By now you’ve heard that the month of May on Speedhunters will be dedicated to Volkswagen, Audi and the other brands that fall under their umbrella. Although I’ve always kept my automotive tastes wide-ranging, I admittedly am a bit behind on European car culture. That means that this month will be both a challenge and a learning experience for me. Thanks to photographer Kevin Raekelboom and his archive of finely tuned Euro machinery we have an extensive library of VAG cars to feature, and to start the month I chose this 1977 Audi 80L owned by Matti Jongmans.
As I browsed through Kevin’s work looking for this month’s material, the first thought I had when I saw this Audi was “wow, that looks cool”. The second thought was, “wow, that looks strikingly similar to the customized vintage cars you find in Japan”.
If you are a familiar with Showa era Japanese cars, then you’ll also spot the resemblance. If you squint your eyes, this car could easily pass for something like a B310 chassis Nissan Sunny – especially with the wide ‘n low way it’s been modified. The overall aura from this car is quite similar to the one from the Toyota Cressida that Linh featured a couple months back – a basic ’70s passenger car that perfectly balances originality and style without dipping into the realm of cheesiness. Despite the fact that they come from opposite sides of the globe, there is an obvious bond between the two cars.
Since the Audi 80 is a pretty rare base for European car builders, Matti didn’t need to do much the body. With the exception of widened wheel arches and a shaved antenna hole, the body is all factory spec. Unlike something like a VW Golf, the aftermarket for this car is quite small. This means a lot of one-off parts and customization are needed – again, not unlike an older Japanese model like a Cressida. To get the right stance Matti customized a set of Koni adjustable shocks and springs to fit the car.
The car obviously wasn’t built for big power, but Matti swapped out the stock 55hp 1300cc engine for a 1600cc engine (and trans) from an Audi 80 GLS that makes 85hp. So the Audi may make less than 100 horsepower, but does that really matter when the car looks this cool when it rolls down the road? Matti does have plans to add twin 40mm Weber carbs, but I’m sure it will be more for the looks and sound over any power gain they might bring.
In keeping the with the rest of the car’s theme, the interior remains original for the most part. The few modifications include the steering wheel and OEM additions from a GLS model, including the the center console and tachometer. I do have to say that I’m quite fond of the dash styling and the overall simplicity of the Audi 80’s interior. The color is pretty cool as well.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the wheels and tires. Like most vintage car enthusiasts Matti’s had a few different sets of wheels on the car, but the ones seen here are Smoor Roadsters 13″x7 in the front and 13″x8 in the rear. Tires are Dunlop SP Sport 175/50/13 all around. The combination fits the Audi’s modified fenders perfectly with out being “too flush”.
Finally, a shot of the car alongside some of its contemporaries. Matti’s first car was a Mk.1 Golf and he says that he built the Audi because it stands out from the more popular Golfs. In fact he’s already working on another project that should be even more unique – a 1970 Audi 100 LS.
The qualities of a car like this are really quite universal. A capable (or in this case unique) platform, a stylish exterior, the right stance, and an emphasis on the details – things that can be seen on everything from a chopped ’49 Merc under California palm trees to a Toyota Mark II on the streets of Tokyo.
Hmmm… maybe this month won’t be as challenging as I thought.
Photos: Kevin Raekelboom