Today’s Challenge: The Answers

Earlier today I presented a little challenge. Here are the answers.

1973 Audi 100S: source

There were quotes under various categories such as roadholding, engineering and ashtray capacity and I asked whether the quotes related to the Ford Capri 3000 Ghia, the Alfa Romeo Alfetta or the Audi 100 S (all 1975 cars). If you want to find out the answer, just read on.

1975 Ford Capri 3000: source

Performance:

Despite the engine size of the X, its performance is not exactly satisfying. It feels torquey and gutsy and it is, giving a reasonable amount of top speed, a comfortable amount of acceleration and a lot of flexibility from low speeds in high gears.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 1ooS? Answer: Ford Capri 3000.

Styling.

“Take the N: it admirably demonstrates (its maker’s) passion for conventional design in the face of all odds.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 1ooS? Answer: Ford Capri 3000.

Handling and roadholding

“When you aim the the X at a corner the true nature of the beast is revealed and it is not a pretty sight.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 1ooS? Answer: not B or C.

1975 Ford Capri in Andorra: source

Driver Appeal.

“Superficially, the Y has a lot of it. The interior looks inviting, the instrumentation is extensive and easy to read and although the steering column is a couple of inches too long, the driving position is good. The let down comes once the vehicle is on the move.”  Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 1oos?  Answer: the Capri (A)

1975 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT: image

Comfort

“Part of the V’s problem is that the suspension is too soft for good handling and to floppy to inspire a great deal of confidence.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 100s?  Answer: the Ford.

Verdict

“If you believe in cars that are uncompromisingly engineered to provide the best possible dynamic qualities, the Y has to be a bargain.”  Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 100s? Answer: the Capri.

The article presented a full table of technical specifications which these days you need to spend half an hour to find on the internet. And even then they won’t be in an easily comparable format. In the table, you find that the Alfetta came with a 1779 cc DOHC, twin-choke engine pushing out 122 hp at 5500 rpm. The Capri had a meaty 2994 twin-choke V6 engine (pushrods) producing 138 hp at 5000 rpm. And Audi svelte 100S had an 1871 cc engine with downdraft, two stage carburettor making 112 hp at 5600 rpm.

Interestingly, the Audi had much the largest fuel tank, 13 gallons to Ford’s 12.8 and Alfa’s distressing 11.9. Car’s review did not bang on much about front-drive versus rear-wheel drive. They seemed to be agnostic on it in principle. Rather, they judge the Audi as being simply the nicer-looking version of the 100 range: “it really wants to be no more than a prestigious edition of the comfortable and practical saloon”.

The Alfetta was nominally related to the saloon of the same name but was “determinedly sporting  and uncompromisingly designed and engineered, with the engine at the front and the transmission at the rear.” Car quite liked the Ford’s V6: “The Capri’s V6 engine is a compact pushrod unit that has been developed from a barely adequate power unit into a smooth, strong and quite lusty device, developing 138 hp  at 5000 rpm, but, more impressively, with 174 lb/ft of torque at 3000 rpm as befits an engine with more than a litre capacity advantage over the others.”  

The Ford had a rigid back axle, suspended on leaf springs, coils and struts are employed at the front, along with ventilated discs, whereas drums do the stopping at the back. The engine was placed insufficiently far back to truly balance the car. Audi also had a disc/drum set-up. As with the Ford, the Audi had coils and wishbones at the front with a rigid back axle and tension bars at the rear. Is that good?  Or just good enough?

Alfa offered discs all-around, in-board at the rear. The car famously had a de Dion rear axle and a five-speed gear box (to the others’ four speeders).  The Alfa had torsion bars at the front and coils at the back.

1974 Ford Capri: source

The cars each had a distinct visual appearance, despite sharing a fastback profile. I notice each has a very differnt face despite operating within the same framework of lights-over-horizontal bumper. The Alfa has the dual lights nestling in a subtle cut-out in the main surface of the car. The Ford went with rectangular lamps and simple chrome-framed grille. Audi’s air-intake and lamp recess is the simplest with dual lamps and no further articulation. More interestingly, the Ford and Alfa look nothing much like their saloon cousins (the Ford didn’t have one) while the Audi shares its frontal aspect with the cheaper saloon.

If we think back to earlier discussions of styling, the Ford is clearly out of the “contemporary vernacular mould” while both the Alfa and Audi demonstrate some “high concept “thinking. That may have mattered in 1975. Today, each of them has its own appeal. But rather than finish with a Practical Driver Classics-style conclusion, I suppose I will make a judgement and say I’d probably actually buy a Capri and live with the fact it’s not as good to drive as the Alfa (Car’s description of the driving experience is very alluring) or as well-resolved as the Audi.

The Capri’s handling was not impressive in 1975 but these days I actually find the idea of the straight-line performance and sloppy handling fun in that that it’s not anaesthetic. You don’t have to explore that handing envelope anyway, it’s the seating and trim that you experience every time you drive. I simply couldn’t live with the Alfa’s complexity or the Audi’s anondyne character (it’s the best-looking of the three, by a wide margin). I would however, like to try an Alfetta some time, just to see.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “Today’s Challenge: The Answers”

    1. True – but it didn´t look like it, as with the Alfetta GT whereas the Audi looks like it has a lot in common at the front end with the saloon

  1. The Audi’s rear suspension isn‘t rigid. It’s a semi independent torsion element design just like the (early) Golfs’ or Clio Mk1’s which just happens to have the torsion element between the wheel hubs.

    Of the three the Capri is the honest hairy chested fun car with a relaxed rumbling engine and old fashioned road manners, the Audi is the great pretender with comfortable interior and a tractor like engine and the Alfa is deeply flawed and idiosyncratic and fun only under the right conditions and a pain everywhere else. The Alfa’s gearbox alone would be enough to put off any potential customer without scudetto sized rose tinted spectacles (and this I say after more than twenty-five years of Alfa ownership and more than one Alfa with the gearbox under its rear seat).

    1. Maybe it´s semantics. Regarding the Audi: “Suspension is by coils and wishbones at the front with a rigid axle and torsion bars looking after things at the back.” Car, August 1975 p. 65.

    2. Sorry, Dave’s description is not correct. All those original 100’s had a rigid dead beam axle at the rear, located laterally by a Panhard rod. The 1973 and earlier version had its two thin but vertically tall trailing arms pivoting from a cross tube on the body. Inside the tube were two torsion bar springs, one for each side. The “crank” part of the set up was the leverage the thin blade from each rear axle exerted on its torsion bar. Not dissimilar setup there to a VW Beetle with a willowy trailing arm and transverse torsion bar for each rear wheel.

      Trouble was, the torsion bars quickly sagged and thus the characteristic sight of the 100 roaring about with its snout up in the air.

      So, in the summer of 1973 ( model year 1974) coil springs replaced the torsion bars on the rear axle. The trailing blades pivoting on the cross tube remained, as did the rigid axle and Panhard rod, but now a standard looking coil-spring damper unit was attached to each rear hub.

      I’m completely sure about this because I owned a 1974 100LS for six years from new! I avoided the “great deals” on leftover 1973s to get that newer rear suspension. The driver’s side rear coil spring decided to fracture in half one day, ruining a tyre. And yes, I’m familiar with the underneath of the car, and I just checked my original brochure to make sure – it mentions coil springs and Panhard rod. Nothing semi-independent about the beam, it needed the panhard rod for lateral location – I put snow tyres on and off it enough times while I owned the car to observe the gubbins.

      If the beam twisted it wasn’t much – the flexible trailing arms twisted to adjust for single wheel bump, and if the beam had twisted, the Panhard rod would soon have been wrenched off! The Marketing Men found it unnecessary to change the catalogue description, however, for the 1974 and later models and still called it a torsion crank axle after the simple change to coils. No mechanical geniuses, they, or maybe they didn’t get the memo.

      I then owned a ’80 Jetta with the actual first VW torsion beam rear axle. And it was such an overall disaster from beginning to end, I bought the brand-new-to-the-market 1982 Audi Coupe after only 18 months. That also had a dead beam rigid rear axle like my original 100 had, and actually handled very well indeed – loved that car! Additionally GM stole the design almost bit-for-bit to fasten to the rear of its first FWD cars, the 1980 Chevrolet Citation and brotherly ilk. Cheap and worked well.

      So this 1975 100S Coupe rear suspension was like my ’74 two-door sedan.

    3. Sorry to disagree, Bill, but your description is technically incorrect.
      The ‘torsion’ in Audi’s ‘torsion crank’ suspension isn’t referring to the type of suspension spring but to the part connecting the wheel hubs. This seems to be a tube but isn’t. It’s either an inverted ‘U’ shaped stamping or a tube with a longitudinal slit so it can be twisted what makes it act like an anti roll element and not like a live/dead beam/DeDion axle where the hubs can’t move in rotation relative to each other. This principle is independent from the type of suspension spring and is following the same geometrical path as the Golf’s rear suspension which just happens to have the torsion beam located further forward, resulting in a more pronounced jack-up effect under cornering.
      Audi 100s with the strut type rear suspension have a different and more angular front end design as can be seen here (but they sill have the same rear suspension geometry because they still use the tube between the hubs as did every 100 up to the C4):

      https://assets.hemmings.com/story_image/605448-1000-0@2x.jpg?rev=2

      Torsion crank suspension working principles:

      http://www.kfz-tech.de/Engl/Biblio/Radaufhaengung/Torsionskurbelachse.htm

      “Assignment
      This construction appeared quite early as a simple axle construction for mid-range front-wheel drive vehicles. With the exception of the U-profile as the axle tube, it was not difficult to produce, only the welding seams had to always have the same quality. The axle was reasonably priced, but not very space saving.
      Function
      One could consider the torsion crank axle to be a rigid axle, but indeed, it is an independent suspension. The U-profile that joins the two wheels with each other, allows each wheel to move independently. However, together with the internal torsion bar, it functions as an anti roll bar. Twin trailing arms and the diagonal brace guide the wheels and take up the braking forces.”

  2. Regarding the Capri, even as a fourteen year old I remember thinking that the Mk2 was a rather flaccid looking thing compared with the Mk1. I think it was that rather uncertain lower window line and the overly large headlamps that necessitated those ugly cutouts in the leading edge of the bonnet:

    The makeover that created the Mk3, involving no sheet metal changes apart from the bonnet, was certainly (not much) money well spent:

    A great improvement, even if the dynamic qualities were still nothing to write home about. Definitely one to add to our short list of successful facelifts.

  3. Having posted thd pictures, I’ve just noticed, front wings and valance were also altered for the headlamps and to add an integral spoiler on the Mk3.

    Of course, the Mk1 was a great looking car, especially the twin-headlamp RS versions:

  4. It had actually occurred to me that Capri might be the universal answer but then I though “nah, that’s too obvious”.
    I do recall though that sales went, in declining order, Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3 and that the last of these faded away to nothingness everywhere except the UK where they kept on buying for quite some time. Also, they kept with the Essex V6 for rather longer than the Granada.

  5. I will come back to some of these replies on Monday.
    Daniel: we have to differ on that Capri.
    Dave: I am going to carefully read that until I understand all of it. I miss that kind of detail in car magazines today.

    1. Richard, this might be a book you could be interested in:

      Very comprehensive and in condensed form and yet understandable without an engineering degree (no insult intended).
      A new one is about 60 EUR but an older (2010 or younger) is just as useful.

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