At $5,000, Could This ‘Work Needing’ 2004 Audi S4 Avant Still Work for You?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

While the seller of today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe S4 estate says it needs some work, he also claims that the big ticket item—replacement of the timing chain guides—has already been done. Let’s see if this hot wagon’s price will make it one and done.

If you’re a big fan of David Bowie’s Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes you might have wanted to turn and face the strange that was represented by last Friday’s 1988 BMW 750iL. That V12 luxury sedan it had gone through a number of transmutations to achieve its current, supercharged and manually transmitted form.


For the rest of us however, its reported need of a new clutch (damn that manual conversion!) and $6,500 asking price evoked more the feeling of wham, bam, no thank you ma’am and the heavily modded car went down in a massive 87-percent Crack Pipe loss.

My favorite Bowie song is Heroes, off the 1977 album of the same title. This disk was the second of Bowie’s ‘Berlin Trilogy,’ and was recorded in Berlin with the help of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. The song’s theme is somewhat antiquated today as it references two lovers separated by politics and physical obstruction—that being the Berlin Wall.

The wall separating Berlin fell, along with its sugar daddy, the Soviet Empire back in the 1980s. Today there is no East and West Germany, just a single unified nation. Back in the day though, there was perhaps no greater example of the disparities between the penurious communist East and decadent capitalist West. That divide was most evident in the cars each side held up as evidence of their political system’s superiority.


In the West, Germany was building cars like the fun loving VW GTI, surgical scalpel like BMW M3, and rally rocket Audi Quattro. In the East, they had the Trabant, a car made out of cotton and dissident’s tears. It featured a tiny two-stroke engine that was so egregiously polluting that the current U.S. administration is seeking a way to bring it back, as a way to ‘own the libs.’

Thankfully, the Trabbi is long dead and Western cars have flooded the former East. They’ve also come to America, and while we don’t get all the wildest bestien the Germans build, we do get a handful. Among those is this 2004 Audi S4 Avant, an insane package of V8 engine, all-wheel drive, and wagon body. that has gained a sort of cult-like status.


What’s all the fuss about? Well, tucked tightly into this Audi’s nose is a 4.2-litre quad-cam V8 engine. This in a space that’s more comfortably accommodating to a four cylinder. Now, when you package a mill in this manner some sacrifices have to be made. In the case of the B6 S4 that means the 40-valve (you do the math) V8 makes its 339 horsepower sitting bass-akwards under the hood, with its cam timing handled from the crank side of the house.


I know what you’re asking; ‘But Rob, how does that work with the timing belts for which Audi engines are so famous?’ You’ll be happy to know (even though you probably already did) that the 4.2 in the S4 uses chains to drive its quartet of cams, many, many chains. It’s like the mosh pit at a metal concert back there. The chains are obviously far more durable than are belts, however, as it turns out, their plastic guides are not. The 4.2's have a reputation for going south, requiring an out-of car service at an out of body cost.


Fortunately, the seller of this 130,000 mile edition says that the issue was addressed by a previous owner not more than 20K ago. He further notes that he works for an Audi dealer service department, so he must know his shit. His wife was the car’s primary driver over their 7 years of ownership.

The car is described as stock outside of some later S4 wheels. Those sport new Connies and the suspension recently received a four-wheel alignment. Everything is said to work, as it should, from the ZF Tiptronic right down to the folding mirrors. By the way, I love folding mirrors, it’s like having a really sneaky Transformer.


Not everything is strudels and cream however. The seller does detail some maladies, and in fact describes the car’s condition as ‘needs work.’ He means that in the sense of some wrenching to make right, and not in the manner of that guy with the cardboard sign at the end of the freeway offramp. The ad does point to a number of minor issues with the bodywork. There’s a scrape on the back bumper and some clear coat shedding in places. It’s nothing excessive, but props to the seller for pointing them out.


The interior also shows signs of age typical of a VAG product. The door pulls are losing their finish and some of the buttons have worn down to their white plastic underpants. The Recaros look excellent however, and that’s likely because they are from another S4, one that did but 30K. The black and white alcantara and leatherette really does spruce the place up.


The major work that the seller says the car needs includes the front suspension and motor mounts. Can you replace the motor mounts with the engine in the cars? I don’t know, but the suspension is not too bad a job. Entire kits can be had for a couple hundred bucks (don’t buy these, they are terrible) to a couple thousand (Mmmm, that’s more like it) and are generally considered consumable on these cars. The other issue is a minor rear-end shunt showing on the Carfax. The title is clean, however.

It should be pointed out that the seller is not down with your bullshit. He makes it very clear in his ad—in ALL CAPS no less—that he’s balls-deep busy and doesn’t have the time to deal with questions already answered in the description. He’s also not interested in listening to offers below his $5,000 asking. Don’t try your luck there.


You can try it here, however. We’re going to see if that $5,000 price seems palatable based on the description provided in the car’s ad. It’s your job to make that choice. What do you think, is this work-needing S4 worth that $5,000 asking? Or, does that just not a working number?

You decide!


New York Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

Help me out with NPOCP. Hit me up at and send a me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.