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At the beginning of the 1970s, Audi was a manufacturer that was certainly renowned for building robust cars, but was still very far from its premium and sporty image of today. With only an aging Audi 75 – whose origins went back to the DKW F-102, rebadged Audi after Daimler-Benz sold Auto Union to Volkswagen in 1965 – and a large Audi 100, the Audi 80, known internally as the “B1”, is to expand and complement the automaker’s lineup in the vital midsize sedan segment. It is a reliable and modern family car, but without frills. With a very classic design, rather bland but with very well balanced proportions, and optimized to contain the weight and have low consumption, which comes at the right time in these times of oil crisis, the 80 is praised by the press for its driving qualities and wins car of the year. It is also the first model to embody the brand’s famous slogan, « Vorsprung durch Technik (progress through technology) introduced in January 1971 with much publicity by Audi NSU Auto Union AG.
The Audi 80 celebrates its world premiere in the year in which the Summer Olympics are held in Munich: In July 1972 the car is presented to the media and in September – after the Olympics – to dealers. The B1 contributes to the emergence of the segment of the “compact sedan” or B series for short, like the Alfasud from Alfa Romeo which comes out at the same time.
Vorsprung durch Technik
The model’s technology introduces many new solutions and will soon be found in many models of the Volkswagen Group. With a wheelbase of 2.47 meters and a length of 4.18 meters, the basic two-door model weighs only 835 kilograms. For the first time, a negative steering roll radius is implemented in a mass-produced European vehicle – a solution that significantly improves stability when braking. The front wheels are controlled by McPherson struts and wishbones. Audi offers comfort in the car and high-end equipment for the time, such as headrests in the front seats and a defroster for the rear window.
First marketed as a two-door saloon, then as a four-door the following year, the Audi 80 benefits from a wide range of engines. Four engines are available at market launch; Completely new, three overhead camshaft four-cylinders (1.3-litre, 1.5-litre and 1.6-litre) offer four power levels: 55 hp (80 L), 75 hp (80 S and LS), 85 hp (80 GL) and 100 hp (80 GT). The highlight of the four-cylinder engine design is the overhead camshaft valve train with toothed belt drive and maintenance-free hydraulic valve lifters. Technical development manager Ludwig Kraus came up with the idea for a modular design series, designing the engine as a four-cylinder overhead camshaft (OHC). Developed by engineer Franz Hauk and his team, the engine is known internally as the EA 827 and becomes the VW Group’s most widely built engine.
In 1975, the 1600 cc swapped its Solex carburettor for a Bosch K-Jetronic injection and gained ten horsepower. The 80 GT, the most powerful of the Audi 80s, thus becomes 80 GTE (for Einspritzung, injection). This 110 hp engine will be fitted to the Volkswagen Golf GTI the following year.
Sportiness that asserts itself
With the new engine generation and its many technical highlights, the Audi 80 quickly became a commercial success for the Ingolstadt-based company: by the time production ended in the summer of 1978, over one million B1 models would roll off the assembly line.e. As the production capacity of the Ingolstadt plant was soon no longer sufficient to meet the high demand, the Volkswagen plants in Wolfsburg and Emden were involved in production.
The Asso di Picche, a coupé concept car designed by Giorgio Giugiaro and produced by coachbuilder Karmann, demonstrated the sporting potential of the B1 from 1973. The Audi 80 GT went into series production in 1973, before being replaced by the Audi 80 GTE in October 1975: Its engine has a power of 110 horsepower. The driving performance of the new top model already hints at the dynamics that Audi would soon unleash. In 1976, the B1 received a model update that gave the sedan big-block headlights, bringing it visually more closely into line with the new generation of the Audi 100. Lightweight and fuel-efficient, the Audi 80 became very popular, especially after the oil crisis of 1973.; the car was also a success in the United States, where it was sold under the name “Fox”.
This Audi 80 is a major milestone in the history of Audi, which asserts itself in a competitive market. It is from it that the Audi Coupé GT derives and especially in 1982 the famous Audi Quattro, which revolutionized the sports car and the world of rallying with its all-wheel drive system. The figures reflect this success with more than 20 years of existence, 4 generations and 4.5 million cars sold.