Late Winter 2023, we found ourselves in a situation where we needed a second car for family duty.
As much as the kids love riding around in the Rx-7, the car can’t hold them both and swapping cars in the middle of day isn’t always convenient depending how many of us need to be where on whatever day. Also, as it’s low-mileage survivor, I’m a bit wary of piling the miles on it. So we started looking around for a second family car.
Of course, I immediately started searching for unique and fun family haulers, even if they trended toward the slightly ridiculous. “Here’s a ’68 Plymouth Fury Wagon! Oooh, a not rotten Wagoneer! Wow, an original Ford SHO! A MAZDA RX3 WAGON!!!” Lisa gave me a few basic parameters which helped me focus a bit:
2. Manual Transmission
3. Head Rests/Shoulder belts in the rear
4. Fun to drive
5. Better Gas Mileage than the Wrangler
6. AWD (optional)
With that, we focused our search around E46, E34 and E39 BMWs and Saab 9-5s. Before you say, what about Subaru’s or VWs? We’ve driven some Subarus and have never found them terribly engaging .
We’d had a manual B5 VW Passat a couple years prior. While it was a pretty okay car, the 1.8t really struggled with launches up the Hills of Seattle. But we kinda felt that we’d been there and done that. In years past we also been fortunate enough to have a Saab 93 and an E32 BMW in the stable and count those as among our favorite cars we’ve ever had, so were kinda looking to return to one of those brands. We test drove a few different cars and ended up passing on them for a variety of reasons (Poor maintenance, questionably repaired accident damage, etc).
It was about now that I actually stumbled across a car I’ve always wanted (don’t ask why):
A 1982 AMC Eagle, with a 5 speed manual. Holy Shmokes! I’m sorry to say, as much as I tried to never mind away requirement #3, Lisa remained unimpressed. My dear brother, my stalwart Comrade in Arms in all things automotive buried the idea for good with a single quip to Lisa, “You think you hate it now, just wait ’till you drive it!” C’est la vie…the search continued.
If we travel back in time a couple years, my brother and I were sitting around his kitchen table late one night BSing about cars, which is our standard mode of operation.
I said, “One of the neatest cars in the world is probably an Audi 5000 wagon”
“I know a guy with one,” said he.
“Manual?” I asked.
“Yeah, ” He replied.
“Quattro?” My voice raising half an octave.
“For Sale!?” Almost too loudly.
“Almost certainly. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”
As it turns out, the car in question didn’t currently run and was on the wrong end of the country. For that and some other unrelated life reasons, the timing just wasn’t right and some other lucky person picked it up. It was red too. Oh well. So as I was searching night after night on Craigslist and FaceBook Marketplace, wouldn’t you know what popped up?
That’s right, a 1988 Audi 5000CS Turbo Quattro Avant! As I gazed as it’s totally silly 80’s angles and dreamed about it’s powerful and smooth turbo 5 cylinder engine I was reminded of the time spent in the back seat of my friend’s parents Audi 5000s when I was in grade school. They had matching his and hers Audi 5000s, in white. His was a 5 speed and I assume turbo, though I don’t know for sure.
But I digress, this car was about 4 hours away, the listing had been active for 3 months. It needed work, but seemed fairly priced given the disclosed issues. With a 3 month old listing I figured it was gone, but I reached out anyway, because you never know. Almost immediately I got a response back, “Still available!” A long phone call the next day ensued where I got more details. After a lot of discussion between Lisa and myself, I put together a project budget, borrowed a truck, rented a trailer and one rainy PNW Saturday, we went for a ride….