There’s something just a little pretentious about an Audi these days. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love an A5 and one of my favorite modern cars is the first generation TT, but I never spot an Audi driven by a person who’s just picked up a tall can of Miller High Life at the liquor store. In contrast is this Audi Coupe S, which doesn’t emit the craft beer webinar vibe of modern Audis, but instead pleases the viewer with a unique German/Italian/American mosaic from a time in Europe where cars had to try pretty hard to look bad.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t find any evidence that the Coupe S was ever officially imported to the United States, making our feature car an immigrant of sorts. Its slender bumpers reinforce this observation, avoiding the railroad tie unpleasantness to which so many federal cars from the 1970s fell prey. I’ve included the above shot because it includes a pretty girl, pretty flowers, and a pretty car. It doesn’t take much more to make me happy, and isn’t beauty its own excuse? The neo-nuclear James Bond town in the background isn’t, however, doing the picture any favors.
Before I get too carried away with digressions, let’s return to the task at hand: analyzing an Audi. This coupe was undoubtedly my “best of show” on the day I took this picture. It reminds me of a fastback Mustang, a late ’60s Sunbeam Alpine GT (see below), an Aston Martin (in the roof), all brought together with some 1970s Giugiaro flair (although I have no idea if he designed it).
The Audi, of course, seems more graceful than this neat Alpine, but there’s certainly a little resemblance in the greenhouse.
The Coupe S’ interior is typical 1970s German, efficient, morose, but inviting and completely unpretentious, a throwback to when the driver was supposed to focus on driving instead of touchscreens. Kind of refreshing. There’s no chrome to distract the eye, just a few well-placed gauges and some sparing wood-trim. Nice job, Audi.
The only driving experience I have with a ’70s German car was with a cream-colored 320i, and I think I’ve liked 1970s German interiors since then, although I remember that reverse was hard to find in that particular example (it’s in there somewhere!).
WAY up front is this longitudinal four-cylinder that seems to leave little room for a radiator, leaving me to wonder about the weight distribution of this little coupe. Maybe I’m wrong, but this car looks like a breeze to work on for a home mechanic like myself, unless you have to service the cooling system in any way. It’s a far cry from modern front wheel drive platforms where the cuts and scratches on one’s forearm are a badge of honor, representing that one is foolish, cheap, or misguided enough to work on one’s own subcompact.
All of this rambling has left me wanting a theme, because in essence, I just love this car and wanted to share it with my car friends. Therefore, let’s play “spot the influences.” I’ve already mentioned a few that come to mind above, so feel free to voice your opinions and ideas in the comments, as always.
Never saw an Audi of this vintage before. It doesn’t look bad at all, it looks similar to a lot of cars in it’s class certainly, but I think it looks alright.
I agree with you about the pretentiousness of Audi today. Maybe that’s why I never took a shining to them at all. I have long wondered where my dislike of Audi comes from, and I think the image they project may have something to do with it. When I think of Audi of the 80s and 90s, I think of weird cars. They weren’t trying to be Mercedes, they weren’t trying to be BMW, they were unexplainably Audi. The 80s Coupe GT, the Sport Quattro, the RS2, the V8, even the pedestrian A4,A6,A8 were all unique and weird in their own ways. They never tried to be anything else other than Audi. Now, whenever I think of Audi, I think of the standard “German cars don’t have turn signals” jokes, I think of ugly designs, I think of the people who buy them as the corporate equivalent of Portland hipsters who think drinking PBR is the definition of the high end counter culture. In other words, an Audi is not a desirable car, and it’s drivers not people I would be friends.
I don’t dislike Audis because of their drivers. I dislike Audis because they are almost never dynamically superior to their German rivals and because their design language is so stale. Each Audi looks like its predecessor and like its smaller and larger counterparts, with very few exceptions. The interiors are nice but not nice enough to wow me.
I love the R8, I like the A5, the rest do nothing for me. At least their design language rarely delves into the grotesque, ala the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe. But VW Group has an odd strategy: each of their brands is now employing a very clean, angular design language so Audis look more alike with lesser Volkswagens, Skodas and SEATs than ever before.
I just find them so… dull.
I don’t mind Audi’s current design conservatism simply because it’s one of the few high-end marques that’s largely resisted most of the sillier exterior design fads of the past 15 years. Chris Bangle-era BMWs remain a stark testimony to what happens when German automakers try to be exciting and daring — no, thank you — so I’ll take “a bit dull” to “nightmarishly overwrought.”
I thought the Bangle Bimmers would age poorly but I’ve actually come to like them more with time, at least the first Bangle 3, 5 and 7.
Mercedes had an awesome angular design language going on with its GLK and last-generation E, and then switched to a very shapely, curvaceous look that I also like.
I even love the latest Lexus models, with the exception of the RX.
And as everyone probably knows by now, I love Art & Science Cadillacs.
There’s something to be said for unpretentious, clean designs but I personally find them much more preferable on the lower end. For example, the current VW Passat looks neat and elegant. If you’re going to splash money on a luxury nameplate, surely you want something that looks like you splashed money on a luxury nameplate. Maybe that’s just me.
Audi has become good looking by staying the same while all the other German cars and cars aspiring to look like German cars became hideous. Ironically, one of the first and worst of modern styling trends was seen early on Audi, that being the grill that extends through the bumper. It was awful when Audi started incorporating them, making their cars resemble Trane heat pumps, but with each indignity perpetrated by Bangle acolytes, it gets harder and harder to remember that cars actually used to be attractive on first sight; not just things you developed a tolerance to having in your line of sight.
Ehh. Each to their own. I remember the controversy about the big single-frame Audi grilles and you are right, that uproar seems almost quaint now. But what I find unfortunate is that throughout the 90s, Audi had very clean if slightly anonymous styling. Then, the 1997 A6 introduced a funky new aesthetic that was just so refreshing and cool, as was the TT. Then, the second-generation A4 had a watered down application and then Audi designs just lost their funk, the single-frame grille the only really exciting design element left.
but with each indignity perpetrated by Bangle acolytes, it gets harder and harder to remember that cars actually used to be attractive on first sight; not just things you developed a tolerance to having in your line of sight.
The fact that Audi launched the secondgen A3 in the US with the tagline “Stay uncompromised”, while going from hatchback-only to sedan-only and dropping manual transmissions, drips with irony.
Audi is the German Lincoln – very little in either line and basically nothing in their mainstream volume sellers is worth the extra cost over the equivalent VW or Ford.
This is a good place to mention again one of my favourite story headlines of all time – an article in a British car mag about the dubious results of BMW’s new styling direction, entitled ‘The cars Bangle spannered’.
A bit dull is indeed preferable to nightmarishly overwrought. However, it’s just a shame to me that a company that used to have such gorgeous designs have let them become stale. They can still do sexy–witness the A7, it may be hate it or love it but I defintely love it. But think back to the roll they were on in the 90’s and early 00’s. The C5 generation (’97-’04) A6 is to me the high water mark, but the ’98 TT and the ’02 A8 were also very strong designs. Currently? Sure, they rarely offend, but they also stopped exciting a long time ago.
First thought is Renault R17. Second thought is Ford Capri. The whole thing is so totally non-Audi that the front end looks like it was tacked on as a joke or photoshopped!
I thought it resembled some variant of Alfasud.
Ahaha, that was the other car I was trying to remember and couldn’t place at 2 o’clock in the morning: the ‘sud-based Alfa Romeo Sprint coupe. Although that of course came later than the Audi.
The nose, which is the one aspect that really looks Italianate (rather than simply influenced by Italian design), reminds me a bit of the Jensen Interceptor, albeit more curvaceous. The rear quarter windows seem Maserati-like, although the greenhouse is taller than a Ghibli. The cove in the tail has a faint Ferrari 275GTB flavor.
It’s an interesting design and less gangly than the Alpine GT, but not an entirely successful one, to my eye. The biggest visual issue for me is that the wheels and wheelhouses seem way too small relative to the height of the roof, which creates the same kind of proportional awkwardness as the early Rambler Marlin and Dodge Charger, making it seem like the roof is hunched awkwardly over coaster wheels.
Agreed. It’s a neat enough design but the proportions aren’t perfect.
Could be a Renault Fuego from the A post back.
Agreed. It’s because the Germans wouldn’t compromise on practical details like headroom and rear seat leg room. So yes, it is a bit like a Marlin, albeit quite a bit more attractive due to the Italianate influence.
Its vaguely familiar, I once looked at buying a 74 Audi sedan in brown naturally auto box likely the same engine this two door has, the price was right but the car wasnt so I passed and bought Japanese cheap instead, one thing I did notice that engine hanging in front of the axle promotes understeer making the one I tried not much fun to drive on twisting southwest WA roads it could have just been that car but it was quite off putting.
This is a really nice car, but I am fascinated by the layout of the engine bay, specifically the side-by-side radiator.
I assume there’s a fan in front of the radiator but cannot see it. Could be a weight distribution decision, but also might be that moving the engine rearward would make spark plug replacement for those to the rear of the block, and other engine maintenance activities difficult because of those massive suspension towers. Of course that never stopped certain American makes from making plug and other maintenance access a pain right around that time.
Love the interior. No cup holders, no touch screens, looks like a real wood steering wheel and shift knob, and a tachometer on the right like a 280Z.
So Audi had a “sassy & simple” phase just like BMW did with the 2002 series.
The Audi’s engine placement is due to Audi being a made up name for DKWs with 4-stroke engines. This car’s platform was developed for DKW’s 3 cylinder 2-stroke engine. When 2-strokes fell out of favor, it took a larger engine to develop sufficient power. The choice then was to have a massive overhang, or to move the radiator next to the engine. Moving the engine back wasn’t an option, as the engineering chops to develop a transmission with the axle passing through the engine’s sump wasn’t in VW’s repertoire.
That’s the way I remember it . Then add the fact that the engine block comes from a MB Diesel and you have a weight distribution night mare. They gave it a pointed nose in order to visually reduce the front overhang and also to facilitate parking maneuvers with the front corners pulled back. I find it really neat but it is no sports car. It is more of a personal (almost) luxury coupe.
I knew MB sold DKW to VW, but I didn’t know this generation of Audi engine was based on the MB diesels, although the MB diesels of the time had much in common with their gas engines anyway.
This engine was a clean sheet engine designed by Mercedes, I’m quite sure. It’s more compact and lighter than the Mercedes four.
I think you are right. It was called the “Mitteldruckmotor”.
Strictly speaking, what you say applies more directly to the smaller Audi 60/75/Super 90, which was the DKW F102 with the new MBZ-designed four-stroke to replace the two-stroke. The Audi 100 was larger in every dimension, although it clearly shows its evolutionary basis in the 60/75/Super90.
And that applies most of all under the hood, where the 100 kept the whole drive train from the smaller Audi. And yes, that is why all Audis ever since have had their engines in front of the transaxle. (except the smaller A2 and A3).
I think you mean that there might be a fan behind the radiator?
I owned a 74 Audi Fox, pretty much a 7/8th scale 100 LS, and maintenance was no big deal. The engines are tilted ever so slightly away from the radiator, towards the passenger side of the car….IIRC. one of the design features that was incorporated in Audis and water-cooled VW products was a well laid out under hood.
It’s just a guess, but I would think that Audi has used the longitudinal engine layout so as to differentiate it’s cars from cheaper brands.
@rplaut: yes, the fan is in front of the radiator. Works just as well; better even.
The engine couldn’t be moved back any because it sits directly in front of the transaxle, as almost all Audis have ever since, except for the smaller A2 and A3. That’s the result of it being a direct evolution of the DKW F102, which had its little two stroke in front of the transaxle like that.
This car has always seemed strange to me. It never came to the USA so was designed with the German market in mind. There was also a two door sedan version of the Audi 100LS to further complicate the lineup and take buyers who like the virtues of the 100LS but do not need the obvious rear seat axcess.
Without any higher output engine, the 100LS was not a fast car, who was this car aimed at? Perhaps a young mother from the era when no back door equated to child safety?
Believe me, this coupe was NOT aimed at German mothers! Most didn’t drive back then, and if they did, and the family was wealthy enough, she might be given a very small and cheap little car to drive for errands.
The Audi 100LS/Coupe S was a pretty pricy car aimed at low-end Mercedes buyers. And Germany had a long tradition of two-door sedans, unlike in France and some pother European countries. The 100 Coupe S was quite expensive, and was an alternative to affluent (male) buyers who wanted something stylish but yet German, and cheaper than a Mercedes or BMW coupe.
Lightweight two door imported cars didn’t need 5-mph bumpers in the US in 1973.
I’ve never seen an early 70s Audi GT coupe in person before. I’ve seen pictures of them in car magazines, but for some reason, I’ve never seen one. They were either never imported to the USA, or they were sold in such limited numbers that they’re extremely rare today. Either way, it’s unfortunate, as I find the vintage Audi coupe more attractive than the TT coupe of today.
I’ve always thought that these Audi coupes were fairly handsome cars. I see a hint of Fiat Dino coupe here.
I immediately thought Fiat Dino Coupe, but then I thought I see Fiat Dino Coupe in everything! Your comment helped!
Quad headlights and the upturn in the rear window seem similar. The rear end is far less graceful, however.
You guys nailed it. Here’s my CC on the Dino Coupe, which is very much this car’s most direct and obvious influence: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-european/curbside-classic-1970-fiat-dino-gt-coupe-a-tasty-andproper-fastback/
The other Audi in which I see a resemblance to the Fiat Dino Coupe (Bertone) is the A7, right at the trunk. It’s hard to see for me in pictures, but in person, there’s something about the way the hips over the rear fenders resolve into the semi-hatchback/semi-fastback styling. Anyone else see it?
That’s where my mind immediately went when I saw the headline, A7
Good call on a nice car!
I see some ‘Sud Sprint – which this car precedes, I think
The number plate up front and the yellow headlights seem to indicate it came from France.
From the “A” pillar to the rear looks like an Italian Designer was allowed a free hand (especially the rear end) as long as he adapted to an existing chassis (i.e.: wheel base, width, green house height, etc). From the “A” pillar forward looks like standard Audi cookie cutter material.
Needs a extra dose of muscle to be appealing like fender flairs and larger wheel housing. Great exercise in design, but fails to excite.
An interesting car, but one that I have trouble working up any enthusiasm for. The styling doesn’t quite do it for me. It lacks the style of some other eurocoupes of that era but also the Teutonic vibe of, say, the 2002.
Also, after spending a day looking at some of the simply delicious German interiors of the 50s-60s at the Lane Museum on Saturday, this one leaves me wanting. Has anyone ever identified this period as the “black vinyl epoch”? If not, I shall claim rights. ?
I see some Opel Manta A in the front.
The Alfetta GT was the first car that came to mind when I saw the rear 3/4 and side views in the first two photographs. The window layout and C-pillar air extractor grille are similar, although the shapes are a bit different.
Never having seen this Audi coupe, only the later 4000-based Coupe GT, I would not having thought that the car was an Audi without seeing the badges.
Just a minor observation, but this car is incorrectly identified throughout the article. What we have here is an Audi 100 Coupé S.
Oops…It’s funny how one’s brain gets stuck on something. I must have looked at a picture of an ’80s Audi before beginning.
Thanks to Paul for making the changes while I was obliviously out buffing the Firebird. 🙂
It looks like the ASA 1000 GT at the back as well.
Great story on an underappreciated car from Audi’s distant past.
Four years ago I wrote a story on a similar Audi Coupe 100 that was for sale at the time in the UK. What might make the story an interesting read for those following this thread was that some really good studio photography was provided to me by the seller.
Here’s a link to the story.
Needless to say, I saw several styling influences in the car as well and I wouldn’t have minded importing the car into the USA. I’ve seen one stateside many years ago. It’s the kind of car that if you show up in one at your local Cars and Coffee or on Cruise Night, you’re certain to attract a lot of attention from knowledgeable car enthusiasts.
Thanks for the link; it contained excellent pictures and a bit of history on the design.
In doing a little searching on the subject, I found this photo of an Audi Coupe 100 with a vinyl roof. I don’t think that it works on a fasbtack, at least not as well as it did on the Ford Capri.
And when the Audi S7 Sportback was introduce, Audi tried to make the connection with the 100 Coupé S. Me personally, I don’t see it.
Me not being particularly knowledgeable or enthusiastic about Audi may be the key, but I definitely see the connection ignoring the too many doors of the S7. In addition to it being a fastback with a similar greenhouse profile, it’s the standalone model Audi in the current lineup that sports a squared off Kamm tail, just like the Coupe S, and with the high positioning of the taillight clusters I can’t help but think it was directly influenced.
The funny thing is I never “got” the intention of the S7, it looked like a typical jellybean Audi up front and then suddenly the rear is squared off and turned into a fastback, but the minute I saw this old 100 Coupe S it all made sense.
I personally see a lot of Italianate influence as well–my first thought was Maserati. It’s also very close to the Dino Coupe, and a number of other things.
While being a bit of a mishmash, though, it all works together for me. I’d love to see one in person but it seems like the chances of that are quite slim.
If you remove the 5-slat vent, the rear 3/4 view (first and last photo, in red) looks a bit like an overinflated Datsun 240Z.
At first glance it looks like my 77 Datsun B210
A breathtakingly beautiful design that just looks so right. Certainly it’s similar to the Fiat Dino, but different enough that it’s not just a copy. Sure the front is generic Audi, but in our negative comments about that, are we just reacting to our perceptions of current Audis?
If you were a coupe buyer back then, which would you choose, this or the Dino? Compared to the Dino’s mechanicals (Ferrari V6 in a Fiat, wow!), this could seem the ‘sensible shoes’ alternative.
Very good write up about the Audi 100 on the Bloomberg web page:
Thanks for the link!
Vielleicht der schönste Audi aller Zeiten. Die Form, die Details sind einfach klassisch schön.
Motorinas hellblauer wäre mein Favorit.
The traditional car is old cars. The exact definition varies worldwide. The old American car club asserts that the car must be between 30 and 49 years old to be a classic, while cars between 50 and 99 are in the pre-antique category, and cars are 100 years old in the antique car category. In the UK, the classic “classic car” group is considered pre-World War I. Antique is considered the era of 1919-1930, and the 1930’s are considered post-antique. The classic post-World War II cars are not defined on the face
Old American Car Club
The Classic American Auto Club defines classic cars as follows: The classic CCCA is a “good” or “distinctive” car, either American or foreign built, produced between 1925 and 1948.  Other factors, including engine transmission, custom vehicle structure and luxury accessories, such as the brake unit, torsion strength, “single shot” or automatic lubrication systems, help determine whether the car is a classic
I lack the vocabulary to describe how perfect this car looks to me. Every shape and the way every piece compliments every other piece is stunning to me. I could look at it every day as a beautiful creation; the fact that it is a car and can move is just an unbelievable bonus. The interior is beautiful too, with just the right amount of wood. So subtle, and yet so striking. I’ve never seen one here in the US. Didn’t know it existed until the internet. None of this gracefulness and flow of design is present in any modern car, to my eyes. Not even a little.
I suppose it is a derivative collection of styles, but so is the original 240Z and it is also a favorite. Its similar to the Fiat Dino but that is fine by me. Somehow the details, which could look tacky to some, just come together so well here.
I just like what I like, and I love this car. I suppose that is pretty obvious.
The engine is so far forward it’s almost silly, but I guess Audis have been doing that forever. Don’t care. It is beautiful and I’m glad it was made at all.
I’m the current owner of this car and it is currently having the interior restored. I will be posting photos very soon.
Great! I can’t wait to see them!