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Model Year vs. Calendar Year

Joseph Rae asks:

> how you bought an 88 80Q new in 1987???

It's because of filling the pipeline.  Most manufacturers distinguish
model year from calendar year.  Typically, the model year begins in
August or September of calendar_year - 1.  That would explain, for
instance, the silver 2000 TT (MAC) that I saw on the way back from lunch
today, at the end of July in 1999.  I'm not completely convinced that I
must have one, yet, but it looks a LOT more interesting than the photos
had me believe.  It's a VERY sexy roofline, and the way the car's
haunches look from the rear could get me thinking about car payments.  I
will say that it looks completely different in motion than it does on
paper or on the screen.  But anyway...

Since I know that more than a few folks on this list are also interested
in cars *other* than Audis (or perhaps I should say "in addition to
Audis"), the model/calendar year distinction can cause some maddening
confusion with older cars, particularly cars made during the years when
the U.S. was changing smog or bumper laws regularly.  To compound the
confusion, nearly all the European marque histories I've read apparently
don't understand this model/calendar year distinction; they say
something like "and then in 1974, the manufacturer went to big ugly
bumpers and a single carburetor," omitting to mention that this was for
cars produced in September 1974, to meet the upcoming 1975 U.S.
smog/bumper laws.  A casual reader would be led to believe that 1974
model vehicles would have the ugly bumpers and single carburetors, which
is not the case.  I've often wanted to take the responsible parties for
such books, have them hold a wired-up spark plug in one hand, and then
ground them to the chassis while I start the car...

It does cut both ways, though.  While it's almost always possible to
buy, say, a 1988 Audi in September or October of 1987, it has also
occasionally been possible to buy, say, a 1975 *model year* car well
into 1976.  Some smaller manufacturers used this dodge to buy time while
they engineered solutions for the later year's more stringent pollution
control laws; there are apparently some cars in the world that were
built in (dates made up for example) May of 1976, registered when first
sold in August of 1976, but titled as (and subject to the smog laws of)
a 1975 model year.  My dad's lawyer, for example, had such a car; I've
lost track of him, and it was more than 20 years ago so I don't remember
the exact dates, but I remember his explanation of why he bought a brand
new car that was two years old, by model year.  

Audi is now a large enough manufacturer, and U.S. smog/bumper laws have
been comparatively stable (if not necessarily sensible) for long enough,
that this probably won't be an issue.  But to someone collecting British
or Italian sports cars of the late Sixties/early Seventies,
distinguishing model years from calendar years can make a huge
difference in what the car is supposed to have.  And that in turn may
make a difference in whether you can get it to pass smog (and therefore
whether or not you should buy it, or look for another example).

 --Scott Fisher
   1983 Audi Coupe GT
   1974 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce
   1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia GT 1300 Junior