The Ur-Quattro, or Original Quattro, arrived in 1980 and took rallying to a whole new dimension, dominating the sport for over two years. It was the first rally car to take advantage of new four-wheel drive rules and spawned panic amongst its rivals to catch up. This reached fever pitch with the advent of Class B rallying between 1982 and 1986 when such monsters as the Ford RS200, Metro RS4, Lancia Delta S4 and of course the Sport Quattro S1 arrived.
These cars travelled so fast along winding, slippery, often mountainous roads they appeared to defy laws of gravity and adhesion. To give you an idea of how fast Class B became, Henri Toivonen once famously tested his Delta S4 at the Estoril Grand Prix track with a lap time that would have put him sixth on the F1 grid, in a rally car. Turbo’s could be boosted to 5 bars or more and horsepower easily eclipsed 500 in race form. 1000 was apparently quite possible. Now this amount of power is all well and good in a race involving long straights and steady left handers, say NASCAR for instance, or something similarly boring. But on a forest track covered in mud, ice, snow, water, gravel and more often than not involving hairpin bends over blind crests? I am sure you get my drift, no pun intended, these were accidents waiting to happen.
Sadly all too soon for Toivonen in 1986, who flew off a thin strip of tarmac high up a Corsican hillside at speeds barely imaginable, taking his co-driver with him. Overnight the era of the Rally Supercar ended and these powerful machines became obsolete.
However, one sport’s loss became the consumer’s benefit with the opportunity to emulate our rallying heroes by purchasing one of these cars that were only very slightly modified for road use. Lancia sold its Delta as the Integrale, Ford as the RS200 and
Audi with its Quattro. In its original guise it came with a 2,144 cc, 10 valve turbocharged in-line 5 pot engine, or WR as it became known, and it is this example I am about to jump into.
In fact I am about to drive a car whose original owner was none other than
a former Australian Formula 1 driver, and winner of the Le Mans 24 hours, Vern Schuppan.
Sitting low in a its dated but hugely comfortable leather chair, you notice the wheel is set slightly left of centre but the pedals are perfectly positioned directly in front of you and spaced ideally for heel and toeing. No doubt Vern would have been a dab hand at left foot braking, but with Ian from Shannons sitting beside me there was no chance of that today.
The dash ahead of me is pure Audi of old, no different to an 80CD I owned many years ago or a mate’s 90 Quattro. Turning the key and hearing that 5 pot rumble immediately took me back to my teen years and my yearning to own one of these iconic cars. Depressing the clutch I half expect a work out for my thigh, but not so. It’s as light as any modern day car and snicking it into first heralded the typical mechanical clunky feel that all Audi’s had at the time. Not particularly smooth nor solid, but its an Audi, they don’t go wrong.
Pulling away, the sound emanating from those twin pipes still shames any contemporary V8 and considering the car is now 33 years old you’d expect the odd rattle and perhaps some loss in power. Blipping the throttle it doesn’t sound much has past it by, but the lag is more pronounceable than I thought. I have to remind myself this is normal of all early turbos, even of supercars.
Unfortunately the back roads around Artarmon are busy with trucks and traffic lights, but with a hill and some space in front of me, I floor it as much as I dare, half expecting Ian to tut in disapproval. It doesn’t come, and the question concerning its power is answered with a strong surge in second up to 60. Third is some distance away, surprisingly, but fourth is a quick pull back and we’re travelling smoothly, bathed in its inline din.
Sounds good, I shout to Ian. He agrees and I think both of us wish for a local track to delve down and put it through its paces.
Sadly the test drive is all too short but it is obvious this car has been well looked after. It rides the atrocious concrete slabs, synonymous of this area, with barely a shudder of disapproval and shakes off the inconvenience of mini roundabouts with the nonchalence of a gorilla swatting a bug. The last one I come to I drop down to second and gave it some welly, with window down and a wall across from me, that noise, the drama, just makes me want to drive this thing further and faster. Shame its not in red though.
The car is being auctioned at Shannons of Artarmon on May 6. Visit http://www.shannons.com.au/auctions for more information.
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Recommended Service Centres:
Eagle & Raymond Automotive – 1/14 Brennan Close, Asquith NSW 2077m