Audi 100 C1

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Audi 100 C1

1968 - 1976
In-line 4 cyl.
1.8 & 1.9 litre (later 1.6L)
99 hp/74 kW
4 spd man / 3 spd auto
Top Speed:
200 km/h (124 mph)
Number Built:
3 star
Audi 100 C1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3

Heinrich Nordhoff

The origins of the first Audi 100 have become legendary in Germany. When Volkswagen purchased Auto Union from Mercedes-Benz in 1965, they seem to have been motivated by a desperate shortage of production capacity for their ’Beetle’ model which at that time was selling faster than the cars could be produced.

The then nearly new Auto Union plant at Ingolstadt, built under Mercedes ownership and control, was quickly adapted for Beetle assembly: Volkswagen boss Heinrich Nordhoff, mindful of the poor sales record of the DKW F102, and at a time when the new Audi F103 had yet to prove itself in the market place, gave instructions that no further new Auto Union (including Audi) models should be developed.

Ludwig Kraus

However, it was not just the Ingolstadt manufacturing facility that Volkswagen acquired from Mercedes when they purchased the Auto Union business. Among the employees inherited from the Mercedes era was engineer Ludwig Kraus. Kraus did not share Nordhoff’s apparent conviction that demand for the Beetle would remain insatiable for ever, and it was Kraus who developed the Audi 100, in direct contravention of instructions from Volkswagen management, and in secret.

The first Nordhoff knew of the project was when he was presented with a production ready prototype. It is to Nordhoff’s credit that he changed his mind and gave the car the green light. The Audi 100 would be a commercial success, but it would also be the first of a series of front engined water cooled Audi based designs from the Volkswagen group that would, starting with the first Passat in 1973, enable the group to survive and flourish once the European and US markets began to lose their appetites for rear engined air-cooled models.

The Audi 100

The Audi 100 was shown to the press on 26 November 1968. Its name originally denoting a power output of 100 PS (99 hp/74 kW), the Audi 100 was the company's largest car since the revivial of the Audi brand by Volkswagen in 1965. The C1 platform spawned several variants: the Audi 100 two- and four-door saloons, and the Audi 100 Coupé S, a stylish fastback coupé, which bore a remarkable resemblance to the Aston Martin DBS released a year earlier, especially at the rear end, including details such as the louvres behind the rear side windows and shape of the rear light clusters.

Audi followed up the introduction of the four-door saloon in November 1968 with a two-door saloon in October 1969 and the 100 Coupé S in autumn 1970. The cars' four-cylinder engines originally came in base 1.8 litre, 80 PS (79 hp/59 kW), 100 S 1.8 litre, 90 PS (89 hp/66 kW) and 100 LS 1.8 litre, 100 PS (99 hp/74 kW) guise, while the Coupé was driven by a bored-out 1.9 litre developing 115 PS (113 hp/85 kW). From April 1970 the 100 LS could be ordered with a 3-speed automatic transmission sourced from Volkswagen.

The Audi 100 GL

Starting with model year 1972 the 80 and 90 PS versions were replaced by a new regular-petrol-variant of the 1.8 litre engine developing 85 PS (84 hp/63 kW); at the same time, the 100 GL was introduced that featured the 1.9 litre engine formerly used in the Coupé S only. In September 1973 the 100 received a minor facelift with a somewhat smaller grille and reshuffled taillight lens patterns. The rear torsion bar was replaced by coil springs. For model year 1975 the base 100 was re-christened the 100 L and received a 1.6 litre four cylinder engine (coming out of the Audi 80).

But here in Australia the car was quietly withdrawn in 1973, allowing VW to reshuffle the VW-Audi importation program. It was only off the market briefly, returning in February 1974 in the upgraded form. Instead of continuing in its previous LS trim, the 100 came as the GL, which was the top-of-the-line model in the Audi 100 series. Priced at A$7599, the 100 was intended and equipped to compete strongly in the compact-luxury class - against the BMW 520 and Mercedes 230 4. That may have meant the Audi was expected to puch above its weight, but then perhaps it could, as the finish was superb and the car was exceptionally well sorted throughout.

Audi claimed performance figures of 0-80 and 0-100 km/h (0-50 and 0-62 mph) acceleration times of 8.1 and 11.8 seconds respectively for the automatic GL, and a top and cruising speed is 175 km/h (109 mph). In Europe to automatic transmission was an option, but in Australia it was standard kit, and the manual was simply not available. The GL was not only better equipped than the LS but also boasted improvements in the engine and running gear. Extending well forward of the three-speed automatic transaxle, the water-cooled four in the GL had 1871 cm3 capacity as against the 1760 cm3 of the LS. The original 84.4mm (3.3 in.) stroke was retained but the bore was increased from 81.5 mm (3.2 in.) to 84.0 mm (3.3 in.). The compression ratio was reduced from the previous 10.2:1 to 9.7:1. The carburettor remained a twin throat downdraught with automatic choke.

Audi 100 Engine Size Chart
1.8 litre L4
100 PS (99 hp/74 kW)
1.8 litre L4
80 PS (79 hp/59 kW)
1.8 litre L4
90 PS (89 hp/66 kW)
1.8 litre L4
100 PS (99 hp/74 kW)

More Power, Less Torque

The net result of these changes was that maximum power up from 85.7 kW (115 bhp) at 5500 rpm to 96.1 kW (129 bhp) at 5600 rpm. Maximum torque was 159.s Nm, 117.9 lb-ft at 3500 rpm compared to 150.8 Nm (111.3 lb-ft) at the same rpm for Europe's then current LS model. Unfortunately the torque was down slightly from the 161.7 Nm 119.3 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm of the previous LS. There were only minor detail differences in the suspension which at the front consisted of wishbones, high-mounted coil damper units and an anti-roll bar. At the rear was a dead axle on trailing arms with coil-sprung struts, Panhard rod and anti-roll bar.

The steering was taken care of by an excellent variable-ratio rack and pinion system incorporating a hydraulic damper and giving a turning circle of 11.2 m (36.8 ft) which was relatively tight for a front-wheel-drive car with 2675 mm (105.3 in.) wheelbase. With 3.8 turns lock to lock the steering was direct and thankfully it was also reasonably light, as Audi did not offer power steering, even as an option. The brakes were power-assisted as standard and incorporated front rear split hydraulic system with pressure governor for the rear circuit. Back brakes had the same 200 mm (7.9 in.) diameter as before but the inboard-mounted 291 mm (11.5 in.) front discs were 12.7 mm (0.5 in.) larger than on the previous LS.

Attention to Detail

And if you looked a little closer at the front brake setup, you would understand what made the Audi so special - it was in the attention to detail. Take the cooling of the inboard front brakes as an example. Running across the engine compartment above the transaxle was a hollow box-section cross-member. It was a structural part of the chassis-body unit but also doubled as an air duct with two outlets aimed directly at the discs. When the brakes became hot a thermostatically controlled blower fan pumped air through the cross-member to cool them.


The Audi 100 GL was very similar to the previous LS, but there were some subtle changes that you can use to identify them. There was, of course, the mandatory badges, along with a new grille and dual round halogen headlights, and Audi added a steel sunroof, operated from inside by a small fold-away crank handle. The interior of the car was neat, conservative and high quality. The front buckets were firmly sprung, well shaped and very comfortable - with plenty of support in both the cushion and backrest. There was plenty of fore/aft travel to allow even the tallest driver to obtain an optimal driving position. There was even an infinitely adjustable reclining backrest to allow as much rake as required to ensure you had the perfect distance to the wheel. With the adjustable head restraint removed, the backrest could be levelled with rear seat cushion.

On The Inside

The Audi 100 is one of the few compact cars which offered not only brilliant front seats. but very good rear ones too, and they could manage to accomodate three adults in reasonable comfort. There were a range of internal vinyl colours available, and you could even option velour. Immediately ahead of the large diameter, T-spoked steering wheel was a four-dial instrument binnacle - on the right a 7000 rpm tachometer (redlined at 5900) with oil pressure, high beam, flasher and charge warning lights. On the left was the speedometer with odometer and trip recorder, while in the centre, one atop the other, were fuel and temperature gauges. To the left of the instrument binnacle were rocker switches for the headlights and hazards, followed by the four control levers for the heating and ventilation system. Further along the woodgrained facia was a lockable glove box. There were two air outlets at each end of the facia. The larger pair of these were for fresh air ventilation while the smaller ones directed air onto the front side windows for demisting.

Between the dash and small floor tunnel was a console which contained a quartz crystal clock and diagram of the gear lever shift pattern, plus ashtray, cigarette lighter, rear window heater switch and a cassette stereo/radio. At the base of the console was the small gear selector which had to be lifted above the plane of 1-2-D-N to engage Reverse, beyond which it had to be lifted again and then lowered as moved into Park. There were two steering column stalks - one for the headlight flash/dip and turn indicators, the other for windscreen wash/ wipe including automatic intermittent operation of the wipers with or without the washer.

Perhaps what made the Audi 100 such a good car was its practicality - or perhaps its quality - or perhaps the attention to detail. Or, what is more to the point, it was the combination of all of these qualities, and more. It featured a remarkably spacious interior with plenty of boot space, was above average in the handling and roadholding department, was sufficiently powerful to allow effortless crusing both in Europe and Australia.
Audi 100 C1

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