It’s not really rotten at all, it must be said. Why is it here today?
Walter de Silva is retiring from his position as head of VAG design. This made me wonder a bit about his time there and then the time before his time. That made me think of Audi which led me to this. J Mays is credited with this car, I was surprised to learn. And to be frank, like the 100 of the same period, it doesn’t look like it’s a mid-80s design or it’s distinctly different. I suppose to anyone under 30 it looks ancient but to me it looks timeless and yet also rather aloof and glacially cool. Walter de Silva jumped ship from Alfa, recruited to VAG to make cars this fascinating and emotionally engaging.
J Mays left VAG in 1998 and went to Ford while the following year de Silva went from AR to VAG. Curiously, both fellows didn’t really achieve anything in their big, final jobs compared to the work they did beforehand. I think the paychecks got a lot bigger.
Just for balance, here’s the 1997 Alfa Romeo 156 which you could call de Silva’s masterpiece:
They never did something as good after this (though the GT is a jewel).
Back to the car in question. This Audi 80 comes with a charming warm grey metallic coating and a warm grey interior, which is as cosy as Audi ever really did. The car looks to be utterly flawless and has only 155,000 km on the clock. You would have to live with the underpowered engine but that is not so hard as the speed limits in Denmark are very low and stringently enforced. What you do have is a car you can gaze at in wonder, asking yourself how did people in the early 80s conceive of an object that could retain its freshness after 25 years. In 1989 BMW were still selling this 3-series…
…which looks rather good as well, more solid in a way than the Audi. It might be the bright-work on the door frames and the stance. Well, it’s not bad. In 1989 it probably seemed really dated whereas now many will find its rectangular shape and robust build very attractive.
Let’s have a look at the Audi interior:
The price for this which looks like a stellar example of ‘old man’s final car’ is just 20,000 kr or about €2600, a snip for a Danish-market car though in Germany I expect €600 would be the more likely price.
What I get out of this exercise is the realisation that by the time 1998 rolled around, both J Mays and Walter de Silva’s best days were behind them. They had made their creative names with cars like this Audi and the 156 and the rest of their careers was spent in meetings and asking studio managers to change details or scrap fruitless themes. Or talking up those roads to nowhere that are showcars.