Before Audi started selling literally dozens of Audi V8s on our shores following that whole 60 Minutes unpleasantness, we had the Audi 5000 as the third fiddle in the German triumvirate of executive sedans. Actually, things weren’t going too bad for Audi during those years. The year before that program aired Audi managed to sell almost 75 thousand cars in the US alone. Very impressive figures, for a brand that just years before was selling cars that even diehard Audi fans now wince at. The 5000 premiered just as the economy was getting better, and Americans were no longer satisfied with rolling living rooms that handled like rolling living rooms. Offering turbos and quattros (whatever those are), the 5000 came with an impossibly sleek drag coefficient and a spacious, well thought-out cabin that practically exuded German engineering.
The example above was obviously in fantastic condition, though I have to confess that this is probably the first time I’ve seen these particular wheels on the 5000. It’s curious to see just how differently the W126 S-class, the E34 7-series, and the Audi 5000/200 have weathered on our shores over the years. It’s seemingly impossible to go a day without seeing a W126 in traffic. But if we’re talking about the Audi 5000, or the E23 or E32 7-series, you might as well forget it.
A tip of the hat to the owner of this example for keeping this car in stock condition. Lately there’s been a frenzy in Audi circles over the very last Audi 200 20 Valve Avants that were sold in this country. And when I say very last, I mean out of the less than 160 that were imported in the first place. Even though Audi enthusiasts get weak in the knees at the sight of well kept Audi 200 Avants, that love doesn’t quite extend to the 5000 sedan.
Some time ago I talked to a grizzled veteran of the car sales arts, who regaled me with fantastic tales of derring-do from his years in the trenches over a cuppa joe. Ahab (let’s just call him Ahab) used to sell Audis in Connecticut in the early 1980s, which were popular in the provinces of New England and were starting to present a serious challenge to the hegemony of Volvo, Saab, and Poozhoe. Before the infamous 60 Minutes program aired, he told me, his dealership used to move a few dozen cars a month and things were looking up. Big sedans from Ingolstadt were starting to steal sales from Mercedes and BMW, and embarrassing the relatively old-fashioned Pugs. Immediately after the program aired monthly sales dropped into the single digits, the dealership was avoided like it was radioactive, and six months later he was selling Hondas. So seeing any Audi from those years, especially in spectacular condition such as this example, is always a special occasion.