Home » I’m Audi 5000! Cold Start

I’m Audi 5000! Cold Start

Topshot Audi 12 19
ADVERTISEMENT

Yes, today’s Cold Start features yet another Volkswagen group product reversing from a garage in a quintessential 80s movie!

My wife wanted to watch E.T. with the kids, and as the movie began I was once again struck by how poorly we treated something that didn’t deserve to be driven from the Earth. What did it do that was so wrong (or wrong at all) that merited banishment from the planet?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Wait – you thought I was talking about the odd-looking, eponymous creature in the film? No, I was referring to the 1981 Audi 5000S.

Audi 5000 12 19
Hagerty (auction)

The 5000 was the name the second-generation Audi 100 was given for the US model introduced for 1978. If you lived in Washington, D.C. like I did back then, you’d remember that this was essentially (but definitely not literally) the German version of an Oldsmobile Cutlass for attorneys and doctors. If you were a relatively affluent household but couldn’t step up to the absurdly expensive W123 Mercedes and wanted a bigger can than an E21 BMW 3 series, then the big Audi sedan was the ideal choice.

Audi 5000 12 19a
Hagerty (auction)

The 5000 was also well-cast as the car a relatively well-off California family would own in the early eighties and a pre-licensed teenager like myself would attempt to back out of the garage. The Audi wasn’t rocket fast, but it drove like the big VW Golf that it kind of was. The third-generation model was a pioneer in aerodynamic body design. And at the time, reviews of this five-cylinder powered sedan (like this one below from greatest individual on the face of the earth, John Davis) were good:

ADVERTISEMENT

 

Nobody knew the shitstorm that was coming this car’s way. In 1986, the television show 60 Minutes aired a segment called “Out Of Control” which showed how Audi 5000 sedans with automatic transmissions could accelerate out of control, hence the title. Owners that had experienced tragic self-acceleration accidents told stories jamming their feet on the brakes to no avail. The show even presented footage of an Audi implausibly accelerating with the driver’s foot on the brake. Audi sales went into a free-fall, and used values dropped like a stone.Audi 60 Minutes 12

Screenshot- CBSOf course, none if this turned out to be true. The NHTSA found no evidence of anything other than drivers accidentally hitting the gas instead of the brake (which were relatively close together compared to many domestic vehicles), and that car in the 60 Minutes video that was shown surging out of control had been doctored. Big surprise: a 3000 pound car with a whopping 100 horsepower cannot overpower its brakes. At this point, despite Audi being exonerated, the damage was done. Also not helpful: parent company Volkswagen (correctly) blamed drivers from the beginning and came off as a callous corporation for doing so.

Looking at that scene in E.T., I realized that I haven’t seen one of these 1978-83 models on the road in thirty years; it really is a ghost car that has evaporated from the face of the Earth. Audi sales rebounded, but it took several decades. It’s a shame, since the 5000 in both boxy and later aero-bodied form was a rather nice car. At least with the unintended acceleration situation, VW was able to present the facts and not be known as an “evil” car company.

ADVERTISEMENT

A few decades later, Volkswagen would not be so lucky.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
46 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
3 months ago

I bought a used ’82 5000T (maybe an ’83, can’t remember), not long after the 60 minutes trash job and the prices collapsed. Man I loved that thing. Gold exterior and tan leather inside. Probably the most comfortable seats I’ve ever owned, and great ride quality.

Even took it up Pikes Peak and the engine handled the thinning air pretty well. Only issue on that trip was the vacuum operated door locks that wouldn’t unlock due to the altitude. Took a while to get back in, even bent the key.

But after that it just ran like a top when we took some smooth backroads late at night at around 85mph heading home. That was a glorious ride.

Unfortunately after a few years the maintenance costs were getting too high and too regular so I sold it. Wish I had kept it but didn’t have the resources to maintain it.

MiniDave
MiniDave
3 months ago

I started working at an Audi dealership in ’72, when the new 5000 came out in ’78 I bought one, 4 speed manual, blue metallic with the blue cloth interior – it was a fantastic road and mountain car, but I did have a couple of issues to get sorted under warranty. Within 3K miles they replaced the valve stem seals cause it was sucking oil, the front shocks had started leaking and the fuel sender was also leaking – gas of course. However once these were sorted I drove it another 90K before selling it. I wish I’d kept it…..

Since then I’ve owned a number of Audis (5000 turbo, sedan, coupe, wagon, 2004 Allroad) and we now have a 2014 Allroad. I think we’ll probably always have an Audi of some stripe……

Last edited 3 months ago by MiniDave
StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

My uncle worked in West Texas and traveled all over it for his work. Lots of long drives on empty highways. He would buy these dirt cheap after the 60 Minutes hack job, then drive them into the ground.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Brilliant!

Tbird
Tbird
3 months ago

Neighbor had a white Gen2 (85?) growing up, white with blue interior. So clean, tidy and modern looking.

Tbird
Tbird
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

It had the composite lamps and slab sides with wide black moulding.

RataTejas
RataTejas
3 months ago

Primary motivator for brake interlock on auto transmissions.

Won’t someone think of the children!

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
3 months ago

The 5000 is a beautiful sedan. It’s a shame it got so trashed by the media. I had my own unintended acceleration event in an 87 Cherokee automatic, wearing huge snow boots. It is indeed scary but you have to accept when you are the problem.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

Acceleration
Unintended
Due to
Incompetence
Audi.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
3 months ago

I saw the aftermath of one of these incidents. Thankfully, I think only the driver’s ego was bruised. The car was exiting a parking lot and went on a wild, serpentine journey. It ended across the street when the front wheels went off the edge of a parking lot at the top of a steep embankment.

To be fair, depending on how they’re wired to handle a surprise like this, it’s understandable that some people double down on the gas. I once got punted by someone who failed to yield in a traffic circle–no warning, just a thud and I was spinning and rocketing into the grassy middle, in the dark. The jostling must have moved my foot to the gas, and for a few seconds I was pushing harder until I snapped out of it and went for the actual brake.

Maymar
Maymar
3 months ago

In reality being slightly less fantastic than fiction, the owners of the actual house seem to have been Buick people (see the Century in 2015 and Rendezvous in 2011).

https://www.google.com/maps/@34.2706621,-118.287875,3a,75y,49.31h,84.49t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s_je6XN0dYxu-5CviWH5VZQ!2e0!5s20150201T000000!7i13312!8i6656?entry=ttu

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
3 months ago
Reply to  Maymar

That’s a $1M+ home. As someone who lives near rich people, I’d guess those cars belong to the cleaners, home health aids, etc.

Maymar
Maymar
3 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Eh, what does $1m+ home even mean anymore? The other cars in the neighbourhood don’t look particularly more affluent, I’d just as likely guess retirees who bought the home new.

Also, here’s a picture of the house apparently circa ’99 which has what appears to be an H-Body LeSabre in the driveway.

http://www.bigwaste.com/photos/ca/et/et_house.jpg

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
3 months ago
Reply to  Maymar

I respect your commitment to this. 🙂

S Chen
S Chen
3 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

In the SF bay area, a $1M home is considered a dump. $1.5M is considered decently nice, and $2M+ gets into a nice middle class neighborhood.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
3 months ago
Reply to  S Chen

I am aware. You still have to be wealthy to afford a $1M home.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
3 months ago

We had three of these when I was younger. All wonderful cars, if fussy and high-maintenance. And my dad put a sticker in the back window of his ’83 5000S turbo that said “I [heart] Sudden Acceleration.”

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
3 months ago

My shop teacher had an old Audi 5000 sitting outside the shop doors for my entire highschool tenure. It was a manual and it was used for the 1st year students as a “diagnosis and repair” vehicle. Essentially it had a bad battery, a “bad” starter relay and a few other issues that we had to diagnose in our last week of Auto Shop. Once we got it started, our teacher would go get us all ice cream from Culver’s using the car.

When he left a few years later, he took the car with him and I haven’t seen it since. That’s the last running and driving 5000 I’ve ever seen, which is a bit sad.

Dug Deep
Dug Deep
3 months ago
Reply to  rctothefuture

I saw a clean one at a light about a week ago. I say ‘clean’, there wasn’t any rust, but I had to turn down my music to figure out what kind of weird noise I was hearing. It was the Audi.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
3 months ago

The difference:

Europe: We have burgers
USA: Come on in and get the Universe’s Best Burger!!!

Europe: Audi 100
USA: Audi 5000

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
3 months ago

“At this point, despite Audi being exonerated, the damage was done. Also not helpful: parent company Volkswagen (correctly) blamed drivers from the beginning and came off as a callous corporation for doing so.”

Here I thought Germans didn’t have a sense of humor. OBVIOUSLY, Americans don’t make mistakes.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago

Not only that, the rigged demonstration on 60 Minutes didn’t even attempt to replicate the purported problem (car continuing to accelerate with brake pedal pushed to the floor) – they injected compressed air into the transmission to cause it to surge forward in D, it was done in partnership with one of the attorneys representing people suing Audi and was just designed to look scary on camera, but wasn’t depicting what they were claiming happened to their client’s car

10001010
10001010
3 months ago

Remember when Toyotas were being blamed for out of control accelerations? One day I’m cruising down the freeway in my Taco and noticed that it was holding its speed without cruise being set and even accelerating a little. I hit the brakes to drag it down but it would start speeding up again. No need to panic.

So did I call up the news station and tell them to scramble the choppers and a film crew? No.

Did I pull out my phone on a busy freeway and start a FB poll asking my friends what I should do? I won’t answer that.

I just tapped the brakes as needed down the freeway to my exit and then downshifted my way into my driveway and popped the hood to find that a cotter pin holding the cruise control to the throttle body had disappeared and the cable had lodged the throttle plate about 60% open.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Also at play in the Audi-is-evil story was that many of the out of control acceleration incidents were in cars driven by people who had the money to buy them. Leasing was way less common then, so you had to have the financial resources to own them. In other words, older adults.

And being an older adult at that time meant that most of them had up until that point driven mostly domestic cars, with that huge amount of room between the pedals that The Bishop points out.

But of course, had to be the car company’s fault. This trope still pops up in the news from time to time when someone drives their SUV into a storefront.

10001010
10001010
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I seem to remember the Toyota issues (mostly Priuses, Priuii?) were older citizens as well. Not to single out the elderly, but I’m totally going to start warning my parents about Sudden Onset Vehicular Acceleration 🙂

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago
Reply to  10001010

I’ve had a few conversations with mine about that already; it’s tough but I want them (and everyone else) to be reasonably safe. As it is, they insist on getting new cars but they can’t stand the screens – so yeah, I totally imagine what they’re not paying attention to as they jab angrily while motoring down the highway…

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  10001010

There’s a reason why Publix parking lots in Florida are some of the most dangerous places on Earth

Library of Context
Library of Context
3 months ago

My dad had an Audi 5000 wagon back in the mid-80’s (which he kept and daily drove until it was replaced with an A6 2.7T in 2003). Right when he got it, he imported the European headlights to replace the US spec quad sealed beams.

His only regret was not getting the Quattro AWD on it.

Fantastic car. Made me want wagons for the rest of my life.

Dug Deep
Dug Deep
3 months ago

I had an 85 Audi Coupe that I got used and cheap. When I asked my new VW/Audi mechanic how many miles I could expect to get out of the Audi 5 cylinder, his reply was “nobody knows yet”. He said the engine, transmission and suspension would last forever, but everything else would fail pretty regularly. But yeah, fantastic car.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
3 months ago

My uncle briefly owned the European-market Audi 200 5T 25 years ago (in the typical metallic green), but being an early turbo car it nearly bankrupted him. He is 71 years old and still works full time, did a stint as a garbage man in Norway last year to make some extra money, and I swear this is due to that Audi having permanently wrecked his economy.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
3 months ago

I’ve never seen the need to stick my bean out the side window when reversing. At least not when there are two or even three mirrors and a back window available. Why get so uncomfortable?

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

It’s a tv/movie classic. Steve McQueen even does it in Bullitt.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
3 months ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

Sometimes one’s brain (well, mine) just doesn’t want to do the mirror image directional flip thing. It’s better to look stupid than run into/over something.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago

I had an ’87, closer to Ferris Bueller’s dad’s (or, based on the plate, was it Mmoms?)
Anyway, the gas pedal stuff was BS, and it was an absolutely sublime highway cruiser. Just don’t drag race anything faster than a Geo Metro.

Maymar
Maymar
3 months ago

The Audi was dad’s, mom had a Chrysler Town & Country wagon (or similar), a bunch of the license plates in Ferris Bueller’s were tributes to other John Hughes movies (in the Audi’s case, Mr. Mom).

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago
Reply to  Maymar

Ah, that makes sense. I didn’t think Ferris’ dad would drive the LeBaron wagon.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago

And don’t forget Jeanie’s Pontiac Fiero!

“I wanted a car, I got a computer. Talk about being born under a bad sign.”

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Yeah but it had the Iron Puke, so I think Ferris got a better deal.
At least he didn’t have to drive an Alfa like poor Cameron.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago

I’m still just struck by how I realized I never knew how big that damn house was whenever I saw that movie. Despite all the wide shots of outside.

Wish I had a big house.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

I thought that was Walter White’s house for a minute there.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

A big house is nice if you’ve got help to maintain it (paid or residents), otherwise it’s a burden to keep it clean and livable.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago
Reply to  Inthemikelane

I’m currently in a 650sq-ft apartment with no garage.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

I feel your pain, especially with no garage. Had more than one car broken into from apartment/street parking, and of course no place to work on things. Didn’t get into a house with a garage as an adult until my early 30s, which was brought about from now having a step family with little kids. Only way I could even qualify for a mortgage was buying a house out of a double bankrupty and they gave really good terms to get rid of it. Been in deep (deep) debt ever since and still have a mortgage. May be stuck in this one until I leave this mortal coil, equity and housing prices don’t line up. Housing is so screwed up now, I wish you the best of luck.

46
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x