Produced across four generations from 1972 to 1996, the Audi 80 was a key car for the German manufacturer. The handsome saloon took Audi upmarket from producing family cars to much-respected mid-size executive cars.
Now, any used Audi 80 is likely to be sought after. The first two generations are now cast-iron classics, and the latter two should not be slow to follow them.
Let’s look back at the 80 and consider it as a used buy and ownership prospect.
The Audi 80: history and overview
When did the Audi 80 come out? The first generation of the Audi 80 appeared way back in 1972 – the German marque had previously produced a car known as the 80, but the dynasty properly known as the 80 began in ‘72.
Audi produced four generations of the 80 until 1996. That year saw the dynasty take on a new name – the Audi A4, still in production to this day.
Let’s look briefly at the four generations of Audi 80.
The first 80 was in production from 1972 to 1978 and was launched as a rival to the likes of the Ford Cortina and Triumph Dolomite. By contrast, the 80’s modern successor, the A4, sits firmly in the compact executive class alongside the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series.
This first-gen 80 (or B1) was significant as it was only the second Audi to be developed entirely under Volkswagen ownership. VW had taken over Auto Union, the previous guise of Audi, in 1965.
Autumn 1976 brought a facelift to the car, most notable in the new square (rather than round) headlights. This introduced the Audi family ‘face’ that would be familiar for the next two decades.
Elsewhere, the B1’s greatest legacy was the sporty, 1.6-litre GTE version, which inspired parent company VW to create the iconic Golf GTI.
The second guise of Audi 80, the B2, was the car which pushed the model up a market sector, from the large family car class typified by the Cortina, into the compact-exec class dominated by Mercedes and BMW.
As a result, the car was now markedly different from its sister car, the VW Passat, which remained in the Cortina class.
The B2 was designed by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro, he of the wonderful Lotus Esprit (one of our favourite Bond cars of all time) and others. Like that car, it boasted angular, boxy, late-1970s looks.
Another thing to note about this generation (apart from it becoming one of the most recognisable cars of the 1980s) is that it was the first to introduce four-wheel drive, back in 1983. With this car, in fact, Audi had effectively given us a prototype for the hugely important Quattro, albeit with a saloon body style and no turbocharger.
The B3 Audi 80 arrived in 1986, bringing with it the slightly rounder features also in evidence in other cars of the era, such as the Ford Sierra, Mk3 Vauxhall Cavalier, and Mk3 VW Passat.
In fact, these rounded looks were designed to improve aerodynamics, and they did the job extremely well: in wind tunnel tests, the B3 80 came out with a drag coefficient of just 0.29.
The last iteration of the 80, the B4, appeared on the UK market in early 1992, and continued the model’s move upmarket. This final 80 boasted a longer wheelbase, folding rear seats, bigger wheels, and higher-quality materials for the interior.
There was a bolder face, too, with a grille merged into the bonnet. Though some advances had been made by previous generations, this was truly the 80 that brought Audi into competition with Mercedes and BMW in the midsize exec sector.
This generation also offers the option of an estate for those who need a bit of practicality from their classic. And, of course, late on in the generation’s lifespan came the 315bhp RS2 Avant, the sporting estate of everyone’s dreams and the first in a long line of fast Audi wagons.
Common problems with the Audi 80
Is the Audi 80 a good car? What sorts of problems can 80 owners expect to come across?
When it comes to the B1 car, rust will be a big issue. The other problem you will have is finding replacement parts.
The B1 was not a big seller in Britain – Audi was not yet established in the UK, a process that it would work on with each subsequent generation of the 80. That means that support and parts supply for the B1 is significantly less than for any of its successors.
The B2 generation was a rival, from 1980 to 1984, to the Morris Ital: both smart, reasonably economical saloons, targeted mostly at company car buyers.
Anti-rust galvanisation was not yet in place during the B2’s production run, so corrosion is likely to be more or a problem than for the two next generations. Inspect the door bottoms, front wings, rear arches and areas around the headlamps and windscreen. Bonnet edges, A-pillar bases, boot floor and boot lid can also be susceptible.
The engine, being a product of the larger VW production family, is robust. However, after around 100,000 miles the valve stem oil seals can start to break down. The clue will be blue exhaust smoke, meaning that oil is being burned alongside the fuel. Check the exhaust when purchasing your B2.
The B3 generation is a handsome car and was a big step up in quality from the B2. It’s also a quiet cruiser and benefitted from an anti-lock braking system (ABS), a big gain in terms of safety.
This was also perhaps the first Audi to earn the firm the reputation for beautifully made interiors that it still has to this day. Finally, it was the first 80 to get a galvanised body, which means that rust should not be much of a problem.
The exception to this will be repairs after accident damage, when replacement panels may not have been as well galvanised. Always ask to see documentation of all repairs carried out.
Elsewhere, a B3 car will not generally have power steering – that would arrive on the B4 – while the 1.6- and 1.8-litre engines may feel relatively underpowered. Go for the two-litre, 16-valve petrol, or the 1.9-litre diesel, if you need a bit more grunt.
Finally, if the automatic gearbox fails, you could be looking at a replacement bill in excess of £3,000.
The final generation, the B4, mostly continues the virtues of its predecessor. This is an Audi 80 that should not rust, and there are some strong engines on offer – such as the 2.0-litre 16-valve.
There’s also a really smooth, effortless 2.6-litre V6, as well as a frugal TDI turbo diesel. The latter should save you considerable amounts in fuel bills, leaving you with more in hand for other outgoings such as classic car insurance and ongoing repair and restoration projects.
Once again, watch for any accident damage that has been repaired using non-galvanised panels. The original panels were electro-galvanised and should keep off rust, but it’s essential that any replacements are of a similar material, otherwise the dreaded corrosion may ensue.
Those frugal TDI engines can have problems, too. For example, the coolant in them will need replacing every two years – if not, you can expect issues with the head gaskets.
The TDI engines also need their injectors replaced approximately every 80,000 miles – if not, they start to leak fuel down into the bores. This can lead to severe oil burning.
Where to find help with your Audi 80
If you do get hold of an Audi 80, of whatever generation, you’ve got your hands on one of the more reliable cars of its era. Even so, you may come across problems of one kind or another during your time with the car. Audi owner forums and car clubs are a great place to share information.
Classic Audi Club, an online forum that’s part of the wider Audi Owners Club.
You may also want to get your hands on the relevant Haynes manual: you can buy the manual for the B3 directly from the Haynes website, while an eBay search should also bring up a manual for the B1 and B2 cars.
You should be able to find cheap parts for most generations of 80 from Euro Car Parts.
Lancaster is the insurance broker of choice for classic car owners providing cover for over 88,000 classic cars (as of May 2019).
We arrange classic car insurance for over 40% of all MG Bs on the road and over 30% of all Land Rover 88s and MG Midgets – proving that classic car owners place their trust in us.
At Lancaster Classic Car Insurance, we aim to find the best price for your individual cover needs. We appreciate the importance of recognising the true value of your classic car and our team will be happy to talk to you through our benefits, such as agreed valuations and salvage retention.
We will offer you a tailored policy, bespoke to your requirements – this can include cover for:
Lancaster Insurance is committed to supporting the classic car clubs.
Owners club members may enjoy discounts of up to 25% off their insurance premium (the level of discount offered by each insurer differs and is subject to underwriting criteria).
At Lancaster we understand that not every situation is the same, especially when it comes to Classic Cars.
That is why in addition to our Lancaster Classic Car insurance, we also can arrange the below:
- Modified Classic Car Insurance
- Multi-vehicle Insurance
- Wedding Car Insurance
- Limited Mileage Insurance
- Laid Up Cover
- Two Year Agreed Valuation
Are you passionate about Classic Cars?
Here at Lancaster, we not only provide Classic Car Insurance but we’re constantly looking for ways to support the Classic Car community at events, sponsorship's, giveaways and sharing care tips for classic vehicles.
We’ve partnered with the team at Meguiar’s to showcase one of their awesome products each month.
This time we’re featuring the Meguiar’s Ultimate Snow Foam contains a specialized Xtreme Cling foaming action that delivers an intense foam that sticks and clings to painted surfaces gently loosening road grime, dirt and contaminants.
Fine-tuned to carefully and thoroughly clean coated, waxed or sealed finishes while preserving protection and leaving a brilliant, swirl-free shine.
In May 2018 the Department for Transport announced that cars that were built more than 40 years ago exempt from MOT testing, with the option for owners to voluntarily have their car tested if they feel it needs checking.
What is the average price of the Audi 80 - private or trader?
Just how much is an Audi 80 on the used market? Well, as we mentioned above, the earlier generations will set you back a little more as they have now clearly passed over into classic status.
A B1 will cost you somewhere between £6,000 and £15,000, depending on mileage and condition – and you’ll also probably have to go to Germany to get it, as this generation wasn’t a particularly big seller over here.
Remember, too, that you’ll have more of a job finding parts for this model than you will for subsequent generations of the Audi 80.
Set against this, though, is the immediate classic appeal of the car. That’s particularly true in its 1972 to 1976, pre-facelift guise.
The chrome detailing and round headlights of that car evoke the early and mid-1970s like few other cars. Perhaps unsurprisingly, pre-facelift models fetch more on the used market than the newer looking, 1976-1978 models.
The latter adopted square headlights with the indicators now moved up alongside, in a look which closely echoes a contemporary Ford Cortina.
With its combination of genuine classic appeal, relatively decent UK stock and improved interior over its predecessor, a B2 Audi 80 may well be the generation of choice for many classic Audi fans. You should be able to pick up one of these for somewhere between £5,000 and £15,000.
B3 and B4 cars have not yet attained classic status, so are considerably cheaper at this stage. Expect to pay between £2,000 and £4,000 for a decent model – more for anything with one of the higher-performance engines, or four-wheel drive.
Where can you buy an Audi 80 and get some good deals?
So, where should you look for good deals on a used Audi 80? From private or dealer listings to auction sites, here are a few to consider.
This website has plenty of used 80s listed, and a particularly strong showing for the earlier, B1 and B2 models. This is a Europe-wide listing site, and many of the cars for sale are back in Audi’s native Germany. However, if you really want an older 80 and quite fancy making a road trip to go and get it, this could be the place for you.
Make sure to have a read of our guide to driving your classic car in Europe before you go.
Car and Classic includes a useful search tool which allows you to search for certain years. So, if it is a B2 you’re after, you can just specify the start and end years of 1979 and 1986 to see that model only.
Good site, lots of search options with a handful of later Audi 80s when we searched.
You may also want to keep an eye on the various classic car auctions, happening both online and in the metal. Check the websites for catalogues or phone ahead for the cars being included in the next sale.
Classic car auctions (online and in person):
We’d always recommend having a read of our top tips for buying a car at auction before you set off.
What are the hidden or extra costs when buying a classic car?
When it comes to the costs of owning a classic car, some of these are obvious. Major costs include the purchase price of the vehicle itself, plus ongoing repairs, fuel and, of course, classic car insurance.
If you’re buying at an auction, you might have to pay a buyer’s fee, VAT and storage on top of the hammer price. Find out what the fees are before taking part in any auction - online or in real life.
Other hidden costs when buying a classic could include:
If the price of the vehicle makes it worthwhile, you may want to arrange for a professional inspector or mechanic to look over the car for you, especially if this is your first classic. They may want to check the body, frame, tyres, brakes and paintwork.
Ask car clubs for their recommendations of marque-specific inspectors. You could also try the AA or RAC, but they might not have experience in your particular make, especially if it’s an older model.
Depending on the age of your vintage motor, some classic cars require specialist oil and other fluids. You might need to get hold of a dedicated classic and vintage car motor oil, featuring minerals such as zinc and phosphorus that older cars need.
Finally, don’t forget to think about how you’ll be garaging the car when it’s not in use. Classics will be more sensitive than modern cars to the worst of the British winter: rain, snow and wind can all take their toll on a classic car’s bodywork, while the grit salt spread on roads during winter is certain to aggravate any classic that is prone to rust, such as the first two generations of the Audi 80.
Indoor storage will also help to keep away any animals, such as mice, that might burrow their way into the car, causing considerable damage as they do.
If you have a garage space ready to use, you’re already at an advantage. If not, you may want to consider hiring one or, at the very least, investing in a suitable car cover.
4 checks to carry out on the day of purchase
There are a lot of things you should check before you commit to purchasing a car. Here are just a few things that are specific to classic vehicles – you can find more information on the Auto Express website.
Depending on their age, classic cars might have a patchy paperwork history. The more documentation and receipts for work carried out you can find, the better.
A full servicing history should highlight if you’ve got any big jobs coming up – which might explain a lower purchase price. The old adage stands here - if it looks too good to be true it probably is.
Remember, if the car still requires an MOT, you can check MOT status and history online.
Get down and have a good look for rust around the car - pay particular attention to the wheel arches, floors, engine mounts and front subframes.
Footwells and channels around convertible hoods are prime places for rainwater to collect. Make sure you lift carpets to check for signs of rotting or damp.
If you’re buying a classic, you’re not expecting the interior to be showroom condition, but any ripped, worn or torn seat covers could be difficult and expensive to replace.
Also check for signs of rodent damage, especially if it’s a barn find or has been kept outside for long periods of time.
How many miles can I expect from my Audi 80?
Being part of the wider Volkswagen Group by this time, Audi engines from the 1970s onwards tend to be very reliable. If an engine is well looked after and serviced regularly, it should do 150,000 to 200,000 miles or more without showing much distress.
Lancaster works in partnership with car clubs up and down the country, offering a discount on classic car insurance. Talk to the team today to see if we can offer you a discount on your Audi 80 cover.
Does it classify as a classic car?
Is the Audi 80 a classic car? This is an interesting one.
As we have mentioned once or twice, the prices they now command suggest that the B1 and B2 generations have now graduated to classic status. We suspect it will not be too long before the B3 and B4 cars follow their predecessors into the world of classic cars.
It’s not just age and price that determine classic status though. How you use and store your Audi 80 also plays a part. If you do limited mileage, talk to the Lancaster team to see how much you could save with classic car insurance for your Audi 80.
Does an Audi 80 require an MOT?
Good question. Under current legislation, older cars become exempt from the annual MOT when they pass 40 years old.
So, for example, on 1st April 2022, all cars registered before 1st January 1982 became exempt, while on 1st April 2023 another year’s worth of classics, those registered before 1st January 1983, will attain exemption.
We explain the rules in more detail in our article on classic cars that became MOT exempt in 2022.
For our purposes, that means that all B1 versions of the Audi 80 are now exempt from the MOT. What’s more, each year increasing numbers of the B2 model (1978-1986) no longer require the test.
If you have a 1981 B2 or older, you no longer need to pay MOT. Just make sure you go through the right paperwork, as outlined in the feature above.
Cars over 40 years old will also be exempt from road tax or VED. Find out more about road tax exemption now.
Classic Audi 80 insurance from Lancaster
We have huge experience of arranging classic car insurance here at Lancaster. Among many other classics, we can provide a quote to insure an Audi 80 of any generation.
Benefits of insuring your Audi 80 with us include:
- Choice of repairer
- Static show and historic rally cover
- Two-year agreed valuation
- Laid-up cover
- 24-hour helpline
Why not contact us for a classic car insurance quote today?