The Wild and Wacky World of Walter Treser's Audi-Based Creations

Carter Johnson
by Carter Johnson
the wild and wacky world of walter tresers audi based creations

Who built the first 250-horsepower Quattro? The first turbocharged German wagon? The first long-wheelbase Audi with all-wheel drive? The first all-wheel-drive convertible? The first off-road-inspired Audi? The first aluminum space-frame car? The first mid-engine car with Volkswagen’s Audi Group underpinnings?

Not Audi.

They all came from the mind of one incredible engineer named Walter Treser.

It’s not that Treser was without connection to the company, though, as he was intimately involved with developing the legendary Quattro and other models, then later headed up Audi’s rally program. Sure, Ferdinand Piëch gets all the credit for being the visionary that made all-wheel drive possible, but Treser is the engineer that actually turned that vision into reality.

But he didn’t rest on his laurels for long.

In 1981, Treser departed the company that he helped set in a very new direction. Unencumbered by the restraints of the corporate world, he engaged on a quest to maximize the potential of Audi’s new platform. He developed unconventional cars, for an unconventional decade marked by excess, in trying to put himself and the four rings on a level playing field with notable German tuners Alpina, AMG and Ruf. Yet at the zenith of his creative power, Treser met the reality of business as the world around him changed in the late 1980s. Treser never achieved the notoriety his peers did with other marques, and today is mostly a forgotten page in book full of expired ’80s endeavors.

Yet Treser should be celebrated for his genius and creativity if for nothing else. Quite simply, he made the most outrageous Audis anyone had ever seen, and even took a turn modifying Volkswagens. No one else made creations like he did. And, even though so few have heard of him, some of these cars were briefly available through a Treser dealer network in the U.S.

Let’s take a look at six of his most notable examples.

Treser Quattro Roadster

The Quattro was the model most intrinsically linked with Treser, so it made sense for him to focus on it first. Treser offered many upgrades to the model, including a 250-horsepower engine. The CIS fuel injection system on these cars somewhat limited maximum fuel delivery, so Treser modified Porsche 928 fuel distributors to pump more fuel into the engine. Treser also offered upgraded stereos, full leather interiors with custom dashboards, unique seats and steering wheels, TRX directional-veined wheels, and a semi-garish body kit. His suspension upgrades were also impressive, with a 20 mm drop in height accompanied by revised mounting points to keep the geometry spot-on. He was, after all, an engineer. But Treser’s coup de grâce was to chop the roof section off, making an awkward yet innovative folding roof contraption with a Quasimodo-esque profile. Fully spec out your Roadster and you’d be looking at a bill for 172,000 DM, or about $141,000 USD today.

Treser Hunter

Long before Audi conceived the Allroad, Treser developed a light, off-road version of the 90 (4000) Quattro. Jacked up and with bulging fender flares, the Hunter also carried substantial-looking brush guards, a signature Treser grille, and smoked tail lights. It had an upgraded suspension, brakes and hubs borrowed from its turbocharged bigger brother to hold the veined 415 mm TRX wheels, which were wrapped in beefy 280/45 VR tires that would look more at home on a Geländewagen. As its all-wheel-drive configuration meant there was precious little room for a full-size spare, Treser mounted one on the tail of the car in full, off-road style. Its performance was also optionally turned up, with Treser claiming his firm achieved about 160 horsepower from the normally aspirated 2.3 inline-five; impressive, given the engine available in the U.S. cranked out only 115 horsepower. Treser even claimed the Hunter could tackle 45-degree gradients. Treser offered the Hunter after 1986 on the then-new B3 chassis, too.

Treser Liner

In 1984, you couldn’t buy a five-door version of Audi’s new Type 44 (C3) turbo. To remedy this, Treser made one — sort of. He extended the roof line and modified a standard Avant hatch to create a notchback version of the sedan. Performance varied on which version of the chassis you selected — standard 100 to a Treser-tuned version or the 180 horsepower turbocharged 200 version. The modifications weren’t cheap, basically doubling the price of a new 200 turbo to nearly $74,000 in today’s money.

Treser Largo

The company’s largest creation is a rare beast and you’re lucky to ever see one in your lifetime. While Audi cut 13-inch out of its all-wheel-drive coupe to make the Sport Quattro, the Largo was a chopped and lengthened version of the Type 44 chassis. Adding 12.6 inches to the overall length of the 100 made the car perhaps a bit ungainly from the side, but the 201-inch long Audi matched the length of the W126 500SEL. Like all the body modifications Treser made, they were well executed but expensive. Stretching the chassis alone would cost about $50,000 today, not including the price of the car. While the Largo looked fast with its unique body kit and wheels, it was no faster than the stock vehicle on which it was based as Treser felt the standard 200’s power unit was sufficient for motivation. Not to be outdone, when Audi finally produced its own Lang model of the later V8 Quattro, Treser offered a further stretch of that vehicle, too.

Treser Super 200

Treser offered a full line of so-called Superpfeile (Super Arrow) modifications for the entire Audi line. In the U.S., Treser marketed these at the Audi Super 4000 and Super 5000, but they could also be had for Coupe and later Coupe GT forms. They basically consisted of a body kit, wheels, unique interior bits and darkened tail lights in the U.S., but you could opt to turn up the power with Treser’s special 2.3-liter motor, which had a reworked head, pistons, cam and exhaust system. The hottest model was the European Super 200, which had nearly 250 horsepower and could be purchased in either Avant or sedan form.

Treser TR1

Treser’s earlier work focused primarily on available Audi chassis, but he saw the opportunity to expand into a new convertible market emerging from the threat of government banishment in the 1980s.

Treser worked with a company called Hydro Aluminum to create an extruded, light-metal skeleton with cast aluminum attaching nodes, further reinforced with polyurethane foam. Power came from a 1.8-liter 16V motor from the GTI stuck in the middle of the car. Drivetrain and suspension parts came from VAG, which meant that the front axle was the same as the front drive Golf’s — a compromise that ultimately led to some failures later, apparently. There was a one-off race series to promote these cars in Germany, but the company went bankrupt before production could get fully underway and Treser produced less than 50 in total. The rounded wedge shape was decidedly modern for the mid ’80s, but it’s hard to view the TR1 and not see the Lotus Elan, which came to market the year after Treser folded its roof for the last time.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about all of Walter Treser’s creationsm, the Treser Audi page has lots of great information including original brochures for each model and construction pictures. You might want to brush up on your German, though.

[Images and sources: Treser Audi Germany, Road and Track]

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  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Oct 14, 2016

    I love the Treser Hunter. :-) Way ahead of the Subaru Legacy SUS and the jacked up Volvo Sedans.

  • Qfrog Qfrog on Oct 14, 2016

    The use of the 1 as a Tresser Logo is a little nod to the early Audi hood ornament and badging.

    • Carter Johnson Carter Johnson on Oct 14, 2016

      Very early, and you're right - in the 1930s the Audi badge had a "1" above the triangle containing Audi.

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
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