Audi Ur Quattro

According to Ron Eagle of Eagle and Raymond Automotive, Quattro’s in Australia tend not to go especially wrong.

For instance, he has never had to deal with any Turbo issues or even replaced one of his customers clutches. That may say more about the owners than  the car, but it does go to show that even though these cars are now 20 to 30 years old, Audi built them to last.

I am indebted to Bob Jones, probably my only reader and therefore a hugely important person, for sending me the link to Octane Magazine, for some excellent information on what to look out for.

Externally we are rather lucky in Australia that rot, either on the panels or beneath the car, is unlikely, unless of course your Quattro was shipped in from Europe, probably the UK due to right hand drive, after a few years of its life. If it had to endure a number of wintry, salt laden roads corrosion could have set in.

In the current absence of personally collated local data, more of which will be added soon, Richard Dredge’s article for Octane Magazine sums it all up nicely.

The quattro’s in-line five-cylinder engine was built in three forms. First came the 10-valve 2144cc WR unit, followed by the MB in 1987 (2226cc, 10 valves) and the RR (2226cc, 20 valves) from 1989. Most troublesome is the WR, while most reliable is the RR – although the latter unit is also the priciest to buy parts for. That leaves the MB, which gives the best balance of affordability and reliability.

Engine rebuilds are costly but, if looked after, a WR unit will despatch 150,000 miles before it needs attention; expect at least another 50,000 miles from an MB or RR. Hopefully the owner will have changed the oil every 5000 miles, using a synthetic lubricant.They will also have used only Audi oil filters (WR engines have two), which have non-return valves to prevent oil starvation of the top end at start-up.

To allow a low bonnet line the powerplant is canted over, leading to pistons and their rings eroding the cylinder wall and causing it to become oval. It takes a long time for significant wear to occur but, once it has, things get expensive. It’s simplest to find a decent used unit; they’re not plentiful but can be sourced through the owners’ clubs for around £750.

Key WR weak spots include a failed turbocharger, given away by poor performance and blue exhaust smoke – the problem is largely solved on later cars by the use of a watercooled unit. Also listen for ticking from the exhaust manifold as the engine warms up: this indicates a cracked manifold, and new replacements are unobtainable. To check for this you must start the car from cold; if it’s already warm, the manifold will already have expanded.

If you’re testing a 10-valve car that’s unable to run cleanly, it’s probably because of perished or split rubber intercooler hoses. If the rubber is damaged, it’s straightforward to replace them; they cost £30-170 each and there are three of them.

There aren’t any problems specific to just the MB or the RR engine, but there are some which might crop up in any of the three types of unit (and particularly the WR). The first is worn valve guides and hardened valve seals, given away by blue exhaust smoke on the over-run. If the engine has been thrashed, a top-end rebuild could be needed in just 60,000 miles, costing up to £1300.

Look behind the offside corner of the front air dam, at the oil cooler and the unions on its pipes. These corrode, allowing the engine to lose its oil and potentially to seize. Get to it in time and the bill is £200 plus four hours’ labour; leave it and the bill could be £4000 for a full rebuild.

If the engine runs badly or won’t start at all, take a look at the turbo boost gauge. If this gives a permanently high reading it’s because the inlet manifold pressure sensor has packed up; replacements are £150, available only from The Quattro Workshop.

The Bosch fuel-injection system is reliable but the fuel pump can give trouble if the car hasn’t been used much. It’s easy to spot because the engine won’t start but will turn over. A new pump at £150 is the only solution.

Whichever model you’re looking at, ask when the cambelt was last changed. This should be done every 45,000 miles or five years, but it’s not straightforward. The crankshaft securing nut needs a 27mm socket and a torque wrench that goes up to a massive 450Nm (331lb ft).


Despite the quattro transmission’s complexity, it’s incredibly durable. Synchromesh may have taken a beating if the gearbox has been abused, but this is easy to spot by trying to change ratio quickly when the box is still cold; crunching means the synchromesh is weak. As a rebuild is nearly £1000, most owners live with it or fit a used gearbox for around £200 – plus 10-12 hours’ labour to fit.

Clutches typically last 150,000 miles unless they have been abused. Accelerate smartly in each gear and see if the clutch slips; if it does, all is not lost as specialists can supply an original equipment Sachs unit for £170. It’s possible to buy even cheaper clutch kits, but don’t be tempted – the Sachs one has proved the most reliable
of the lot.

Finish by checking the diff locks haven’t seized up. They’re vacuum operated and you should ensure that the lights on the centre console go on when the locks are engaged and, just as importantly, that they go out when disengaged. Usually, reluctance to do either means the control units just need freeing off and lubricating.

Suspension, steering and brakes

Quattros tend to be thrown about, wearing out the suspension bushes, which also have a hard time because of the quattro’s torque and tyre grip. The front and rear sub-frame bushes bear the brunt, along with the wishbone bushes, so checking these is essential. Look for split wishbone bushes – a new set is £50 and it’s an easy swap.

If a 20v quattro has been really chucked around, it could be suffering from cracks down the nearside of the rear subframe; a replacement is £800. That’s why most owners use the same from a lesser quattro (such as an Audi 80), sourced from a scrapyard for £35 or so.

The steering should be sharp, with plenty of feel. If not, it’s probably because the wheels are out of alignment, leading to uneven tyre wear. Each corner can be adjusted for camber and toe in/toe out, and it should be checked annually by a quattro specialist.

Moaning from the front wheels as the steering wheel is turned on the move means fresh bearings are required; it’s not possible to detect play by feeling for it while the car is jacked up. New bearings cost £30 per corner and they usually last around 80,000 miles. Replacing them is a DIY job if you’ve got access to a press to get the old units out.

The wheels can get damaged on the inside of the rim, because of their width. With the car on axle stands, get underneath and spin the wheel, looking to see if it runs true. If it’s badly damaged it will need renewing – at over £300 apiece from Audi. It’s more cost-effective to buy secondhand ones and have them refurbished.

On MB and RR models, pull the connectors off the low servo pressure warning switch mounted on the brake servo. With the engine switched off, but the ignition on, attach a continuity tester. Press the brake pedal repeatedly on a two- to three-second cycle – if the switch closes after five or fewer depressions the system’s hydraulic accumulator needs changing, at £250.

The rear brakes can give problems, especially if the car isn’t used much, as the handbrake’s self-adjuster piston rod seizes. The best cure is to fit reconditioned brake calipers at £120 per side (double this on the RR).

Bodywork, electrics and trim

Thanks to plenty of zinc plating on most cars, exterior panels are fairly durable. Pre-1985 quattros, with no galvanised panels, can show signs of localised rust even if they’ve never been pranged. From 1985, various panels such as the wings and bonnet were galvanised – but it’s not possible to say with certainty which panels were galvanised and when, as Audi mixed and matched. Until 1987 the bootlid was made of steel, but after this date it was plastic.

Any post-1984 quattro that hasn’t been scraped should be largely rust-free as at least some of its panels will be galvanised; post-1988 examples are the most durable of all. Original factory stickers on the underside of the bonnet are a clue to an untouched car, as these decals haven’t been available for years.

Sills can rot on the earliest quattros, along with the underside of each door and the wheelarches. All quattros need their wings analysed – especially their seams, which often harbour rust as a result of poor accident repairs. These models were handbuilt at the factory so panel fit should be good on an original car.

Make sure all the instrumentation is working, especially if it’s the digital system fitted from 1983. Then switch the ignition on and check that all the warning lights illuminate – bulbs may have been removed to disguise major problems.

Pre-1983 examples have a simple wiring loom, while later ones don’t. But the latter models are also more reliable because the components were of a higher quality. The most common problem with the earliest cars is corroded connections. Before starting the difficult task of tracing dodgy circuits, however, take a look at the fusebox: the board in it can crack and break the connections. A new one is £50.

On WR models, the synthesised voice should spring into action if the ‘Check’ button is held depressed while the ignition is switched on. Then make sure that all the equipment is working – although it’s rare to find functional heated seats and air-con, as replacement parts are obsolete. Also, replacement wing-mounted electric aerials are no longer available and neither are substitutes.

New interior trim is extinct, so it’s worth paying a premium for a car with a really good cabin. Most parts are available on a used basis, though.


Bridging the gap between classic and modern, the quattro can theoretically be used every day or just for the occasional Sunday run. However, the spares situation is currently poor, with many parts available only secondhand, so clocking up a high mileage could prove very expensive.

Things are less of an issue if you’re buying a mint example, but make sure that’s what you really are getting. Despite the quattro offering huge levels of handling, grip and roadholding, there are plenty of examples that have been crashed heavily. As a result, you must ensure the bodyshell isn’t twisted and that the rustproofing hasn’t been compromised. Uneven panel gaps and strange tyre wear patterns will normally give away the former.

Buying the best you can afford is a good mantra for any motor, but especially so for the quattro. A sorted example is one of the most complete cars ever built – but purchase a dog and you’ll have a serious money pit on your hands.


SAAB 900 Turbo 16v

Final Drive: SAAB 900 Turbo 16v

Model Year: 1991

Bought for: $16,995 in Sept 1999

Kms: 135,000

Sold for: $3,000 in Dec 2012

Kms: 247,000

Thirteen years is a long time in partnership with anything. It’s no less emotive than when it’s with a car and the split up has become inevitable. In my case not by choice either which only amplifies the pain.


This is not just any old second car, occasionally rolled out at weekends to annoy those who actually have a purpose to their journey. No, this, for much of its relationship with me, has been the every-day-use car. One that has never let me down, ignoring that one occasion with the wife that I put down to a girl thing; neither wanted to be usurped as being the most important female in my life.

In saying that, is she really female? This is a phenomena that is new to me. I’ve never been one to assign a gender to my cars, but since I started the trials of selling, I’ve been turned by a rather passionate lady extolling my car’s many delicate virtues and it struck me that, much like my wife, if treated tenderly she did indeed respond well. So it has sort of stuck.

There’s undoubtedly something of the gut pain one has when wrenched away from loved ones. Or, as was often in my case, wrenching themselves away at a brisk trot, back turned and facing a mother imploring her to run faster.

But anyway, I’ll definitely miss her, the smell of leather and fuel as soon as you open the door. The creak of hide as you slide into its still very comfy drivers seat. The idiosyncracy of its ignition placement. That whine of the turbo as it spools into life. The joy of the second gear kick-down. For sure I’m going to miss the manual box, clunky and long travelled it may be, but with it comes involvement, and a reason to drive smoothly and efficiently at pace. It forces you to take note of the road, else be dragged into the abyss of boredom and laziness that autos and other latter day gadgetries afford a man. However smooth and excellent they maybe today, in my opinion an automatic will always be trumped by a manual for sheer connection, to the road as well as to your driving style. All drivers should be forced to take the test in a manual is what I say. The skills learned and abilities improved can only benefit our urban society.

But I digress.

AAS 60C, or arse-sixty-see as I’ve taken to calling her, a 1991 Saab 900 Turbo 16v, pre-GM ownership. For a car that’s age is beginning to nudge the idea of a quarter century, it still looks good. The original paintwork has taken to the Aussie climate rather well and it gleams at me in the morning sun. Looking at it objectively, it is in good nick this one. No major exterior signs of any collision or corrosion. She makes me proud. Its engine is strong enough for couple more hundred thousand klicks, if regularly serviced too.

The smell of 98 octane fuel is a pleasant one as you close the door, alarming initially I grant you but I came to adore it, hooked you might say. I sit motionless for a second drinking it in. The cockpit’s ever so slightly biased toward the driver and its beginning to look its age in aesthetics, but functionally all still sound. The CD is an after market affair that works well enough but the lights have mostly died out for night time use, so it then becomes a hit and miss affair. And there’s a rattle in the ventilation system that has always been there and can only be cancelled out by exactly trimming the air duct controls. Idiosyncratic you might say.

I reach down to my left and insert the key in the centre consol. It starts energetically with maybe a hint of chattering tappets. I let the oil work itself around the engine before I pull away.

Let’s face it, this is a twenty two year old car, twenty three if you add the year it was built prior to registration, so the creaks and rattles that come through the facia and rear quarter have to be expected. Much often turns out to be for ancillary reasons; a clunking seat belt holder for instance or a loose parcel shelf. Nonetheless this is an old car and should be treated with some care, just in case. That being said, in the main it still feels tight.

The steering wheel is so much smaller and skinnier than more contemporary cars and loses nothing for it. The feel you receive through its thinly padded rim is one that inspires trust and respect. And it’s the same minimalism throughout the cabin, for there are no signs of airbags, cup holders or blue tooth connections in here. It’s because of this that what looks small on the outside, a latter day Ford Mondeo dwarfs it, it almost makes up for when inside, thanks to the absence of all that safety rubbish. Saab, as Top Gear showed us, had not forgotten its safety responsibilities, damn near wrapping the whole vehicle in a roll cage.


Not that a generation junior would agree with me after a first acquaintance with the brakes. They are certainly not as well assisted as anything they would have learned to drive in, but once you get used to the extra effort and travel required, they are effective enough.

At the lights, if the revs are kept up it pulls away strongly and still a match for most V6’s. But woe-betide if your timing is out, the lag will reduce you to a snails pace for an interminable few seconds before finally and, satisfyingly, hitting its sweet spot with such panache that you can almost forgive it.

Find a clear, winding stretch of road however and it hunkers down at the back and acts as if its rear wheel driven. If you get your line right through a series of sweeping bends, using the gears to full effect and taking care to keep the engine working in the power band, it flows as sweetly as any spirited 5 door wagon of today. It’s the sense of involvement you feel with a car of this era though that really shines. In a few years you’d be hard pushed to find a new car that comes with a manual transmission, and we as drivers will be the worse for it.

But you don’t drive this car like a sports car, no, she’s too boat-like, as my GTi driving friend once remarked. It’s more of a Grand Tourer. More sedate but rapid when the moment comes. Its ability to overtake in the 50-70 kph range is still a marvel and one that brings a smile to your face.


That said, when faced with a series of speed bumps, its low stance makes you wince every time you scrape over some of the more severe ones. Its ride is a tad firm for Sydney road conditions but thanks to its excellent seats you’re never troubled that much.

I drive for fifty kilometres and notice I’ve gone through a quarter of a tank, so spirited driving does come at cost. But for a price of an expensive handbag this fair lady comes with a lot of bang for your buck.

Over the years I tried a few places to maintain my Saab, from Ultratune to the original dealer, whose mechanics as it happened set up their own garage a few years after I bought the car. It was there, at Saabtech, I found real maintenance value. Its all well and good saving on a service by going to a local non specialist, but ultimately using Saab experts paid off in quality and a better driving experience.

For detailed costs visit the research link: