Civil War hero and besotted president Ulysses S Grant graces the front the U.S. $50. A less notorious drinker is today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Audi 50, but will it take too many Grants to bring it home?
Holy cheese whiz, I thought Tuesday's vote was close, but yesterday's 50/50 split was tighter than a Mennonite on her wedding night, and was reflected in comments that were also pretty evenly split along lines of loving it or leaving it. Apparently, the big-ass Matador didn't engender much in the way of fence sitting with this crowd.
When new, today's Audi 50 GLS could have had us ‘Mericans crowding on the fence – waiting for a ride actually - as it wasn't even offered here in the states during its short and turbulent run. The littlest Audi preceded its VW Polo twin by a year, debuting in 1974, and had to spend the next three sharing a sales floor with its doppelgänger until that car's lower price and bigger sales spelled the end for the 50. Over its life, only 180,828 cars were sold, and it's questionable how many of those are left today, as they're so small, your typical squirrel could secretly have two or three packed away in its cheek pouches at any given time.
There's no question that a 50 in the US is going to be rare, and in fact when this exact same car was featured on BAT back in January, carrying a $12,500 asking price, they hypothesized that it might be the only one here. And while one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do, in this Audi's case, it's rarity is not due to looks or personality. The design of the 50 was an inside job, although it shares a family resemblance to the Guigaro-penned Golf and Scirocco, including army-cot crisp corners and flanks, and subtle buttresses on the hatch edges. Inside, it's like a mini 100LS, with woodgrain on the full-instrument dash, and wall to wall carpet. If this had been a Polo you were lucky to get a Speedo, a fuel gauge, and enough rubber on the floor to build your own pawn shop gimp.
Outside, this 50 is a shade of yellow popular among the Germans back before Techno and while the body's straight, there is some rust on the rockers and wheel arches. It's nothing too bad, but, like Karaoke it's a good idea to head it off before it gets out of hand. Inside the dash and wall to wall look good, but the seats are bunched up like a crab sufferer's boxer shorts. Of course that's easily fixed with a set of snazzy cheapskin seatcovers.
The 50 is powered by a 1093-cc four that came with either 50-hp, or in the case if this top of the line GLS, 60 ponies. That may not seem like much, but it managed to move the car's 1,501-lbs without much effort, all the way up to a triple digit top speed. Oh sure, that triple digit had a pair of zeros in it, but at least they were on the right side of it. The engine sits sideways up front and drives the wheels beneath its wings through a four speed manual transmission.
As I noted, this Audi has been sitting around for a while, and over that time its asking price has deflated from a speculative $12,500 to its present $9,500. For that you get a car that's claimed to have a clear Arizona title, and will gather crowds where ever it goes, mostly due to people mistaking it for a Yugo and marveling at witnessing one running. You of course will take quiet satisfaction in the truth, and in the knowledge that the 50 is ten times the car the Yugo never was.
Audi, today, has introduced a new upscale supermini in the A1, a car that once again shares parts with VW's Polo. That car may also never touch tire to tarmac here in the states, and it's unlikely that you'd want to wait around 30+ years for someone to privately import one so you could buy it, hence you might as well consider this one. If you were to do that, you'd have to take into account its price, and if that were to take place, you'd likely be thinking whether paying that much would be akin to getting reamed or not. So, taking all that into consideration, is $9,500 too many Grants for this Fiddy?
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