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Audi GT Coupes (was re: More Audi Questions)

Eric Cline asks:

Second, can someone
send me some info about the Audi GT coupes?  I understand they came in
AWD and with a turbo 5valve 4 cylinder, but I also here that they had a
lot of problems blowing the heads.  Is there a solution?  Can you mod
them to some decent horsepower levels (like 13-14 second quarter mile

Short answer:

Sure can, they didn't, they didn't, there isn't, and not without
spending a lot of money. :-)

Longer answer (and I hope this isn't too long for some of you on slower

Info: Audi GT Coupes were sold in the US from 1981 through 1987 in
original form (gee, does that make them the ur-Coupe?) and then again in
1990-91 with newer, rounder bodies.  The GT Coupe (sometimes called
both, sometimes only one or the other) was initially Audi's "sporty" car
-- two doors, small chassis, swoopy body, large engine.  Think of it as
a German Mustang and you won't be far wrong.  In 1980, when the cars
were being engineered, remember that the world had just gone through its
second fuel crisis in six years, electronic engine controls were in
their infancy, and fuel economy figures were more crucial to most buyers
than 0-60 and 1/4-mile times.  After all, out here in California we were
paying as much as seventy-five cents per gallon for unleaded gas!  Oh,
the humanity!

Within that context, the Audi GT Coupe was picked by Road & Track
magazine as one of the Ten Best Cars for the Eighties, in the category
of Sports Coupe. (A friend recently gave me the October 1981 Road &
Track, which also road-tests the 1980 Coupe; why, yes, I *do* plan to do
some scans... but haven't yet.)  0-60 was a then-brisk 11.2 seconds for
R&T, or just under 10 seconds for other testers (that was back when R&T
was a full second or more off from all other published sources), but
with a smooth power delivery from the inline 2144cc 5-cylinder.  Top
speed is 111 mph, fuel economy 28 mpg, interior space is identical
(except for a drop in headroom) to the 4000 series on which the car is
based.  And I was surprised to note that the Coupe's trunk size is 14.6
cubic ft., compared to the 4k sedan's 11.something.  In closing, R&T
said that the GT did everything the Scirocco S did in a nicer overall
package; "Is it any wonder we think it's an outstanding car?" 

The US-spec GT Coupe weighed in at 2500 lb, which isn't bad until you
realize that it's only got 100 bhp/112 lb-ft to haul it around.  (Later
in that series, the engine output was increased, up to a high of 130 bhp
in the last cars made.)  In practice, it's a fast car but not a quick
car, meaning you may not be the first across the intersection but it
gets better the faster you go.  The car literally feels more stable at
100 mph than it does at 75 to 80, and it's happy to spend all day up at
those speeds.  

What I like best about my '83 is that, like other Audis of that vintage
that I've driven, it feels light and responsive to the controls, yet it
feels solid and stable on the road.  It doesn't excel at any one thing,
but it does so many things so well that it's still an exceptional car
overall, even 16 years later.

Your other questions, then, in order:

> AWD and with a turbo 5valve 4 cylinder

Nope, never.  The 1.8 A4 is the first 5-valve 4-cylinder in Audi's
production lineup.  (Or anybody's, I believe.)  The '90-91 Coupe came
with a 4-valve 5-cylinder, however, which may be what you're thinking
of.  It was not, however, turbocharged, at least not in the Coupe.  And
only the 90-91 Coupes had AWD.  (The 81-87 Coupe GTs were the *basis* of
the Ur-Quattro, which you've also asked about, and about which there are
others here better qualified than I to answer you.)

>  they had a lot of problems blowing the heads. 

Not that I'm aware of.  As far as I know, the 4v/5c engine is as
reliable and long-lived as any other Audi naturally aspirated
5-cylinder, and no that's not a joke; the inline 5 appears to be a
stout, durable and enjoyable engine at many levels, with hundreds of
thousands of miles readily available with even fair maintenance.

> Can you mod them to some decent horsepower levels (like 13-14 
> second quarter mile traps?).  

Anything is possible given enough money; the question then becomes
whether you can get more bang for less buck elsewhere.  The answer is a
qualified yes -- if all you're measuring is 1/4 mile ETs, there are many
other cars that will give you lower ETs for less money, or less trouble,
than an Audi GT Coupe of any vintage.  Balance and driving pleasure will
be another story, but let's stick to the figures.

High-performance mods to the Audi GT, either in 81-87 guise or in the
later 90-91 cars, suffer from the low production numbers of these
vehicles.  Basically, it costs just as much to build go-fast parts for
these cars as it does to build them for, say, the VW Golf or the Ford
Mustang, but the number of people who might buy them for the GT Coupe
is, oh, about six (you know who you are :-).

And for the record, I would LOVE to be proven wrong on this point. 
Please... somebody prove to me that there's a $200 widget that I can
bolt onto the car that will give me 40% more power.  Please. :-)

Suspension bits are better, because the GT shared its platform with
other Audis, so you can get coilover spring/shock setups, sway bars, and
of course wheels and tires galore.  The earliest of the early GTs
(that'd be 81-84, I believe) use the same bolt pattern and back spacing
as the VW GTI and Scirocco, which means wheel options are nearly
limitless.  They came with 14 x 6 alloys initially, and apparently 16 x
7 is possible without too much modification to the fenders.  But
handling is the car's strong suit to begin with; Road & Track's '81 GT
pulled 0.801g on the skidpad and something like 61.2 mph in the slalom,
figures that -- back then -- were bettered by about five cars in the
road test summary (a Porsche or two, a couple Ferraris, and maybe a
Lamborghini).  Even today, those are respectable figures, and with
nothing but modern sticky tires this can easily be upped 10% or 20%.

Not so with power.  By far the easiest option is to install a
higher-performance 5cyl from another Audi, such as a 5000 Turbo or the
90-91 Coupe in the case of the early Coupe GTs.  The naturally aspirated
4v/5c engine in the '90-91s is rated at 164 bhp.  Or using a 10V (that's
a single-cam, 2 valve per cylinder, 5-cylinder engine) with turbo, which
is even cheaper but may cause problems in California, or other states
that follow our lead regarding smog laws.  (I *think* I could legally
install an engine from a '90 or '91 Audi Coupe in my '83 Audi Coupe, as
long as I got all the smog stuff with it -- as I recall, the California
smog laws let you install a newer engine in an older car *of the same
make and model*.)

The problem there is cost.  Someone on the list recently cited a $4500
price tag for a 20V engine, versus $1600 for a 10V turbo.  In an early
Coupe, you're limited to front-wheel drive (short of some serious
floor-pan welding to add the quattro hardware; at least one lister has
done that), which gives you a practical limit in this chassis of
probably 170-190 bhp.  You won't get a 14-second slip in a 2500 pound
FWD car with 200 bhp; hell, you might not get a 14-second 50-foot time. 
You *might* get mid to low 15s if you tweak the suspension carefully and
learn to cope with unweighting the drive wheels when you mash the
throttle, but then drag racing isn't my forte.  

On the plus side, early Coupes are cheap, really cheap, as in you could
probably skip a couple of monthly payments on your Miata and buy a
decent one outright, leaving you a huge budget for modifications --
money you'd never see again, except in the satisfaction of having a
unique, fast car.  '90-'91 Coupes are more nicely appointed, and seem to
sell in the $8k range (plus or minus 25% or so), and while they're about
3100 lb, they already have the quattro bits in place.  So in theory you
could swap in a 20v turbo engine out of one of the S-series cars, modify
that further with chips/exhaust/etc., and end up with the power/weight
ratio, plus traction, that you're after... for probably not much more
than $20k by the time you're done.

Which poses the question of what *else* you could get for that $20k if
you started somewhere else.  And that, as they say, is purely a matter
of personal taste.

--Scott Fisher