Real World Reviews: Audi 80 1.8S

Darren has been a good friend of mine for as long as I can remember and I’ve been on at him for some time to pen a review of his wonderful old Audi 80. I’m pleased to say he has finally caved in and written the following article for PetrolBlog. It really is a peach of a car and a credit to Darren and his father. If he ever contemplates the ridiculous and puts it up for sale, I’ll be at the front of the queue.

Over to you Darren…

Changing cars on a regular basis is what keeps many petrolheads interested. Take our very own MajorGav as an example. He enjoys sampling one car and moving onto the next when something else he likes pops up. There is of course, nothing wrong with this approach, but spare a thought for those of us who prefer doing the complete opposite.

Audi 80 1.8S side profile

I’ve owned this Type 89 80 1.8S for a little over ten years, and before that, it belonged to my father who bought it brand new back in March 1989, replacing a 1979 Type 85 80 GLS.

Audi 80 1.8S frontI distinctly remember sitting in the back of the black 1.8S with my brother as we pulled out of Mann Egerton in Christchurch, full of excitement at the new family wagon. A lot of this excitement was down to the fact that, at the time at least, with the lights on, it felt like the dash and console lit up like a Christmas tree. Today, it looks very spartan, in a very efficient German way of course. Dad was very selective in his choice of options. Either that, or there weren’t many, which I suspect is more the case. A sunroof, electric rear windows and the three extra dials for oil temp, oil pressure and battery positioned in the console all made their way into the Audi, all for the bargain price of a smudge over £13,000 (I still have the receipt). This meant that they were a rare sight on the roads of the late 80s early 90s, and even more so these days. Although with a fully galvanised body, a well-cared for example should survive intact.

Over the next decade, the 80 was a reliable and faithful friend. Just as happy at commuting in the Christchurch rush hour as it was taking the family on holiday. How the four of us and luggage ever managed to fit in, I’ll never know, but we did.

Audi 80 1.8S BlaupunktAnd then of course, a desire for a new car started to materialise. I had a 2 litre Capri auto at the time and fancied a change myself, so a deal was stuck between the two of us and the 80 remained in the family. I decided fairly quickly that I didn’t want to keep the standard steel wheels, so I bought some Speedlines from a later Coupé and had them refurbished and fitted with some pretty wide (for the car) Goodyear rubber. On standard suspension, it looked a little strange, but general wear and tear dictated replacement of the springs and dampers anyway. I took the plunge and had a set of Boge gas dampers and H&R lowering springs fitted. They’re still fitted to this day, and will no doubt, need replacing sooner rather than later. I suspect that it will retain the springs, but the dampers will be replaced by standard items in an attempt to soften the ride up a tad. The only other change was to replace the Blaupunkt cassette player with a Kenwood CD unit, and latterly, an Alpine version. In a bout of nostalgia, I recently put the old Blaupunkt back in, which had been in my loft since its removal. The sound isn’t great but as I basically only listen to the radio these days, it’s not much of a problem. It does, however, look the part.

So how does a 20 year old Audi drive? Well, apart from the tracking requiring attention, pretty good. Rattles and squeaks are non-existent even though the ride is firm. The seats are from a time when soft and comfy were the name of the game with Germany’s finest velour still looking relatively fresh and un-worn. The un-assisted steering is incredibly heavy at very low speeds, so much so, that I’ll quite happily spend a few extra minutes looking for a larger space if parallel parking, but perfectly weighted once moving. The hydraulically operated clutch is again on the heavy side (according to my wife) but is beautifully smooth in operation helping the car to remain on its original. The gearbox is standard Audi of the time, notchy and long lasting. Don’t rush a change and there’s no problem, and being a decidedly non-sporty version (a mighty 90bhp when new), there really is no need to rush. Contemporary reviews praised the 80 for its handling and I have to say, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I do go for a slightly more sprinted drive than usual of its abilities.

Audi 80 1.8S dialsThere have been a few occasions where it’s let me down (tensioner seized, fuel pump failed and shorted boot harness drained the battery) but generally, it’s been as reliable as it was during its first ten years. Mind you, there’s not much to go wrong. With the 1.8 carb feed engine lifted straight from the VW parts bin, it’s effectively the GTi engine minus the ‘i’ and these things are well known to cover big miles. At 180K it’s just run in nicely. Since the engine is so simple, I carry out the routine work myself, which is a strangely enjoyable exercise, with just the odd rusted in bolt causing a string of colourful language. It’s partly this simplicity that stopped me moving on, with the fear that with a newer car will come increased running costs. But if I’m honest, I don’t think I could move on, at least not just yet. It became part of the family many years ago, and I suspect, would be the cause of great sadness were it ever to go. I still have a few plans to carry out anyway, a new Weber carb, some Ronal R8s to be refurbished and fitted. And of course, there’s the satisfaction of polishing and waxing black paintwork to be factored in.

Audi 80 1.8S 1989I’m more than happy to spend a bit of time and money on what for most is a car at the bottom end of the Bangernomics scale, but, and like all German cars of this period, it was built to last. Audi has galvanised all their cars for the better part of two decades, and I suspect the early ones got a better ‘engineered to last’ treatment rather than a ‘to a cost’ treatment of todays. Look after it, and it’ll never die.

For the last seven or so years, I’ve been fortunate enough to live within walking distance of work, leaving the 80 in a state of semi-retirement, covering only a couple of thousand miles a year. With a relocation on the cards however, that won’t last much longer. The 80 will again be pressed into service on the daily trudge, and I for one am greatly looking forward to spending more time with my old friend.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Darren Leslie
Having an Engineering-esque background, Darren is just as happy looking at technical stuff as telling the whole world that the latest and greatest from all manufacturers is to ‘blingy’ and laden with pointless gadgets. Conservative and practical are the watch words occasionally used. To enforce the point, he is currently forcing his family into using a low spec VW Sharan and has now developed a strange fascination for all things MPV-ish.

3 comments

  1. December 7, 2014
    lejaybo

    really enjoy this read, I too have a Type 89 1.8 with the 3speed auto. The most reliable car I’ve every had

    Reply
    • December 12, 2014
      Darren Leslie

      Hi. Thanks for the comment. I bet the auto makes for leisurely prgress! There’s one or two more posts about the 80, and if that’s not enough, why not submit something yourself!

      Reply
  2. February 21, 2016
    Mark Taylor

    I came across this article quite by accident. I am looking for alternatives to an E30 BMW as they are getting pricey.

    I thought I would google the Audi 80. My reasoning? Many years ago I had a friend with one. It was very reliable and just went on and on. It always looked as good as the day it came out of the factory. He had bought it off his dad.

    His name was Darren.

    Funny old world isn’t it? I have often wondered whether this car still lived within the Leslie family. I am very pleased to see it still does.

    Reply

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