Welcome to the JNBQC, Door Panel Edition. Let's see how well our junked Audi 80 performed for the Fatherland!

Since we were looking for three early-90s cars with roughly similar prices- in this case, around 20 grand (or about $32,000 in 2009 bucks)- I figured our German entrant would be a BMW 318. The wrecking yard we visited, however, was fresh out of 318s, and the more junkyard-common 325s sold for 25 grand and up. Mercedes-Benz was out, because even the low-end 190E was priced at close to 30 grand; on the other hand, the only Volkswagen that met our requirements was the Corrado… and good luck finding one of those at a random self-service yard. That made this 1991 Audi 80 an easy choice, since its price tag falls right in line with the '93 Buick LeSabre Limited and the 91 Lexus ES250. Shawn knows quite a bit about old Audis, but swore that he didn't have any special tricks for door panel removal on this car. Let's see if we can get that panel off in a reasonable amount of time, without breaking anything. Based on my experience with (non-air-cooled VW) German cars, I was expecting a real struggle here, sort of like rebuilding a grandfather clock while on the Bataan Death March. In a blizzard. Let's see how it sorted out!

The panel looks pretty simple. No crazy controls or displays, no Simu-Wood™ inserts… but also no fasteners visible at first glance.

Here we go! Good ol' Phillips screws, with the first couple right in plain sight.

So far the sailing is as smooth as it ever gets on a door-panel job.

Cars often have a screw behind the inside latch handle, so let's check…

Yep, there it is. Shawn needed a few extra seconds to figure out the funky angle of the screw, but the Pain-In-The-Ass-O-Meter™ still reads near zero.

More Phillips screws hide beneath the armrest.

The bezel under the armrest comes off, revealing… more screws! Still, the whole procedure remains a walk in the park up to this point. When does the nightmare part begin?

A power screwdriver would have made this part go a lot quicker, but we'll take manual screw turning over finicky plastic snaps any day!

Check out the length of this sucker! We couldn't figure out why Audi felt compelled to use such long screws, which seemed more appropriate to hanging drywall than building a car, but they got the job done.

Next, we pry the switch panel/storage pocket out of the armrest. The tabs were pretty easy to find and not very fragile, so no real complaints yet. Talk about your preconceptions getting eroded away… but some unpleasant surprises may await us as we venture deeper into the depths of Audi Door Panel Hell.

The door wiring harness connector was the usual easy-to-disconnect Bosch unit; no fingernail-snapping latches here.

At this point, Shawn had removed nine screws (or about six more than you usually find on a door panel) and had disconnected the wiring harness. The panel seemed to be held on by some perimeter snaps or hooks of some kind. Let's try some gentle persuasion with a small prybar…

Hey, a little up-and-out jiggling and the whole unit comes loose! Looks like no hardware dropped to the ground and/or snapped off in the panel.

Audi used some sturdy plastic hooks, which seat into corresponding holes in the door. Very nice, but you'll be breaking out the JB Weld if you do break one off.

Whoops, something's still holding it in place. Oh yes, the door latch cable. That's right, Audi didn't use the crude metal rods so beloved by most car makers.

There's enough slack to set the panel on the ground while we try to disconnect the latch cable at the door panel. This promises to be a total ball-buster.

What's holding it in there?

Holy crap! It's a sensible, easy-to-remove hook!

And that's it for the 1991 Audi 80 door panel removal job. Total time: 5 minutes. Pain In The Ass Quotient (PITAQ): 1.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. We'd have given it a 1, but the large quantity of very long screws had us scratching our heads. Number of broken parts: zero!
I can't imagine a door panel removal being easier than this, but we're heading into Toyota country now and it's never wise to underestimate Toyota engineers. Next contestant: 1991 Lexus ES250!


Now on to the Lexus ES250!