Audi F103

Riding in such unity, the four-rings representing the Audi brand has never been more collected and determined in the premium vehicle marketplace. Audi car sales shot up considerably in 2010 with 1,092,400 vehicles sold worldwide (a 15 percent increase over the previous year). Last year for the first time, Audi surpassed the 100,000 vehicle sold mark in the United States signifying a refreshing global acceptance that is also quickly gripping China. A brand existing on the image of cars that balances performance and luxury, high-tech drivetrains employing gasoline direct injection and quattro all-wheel drive have made the car producer a staple. Looking back just over 45 years, before the aluminum construction and quattro, the Audi fought to start this modern journey.

Though the Audi automaker was established in 1909, most of its significant pre-world war two success occurred when the corporation became part of the Auto Union in the 1930s. Attached to evolutionary front-wheel drive cars between 1933 and 1940, the Audi name would go dormant during and well after the Second World War. Through the 1950s, Auto Union (owned at the time by Daimler-Benz) was struggling for survival as the company struggled to maintain profitably selling vehicles under the DKW name. DKW automobiles were far from stellar performers powered by antiquated two-stroke engines. In 1964, a monumental change came as German rival Volkswagen bought into the Auto Union company. With a modern four-cycle engine already in the late development stage, Volkswagen envisioned a stronger new presence resurrecting the Audi nameplate for the post-war era. Featuring a more refined four-cylinder internal combustion powerplant, the Audi division was reformed under the F103 series of vehicles.

Introduced late 1965 as a 1966 model, the Audi F103 line-up consisted of products identified by their engine power ratings. The Audi 72 was first, followed by the Audi 80 and top-performing Audi Super 90. Assembled with strong unibody construction, the Audi F103’s 172-inch total length is only 3 inches longer than the current Audi A3. Sold in two-door and four-door body styles, a three-door wagon called the Variant were shapes for the first Audis in 25 years.

Perhaps not a world-beater like the modern aluminum-bodied luxury cars, the modest 1960s Audi products did employ some impressive engineering for its day. The 4-stroke engine of the Audi F103 was connected to a front-wheel drive system. While car company have been experimenting with front wheel driven vehicles through the 1930s (Audi included), the return of Audi came during a renaissance for the compact powertrain design. The Audi engine choices range within 1.5, 1.7 and 1.8 liter displacement sizes each sporting surprisingly high compression ratios. With 9:1 to 11:2:1 compression ratios, the Audi F103’s four-cylinder engines were quite efficient for the era. A four-speed manual gearbox accompanied all engines available on the Audi F103 vehicles. While no match for the advanced R Tronic or the 8-speed automatics currently used in Audi products, the four-speed transaxle delivered very suitable road-going performance.

A qualified go-getter, stopping was equally noteworthy with the Audi F103. A rarity in the family and smaller vehicle segment, front wheels were equipped with disc brakes. Rather underwhelming compared to even modern entry-level cars, it seems the technology usage for the time by Audi was a precursor to what would be a reputation for performance and handling.

Built between 1965 to 1972, the chance of finding this used Audi in North America is slim. The Audi brand did not land on United States soil until 1970 where the growth was gradual. In actuality, it appears Audi wants American focus on their heritage to center on the Ur-Quattro. However, at this time 45 years ago, the relaunched German auto brand owed their modern success of cars like the A4 and R8 to a mighty little four-cylinder.

Information source: Audi AG