Blog : Nostalgia – you can’t beat it

Wandering through the amazing car park for this year’s Hagerty Insurance Festival of The Unexceptional was an emotional experience for me. Aside from the odd modern (or ancient) interloper, the vehicles on show were the perfect vessel for time travelling back and recreating my younger self.

Sad as it is for me to admit, I’ve lived my life by cars. From my formative years, collecting Matchbox 1-75 Series cars, via the holidays spent on the back seat of my dad’s Cortina staring out at the other cars in the fast lane, to the cars I’ve owned and driven over the years, this is how I measure the passing of time.

And for an enthusiast like me, this is why the Festival of The Unexceptional is so special. Here, on one field, I’m taken back to various stages in my life in a way that very few other nostalgia trips can take me. Listening to old music charts might help me cast my mind back briefly, as does old TV or film, as long as it’s not something that’s repeated too many times. But because I live my life by cars, these old motors are still my most potent nostalgia trigger.

What I did notice – and didn’t voice at the time – is that in my life, I’ve owned far too many examples of the cars on display at the Festival. One day I’ll complete the spreadsheet I’m compiling of cars I’ve owned, and I might even amuse myself by telling the more interesting back stories attached to them. I suspect, if I totted up them all, and added up the money, time, breakdowns and resources I’ve lost on all of those cars during my life, and used them to buy (shall we say) sensible motors, I’d probably be driving around in a Ferrari 328 or some such by now.

Regrets? I’ve (not) had a few…

However, I didn’t and I don’t. And you know what, I have no regrets (must keep telling myself that). The strongest pang of nostalgia at the Festival was supplied by this wonderful Audi 80 CD 5S. Younger readers might not be able to relate to this, but there once was a time when Audis weren’t associated with the more, um, assertive of drivers on the road. They were clever cars bought by the thoughtful who enjoyed well-engineered, left-field choices. My sort of car, then.

And back in 1991, I owned a green Audi 80 CD 5S just like this one. I’d bought it to end the misery of a year’s worth of 1984 Austin Maestro Vanden Plas ownership, and pretty much lost my shirt in the process in going from what was actually quite a low-mileage version of a car that was then still in production, to a ratty, smelly, and really rather tired car that wore every one of its 10 years on its sleeve.

But you know what? I loved that Audi. It wasn’t my first – I’d had a T-reg 100 GL 5E a couple of years earlier – but it cemented a lasting love affair with five-cylinder Audis that lives on with me to this day. Mine was a three-speed auto, but that didn’t matter, because it still felt like a rocketship after that dismal R-Series-powered Maestro. Most importantly, it had that all-important aftermarket graphic equaliser in the centre console, rear seatbelt and head rests, four electric windows and a manual sunroof.

  • Read the Audi 80 CD road test on Honest John Classics 

I definitely shouldn’t have sold this one!

Beyond that, it looked good in metallic green with contrasting brown velour interior, and driving it made me feel good. I drove all over the North West in it and, in the six months I had it, it never let me down. In the end, I tired of owning an older car, though, and ended up trading it in for a 1987 D-registered Audi 80 CL (which I soon dressed up to look like an 80 Sport), and missed that five-cylinder thrum from the moment I left the showroom.

Seeing this Audi 80 CD 5S at the Festival of The Unexceptional brought all of these memories flooding back, and more. I regretted selling it back then, and pretty much as soon as I had the wherewithal, I wanted to find another with which to recreate my misspent youth with VNE 765X. As it is, that car appears to have been scrapped in 1994, and the chances of finding another have been non-existent for many a year.

I begged Audi to sell me the example they have in the heritage fleet (and which I tested for Honest John Classics back in 2013), but to no avail. And since then, I’ve never seen another. Until yesterday… You might think this emotion over such an inoffensive car is a bit over the top, but as I said, nostalgia is a big deal for me, and this was one hell of a trigger.

I can’t be the only one who has such powerful feelings when they see an old car like this. Can I?

Keith Adams


  1. You’re definitely not the only one Keith! I feel the same every time I see a Peugeot 205 diesel! Was my first car and whenever I see one, it takes me back to a slower and more straightforward period of my life. Not exactly what you’d call quick and bits of trim had a habit of falling off, but very reliable mechanically and you could drive it flat out all day without it protesting either. Faultless starting and cold running too, unlike plenty of friends trying to get their petrol bangers to fire up and not stall constantly in winter!

  2. More or less identical to the car my maths teacher and his wife bought in 1982. I’d sooner look at some nearly forgotten car of this era than a more obvious classic like Golf GTi as they’re so obvious.
    The Festival of the Unexceptional proves one thing, a Fiat Strada and a Talbot Avenger has owners that care about cars that weren’t liked by car magazines at the time, the Fiat in particular was a rotbox and the Talbot wasn’t much better, but someone takes the time to look after such unfashionable cars.

  3. I still wouldn’t say no to certain old Triumphs for the same reason. My Dad had an Innsbruck PI, I later began my motoring ownership with a Toledo 1500.

  4. No you are not Keith. I love what some called miserable motors. Lancia Betas, Avengers, Alpines, Hunters all cars that I actually go mad at when I see them. My Uncle had a Fiat Supermiafiori – absolute lovely car to sit in with seats that felt like a 70’s front room, but was a complete rot box and so many electrical probs too boot that people avoided them.

    • These are all practical classics, all will happily cruise all day on the motorway, some have five speed gearboxes to make long journeys more bearable, and better equipped ones will have cloth seats, a radio, clock and a lighter. I’d think a five speed 1982 Talbot Alpine would be a more realistic and less old fashioned car to drive than a 1962 Austin Cambridge.

  5. The piece made me think about the first cars I had any connection with…. I learned in a Hillman Avenger, and a few still seem to be around, but the first cars I actually owned (mid 1970s) are all models which have disappeared.

    Viva HC – primitive and basic, but lasted for 2 years without problems
    Saab 99 (2 at various times) – one was ok, the other still the worst car I’ve ever owned
    Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1 1800 – excellent; the Mk1 Focus of its day
    Vauxhall Firenza 1800 – a dog
    Opel Manta (2 at various times) – great; I think I could still live with one of those today.

  6. Nice 1986 Audi 80 GL with only 75,000 miles and 3 owners for £2500:

    Sheddy 1989 Audi 100 Avant for £1500:

    I expected the VW/Audi “scene tax” to be a lot higher on cars like this. That Audi 80 in the first link is half the price of a decent late-model Cortina, and much rarer and more interesting.

    I really like the 100 Avant in the second link, and definitely think the values of these (in nice condition with sensible miles) will go up in future.

  7. A nice article , and one which rings bells for so many of us. Sadly, my nostalgia goes back as far as Series Morris 8s, and in particular also a 1934 Wolseley Hornet, not to mention a 1931 Morgan 3 wheeler ! ( Matchless, sidevalve, water-cooled )

  8. It must be a miracle to see three Fiat Mirafioris and a Strada together, as these aren’t the sporting models people normally save, but the mainstream ones. The Strada in particular had serious rust problems in its early years and many had to be scrapped prematurely as the rust was so bad. However, it was a distinctive design, the car drove well and was quite cheap to run, so someone must have decided to save a Strada.

    • And a great car to drive to boot! I had a Burago model back in the day and loved it, while my neighbour had one but unfortunately the tin rot took it. Shame people have not taken this to heart, as under the extraordinary shape is a rather good car, which in Lancia Delta mode was extremely highly regarded.

      I also wonder how many Regattas and Rimtos are left?

  9. I owned a 1982 Audi 80GL, exactly the same shade of metallic green but with a green velour interior and green dashboard! Outstanding structural build (admittedly, the electrics were nothing special..), comfortable and refined. A car of understated quality which served me well for three years before its untimely demise during an overtaking fracas in combat with an Austin Montego and HGV! Needless to say, I was grateful Audi had paid so much attention to the build integrity. I always hankered after the 5 cylinder CD, though this ambition was sadly never realised. Audi still build superbly engineered cars – I only wish some of their owners drove them with as much care as they are put together…

    • My maths teacher bought a 1982 Audi 80 GL similar to the one in the photograph. Compared with the Cortina 1.6 he had before, this was a much nicer car with front electric windows and central locking( not available on the Cortina) and seemed to be hewn from granite. He never went back to Ford and always bought Audis as he reckoned no British car could match them for quality and reliability.

  10. I also share your sentiments Keith, about such cars triggering memories of those various stages in your life. I remember my old Boss (a Company Director)had an early 80’s Audi 80 similar to this one – his was in a dark blue metallic. In those days I regarded it as a quality good looking car… aspirational. He later replaced with another A80, a 1987 model. My Dad also owned two A80’s… a 1987, then 1989 saloons.

    Of course in those days there were less Audi’s & Bimmers on our roads so they felt more special, even unique?

    • Audi’s 80 was considered the entry level car for owning a premium branded German car in the early 80s, and this wasn’t like owning a 1.3 Capri, for example, as the 1.6 on the 80 was a refined and fairly powerful unit, and some versions had fuel injection. BMW didn’t really take off over here until the launch of the second generation 3 series, and Mercedes became more affordable and hence more common when they launched the 190 in 1983.

  11. Reminds me of my Dads old 1982 Audi 100 C2, 21 years in his ownership, loved the sound of its five cylinder engine as a child, haven’t seen another example for years, it was replaced by a 1988 Jaguar Sovereign 3.6 another great example of the so called unexceptional with an arguably even nicer engine note.

  12. Rare to see an Audi 80 of this shape even at shows. In the 11 year ownership of my ‘82 Audi 80 (a 1.6 CL) I’ve only seen a handful of others. I was hoping to take mine to the FOU this year, but a date clash with the family holiday meant I couldn’t, Shame as I’d really have liked to see the 5cyl above in the metal! 11 years is by far the longest I’ve owned any car and I think the reason it still has a place in my garage is down to the various qualities already mentioned in the other comments above; it’s build quality and smooth engine probably being the top two for me. The only downside is parts availability, Audi don’t support their older models in the same way BMW and Mercedes seem to. As a result I’ve relied heavily on scrap cars to keep mine going and looking presentable. Hence it now features the interior of a CD model (and the alloys and front chin spoiler). Anyway, great to see one of these featured in an article on here.

    • I’d imagine getting parts for the five cylinder models would be difficult, but wouldn’t there be a lot of crossover on four cylinder cars with Volkswagen. Unlike BMW and Mercedes, they do share a lot of parts with other cars.
      Also the five cylinder engine, completely unique when it was launched in 1980 or thereabouts. It gave Audis the economy of a four, with the power and refinement of a six cylinder.

  13. In the early model life of this Audi 80 a couple of hundred pre production examples got in the hands of Audi employees and later onto the used car market.
    All those cars are painted in this greenish silver, albeit slightly more yellowish and differ in many details from later production examples. They have door handles and many other parts like alternators from the contemporary Audi 100 and allen screws are used on all fastenings. The corrosion protection also is much better than in later cars.
    These vehicles are much sought after today but give a lot of trouble when spare parts are needed.

  14. The second generation Audi 80, a completely understated car whose fairly conservative styling belied what was in five cylinder form a powerful motorway cruiser that could completely outrun a two litre Cortina. Even the cheaper 1.6 models went well and if you had a bit more money, or an understanding fleet manager, were a more desirable alternative to a Cortina or Cavalier.

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