Those who know me wouldn’t find this photo at all surprising. Good habits begin early and these days, any passengers who dare push my car doors open with their shoes or rest their feet on the dashboard will find themselves reliving a Mommie Dearest moment. I was six when this picture was taken, either in the fall of ’89 or spring of 1990; with the lack of deciduous trees in New York’s North Country, it’s difficult to pinpoint.
My father bought this 1984 Audi 5000 just after I turned five. A fully optioned turbo model, it replaced the ’78 Nova he and my mother had purchased new in grad school and decided to junk after the passenger door flew open while making left turn at low speed. If that seems wasteful, rest assured that ten winters in Syracuse and Plattsburgh, New York had reduced the unibody to dust, held together with paint and undercoating. The Audi’s resistance to rust, on the other hand, was truly impressive, but as it turned out, the Chevy proved far more reliable than Ingolstadt’s finest.
The Quattro version wasn’t introduced until the 1986 model year. Dad’s early production car therefore powered its front wheels with 140-hp horses fed through a fragile automatic transmission. The five-cylinder warbling through three very tall gear ratios made a very distinct sound. I still remember the turbo’s unusually low-pitched whistle, accompanied at all times by a dull hum.
It was very unlike from the metallic noises my mother’s Accord made, and even as a five year old passenger, riding in the Audi made for a very different experience. It didn’t crash over pot holes, and my feet didn’t reach the floor, but most importantly, it was absolutely loaded with gadgets. With fog lights, heated power seats, map lights everywhere, a trip computer and rear headphone jacks, the first couple of months were a classic “don’t touch it, you’ll break it” childhood experience.
None of these accessories broke (much), but among other problems, the transmission went out, as did the water pump. When my dad made his final attempt to unload the car, the transmission again died, along with all four power windows. After four years, he sold the car for a pittance.
My father thought with both his heart and his head when buying what seemed like an irresistible bargain. As a professor of mass communications, he knew better than to believe hyped-up stories of unintended acceleration, but all in all, it proved too good to be true.
Two doors down the street from my house is an ’86 (I think) Audi 5000 in mint condition, garaged for at least the last fifteen years. There are times I’m soooooo tempted. Then I read these kinds of articles, and reality sets back in.
Until scrap prices shot through the roof in 2007-2008 seeing a lawn ornament Audi of similar vintage or newer was a somewhat of a common sight in Central New York especially if you drove certain routes past the houses with said Audis. Cannot remember if it was an Audi or some other German car, but one had been stolen and it was found a few miles down a wooden goat path and not sure if anyone bothered retrieving it. Until I left New York about a year and a half ago I always drove past this house with a rather sun bleached tired looking Audi A6 from Maryland. No idea if it was a Maryland car its whole life, but I liked the curvy styling.
Personally, I rather deal with a finicky Detroit or Japanese vehicle than a European or Korean vehicle unless said vehicle is a Saab, I love those.
In many ways, Audis are a great used car, mostly because one can buy a nice one and a spare parts car for a pittance. If you go into it with wide open eyes and a mechanical aptitude you can drive an very sweet car for peanuts.
That being said, there is so much stuff on some of these, they are booby-trapped for problems.
BTW, if we get into a serious depreciation conversation, how about a V-12 Mercedes or a Bentley?
Ive seen worse depreciation, I bought a spare parts Minx from a guy who among other things has V12 7 series BMW $225,000 new here he reckoned his is worth maybe 4k and its mint a beautiful example, most however broke down and suffered electrical disasters under warranty and as used cars were worth little, This guy just says he was lucky, he has another a 6 cylinder 3.5 that at the time he said he was waiting for an increase in scrap prices to unload he had so far failed to even give it away.
Haha I used to take care of my folks’ cars too. Did you ever use the ol’ “Mom, no need to come outside to move the car, if you give me the keys I can do it”?
I was just trying to help you know.
Good picture. It reminds me that I had to beg and plead for my mother to LET me wash the car. Maybe it was just good reverse psycology, but I think that it was more like “I can run through the car wash or my kid can spend half a day making a mess with hoses and buckets and rags that I’ll have to wash later.”
Eventually, I got to the place in high school and college where I would spend a day detailing a car for $50 (that was more money in the late 70s).
As for the Audi, well they scare me.
Glass Plus!! Haven’t seen that since…well, 1990.
I was thinking the same thing and might’ve even made mention of it in the article. I just didn’t know if it was really gone or if I’d just not noticed it.
It’s funny what you recall from your youth…I remember the spray bottle was very distinctive (back then).
I just checked and it seems they still make it. I thought it disappeared around 1993! 🙂
Ha! There’s a Glass Plus wikipedia entry!
It’s very much available here in SoCal – I use it every day.
Lovely! Though I wouldn’t touch any fully loaded audi with an AT with a ten feet pole, no exceptions.
I seriously doubt wether the turbo or the 140 hp, btw. Turbos hat at least 165 hp over here and I’ve never heard of some kind of a “soft turbo” or the like.
It went up to 158 for 1986, when the Quattro debuted, then 162, I believe. The 20-valve head which came in 1991 pushed it to 217.
Here is a very fun read, the original full test of the Typ44 by Car and Driver, featuring a 1984 5000S turbo.
I remember that article well. At the time, I was so impressed that the STE held it’s own.
Only 10.5 seconds 0-60? That’s slower than a 350 Nova don’t ya know?
Its just a tarted up Dasher anyway…..
Neither the 5banger nor the AT did the 5000 any good. Audi did know jack about ATs by the time and the I5’s poor performance in real life output as well as economy was only partly suspended by the superb design of the body, still leaving only a mediocre (or worse) package at the bottom line.
The genius flows through the 1.8-equipped cars with stick, delivering really nice driving experience (0-60 in 12.2s, 110mph top speed) at no less than 32mpg.
20-valve turbo cars were amazing, as were 10-valve quattros. It was the three-speed auto which sucked.
We had one of these when I was a child, too. Gosh I LOVED that car! It was so handsomely attractive, rode nice and firm unlike our usual beautiful Broughams, and felt pretty modern; however, it was a piece of junk! Spoiled everyone in the family on German cars for good.
I was dragooned into washing the parent’s car too, tho nothing so glam. I sweated over a 64 Rambler Classic 660: OHV 196 with three on the tree.
Not all Audi 5000s were unreliable. My IN cousin and her husband bought a new 5000 in 1979 and overall it was an excellent car that she, now in her late 80’s, considers one of the best cars they ever owned (the very best being a 1955 Buick!). Now understand that she and her husband were very mechanically talented and could fix issues that came up. Ironically the 5000 replaced the one true lemon they owned – a Cordoba with Corinthian leather. They also previously bought a new Fox in 76. They loved their Audis.
I’m impressed with all the features on the 84 5000, including heated power seats.
As teenager, I kept my Dad’s 65 Thunderbird immaculate. Constantly washed, waxed, vacuumed that car. And the windows did shine!
In ’09 I bought a 96 Audi A6 Quattro for a work beater. It had 186,000 miles on it then and by the fall of ’12 it had 415,000 with only breakdown maintenance. Not saying it’s anything like it was then, in fact it would horrify most people to drive it, but it does still drive on the rare occasions I’m home anymore.
What I found over the years was that the car is a simple, robust design that has proven quite durable. The sore point is parts availability. Everything must be ordered and take 3-7 days unless you want to spend even more for shipping. Sometimes I think about bringing it back to some semblance of normal but I really don’t have the time anymore and even though I enjoyed my time with it on the back roads a Fox Mustang is calling my name.
Perry, although I wasn’t your age (in the photo), I started washing and waxing my parents cars before I ever got my first car. Meaning before I was old enough to drive. And, when I clean the interior, I remove EVERYTHING! I put everything into a box or bag to be sorted through to determine what is worth saving and what is trash. In the past 20years, I’ve done that a few times for my dad, when he was alive, and also for my mom. In my own experience, a clean car – inside and out – just seems to run better. And, it brings out a sense of pride in an older vehicle.
Brings back memories of working at the Audi dealership around 1987. I loved the way the Audi 5000 looked. Especially the wagon. Talk about a car that looked about 10 years ahead of it’s time. I previously worked for Volkswagen and it looked like a full size Luxury Jetta. The interior looked fantastic and very high quality. What a shame the car did not live up to it’s looks and driving quality. I have forgotten much of what went wrong with these cars, but I remember at least half of the customers walking up to the parts counter were buying the Audi only steering fluid. And the mechanics list. Steering rack. Sunroof cassette. Accumulator. Window regulator. AC programmer. Seat switches. Brake/shifter interlock kit. And on and on. Finally got to the point the tech would walk up and just say,”Give me the shit”. And I knew what to pile up on the counter. And most of the time the car was still under warranty. What a shame, I always admired the car, but it just was nothing but problems.
It’s also a mystery why so much went wrong with these cars. There had to have been some sort of cost-cutting regime in place at Audi at the time. Other than the high-pressure hydraulic system, none of the other things which went wrong with the car were related to new technology. And it wasn’t just one or five common points of failure. It was seemingly everything. My dad’s had one bad seat switch, too, and probably something wrong with the steering, also, as my mom had a very hard time turning the wheel. It was a very long time ago, though, as my dad owned his from ’88-’92.
God, what a beautiful, stunningly modern car it was.
It’s also a mystery why so much went wrong with these cars….none of the other things which went wrong with the car were related to new technology. And it wasn’t just one or five common points of failure. It was seemingly everything.
Remember the Audi 100LS of the early 70s? No fancy high tech content at all, yet everything gave trouble: engine, cooling, electrics, just about everything, often. I’ve heard horror stories of 100s that broke down on their way home from the showroom, and a rumor that Audi quit making parts for them to intentionally get them off the road so people would quit talking about them. Don’t know about those last couple, but I do know the last early 70s Audi I saw, which was a Super 90, was in 81.
for what it’s worth, I just checked classiccars.com for any 69-75 Audi, which would cover both the 100 LS and Super 90, and, in all of the US there are none on offer.
The 5000 looked big and substantial but underneath was just a stretched Dasher as Carmine mentioned. It had the same lightweight construction that you saw on the Fox, Dasher and Rabbit.
That was good and bad. On my Scirocco it was great but the 5000 lacked the heft you would expect from something so big. It wasn’t robustly made. The power sunroof motors sounded old and tired after a year. The 190e felt twice as solid.
A tell tale sign that the bubble 5000 started off as a narrower car was the outward tilting of the steering column. It was like a Ford Fiesta which I’ve also owned. Another of course was that narrow track.
Maybe Carmine said “It’s just a tarted up Dasher” in the same tongue-in-cheek way that I did about the Seville. Because if he didn’t, he’s wrong, as you are. Having just recently read a book (in German) by Audi’s development engineer, I can assure that the Audi 100s (C3 as well as the C2 and C1) were not “a stretched Dasher” (Passat), but were designed from the ground up on their own unique platform. Undoubtedly, all Audis of the time shared certain engineering principles, as well as power trains, but that’s where the commonality ends.
I was kidding with the line about the stretched Passat.
What I’m not kidding about though (and I owned one) was that the C3 felt like a freshened C2, not an all-new car. The claim of all-new or carryover platform is pretty much left up to the discretion of the maker and in the case of the futuristic C3 no one at VAG would want to say anything other than all-new.
While the upper body was certainly new, underneath we find nearly identical wheelbase, front and rear track, rear suspension (FWD), front suspension, engines and transmissions. And if it really was all-new why in the world would they have had that off-kilter steering column and the too close pedals?!
The wheelbase and track dimensions were way too short for the big new body. Note how much better these areas were handled on the Taurus which was obviously all-new. More tell tale signs of a carryover.
Then there were the dynamic issues. The steering wheel always shook and the brake dive was phenomenal. The car felt old, especially compared to something like the Taurus. It felt ancient compared to the 190E.
Rounding out the characteristics that made the C3 the most disappointing car I’ve ever owned was the flimsy construction. It wasn’t built any differently than a B2. A gentle 5-7 mph tap to the corner of my bumper rearranged the entire front clip.
I do find it amusing to read negative comments about the Seville’s relatively simple architecture and rear suspension and then, from the same people, praise about the C3. That solid rear axle on my car was basically a metal stick. At least the one on the Seville was beefy and powered by a drive shaft. It could contribute something to the drive whereas the one on the C3 was just along for the ride. It was like driving a Rabbit pickup truck.
The beauty here was only skin deep. Talk about trying to fool people.
A fellow crewmember on the CG Cutter I was on showed up with one of these back in 91 or so…..
I knew of them from reading Car and Driver cover to cover, as I liked to do in those days. I recall how they marveled at the aerodynamic styling and raved at the flush side window glass.
The thing that turned me off was the location of the battery. Directly underneath the passenger side rear seat cushion. When you removed the bottom seat cushion, you could make out quite clearly the indentation from the battery in the seat foam. I thought to myself, who does this?
I completely forgot about this, you’re right. Although, I don’t think it’s a bad location for such a simple component. It doesn’t intrude on trunk space, and with the iron-block five slung out way ahead of the front wheels, any reduction in weight up front was welcome.
The depreciation on these worked in my favor. I bought a mint three year old ’86 5-speed for $6,000 in my mid 20s.
On a cold, rainy New Year’s eve I had to brake hard at 15 mph on a freeway offramp. It was foggy so no one was going fast. The front wheels locked, the car slid and the corner of the bumper hit the guard rail ever so gently. The next morning I noticed all the panel gaps up front had changed ;-(
You are right about the placement of the engine, you could feel that in every turn. The skinny tires and narrow track didn’t help. I never thought the track was that narrow until I saw the new 100 models. Then I was glad I got rid of my car. Actually I was glad before that. Despite being a great value it wasn’t very nice to drive.
The gearing was so damn low, I guess to make the car feel peppier. 1st gear was good for half way through the intersection.
The seats were great. Mine had that super dense velour and it was awesome. The quality issue I hated most was the belt molding right below the B-pillar. The ends curled up on mine like on every other 5000 I saw. It was a long time ago but if I remember correctly those were made out of aluminum and you could get replacements out of stainless that didn’t curl.
I drove an ’84 Turbo once and you are right about the worst part being the 3-speed auto. The electric engine fan was super loud and on all the time. That gave me a negative impression.
Around the same time I drove a Mercedes 190e for the first time. Night and day. Although they were about the same price new a three year old 190 was about twice the price and I couldn’t afford one. Looking now.
I washed both parent’s cars every other week at least. One was a 72 Buick Estate Wagon and the other a 76 Bonneville. Otherwise I would have not gotten an allowance.
Mommy Dearest. Love it! When a 5000 worked, it sure worked well, but when things started to go, they went in a big bad way. Lots of cool 80s tech, and a 21.5 gallon fuel tank.