This Factory-Built Audi Quattro Rally Car Is Also An Insane Road Car
Photography courtesy of Bonhams
To be remembered in history, you’ll need to do something pretty significant. But if you want to enter the realm of legends, you’re going to need to do a little more than that—being the first to build an AWD turbocharged production car is a good way to start, but proceeding to take said snail-fed all-time all-wheel drive hatchback to the World Rally Championship victory podium for nearly five years straight? Yes, that’ll do.
Audi engineer Jörg Bensinger took note of the proven all-wheel-drivetrain showcased in the Volkswagen Type 183, more commonly referred to as the Iltis, meaning “polecat” in German (which is essentially a European skunk). Quite fitting, given the Iltis’ rugged no bullshit attitude while resembling the bastard offspring of a VW Thing and Willys Jeep. That little 4×4 proved itself nearly unstoppable in any terrain.
Jörg secretly began working with Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson, Ferdinand Piëch, out of the bean counters’ view. The Iltis was based on the Audi 80 platform (later called the Fox—what’s up with all these rodent names?), which the duo used to complete their first 4WD prototype in 1977. After over a year deep in development, they presented their AWD rally aimed concept to the Audi board, which they approved.
Audi lobbied to abolish FIA regulations that banned all-wheel-drivetrain contestants and by late 1979, the rules were rescinded. Audi timed it perfectly. By the 1980 season, Audi was the only WRC entrant with a fully developed AWD system, ready to race, while the competition remained either FWD or RWD only—insert maniacal German chuckle here.
By 1980, the first Audi Quattro (Ur-Quattro) competition car debuted at the Geneva Motor Show. With a turbocharged five-cylinder warbling under hood, all four wheels pushed to the farthest corners of the rigid chassis, and a refined full-time all-wheel-drivetrain shoehorned underneath its box-flared body, Audi was ready to jump (pun intended) right into the WRC season. The rest, as they say, is history.
This production 1981 Audi Quattro started life out as a Volkswagen Auto Group (VAG) press car—if you’re listening, VAG, please deliver an Ur-Quattro to Petrolicious HQ ASAP…we’ll be, uh, nice. Anyway, after being tossed between abusive journalists, the car was issued to David Sutton Motorsport’s Audi Rally Team. The rally-breeders converted the road-going homologation special into the team’s reconnaissance vehicle and secondary reserve racer.
The race-prep-conversion included a full Safety Devices rollcage, unique gold BBS mesh wheels, fixed racing buckets, and the lot. Assigned to recce duty, this Quattro was wheeled by John Buffum at the Acropolis Rally and Hanna Mikkola at the Manx Rally for practice sessions. In 1985, the car was sold to an international privateer rally driver before eventually finding its way into the garage of veteran rally crew chief Colin Parkinson.
Colin Parkinson entered the Quattro in a few low profile events and made entry in two books, Audi Quattro by Graham Robson and Audi Quattro The Development And Competition History by Jeremy Walton. In 2000, the car made a screen appearance in The World’s Greatest Rally Cars by Duke Video.
The caretaker now offering the car took possession from an estate sale in 1995 and has enjoyed ownership through several events, like the 2009 Trackrod Rally, 2010 Chatsworth British Rally Show, and strolled through Cornbury Park in 2011. Recently, this Quattro underwent a full body correction to its former 1981 livery and aesthetic specifications using original parts.
The 2.2-liter 5-piston-count powertrain was recently rebuilt by the Audi gurus at Dialynx to the tune of 300 German steeds. Now featuring a straight pipe exhaust and more lighting equipment than Wrigley Field, spectators will be sure to hear you coming before you blind them while, “passing with care.”
Included in the sale are two sets of wheels and tires (gravel and tarmac), a later model grill and headlights, a larger rear wing, current MSA compliant turbo restrictor, a silenced exhaust system, and more potential fun than probably anything in the current VAG lineup.
– Originally a VAG press car
– Converted for rallying in period
– Present ownership since 1995
~300 horsepower 2.2-liter turbocharged five-cylinder, five-speed manual transmission, full independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,524 mm.
Chassis no.: 85CA900146