The key to the success of the second generation (B2) Audi 80 lay in its ability to comfortably swallow up a small family and their associated paraphernalia. Happily, it could do this while still offering reasonable performance and good economy, soon earning a good name for itself both at home and abroad.
Although Audi tried hard to distance the 80 from the reworked Volkswagen Passat, they nonetheless shared a large amount of components, but that was no bad thing – the new 80 was a thoroughly decent car.
Following the pattern laid down by the first generation 80, the range comprised of two and four door saloon versions as well as an optional coupe, with Audi deciding against offering an estate. The 1978 line-up used a 1588cc four-cylinder, overhead-camshaft powerplant borrowed from Volkswagen that was available in three stages of tune, with the range topping fuel-injection model boasting 110bhp. Trim levels came in three different types initially, with the bottom of the range LS and mid-level GLS nestling just below the marquee-spec GLE.
Over the course of its production life, the 80 was also fitted with enlarged 1781cc engines (as used in the VW Golf GTI, but mounted longitudinally), before reaching it’s zenith with the 2.2 litre, 5-cylinder lump as seen in the coupe variant, a development of which also propelled the awesome quattro rally car. A 1.6 turbo-diesel was also available, though it wasn’t hugely popular due to its inherent sluggishness, the net result of which is that oil-burning examples are somewhat scarce today. The 80 was an unprecedented success for Audi, proving a mainstay of the companies production up until 1995, by then in fourth generation (B4) guise. Even today’s A4 is a progression in a long line that began with the 80.
AUDI 80 B2 (1978-1986)
Engine 1994cc 5-cylinder SOHC
Power 115bhp @ 5400rpm
Torque 122lb/ft @ 5400
Top Speed 114mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Even though Audi only began galvanising the 80 when B3 production began, the pre-86 models still have an excellent reputation for keeping corrosion at bay. The key here is how well a car has been looked after; bear in mind that even the youngest examples are 23 years old, so if they have been neglected then they will rust just as freely as most other cars from the era. Particular areas to examine closely include the door bottoms, front wings, rear arches and around the headlamps and windscreen, as well as the edges of both bonnet, bottom of the A pillar, scuttle panel, boot floor and boot-lid. It’s also worth popping the bonnet and checking the state of the front suspension strut towers, which are not easy to replace if particularly crusty. As the front wings are bolt-on items, it’s imperative that you take time to have a good luck at where they meet the inner wheel-arches, especially around the bolt holes themselves.
The sills on 80s were given a comprehensive anti-corrosion treatment at the factory, which you should be able to feel as a very rough finish under the paintwork. Beware though of cars that have been glossed over prior to selling on – certainly you want to give both the inner and outer sills a thorough inspection regardless of their outward appearance. Watch for stiff/awkward door handles; these were not made from the best material in the world and can break easily. Replacement parts can be obtained either from Poland via eBay, or specialists like GSF.
Given that the 80 emanated from the giant Volkswagen/Audi stable, there are no real horror stories relating to these tough old units. Whatever the displacement, they are strong and reliable, providing they have been properly maintained. After 100,000 miles the valve stem oil seals and valve guides can deteriorate; blue exhaust smoke is a reliable tell-tale that this has occurred so watch carefully when inspecting a prospective purchase. Excessive oil consumption is also a sign that the engine may be due for some top end work. If high-mileage examples are suffering from low compression and lumpy tickover, then the exhaust valves are likely to have begun to burn out. Another thing to check is the cam-belt. They need changing every 60,000 miles too, so has it been done recently?
Good maintenance is also the key to the 80’s fuel system: The Bosch fuel injection should remain free of concern as long as it’s filters are changed regularly as part of routine servicing. Only if the car is presenting a high-speed misfire should you have to worry about forking out for a replacement control unit. Carburettor-fed cars may suffer from problems with their auto-choke, which can stick on, but this is relatively easily rectified. The Pierburg 2E2 Carburettor can be a pain to set up, and many examples have been converted to Weber carburettor.
Gearboxes are robust, coming in both four and five-speed varieties, although the synchromesh on the latter is weaker. Worn shaft bearings can result in an annoying transmission whine, but this is not a sign that the final drive has broken up. You should check for leaks around the driveshaft seals, as well as ensuring the front driveshaft gaiters are free from stone damage. If they haven’t been renewed for a while they may have become brittle, allowing lubricant to escape. Finally, if the clutch itself feels stiff when you activate it, that is not necessarily a reason to worry – this is a trait common to older Audis and doesn’t mean the clutch is faulty.
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Suspension is typical Audi, with struts and coil springs at the front and dead axle at the rear, located by trailing arms and Panhard rods. Front top mounts can be prone to wearing out, along with front wishbone bushes- particularly on the larger engine cars. These are a relatively straight forward DIY job with the necessary tools, and specialists can provide these parts for around £8 each (top mounts) and £4 each (wishbone bushes – 2 per side). Check the rear brakes are working as expected – drum brakes on the rear use a load compensating valve located close to the offside rear wheel. Replacement of the brake lines can prove tricky when trying to fit the pipes into this.
Higher-spec models came with a raft of extras such as a sunroof, electric windows and central locking, the condition of which is worth taking into account before buying. Replacement electrical parts are available but can be expensive if they are only available from Audi themselves. Interior trim is difficult to obtain, and seat bolsters (particularly drivers side) can sag or wear through. If anything is required then sourcing a donor vehicle would be your best bet though. Thankfully little goes wrong with these old 80s however, so you shouldn’t necessarily let a few niggles be a deal-breaker.
The answer to your question would seem to be in the affirmative. If you can look past the slightly staid exterior, the 80 is actually quite an appealing prospect. If you compare it to an equivalent BMW 3 Series then it just makes so much sense, offering as it does the same Germanic virtues as its Bavarian rival, but costing a whole lot less due to it’s somewhat dour image. Maintenance and repair falls into the relatively simple bracket, most mechanical parts are readily available and there are ious clubs just waiting for you to join. Most of all, they’re actually getting quite rare in B2 guise, so if you’re looking to drive something a little bit different then the Audi 80 could well be the car for you.