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My best and worst car is now a collectors item?


The Audi 100LS. Mine was dark green, and both best and worst car I've ever owned | Audi photos
The Audi 100LS. Mine was dark green, and both best and worst car I’ve ever owned | Audi photos

It’s a good thing I’d finished lunch maybe a 90 minutes earlier, because as I read the dispatch on Bloomberg,com, I nearly dropped my iPad. Any earlier and I might have lost my lunch.

The headline on the story read, “The Vintage Audi That Collectors Want, But Cannot Have.” Perhaps an early quattro coupe, I wondered? They are starting to come to auction from time to time.

And then I read the subhed: “If you find an Audi 100 from the 1970s, don’t pass it up.”

A 100? From the ’70s! I owned a 1971 Audi 100 LS, a two-door sedan, and to this day it remains the best and worst car I’ve ever owned. But reading that Bloomberg story — which even quotes my friend and McKeel Hagerty employee Jonathan Klinger — was the first time I’d ever even remotely considered it something of lasting value, let alone something a car collector might cherish.

In winter weather they'd be cleaning spark plugs
In winter weather they’d be cleaning spark plugs

“If you came across one, it would be a very affordable way to have a unique vehicle that you’d likely be the only one to have at your cars-and-coffee meet-up or the local car show,” Bloomberg’s Hannah Elliott quotes Klinger.

“It will hold its value,” he added. “Don’t look for any drastic swings either way. But for the people who remember those vehicles when they come across them, it’s a legitimate collector car.”

And both heaven and hell for the owner, I have to add.

I graduated from college in 1969, and secure in my new job as a newspaper sportswriter, bought a new, V8-powered Ford Mustang fastback as sort of a graduation present for myself. Fast forward a couple of years and we’re on a four-lane highway and a guy runs a stop sign and T-bones my Mustang. Fortunately, the worse injury to a human was a cut on the bridge of the other guy’s grandson’s nose. The Mustang was repaired, but not well and crabbed down the road thereafter.

It needed to be replaced. My first choice was an MGB-GT, but that was vetoed by my wife. How about a Porsche 914? It had even less room and stiffer suspension. Veto II. At this point we were thinking Mercedes, but they cost $6,000, so the Porsche-Audi dealer showed us a 1971 100LS in a dark green color with tan leatherette seats. And it was only 4 grand!

We bought it, anticipating that we’d drive it a couple of years and then swap for a Mercedes. By the time we were ready, Audis had doubled in price and Mercedes had tripled. Our next car was a Volkswagen Dasher.

But back to the 100LS, the best and worst car I’ve ever owned. It was sure-footed, a joy to drive, and even got great gas mileage. And living in western Michigan, I put snow tires on during the winter and the front-drive Audi proved unstoppable. Unstoppable, that is, once you got it started.

You see, if it was very cold, which it was every winter morning in that part of the world, to get it started I had to pull the spark plugs, which my wife graciously would clean and warm while I ate breakfast. She’d go back to bed and I’d put the plugs back in, start the car and head to work.

And it wasn’t just in the winter that there were issues. The car would overheat in the summer and once, coming back from a Big Ten football game on a rainy evening in Indiana, the lights would turn themselves off without warning.

Many years later, when I was an editor at AutoWeek magazine and in Europe on an Audi press trip, I was sitting at dinner with several Audi engineers. I mentioned my ’71 100LS and that it was the best and worst car I’d ever owned, and the engineers started laughing.

“Ya, we have a problem with that car,” one of them said, explaining an inherent weakness in the electrical system. It seemed I wasn’t alone in my winter morning spark-plug ritual.

We kept the Audi until our son was born and, now with an infant car seat and a child to try to strap into it, we needed something with four doors instead of two.

An ideal car for ideal weather
An ideal car for ideal weather

“It’s an appealing choice for the enthusiast interested in a significant, practical, and very rare Germany car,” the Bloomberg article quotes Hemmings’s David Traver Adolphus.

In addition to having European flair, “The Audi 100 was… something that was compact but usable, drivable but functional,” added Audi’s Mark Dahncke.

“The coupe-size bodylines and delicate pavilion roof immediately stood out compared with the heavier steel and muscle cars Detroit was making at the time,” Elliott writes. “Everything in Audi’s modern fleet can trace its design back to this car.”

And I had one.


Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
  1. I had a 1974 100LS, and I couldn’t agree with you more. It was the best and worst car I ever own. I don’t care what people say I wouldn’t have another Audi if someone gave it to me.

  2. My lady suggested an Audi TT for my next car (based purely on its ‘styling’ – this is a woman who drives a Ford Fiesta…. I guess I can see a TT being an improvement on that). I’d divorce her but we’d have to marry first.
    The TT is regarded as something of a hairdresser’s car here in New Zealand (….. maybe she was trying to tell me something). Whether that’s fair or not is a moot point.
    I don’t know much about Audis, the problem here seems to be the people who drive them. professional drivers here believe that AUDI stands for Another USELESS Driver Inside.
    PC Disclaimer:I hasten to point out that, like all broad generalisations, there may possibly be some exceptions. 🙂
    PS If Donald Trump becomes the next president of the USA, you’d better get used to hearing plenty of broad generalisations.

  3. Had an Audi Fox in the same era, wife hated it. Got a Peugeot 504D. Solid and comfortable but she missed the Pontiac Lemans sport she had to trade out of due to growing family. Now she has a 70 GTO. Wants nothing to do with the Audi.

  4. Almost bought the Audi 100LS
    Then took a look at the 1971 Volvo 142E and bought it
    The 142E was the best
    I drove it for over 200,000 miles
    Only problem I keep my engines clean inside and out.
    The PVC wire coverning did not like the the cleaner I used on it
    One of the cars I wish I had today

  5. I have owned several Audis. Fits the description “best and worst” fun to drive, nice interior but the rest of the car is crap! Very low if any resale value, expensive to maintain, dealers and service department are incompetent. After the last one, A4 Quattro, I’ll never own another one!

  6. I was a Porsche/Audi dealer in 1970-71; the Audis were a POS then, and they still are (those years, not current models).

  7. 1973 AMC Hornet X hatchback. Came with a V8. I put on 165,000+ miles, 25k+ pulling a 15 ft RV trailer before selling it. Not a single major repair was ever needed. 2nd owner had it for at least 2 years after that. Went cross country with the trailer and several round trips NY to Florida. Had to sell only because I was off to school in NYC and could not afford to park it.

  8. Wow … I love the question. I must say that my BEST CAR was my 1967 Firebird HO (326 4v) with a 4 speed in Linden Green and black interior. I sold it for $400 in 1977 and would pay A LOT more to have it back. The sound alone was beautiful.
    My WORST CAR was a 1981 Buick Skylark (x – car). Clearly this was GM’s pathetic effort to go “economical” with little effort to design a real car. 6 cylinder in a transverse axle was an over-engineered machine. I paid $14k for it … And should have purchased a city bus pass.
    But … What the heck, there were a lot of others cars that came and went but these were my two!

  9. One of my best, that reminded me of this story, was my 1978 Volvo 242 GT. It was a tank, fun to drive, and had decent power. Plus a cool corderoy interior!

  10. Great Question. Brings back so MANY memories. My 1963 Grand Prix with the 421/425. Had the NASCAR emblems on the fenders. 4 speed, positraction all of this on a big production Pontiac. It got about 3MPG– Never could pass up a gas station especially if the station offered 104 octane. But did it with class.
    And then there were my Corvairs. YES, plural— Oil leaks for sure– I bought the recycled oil at Thrifty Drugs, I think it was in a 2-gallon can for 1.00. Ran great— But if I pulled a good strong hole shot, I twisted off the end of the long input shaft hat ran from the clutch dis all the way to the front end of the transmission.

  11. Worst car was a 2000 VW Passatt 1.8. I had my wife drive it back and forth to work 73 mile commute it never got 30 mpgs it broke once a week and the parts were incredibly expensive. Best car is a toss up between my 1993 Volvo 240 wagon and my 1987 Mercedes diesel wagon. I get 33 mpgs on the diesel and 23 mpgs on the Volvo both cars have over 200000 miles and both cost less than 500.00 dollars a year in maintenance. I wish they made cars like that now.

  12. Loved my first car-1969 Datsun 510 but the best car I have ever owned was a new 1998 Ford Expedition (Eddie Bauer) Absolutely trouble free for the 11 years I owned it.

  13. my worst car was a1965 Austin 1100, mechanically good, drove well, good inside trim, but a body that rusted so badly (in the UK)
    best car ever for me was my 2010 Holden Commodore VE, this car is the best driving car that I have ever driven, safe, reliable, and economical at 9.3 litres per 100 km (3 litre LT1 V6) (bought new) It`s so good I do not want to upgrade to the latest Commodore.

  14. Parents had a 74 100LS, bought it cause it was like a cheaper Mercedes…..See lots of those old Mercedes still running around…no Audis from that time though…horrible car. I remember three occasions when it caught on fire. Electrically that is…once at the dealers for a no start condition. Really bad alternator mount bushings, so the belt squealed. I was 16 worked on it a lot. Front brakes didnt last long but at least were easy to change. Overheated if the temp was over 90. Made wonderfull mechanical sounds and it drove well and the back seat was even decent to ride in. The engine and the electrical were just awful. Havent even looked at an Audi since that experience.

  15. The 1963 Pontiac Lemans was an experiment with a flexible “speedometer cable” driveshaft. In my case, this driveshaft was somewhat loose, making a horrible racket when starting from a standing stop. To its credit, it never did break. I bought it cheap and sold it as soon as I could. I never did have the inclination to take it apart to find out how it could be tightened.

    Roger Williams

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