down frequently and always ran hot. I loved it. Until it finally went into self destruct mode, it was always as clean as when I got it new, even under the hood with it’s standard equipment oil leaks. By modern standards, meaning my 2016 GTI, it was terribly slow. Not a fair comparison. I still have fond memories of my Audi, and sometimes unrealistically fantasize about restoring one. Did I mention I loved that car?
Now, I remember a version of the ‘77 Fox that had the name “Red Fox” or “Redd Foxx” stenciled on the rear pillar aft of the rear side window. This particular car was a beautiful copper metallic paint color. I was at the time a mechanic working for the Porsche+Audi dealer in Inglewood, Ca. (Max Dial). Anyone else out there remember a model like this?
I remember that copper color, Had a good friend & his Mom had a 78 Wagon in that color. The car was in Sitka AK for a long time. I imagine the 2 door sedan would get all the sporty items over the family wagon. They were good looking rigs !