Our Cars : Keith’s Audi 80 – two years and counting

It popped up on my social media feed that I’ve owned this car for two years now! Anyone who knows me will tell you that I rarely keep cars very long but, when I do, it’s because they’re really grown on me – or they’re a tough sell. This particular Audi 80 came my way when its previous owner, David Robertshaw, got in touch saying he needed to move it on.

I’m so glad he did because this little Audi’s been a little bit of a lifeline for me over the past two years, especially during the pandemic. It’s allowed me to reconnect with my classic car mojo after a succession of unreliable Citroëns, while being an absolute joy to work on. It’s been my companion when I’ve been sad, it’s kept my hands busy when we’ve been locked down and – just like I did on my first Audi 80 back in the early 1990s – it’s been fun fixing and upgrading,

Spending time in this car has had me thinking a lot. For one, this high-mileage example doesn’t have a single matching panel in terms of colour, and there’s more rust on it than I’d like, but it looks good from ten feet, I don’t mind jumping in it and parking it anywhere, and other drivers seem to like it, given that it must be one of the very few Audis out there that gets let out of side roads. Ah, yes, the joys of classic car ownership.

It’s one of those cars that always (and I mean always) have people asking me – it is a five cylinder? No, it’s not. At that point, they shrug dismissively. Ah well, their loss. No, it’s mere 80 CL and develops just 85bhp. It follows my car buying doctrine that, to get the most bang for your bucks, never go for the top model in the range – yes, I’ve missed out on GTis, Turbos and all manner of other cult cars, but I’ve had fun along the way.

This one of three Audis I own and, trust me, I’ve had plenty of stick along the way. Yes, I do use the indicators. No, I don’t tailgate people. And you absolutely never find me not letting someone in. But there is a solid reason for these gentle barbs from friends: Audi drivers really do seem to be the worst on the road.

It wasn’t always this way. Who can forget Audi’s TV ad narrated by Geoffrey Palmer, explaining how the Schmidts, the Muellers and the Reinharts would head for their summer villas by car? The Audi 100-owning Reinharts arrived first thanks to their aerodynamic Audi 100, which at a ‘steady 56mph slips along for 750 miles on a single tank of fuel.’ And summing it, he said, ‘If you want to get to the beach before the Germans, you better buy an Audi 100.’

I reckon sometime between the time of the launch of original A4 and the TT, Audi’s image changed – in the late-1990s when the world’s axis shifted and company car buyers stopped going for Mondeos and Vectras, instead buying premium German. In the 1970s, drivers in a hurry drove Cortinas, in the 1980s, they switched to Cavaliers, in the 1990s they went for BMWs and, since then, the mantle has been passed to Audi…

Which makes this brilliant advert, below, rather poignant. Aired in the aftermath of the launch of the A4, it portrayed an aggressive yuppie in an Audi before concluding that it wasn’t the car for him. The irony is that judging by the number of aggressively-driven Audi A3s and A5s, if this advert was recreated for 2021, this would be exactly the sort of car for him…

Does that make them worthy of all the barbs from my Citroën and Rover-driving friends, though? Of course not! As well as my Audi 80s, I also have a 2002 Audi A3 1.8T Quattro and, looking at that today, it’s a compact and subtly-styled car that just gets on with the job of being a fast hatchback without drawing any attention to itself – just how I like them.

That car really should fit into the era of the aggressive Audi, but it really isn’t. And it costs considerably less to buy than the equivalent Golf GTI does these days. So, I’m not going to let the antics of a few rogue fellow Audi drivers stop me enjoying my cars, even if there are now some British rivals on the fleet vying for my attention.

Instead, I’m going to jump back into my Audi 80, go for a little drive, and celebrate just how good this car has been to me during the pandemic. Money can’t buy that. Here’s to more time in it – I wonder if it’ll last another couple of years? Hope so…

Keith Adams


  1. Sleek and nice design from Claus Luthe who had already committed the NSU Ro80 and VW K70 and would replace Paul Bracq in 1976 leading BMW design till the nineties when the terrible Bangle replaced him.

  2. Yes sorry Keith !

    Luthe made the 50 (became Polo) and the 100 C2 – somehow similar to the 80 B2 but not the 80 B2.

    Giugiaro crafted it, you’re right.

    Luthe who started with the NSU Prinz – well Corvair inspired – and whose Meisterstück was the Ro80 – his BMWs less impressive – was a great and discreet designer however.

  3. Loverly car the 80. Friend of my parents had one before replacing it with the aero 100 which just seemed to keep on going and going. He still had it in the mid nineties before they lost touch.

    The Audi cock car driver tag only occurred after the BMW Banglegate, with many switching alliegance and giving the brand a bad name. Back in the eighties Audis and Saabs were the cars driven by those who wanted to be seen as cool but a bit left field.

  4. This 80 was a nicely understated design, from the days when I could recognise each model. Now I’ve completely lost track of Audi’s model numbering system. Is it an A3, A4, Q5, Q7, etc etc ?

    • In reply to KC, as an avid watcher of Auto Mundial they seem to be reviewing a new Audi almost every week – talk about a confusing range with a ridiculous amount of models filling some niches which must be very tiny. I quite like the look of their electric cars though and they, like Hyundai, must be putting a lot of pressure on Tesla.

  5. We had a blue 80GL 1588cc 5 speed / with econ meter and a change gear light (NOP310X) and a grey 1800cc auto (C212KOL) by that time the boot lid aperture had dropped to bumper height, the front grille slanted, and interior was smarter (with black rather than blue and nicer almost pink illuminated window switches. Both had sunroofs Loved the Blaupunkt stereos with exotic sounding city names – after a couple of very unreliable Citroen’s (a blue GS1220 club -ULB911M and a beige GS Pallas -VLF705S ) these two Audis were fantastic. Audi were really on a roll as the separated more and more from VW, ultimately from shared VAG dealers to new separate dealers

  6. The Audi 80 was a fine car, quite understated and aimed at buyers who could afford something better than a Cortina, but not as in your face as later Audis. Then there was the 100 with its unique five cylinder engine that started to steal sales from six cylinder Rovers.

  7. Of course company car buyers have driven German Cars for a very long time From MK3 onward the Cortina was a predominantly German designed, rebadged Taunus, the Cavalier was an Opel Ascona with a Griffin badge and the Sierra and Mondeo owed far more to Cologne and Merkinich than Dagenham or Dunton. I guess that’s why British Car buyers now like German brands so much – teutonic sensibilities have been stealthily ingrained in us since the early 70s. Sorry to see a supposed serious motoring journalist engaging in silly social stereotyping by the way.

    • @ Paul, the Mark 4 and 5 Cortina used a very nice German V6 on top of the range cars that was praised for its smoothness. Having been in a couple of V6 Cortinas, these were a considerable leap forward from the Pinto engined cars. Not sure if these were built in Germany, but the German input made a difference, same as the German built Mark 2 Granada was regarded as a reliable, well made car, even if some people still considered it to be British until well into the car’s life.

      • The Essex 2.5 and 3.0 V6 were good engines and remembrement the 3100 Capri RS. Importing Cologne V6 while Granada and Capri still produced with the Essex was probably à question of squeezing under bonnet

    • What a load of codswallop! The Mk4 and 5 Cortinas were development of the Mk3 which was a development of the Mk2 and Mk1. Before the Mk3, Taunus were a fwd car but cost more to produce than the Mk2 Cortina. As Ford in Europe was losing money, the decision was forced by Detriot to use RWD, and to keep costs down the Mk2 was used as a basis for developing the new model, along with the newly US designed Pinto. The design of the car was a joint project, but with changes in body style as they still sold in some markets against each other. The Mk4 and Mk5 were based on the Taunus as it did not have the coke body styling of the Mk3, and made it easier to update, with the design done at both Dunton and Cologne. There is also a common misconception regarding the 2.3 V6. Yes it was a smooth unit but didn’t have much more grunt than the 2.0 pinto, was more fuel inefficient and was rather fragile, compared to the pinto or the larger Cologne 2.8. The pinto may have been a rough unit, but look after it and it could do some serious miles, with some reportedly doing well over 300k miles.

      • Ford of Germany and Ford of Britain’s first common design was the Escort of 1968, then the Capri. It was clear to Ford, whose presence in many continental European markets was quite small, that they needed to homogenise their designs and engines to save money. Also this was another way of circumventing the troublesome British unions, who staged a very damaging strike in 1971. When Ford had another long British strike in 1978, they simply imported more cars from Belgium and Germany to beat the strike as there was no difference in designs by then.
        As regards the Pinto engine, I wouldn’t say it was particularly rough in the Cortina, try being in a Chrysler Alpine at idle or a Morris Marina with a 1.8 B engine on long journeys, but not in the same league as the Opel CIH engines used in the original Cavalier. Yet it was a reliable, easy to maintain engine and no wonder taxi drivers mostly chose Cortinas in the seventies.

      • The 2.3V6 as fitted to Cortinas, early Sierras, and Granada made 108bhp; but was heavier than the 98 bhp 2.0 Pinto, and more expensive to fuel and service. The problem was that bizarrely, there were only two intake ports for each bank of 3 cylinders. When Ford redesigned the heads and manifolds to give each bank three ports, power rose to 114bhp; refinement and fuel economy also improved.
        Vauxhall had a similar problem with the underwhelming 115bhp 2.5 carburettor six in the Viceroy, which was fixed by offering the 136bhp injected version used in the Senator, just before dropping the Viceroy. The FE Ventora and Austin 3-litre were left to languish with under-developed engines.

        • The 2.3 was also a pain to fit, with a larger wooden block and a hammer used to squeeze the radiator in. It wasn’t just Dagenham that used this Dagenham screwdriver method, Cologne did too!

        • @ Ken Strachan, the Vauxhall six was an engine that was left to wither away after the Cresta and FD Ventora. It could have benefited from a hike in power for the FE Ventora, but instead became known as a sluggish and thirsty engine that struggled to power the car to 100 mph and sales were minimal. Rather a shame as the car was intended as Vauxhall’s flagship and was well appointed and good looking.

      • If your going to shout codswallop dont talk total s***e – The MK3 Cortina owed absolutely nothing to the MK2 apart from carry over Kent Engines in early versions. it was a clean sheet design that shared its platform and a lot of sheet metal with the 1970 Taunus TC. The MK3 Cortina had some styling tweaks to give it its Coke Bottle window line. The same car was reskinned to create the MK4 in 1976 and this in turn was developed into the 80/MK5. At this stage the Cortina and Taunus were identical.

        • Really! Did you work at Ford? No. My family have worked there since the 1930s. The Cortina Mk3/Taunus TC platform was like a lot of Ford engineering, a development of a previous model. Harley Copp, the head of engineering in the UK at the time lead most of the engineering, and just stretched the original platform and then developed that to produce the new car. Copp was an American who lead and help design the Dinton Technical centre. The actual exterior styling was a range of people (though German Luigi Colani is usually given the credit) including Bunkie Knusden. The Granada was a further development of the same platform.

          You probably also don’t believe that the Maestro/Montego was a development of the Allegro platform either, even though Kevan who worked on it says it was?

          • The suspension of the Mk3/4 Cortinas owed nothing to the previous models. Wishbone front as opposed to Macpherson struts, and coil spring rears instead of leaf springs. Please check your facts.

          • Please read my comments again as I never said it had the same suspension, but a re-engineered platform of the mk1/2, completely different.

  8. Funny you should mention radiators. I knew a Welsh lady with a Capri 2.0 Ghia – quite smart in white, and so was the car. She complained that her engine was making strange noises; we popped the bonnet and found that the radiator securing bolts had come loose, the rad was leaning back against the fan! IIRC a lot of water had been lost and the AA were called out. I think the moral of the story is to look under the bonnet more than once a year…

  9. OTOH the 3.3-6 was super smooth, and had enough torque to climb house walls. Pity they never took about half a ton off the flywheel, and replaced the horrible Zenith carburettor. The FD was also desperately in need of a rear antiroll bar.

    • @ Ken Strachan, the Vauxhall 3.3 was a good engine that made the FD Ventora in the ultimate Q car, most people would say Victor when they saw one, but didn’t reaise this was no Victor 1600 and was a well equipped motorway cruiser that could cruise all day at 100 mph when conditions allowed. Some police forces bought manual Ventoras as they were relatively cheap and made good motorway cars. The automatics, once the fuel guzzling two speeder was replaced by a three speed transmission, were very nice cars to cruise in.

  10. I seek a 1983 Audi 80 like the one in your picture. The one in the picture is in gold. I would prefer it in white with blue interior and automatic. But, Gold and standard would work, too.

  11. I can remember the deputy headmistress at my first secondary school with her own parking place pulling into the car park at the start of the new school year in 1980 in a very nice metallic green Audi 80 GLS, which put the headmaster’s Volkswagen Golf and deputy headmaster’s Mark 2 Escort to shame. Quite a glam figure, though a dragon if you got on the wrong side of her, the Audi complemented Mrs Park’s pearl necklaces and expensive dresses. Having a husband who had a building company probably helped make her look more glam than most of the other female teachers. Mind you, a young female English teacher had an Alfasud Sprint that stood out as well.

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