With every other car on our roads now being an Audi, it’s easy to forget that in the late 1970s and 1980s it was a very different story. Audis were expensive, exclusive and a relatively rare sight on UK roads – not least of all because the company’s range was so limited. But even back then Audis were built to exacting standards, with strong mechanicals, a decent level of rustproofing and interiors that wear well, even after massive mileages.
Despite Audis of this era being so much tougher than most of their contemporaries, the survival rate of the 80 and 90 isn’t high, the cars never really capturing the imagination of most classic car enthusiasts. As a result you’ll have to search hard to find the 80 or 90 of your dreams, but you’ll be glad you did. Not only will you have one of the most unusual classics on the road, but you’ll also have one of the most usable.
Which one to buy?
Entry-level cars with the 1.6-litre engine (and also the turbodiesel) are rare, so if you find anything worth buying the chances are it’ll be fitted with a 1.8 or 2.0-litre engine. You’re more likely to stumble across a Coupé (this was based on the 80), this model featuring only the five-cylinder engine in 1921cc or 2144cc forms.
The cars to go for are those with a quattro drivetrain; both the saloon and Coupé were offered with this; without it, the power goes to the front wheels. Next in the pecking order is the 80 CD, with its 115bhp 1921cc five-pot engine, which became a 1994cc unit in 1983. The 90 has a lower profile, but that’s only because it arrived so late; it’s an 80 in all but name. Think of it as a high-spec 80 and you’ll find it just as appealing.
Unlike Mercedes, and to a point BMW, Audi doesn’t look after buyers of its older models. As a result you’ll be doing well to find anything that’s unique to the 80, so don’t rush into buying a project too readily. However, most of the mechanicals are shared with the contemporary Golf and Passat, so service items and used parts are generally easy to come by.
Performance and specs
Engine 2144cc, five-cylinder
Power 134bhp @ 5900rpm
Torque 130lb ft @ 4500rpm
Top speed 120mph
Fuel consumption 28mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1110kg
• Although Audi would adopt galvanising for its bodyshells later on, the B2 didn’t benefit from this so corrosion is a very real possibility. Focus on the sills, wheelarches and door bottoms, along with the boot floor and the front suspension strut towers.
• The 1781cc engine is tough, but after 100,000 miles or so the valve guides wear, leading to oil being burned. The oil pump is another weak spot. It’s worth replacing it every 100,000 miles as a precaution, because if it goes the engine will be trashed. If the car lacks service history so you can’t see how often the oil has been changed, or if the oil looks like it’s been in the sump a while, it’s worth replacing the pump as a matter of course.
• It’s a similar story where the cam belt is concerned; unless there’s proof it’s been replaced within the last 25,000 miles, fit a new one. It’s easy enough to do on a DIY basis.
• The Bosch fuel injection should prove to be largely trouble-free as long as the filters have been changed regularly and it’s been serviced properly.
• Watch out for misbehaving auto chokes on carburetted cars. These can play up leading to high fuel consumption and jerky progress.
• Second-gear synchro can wear out quite quickly, so go up and down the box quickly and see if there’s any baulking, especially when cold. Once the rings have started to wear they won’t deteriorate, so if you can live with it you can save yourself a few quid.
• Gearboxes are meant to be sealed for life but if there’s oil seeping from the casing, a rebuild will be required soon if the transmission isn’t to self-destruct. The first sign of problems will be a very noisy top gear or popping out of fifth altogether, as this is the first ratio to run dry.
1978: The Audi 80 B2 takes over from the B1 (1972-1978), in four-door saloon form – there would be no estate.
1979: The first B2s arrive in the UK and for Europe there’s now a two-door saloon. UK buyers can choose from the 75bhp LS, the 85bhp GLS and the 110bhp GLE; all have front-wheel drive and a 1588cc four-cylinder engine.
1981: All cars get extra kit and the GLE gains a five-speed gearbox. An 80-based Coupé is also introduced, with a 1.9-litre five-cylinder engine. The saloon range is then revised to consist of the CL, GL and CD, the latter two getting a five-speed gearbox while an auto is optional on all models.
1982: A 1.6-litre turbodiesel joins the range, the engine borrowed from the VW Golf.
1983: There’s now a 1781cc engine available, in the 90bhp 80 GL and the 112bhp fuel-injected 80 Sport. The five-cylinder 1994cc 80 quattro joins a revised range which now consists of the 75bhp 1595cc CL, 90bhp 1781cc GL, 115bhp 1994cc CD, 70bhp 1588cc Turbo Diesel, 115bhp 1994cc Coupé GT and the 130bhp 2144cc Coupé Injection.
1984: A facelift sees the five-cylinder cars adopting the 90 tag, the 80 quattro gets a 1781cc engine. All cars get a new grille and tail design plus fresh lighting front and rear.
1985: A 90 quattro arrives, then an all-new 80 and 90 range is introduced in October 1986.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
Predictably, it’s the higher-spec cars that are the most desirable and therefore the most collectible. But you still won’t have to pay that much for a minter – if you can find one. Projects can be picked up for a few hundred pounds, while the best examples might sell for upwards of £3000. £1500-£2000 is the start point for a good condition 80 or 90 today. Relatively low values and an even lower profile mean the 80 and 90 aren’t on the radar of most classic car fans, but the thriving Volkswagen scene has certainly had an impact on the popularity of older Audi models – so if you want an original example then you might want to start looking sooner rather than later
Words: Richard Dredge