Back on the road: the $60 Audi (long)

Tom Nas tnas at
Thu Nov 2 22:58:41 EST 2000

Hi all,

For those of you who care, I thought I'd give an update of the proceedings.

What happened earlier: 1987 Audi 80 1.8 FWD, bought last Saturday as an 
in-between car while I work on the 90q. Owner sold it because the brakes 
were shot, his girlfriend wouldn't drive it anymore. While driving to the 
pickup point, the exhaust broke off at the joint between downpipe and the 
cat. A friend of the owner diagnosed a collapsed engine mount, which had 
caused the engine to land on the subframe, crushing the brake pipe and 
breaking the exhaust. I was offered the car for the price which the local 
scrapyard offered, sight unseen. Having viewed the car in the dark, in a 
rainstorm, from the outside (keys were missing) I decided that it would at 
least yield $60-worth of spares for the 90, maybe even be made roadworthy 

Last Saturday I drove the car home in another downpour. Braking was by 
handbrake only, the 'brake' warning light was flashing all the time. It 
sounded like a Sherman tank, the exhaust ending just below the gear lever. 
With no brakes it seemed a bad idea to drive it around a lot, so I parked 
it and waited for the rain to stop so I could check it out more thoroughly.
On Sunday I spent more than five hours cleaning, vacuuming, polishing and 
waxing the badly abused car. You don't want to know what I came across. 
When putting the best tyres (Firestone M&S) on the front axle, one brake 
pad fell out: down to the metal. An almost-empty brake fluid reservoir 
explained more of the 'no brakes' phenomenon.
Meanwhile, the engine looks to be in the position the manufacturer intended 
it to be in, indeed slightly canted to one side but not more so than 
standard (the guy who diagnosed the engine mount problem didn't know too 
much about Audis). It is however incredibly grubby, covered in oil from a 
bad valve cover gasket.

In went new brake discs and pads, fluid and hey presto- brakes were fine 
(if mushy, but the fluid needs changing). The valve cover bolts were for 
the most part not even hand tight, and the gasket was nothing but crumbs.
The exhaust, a badly-improvised Bosal welded together by an amateur with a 
single muffler instead of the usual two, is nevertheless relatively fresh. 
The downpipe was pretty rusty and missing too much metal to be welded 
straight onto the cat, so we improvised with an offcut, slit so that it 
would slide into both pipes. The welder decided to go on strike after one 
small tack, so the exhaust now barely hangs together though it's a lot 
quieter. When we get the welder fixed, the car seems OK to be put into service!

Meanwhile, I seem to be happy to run around in a beater, as long as I can 
listen to my music. A Sony in-dash CD head unit was installed, along with 
160 W 3-way 6x9s in the rear (hey, the holes were there!) and 180 W 2-way 
4ins in the front. Nice thick speaker cable in between makes for the best 
stereo setup I've had in any car so far, for a modest outlay. As I couldn't 
get the drill in to drill holes in the metal bulkhead to properly install 
the speakers, I decided on hollow-wall plugs to fix the speakers at least 
firmly to the parcel shelf. It seems to have done the trick, as there's 
nice, crisp sound from the rear without any strange noises.

Initial purchase: Dfl 150 ($1 = Dfl 2.50)
Brake discs and pads: Dfl 180
Misc fluids and nuts and bolts: Dfl 50
Stereo: you don't want to know.

My conclusion: if you forego quattro, the type 89s are excellent low-cost 
cars. Values, though generally higher than what I've paid, are modest and 
the simple layout of the 4-cyl engine makes it nice to work on. Power 
output is OK, though the 88 hp 1.8S is preferable to the 75 hp 1.8N which I 
now have (there was also a 75 hp 1.6 4-speed, best avoided). The galvanised 
body means no worries about rust, provided any crash damage is dealt with 
properly. The 4-cylinder engines are very durable. Build quality is 
excellent, the body is pretty rigid and quiet, especially when compared to 
the type 81/85. Fuel economy is vastly improved over previous models by the 
aerodynamic body. Because of these traits, I'd recommend it as the ideal 
low-cost Audi. As a previous experience with a 1.8S shows that 350k km is 
no problem, this engine with 250k km is just starting out.
This opinion is based on European-market cars, as it seems that a lot of 
the US-market FWD 80s were automatics. Also, I'm not sure what the market 
situation is over there and if the higher equipment level weighs the car 
down too much (the European version is 993 kgs, 2190 lbs). Maybe someone 
else can comment?


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