Wednesday, December 16, 2009

1978 Audi 5000 - A 93,000 Mile Survivor

When was the last time you saw one of these in this condition? When was the last time you saw one at all?

For all intents and purposes, this was the car that put Audi on the map, at least in the US.

Audi had been selling the 100LS in this country. It was a car with the style and price tag of a Mercedes, but with none of Mercedes reliability. After some initial decent sales numbers, stories of fried brakes, bad electronics, fuel delivery problems and more had caused sales to dwindle to next to nothing. Audi needed a homerun and they hit it with the 5000.

Audi introduced its 5 cylinder engine in this car. They advertised it as more powerful than a 4 cylinder, but more fuel efficient than a 6 cylinder engine. 50 MPH came in 9.8 seconds in an automatic equipped car, 8.5 with a manual transmission. (Remember, back in 1978, the US had a 55 MPH national speed limit. - Not wanting to encourage law breaking, many manufacturers quoted 0 - 50 times instead of 0 - 60. It also looked more impressive. 9.8 looks better than the 10-point-something it probably took to get to 60.) Fuel economy was in the 20 MPG range.

Take a look at the dashboard of this car. Have you ever seen a car with more vents? Audi was well aware that European cars, all European cars, had the well deserved reputation of having useless air conditioning and ventilation systems. Audi made a big deal of their new air conditioning and ventilation system. It was better than anything found in an Audi before, but still not as good as the air conditioning and ventilation systems found on just about any American car, expensive or cheap. The row of vents looked cool, though (pun intended).

The 5000 was a better car than a 100LS, but it was still not trouble free. Electrical problems were common and the automatic transmissions usually failed at some point.

The car being offered on eBay is an amazing survivor. Audis, like all 1970s cars, rusted horribly. This car appears to be rust free. The car appears to be completely original. There are a few parking lot dings, some dirt in the engine bay, things you'd expect to find on an unrestored 93,000 mile car. Nothing appears replaced or refurbished. Of interest is the manual windows. I've never seen a 5000 with those before. This car may have been special ordered or it may have been a price leader on an Audi dealer's lot.

The first generation 5000 is not a sought after car. Everything that came after it was progressively better. Still, this is a cool old car, one not often seen these days, and a big piece of Audi's history in the US.

Located in Sunnyvale, CA, click here to see the eBay listing for this car.

4 comments:

Max Power said...

Wow...you're right, I haven't seen one, especially with the early years round sealed beam headlights, in years. And when they were introduced in 1978 and afterwards, they were all over the place. Funny you should mention the electrical gremlins since I have never seen one that was older than five years without having dim and barely functioning taillights.

Richard said...

Interesting find, albeit, not an exciting car, rare as hens teeth. The seller must have a collection of these, as I nearly purchased an Audi 5000, same condition, same seller, similar millage, just a different interior (Brown half leather, and it even came with a complete newer spare set). He emailed to tell me he sold the car for just $500, which was a steal for someone (how many cars can you buy with $500 that have less that 100K on the clock and like new interior? Maybe a Ford Tempo?). If I hadn't just purchased my 85 RX7, I would be all over this.

Matt Cotton said...

Mine was a beautiful bronze color with bronze velour interior. (Click on my name to link to a photo) If I recall, it cost about $10,000. It was a very classy looking car, but, I agree, it was slow. Once, pulling out of the toll plaza on the Maine Turnpike, I floored it and was overtaken by an 18 wheeler - I was mortified! I replaced the engine TWICE, once in 85 and again in 86, at about $1500 each time. Around 1987, the dealer installed a shift lock, so that you had to press on the brake before shifting out of certain gears. I suppose it was the worlds first, and it made a very loud "clunk" each time you pressed on the brake, which you had to do again and again to get it to release the shifter, it was a crap job. A year later, I wanted to trade it in for a 1988 Renault Medallion, coincidentally, another $10,000 car and absolutely NO ONE would buy it. The Audi dealer was horribly unsympathetic, downright snooty and hostile, in fact and, regardless of who was right or wrong in that whole unintended acceleration scandal, I would, to this day, never consider buying or recommending an Audi to anyone ever again.

Anonymous said...

I had a 1978 Audi 5000, yellow with leather interior that I bought for college in 1986. I loved it but it was a nightmare in terms of the engine, transmission, A/C, electrical system, and rust. Also the dashboard cracked and I had to buy a custom fit cover (it was very tacky!) It is almost 2012 and I would buy this model today to work on if I could.. it was a beauty if nothing else! (Ironically my father, who complained about the car without end, went out and bought an Audi 100 in 1992!)

And yes the gear shift addition was noisy and cheap!