The original Audi TT's route to success reads like a Hollywood script pitch. Conceived in California as a concept for the 1995 Frankfurt Motor Show, it arrived in showrooms three years later with very few changes to its styling.
The public lapped it up from launch in 1999 in the UK, even if contemporary road tests were much cooler in their praise of the Audi's inert handling and steering responses. Then, just as buyers were queuing up, news came of several high-speed crashes in the TT. Most of these were on German Autobahns, where the TT Coupe's instability during certain lane change conditions could pitch it into a spin.
Audi's reaction was swift and added a stubby boot spoiler to interrupt the otherwise clean profile. This modification was offered free of charge to all TT owners and most took it up. There are still a handful of unmodified cars around, which are arguably worth collecting for their purity of line but not worth paying any more for.
With this issue addressed, the Type 8N TT was an unstoppable sales star. It was first offered with 180- and 225hp versions of the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine as used in a variety of Volkswagen Group models. The lower power model came with a five-speed manual and the 225hp had a six-speeder, though the 180 gained the extra ratio as standard from late 2000.
In 1999, the range was expanded with the Roadster and Audi offered a cheaper entry to TT ownership with the 150hp Roadster from mid-2003. At the same time, the 3.2-litre V6 model with DSG transmission as standard topped out the line-up. Yet, despite its 250hp, the TT 3.2 V6 was more of a grand tourer than out and out sports car.
That role was left to the TT Sport of 2005. It gained a 240hp version of the 1.8 T engine, kept all-wheel drive and ditched the rear seats and spare wheel to save weight. It improved the 0-62mph time to 5.9 seconds and top speed to 155mph. Other clues are the 15-spoke alloy wheels, black-painted roof and sports seats.
The final changes for the Mk1 TT came in the middle of 2005 when the 150- and 180hp engines were uprated to 163- and 190hp respectively, before time was called in 2006.
Now, you can find a first generation TT for £1,000, though it will be a scruffy example. Up the budget to £2,500 and there are plenty of tidy 180hp front-wheel drive coupes. The best 225 Coupes are double that, which is about the same as a well cared for 3.2 V6. Roadster don't command any premium, but the Sport will cost from £7,000 for pristine examples.
Bodywork and interior
The most obvious problem in the TT's cabin is the digital instrument cluster's pixel beginning to fail. This is more of an aesthetic irritation but it's a sign the dash binnacle is failing and that can lead to inaccurate fuel and temperature readings. Reconditioning of the dash is available for around £300 and removal and refitting is a DIY prospect.
Check the electric windows work properly and rise up to seal properly when the door is shut.
The roof channels can harbour rust, so inspect them closely. You also need to look for corrosion in the inner wings and sills.
Roadster hood drain channels can become blocked and allow water into the cabin. Check for damp carpets.
Engine and transmission
Cambelt and tensioners must be replaced at 80,000-mile or five-year intervals. Check for evidence of this and a new water pump with uprated metal impeller when the belt was last changed.
3.2 V6 uses a cam chain, but this can become rattly at surprisingly low mileages. Replacement is a £1,000 job at an independent specialist.
Ask what oil the seller uses for the engine: it should be Castrol fully synthetic 5W-30 and changed every 10,000 miles.
The 1.8 T engine is strong, but it can leak oil, so check all around the engine bay and underneath.
A misfire could be a failed coil pack or MAF sensor.
Manual gearboxes are hard-wearing and clutches last well - expect 60,000 miles in a car that's not been thrashed.
DSG gearbox is more troublesome as the Mechatronic unit fails and makes the transmission reluctant to engage gears. Reconditioned Mechatronic units are available from specialists from around £1,500.
The DSG gearbox needs an oil and filter change every 40,000 miles and the Haldex four-wheel drive system in all Quattro TTs should have its oil changed at 20,000-mile stints.
Heat exchangers for the DSG gearbox can also wear out, so ask if the pipework has been replaced recently.
Suspension and steering
Suspension bushes have a hard time as the TT weighs more than its looks suggest. Listen for any clonks or rattles. The front wishbone bushes and anti-roll bar collars are usually the first to wear at around 60,000 miles. Replacement metal collars are a worthwhile upgrade for the anti-roll bar.
Broken springs are another common TT failing.
Wheels, tyres and brakes
Uprated brake pads are a common fit by owners unimpressed with the standard items. It's worthwhile sticking to these.
Chipped and kerbed alloys are common and cost about £65 per wheel to refurbish so long as they are not cracked or bent.
SPECIFICATION: AUDI TT MK.1
Engine: 1,781cc 4-cyl inline/3183cc V6
Transmission: 5/6-speed man/6-spd DSG
Power (hp): 150/163/180/190//225/240/250@5,800/5,700/5,500/5,700/5,900/5,700/6,300rpm
Torque (lb ft): 155/166/173/184/207/236/236@2,200/1,950/1,950/1,950/2,200/2,300/2,500rpm
Price new: £20.925-31,405
Price now: £1,000 upwards
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