RM Auctions’s Audi Sport Quattro May Be Most Original Extant
Photography courtesy of RM Auctions
An evolution dictated by a general industry move from rear- to front-wheel-drive cars, the introduction of Group B to the World Rally Championship in 1982 proved revolutionary. Contenders now had three classes from which to choose – Group N (standard production cars), Group A (modified production cars), and the almost immediately notorious, virtually unleashed Group B (modified sports cars).
Most notably, Group B allowed Audi to compete with its still-new quattro all-wheel-drive system, an obvious boon on varied rally stage surfaces. Debuting in the Audi 80-based Quattro coupe in 1980, the permanent all-wheel-drive system quickly came to define the brand. Furthermore, FIA homologation rules meant that only 200 road-going examples of each car built for Group B competition needed to be sold to the public. These light regulations made for intensely competitive racing, since automakers were no longer required to build racing cars based on mass production models, but very much the opposite.
Audi campaigned what was essentially a Group 4 Quattro for the first couple of years before engineers in Ingostadt, Germany, unleashed a wildly different model now christened Sport Quattro. Though the Ur-Quattro (“original Quattro” to German enthusiasts) was a dominant force with its permanent all-wheel-drive system, its heavy monocoque chassis, long wheelbase, and balance issues caused by its longitudinally-mounted engine were detriments up against the purpose-built Lancia 037.
Audi’s engineers were tasked with developing a new model that would address these concerns, something they did in secret far away from the company’s road car operations. With its wheelbase shortened significantly between the B- and C-pillars, the Sport Quattro was not only significantly smaller than the standard Quattro found in showrooms, it was also wrapped in carbon Kevlar panels to further trim weight. A more upright windshield, cribbed from the workaday Audi 80, alleviated early visibility concerns.
Underhood, a downsized 2,133cc five-cylinder engine was turbocharged to the tune of around 450 bhp in competition tune. A massive KKK turbocharger rated at 1.05 bar meant that the car’s engine displacement actually needed to be reduced in order to comply with FIA regulations. Even so, the Sport Quattro competed against cars in the 3,000 cc category. Capable of sprinting from a complete stop to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds, the Sport Quattro was one of the quickest cars ever built for road use when it debuted.
Even ignoring those impressive numbers, the Sport Quattro was in many ways a watershed moment for rally racing. With the world’s top drivers on its roster, including the likes of Stig Blomqvist, Hannu Mikkola, Michèle Mouton, and Walter Röhrl, Audi Sport dominated the WRC through the 1984 season. The Sport Quattro’s last win came at the hands of Blomqvist and Björn Cederberg in early-November 1984 at the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire in Africa where the team also claimed the manufacturers’ title. That success may not have been repeated the next year, but the car’s legacy was cemented as integral to Audi’s short–but vaunted–rally history.
Audi built about 224 Sport Quattros, most of which were sold through select dealers. In Germany, the car retailed for more than 200,000 Deutschemarks (about $70,000 in 1984), a substantial sum that bought owners a taste of competition-proven performance. These road-going models boasted a more reasonable 302 bhp and 258 lb-ft. of torque, but they were no less aggressive to drive than their racing counterparts. Advancements like a selectable ABS system allowed drivers to specifically tailor the vehicle to road conditions they might encounter.
With their nine-inch-wide Ronal alloy wheels, the Sport Quattros had a light, but darty demeanor that proved daunting to novice drivers. Lag from the turbocharger was prodigious but workable as contemporary media reviews indicated. Hardly a forgiving car to drive, the Sport Quattro commands as much respect for its hidden technology as it does for the drivers who piloted it to the checkered flag.
The road-going 1984 Audi Sport Quattro offered here is without a doubt one of the finest examples extant – if not the finest. Acquired by its current, American caretaker from its first owner–noted Japanese collector Yoshikuni Okamoto–it shows just 8,300 km from new. Notably, Sport Quattros were not officially imported to the United States.
Swathed in an original shade of white paint over grey leather and cloth-covered Recaro sports seats, it boasts factory-correct white alloy wheels and will be delivered to its next owner with its original tools, owner’s manual, service manual, and a period sales brochure. Gently driven over the last thirty-plus years, the Sport Quattro shows few if any signs of wear. Recently, Audi Greenwich in Connecticut treated this car to a thorough service. Notably, the dealer–one of Audi’s largest–had never enjoyed the opportunity to service a Sport Quattro. To say that the Sport Quattro is rare is a massive understatement.
As interest continues to build in the saga that was Group B racing, the Sport Quattro has emerged as a genuine icon. So influential was the short, squat, purpose-built racer that Audi saw fit to pay homage by unveiling a modern take on the Sport Quattro as a concept car at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.