Easter Audi

The Editor approves of the new 1.9-litre Audi Coupe which he used over the long holiday weekend

My motoring “Easter-egg” this year was the new Audi Coupe, and very nice tool It turned out to be a very refined, eager, and withal a most economic car, in which to drive 1,200 miles over the Easter holiday. On the Good Friday we went in it to Oulton Park, hoping to see how Stirling Moss would fare in his racing Audi 80. It was not to be, because there was the 80th MCC Land’s End Trial to watch and Moss was in the second of the saloon car races, late in the afternoon. Remembering how I got trapped last year, at the single bridge over the Oulton Park circuit, in spite of trying to leave before the last two races had been run, this time we contented ourselves with seeing just the Pace British 200 Championship race and the first of the Tricentrol Saloon Car “dices”.

The former was won Mike Taylor’s Royale RP30, which led from lap 4 to the finish at lap 15. The saloon car thing was quite a sensation, if you remember how much know-how there is about tuning Ford Capris. Because in spite of this, nothing Gordon Spice and Andy Rouse did in their fierce CHS/Esso/Daily Mirror Mk. 3 Capris could stop Win Percy from winning convincingly, in the smart blue-and-yellow Mazda RX-7, which never put a wheel wrong that we could see, and which must have enormously increased respect for the Wankel rotary-engine with which Toyo Kogyo have persevered, when others, up to the calibre of Mercedes-Benz, have dropped it from private car usage. The neat Mazda RX-7 has recently been revised (see page 749) and later this year we expect to be able to tell you how it stands up to long-term everyday usage. A miserable distance behind, with the Capris of Vince Woodman and Nick Whiting heading them, the Patrick Motorsport/Duckhams/Motor Rover 3500s duelled unimpressively, if deep-throatedly. So I was rather glad I had come in an Audi and not in a Rover this time, as I wasn’t in a Mazda. . . .

Then it was goodbye to packed Oulton Park and off to the “Land’s End”. The M5 motorway brings Devon much closer to the Midlands than in my early driving days and we were at the Sparkford converging point near Yeovil in plenty of time. The entry this year numbered 350, which speaks for itself, plus 28 entries in the Commemoration Run. Ryder Richardson, entrant in the latter, was dealing with a recalcitrant oil-feed to one of his 1908 9 1/4-litre Daimler’s double-sleeves, aided by an electric soldering iron produced for him as if out of a hat by a spectating MG driver. Pitt’s Alfonso Hispano Suiza wasn’t there, and we were equally disappointed not to see Miss Stocken’s Trojan, nor Eastmead’s 1910 Leon-Bollee, which had given its number to an OM. However, two 12/50 Alvis cars, one a Special with high seats and a two-gallon petrol tin attached to its tail, Bendall’s 1912 12/16 Sunbeam. a 1912 Wolseley, Mellish’s 1921 Crossley, a 4 1/2-litre Bentley, a 6 1/2-litre Bentley, another OM, a Lea-Francis, and a big MG, together with two Austin 7s, were posted as runners. Over it all was the astonishing presence of the finest veteran tourer, in the “Toad” tradition, I have encountered in recent times. I refer to Tanner’s massive chain-drive 1904 6.3-litre Bethel, its folded-hood high as a house, and lit all round by oil-lamps. Jane Arnold-Forster’s Chummy Austin arrived in style on its own tiny trailer behind her parents’ modern Motorhome, so it was sad that we never saw it again.

Snug in the Audi Coupe we drove to Porlock, where we had a dull if not cold spell seeing all the old car entry that got as far ascending the once-notorious gradient with no bother at all, and in the darkness at that. Beggar’s Roost was optional for the old cars, but the Edwardians seemed reluctant to try it. We sat behind Bendall, waiting to see what he would do. He decided not to Beggar-about, so we set off behind him to what would happen next. Some way on he pulled in and rose in his seat after waving the Audi on, shouting things I couldn’t hear into the night. I can only assure him that I was on dipped Hellas and had dropped back to what I thought was out-of-dazzle range. Maybe carrying No. 13 has its effect on a man . . .

We were now in a quandary, being far ahead of the trial proper and undecided which observed section we could achieve without driving against the competitors. However, a convenient lay-by enabled me to play with my new toy, a Canon AF3SM camera. It is only the second camera I have had from Motor Sport in some 35 years and with it I found myself taking flashlight pictures for the first time in my life, as using this all-automatic wonder which you just point and press-the-button.

All the cars typical of an MCC long-distance trial came by, some of them the older element that was doing the full route, like Barry Clarke’s Austin 7, two 30/98 Vauxhalls, the Model-A Ford saloons of Threlfall and Campbell, the Frazer Nash team of three “Chain-Gang” cars which were motoring in close formation, and more Singers and Dellows than you see in a month of Sundays.

Breakfast now seemed a good idea but England, even in holiday times, being what it is, we were at Oakford near Tiverton before anyone would take us in. Although it was by now mid-morning, the Higher Western restaurant served a splendid breakfast, and the Alfasud-owning proprietor, Keith Angus, regaled us with stories of early racing at Oulton Park, his E-type Jaguars, etc. After which it was an easy run in the Audi Coupe back to Wales, apart from getting lost in confusing Pontypool. Easter Sunday was spent talking motoring with a fellow enthusiast, looking at the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, near the River Usk and sampling about the last of the three-bearing Austin 7 Ruby saloons to be made, which kindled dormant longings.

I felt that some more motoring should be done on the Bank Holiday Monday, so the Audi was pointed towards Loton Park, near Shrewsbury, where the second round of the 1981 RAC Hill Climb Championship was taking place. Even so, the number of spectators enjoying the racing and the sunshine was astonishing and the place seems to welcome doggies, in spite of what the programme says. My passenger had to catch a train, so we left after the first runs, these having been terminated until after the lunch break because Thomson’s Pilheam MP40K had dropped a little oil on the course. And what a good spectators’ course this is! You get solo motorcycles and sidecar outfits as well as sprint cars for your money, too. There were also some Classic cars, which included those I regard as vintage machinery. Here Ron Footitt in the Cognac was beating off opposition from Guy Smith’s Alvis-engined Frazer Nash, Stretton’s Super Sports Frazer Nash and Frank Wall in his single-seater Type 35B Bugatti in the 1945-1968 class the owner of Loton Park estate, Sir Michael Leighton, Bt. competed at the wheel of his 3-litre Aston Martin and Gillian Fortescue-Thomas drove a 3.8 HWM-Alta-Jaguar that was prone to lock up its front wheels. So a pleasant if exhausting Easter came to a close, driving home over the hills, via Clun. The Audi had certainly reduced much of the fatigue. . . .

About the Audi

The Audi Coupe had impressed me very favourably throughout. It is a comfortable fast-cruising car with a nice-to-operate geared-up five-speed gearbox, unlike those in which you never quite know which ratio is going to be selected next The lines of this two-door coupe are crisp and attractive, with a high tail incorporating a spoiler and a low air-dam at the front. The aforesaid fifth gear, allied to transistorised ignition with digital idle stabiliser and special inlet manifolding with pre-heating of the mixture when the engine is cold, ensures a remarkable economy of petrol. Let’s deal with this right away. Overall, with fast driving and many stops and restarts, I got 30.8 m.p.g., with a best figure of 33 m.p.g. The tank holds 15 gallons and I fail to see how even the heaviest-footed driver could get less than 36 miles from a tankful. Many would get some 450 miles or more, which puts most so-called GT cars to shame. The car runs quietly up to 60 m.p.h., after which engine noise and wind-beat intrude.

The Audi Coupe uses the five-cylinder engine cut down to 1.9-litres, it is mounted normally (north-south if you prefer), driving the front wheels. The compression-ratio is 10 to 1 and 115 b.h.p. is developed at 5,900 r.p.m. The overhead-camshaft power-unit and running-gear have all those recent Audi special features we have described when discussing other models. The brakes are effective and progressive but a mite squidgy.

On the road this is a quiet-cruising car, very nice to drive, and with such useful items as electric windows, driver’s seat-cushion adjustment, central locking of doors and boot-lid, four notably-comfortable, shaped, seats. good vision for the driver, a lockable fuel-filler cap, rear vvipe/wash, controlled by the right-hand stalk, etc., together with the degree of character an enthusiast expects from a car. The power steering, somewhat low-geared, is as smooth and pleasant as the gear-change.

The instrumentation is clear to read, with the 140 m.p.h. speedometer and tachometer with red warning at 6,500 r.p.m. on the panel with the Econ gauge and fuel gauge; the tachometer has a small inset clock, with seconds hand (why?). The Econ gauge, and a tiny light that does the same job after dark of trying to keep the driver in a high gear may amuse the ultra-thrifty. But every time I got the Econ meter’s needle to drop, speed dropped with it, and each time the light-pip told me to change-up, the same thing happened. So I just drove normally, although using fifth gear whenever this was reasonable, which was surprisingly often, such is the flexibility of Audi’s “five-pot” motor. Like that, I got the previously-quoted m.p.g. results, which I regard as highly commendable and a very desirable aspect of this new Audi Coupe.

Because of the Econ gauge there is no fascia thermometer; instead a little picture of a thermometer is illuminated until water temperature rises to normal: this is one of 12 warning lights. However, there are large oil thermometer, oil-gauge and voltmeter (normal readings, 60˚C, 12-bar, and 14) down low on the central console, on which the Coburg stereo/radio, the ash-tray and the window switches are placed. The 3-speed heater fan is mechanically inaudible and the heating effective. There are four controllable fascia air vents.

The boot-lid is rather clumsy to lift but reveals a cavernous space: its lock is operated with a “secret” lever on the off-side door pillar. The test car was shod with inmressive looking Y-2000 185/60 HR14 steel-belt tubeless radial Fuldas, a make of tyre which VAG (the new name for the VW/Audi Group) also fit to the 4WD Quattro. There is a lidded pocket in the fascia for the VAG Service System books and instruction book.

The rear-hinged bonnet’s release lever is on the nearside, and the lid has to be propped open. The Bosch plugs, fillers, dip-stick, Bosch coil, and reservoir-fillers are all accessible, as is the large Hoppecke battery. The two-choke carburetter is covered by a huge Mann micro-top air-cleaner. The engine is canted over to the off-side, with the Sofica radiator and its electric fan to the left of it. I drove this new Audi 1,427 miles in just over a week: it didn’t need any oil and never missed it beat. Incidentally, it has six-digit mileometer figures, as is becoming commonplace. There is a speaker-balance control, the clutch needs only a modicum of care to effect smooth take-offs, and there is a rest near the driver’s left foot. The four-ring “Auto-Union” insignia and the twin rectangular Hella headlamps proclaim to the world that one is making one’s passage in an Audi, even though the coupe is sufficiently new here to make heads turn. The sun vizors are too shallow. The tachometer is oddly calibrated in eighths but at an indicated 80 m.p.h. in 5th gear it reads just over 3,000 r.p.m. Curious things, Econ gauges – the Audi’s giving a reading at a 750 r.p.m. idle but absolute zero on a trailing throttle at twice that engine speed.

There is no need to bore you with an inch by inch run over of the new 113 m.p.h Audi Coupe. Just let me say that I enjoyed it and was very impressed by it, as I was with its basic price of £7,475. It is a civilised way of getting-a-move-on in hushed comfort. Braking is efficient and progressive, too.

VAG have a fine high-performance saloon in the Audi 200 Turbo (Motor Sport, September 1980) and the Audi Quattro is a particularly significant technical breakthrough (see page 611, last month). Now comes this very likeable Audi GT5S Coupe, which has reasonable space in its rear compartment, big doors for easy access to it, yet retains the sporting lines of a 2+2 coupe. It is a notable addition among the 300,000 five-cylinder Audis sold to date. – W.B.



Due to a rather garbled telephone message, the paragraph heralding the Rolls-Royce rally to be held on June 7th, which appeared in the April issue, contained a number of mistakes – the rally takes place at Bowood House, home of Lord Shelburne, near Chippenham, Wiltshire. Details from Sally Crossland on Calne 812102.