Our affliction for old Audis is colored by rose-tinted glasses, and brought into high-definition clarity with 20-20 hindsight. A 5000S, Ur-S4, or Coupe Quattro? Sure, back in the day they were junk fixable only at the dealer. But today we have the power of the Internet. Compound that with the fact the horrible cars have mostly fallen off the road – or landed in Craigslist backwaters like Olathe, Kansas – and only the nicest examples show up for sale on enthusiast sites like Audifans.com.
Consider this Audi 90, a rare 20V Quattro in Orlando, Florida of all places (click here if and when the ad goes away). It’s a one-owner car, local to the Sunshine State its entire life. Seems a rather oddball choice for a location that hasn’t seen snow since the glaciers receded. The seller makes himself (herself?) out to be an Audi 90 geek, which is probably the type of person you want to deal with when buying a car like this.
Whatever. Knowing I’m not replacing my rusty Mercedes-Benz E320 until next year, and knowing my wife wants a BMW 5 Series as our next fleet addition, I still float the idea:
Me: “Okay, I know you want a 5er, but this is just plain awesome. You never see them this clean.”
Wife: “It’s so NOT awesome…”
Me: “It is! You’re just not seeing it.”
God bless my wife. The woman has an opinion. This is both a blessing and a curse. I love that she cares, but it’s maddening that she cares enough to weigh in, other than an obligatory, “Just do whatever you want.” It’s a subtle line in the sand, made of concrete and rebar. To be fair, she has put up with my car shenanigans for going on 18 years. She has rarely outright said no to a car – a certain hot-rodded Alfa Romeo 164L comes to mind. But she has opinions, and a basic set of ground rules:
- No green.
- She has to like the way the rear end looks.
Still being fair, my wife has been driving our 2004 Toyota Matrix XRS-6 for 11 years, since we bought it new. Sure, she’s also driven our other cars, but Trinity has been her main ride. While neither of us wants to get rid of the trusty Toyota wagon, she wants something different. Specifically, she wants a BMW 5 series. She’d like an E39 (nice cars, plentiful, but most tend to not age well), but could be happy with an E34 (tend to rust, newest ones are 20 years old, and so, so many are green).
Eventually, we’ll move the rusty Benz down the road, and I’ll drive the Toyota when I’m not driving something more interesting in the good-weather months. Which is fine. I like that car, and with six forward gears and a fuel cutout around 8,400 rpm, I generally have fun driving it.
But what I really want – this week, or really just today, like right now – is this old Audi.
The car presents beautifully. The pearlescent paint, which can easily curl up and die in sunnier climes, looks deep and shiny, even on the horizontal surfaces. Sure, there are some dings here and there (so claims the seller), but the car is pushing 25 years old. The two-piece Speedline wheels, apparently free from corrosion, are just drool-worthy.
Inside, the cabin is equally gorgeous. Minus a small bit of wear on the driver’s seat – again, 25 year old interior – it shows just about perfectly. The dashboard and steering wheel are clean, with only the shift knob showing 135,000 miles of use. The door panels look like elbows have never rested upon them. The nets on the backs of the front seats were likely saggy from Ingolstadt. Gray is not at all my favorite interior color. However, the condition combined with the general design from this period in Audi’s history trumps the rather blah hue.
Mechanically, the car looks to be tip-top. In addition to listing out all the maintenance and repairs over the last 15,000 miles, the seller shows images during some of the work – love that pretty new timing belt! Shame we don’t get to see the “bag o’ snakes” one-year-only exhaust header. Included are undercar pictures showing what appears to be a very clean and dry belly.
These cars are pretty easy to work on, and are now well-documented. The problems are known, and most of the really nice examples still roaming around have had their past demons exorcised (future demons TBD). The negotiable $4,300 asking price seems completely reasonable. But that’s about what most of these seems to go for, on the off-chance you find an example this nice. Nobody seems to care at a dollar level much higher than this. Sure, they’re smaller cars, on the order of a BMW E30 3 series, and not as well-known as an Audi Ur-S4/S6. They are also arguably more interesting than an E30, and today certainly more rare than all of the above.
Winter beater? It’s so clean, so maybe? But only with an unlimited account at the local car wash.