By on October 5, 2018

The Rare Ride seen here represented an important turning point in the history of all things automotive. A single vehicle which changed rallying and simultaneously made four-wheel drive a more realistic prospect for passenger cars.

Presenting the Audi Quattro.

Audi’s idea to add four-wheel drive to a production car came about in 1977, when one of its engineers noted how the Volkswagen Iltis jeep outperformed much more powerful vehicles in slippery conditions. Project idea approved, the engineers picked a starting point with the existing Audi 80, and set to work.

Ready for the latter part of the 1980 model year, the Quattro was released first to the European market. Featuring the company’s new permanent four-wheel drive system, 197 horsepower from the turbocharged 2.1-liter inline-five engine flowed to all four wheels via a five-speed manual.

The North American market (perhaps as expected) received the Quattro later than other parts of the globe, as the first ones arrived in dealers for 1983. North American Quattros had chunky bumpers, no ABS, and mostly leather interiors. The Audi’s only relative competition in the market space was of course AMC’s Eagle; the first mass production four-wheel drive passenger car.

But passenger car sales weren’t the only goal. Audi had rally intentions for its Quattro, and was able to take advantage of recently changed regulations that allowed four-wheel drive cars to enter the World Rally Championship. The Quattro was the first to use four-wheel drive, promptly trouncing most of the competition. The Quattro placed in the top five for the overall WRC season each year between 1981 and 1986, racking up 23 pole position wins between ’81 and ’85. Audi took home seasonal gold in 1982 and 1984. About that time the competition caught up to Audi with their own four-wheel drive cars, and no two-wheel drive car has won the championship since.

Though Quattro production totaled 11,452 examples between 1980 and 1991, North American models were very scarce. Audi sold the Quattro in North America for only the ’83 through ’86 model years. The United States received 664, and today’s Canadian market Quattro is one of just 99 ever imported. Asking prices of over $50,000 circa 1983 might have had something to do with the low sales figures.

Today’s silver Canadian features a tweedy brown interior, and is in generally excellent condition. Critically, it remained mostly stock, avoiding the low-rent add-ons and edits some Quattros experienced. With around 48,000 miles on the odometer, it’s yours for $40,000.

Edit: It was yours for $40,000. Since time of writing, the eBay listing reached $22,400 (under the reserve) and ended. The Quattro was sold via private sale to a new owner.

[Images: seller]

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23 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1983 Audi Ur-Quattro – the Start of it All...”

  • avatar

    This was the car that turned me into an Audi fan, though at the time, I had to settle for a used VW Scirocco, for about $47,000 less than the Quattro. I kept visiting the Audi dealer each time I was in the market for a car, but I did not actually get one until 2001 when I got a TT Quattro.

  • avatar

    I love it. I drove the non-turbo, non-Quattro version (I think it was simply the Audi Coupe GT) and I fell in love with the car. I’d certainly add one to my collection if the right one came along. Although I appreciate this version, the plain old Coupe GT with a manual with suit me just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The other coupe Audi sent us was the 4000 5+5 which was the 2 door notchback of the sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      I also had a Coupe GT–bright red 5-speed with gray cloth interior. What an amazing car! Comfortable, sporty, large back seat, huge trunk (once you figured out how to open it and only fit small cargo through its tiny opening). Heads and shoulders above any other car in its price range.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    “Fire up the Quattro.” That phrase and the iconic image of DCI Gene Hunt’s red 1983 Quattro, were decisive in a national election in Britain.

    They even used it in a cross over with classic Top Gear:

    google ‘Ashes to Top Gear’ if the link is erased.

    Based just on its image in British culture (TV and politics) the Quattro has earned a spot in automotive history.

    However the classic original TV Quattro fetched an auction price of only 15,000 Pounds.

  • avatar

    About 15 years ago I bought a used ’91 200 Turbo Quattro 20V and drove it for a couple of years as an extra car, then sold it and got a ’95 S6. To this day the 200 is my favorite of all the cars I’ve owned. Mostly because I just loved the way it looked. So angular.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I had an 87 Audi 5000 with quattro and the 5-speed. It’s the only car I’ve every driven that was totally impossible to slide in the rain, no matter how hard I tried. There just wasn’t enough power to overcome all that traction. I remember sitting next to a Mustang GT at a stoplight in a rainstorm; when the light turned green, the 5000 just motored on, but the GT just spun and spun. By the time he got up to speed I was miles away.
    Of course, working on Audis was as hard then as it is now, and a puked water pump was more than my skills could handle at that time. I did sell it for almost half what I paid for it, though.

  • avatar

    What a piece of crap that car was.

  • avatar

    I had an ’82 Coupe, all 100 hp of it. Great car, handled stupid well for FWD – C/D tested one finally about ’85 and suddenly realized when it had 130 hp, hey, this is a great car. It never rusted in the seven years I had it, while Japanese crud dissolved – two workmates had ’83 Accords and junked them while I had my car. Got great money on a trade for a new 4000 quattro when VW/Audi Canada used to lie and called the ’87 an ’88 (an entirely different jellybean shape in Europe). For some reason the 4000q came with shocks about as absorbent as jello, so the thing would bound around like a rabbit on speed, especially at the front. The Coupe would have run away from it. Bilsteins fixed that boing-iness, and cost a fortune because it was a limited edition model in North America. But 115 hp was slow, though it was ridiculously good in snow.

    So in early 1990, armed with saved-up throwaway loot, I looked for somthing quick for $25K. Tried secondhand Porsche 944 – slow. Found an actual ’86 quattro, hell it looked exactly like this one in the article, sporting 160 hp which was all they ever had here. Couldn’t believe how mushy it felt, and on boost it couldn’t even match a fat blimp 5 speed 5000 CS quattro. Reason? The engine changed from 2144cc to 22something, but it was all redone internally, and a much healthier unit, but the ur quattro had the old engine turboed. Useless.

    Then I tried an Eagle Talon TSi AWD, and it rubbished the Audis without even trying hard. Times move on, Audi did not. Plus, I finally found out what Japanese reliability meant. People can laugh – you found that Eagle reliable?!!! Hell yes, compared to Audis. You mean, I’ve had it a year and it doesn’t need a new muffler? Wow.

    I hope the new owner of this quattro enjoys his car for history’s sake, It sure wasn’t the fast Euro one, what with a hiccuping 40 hp less, and old Talons not ruined by boys turning up the boost to 11 aren’t exactly common. But at the time, as I had fun with lethargic Mustang V8s and even slower crossram Camaros, boy I felt like king of the hill. For two years or so, then Detroit discovered fuel injection and I drove a Porsche 968. Oh.

  • avatar

    I believe Subaru preceded AMC as a ‘mass produced’ 4WD car by a few years…

  • avatar

    Standing by for the comments that 4wd on cars is completely superfluous and a fwd car with good tires driven skilfully is just as good or better.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a little extreme. Commentators like myself will point out that for the average commuter car, a two wheel drive car with winter tires is all you need, and superior to an all wheel drive car with all seasons. No one will claim that a FWD rally car is superior.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, that’s news to WRC drivers like Colin McRae but hey, let’s not let facts get in the way of reality.

      • 0 avatar

        +1, MBella. I take a pretty skeptical view of the market’s “need” for AWD, but even I wouldn’t go that far. Fairer to say that under most scenarios the negatives of AWD outweigh the positives. Whether or not its fans realize that or admit to it is another matter.

        It does have advantages in scenarios like rallying and allowing traction from a huge-horsepower engine. From a “regular car” standpoint, though, it’s probably only a net positive if the owner lives somewhere that’s wintry AND hilly. A FWD economy car with decent tires is pretty much unstoppable in, say, Detroit winter. Most of my driving years have been spent in cold, flat places, and the only time I’ve had a FWD car get stuck is when I parked it in a deep puddle that froze. And that would’ve stopped any vehicle, be it RWD, FWD, AWD, or tracked.

        An annoying knock-on effect of the AWD craze is that sedans offered in FWD and FWD/AWD versions no longer can take advantage of FWD packaging advantages. (Consoles also contribute to that issue.)

        • 0 avatar

          Some of the current crop of turbo engines need AWD simply to put the power to the pavement.

          Lincoln (as an example) offers a FWD 3.0 V6 twin turbo MKZ but I wouldn’t want to drive it in the rain, much less snow or ice.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m generally in the K.I.S.S. camp of FWD being perfectly adequate for 99% of people 99% of the time, but I’ve really been appreciating the stupid amounts of traction in my new-to-me a4 Quattro. Quick starts away from lights on wet pavement, testing limits of adhesion on wet on ramps, etc. At the same time, the Torsen center diff acts kind of funny on tight power-on turns (feels like it binds slightly), and apparently that’s “normal.”

          • 0 avatar

            @ PrincipalDan – Interesting. I’d almost have expected that to be AWD-only, a la the XTS V-Sport or the MKS EcoBoost.

            Conversely, the FWD naturally aspirated V6 cars one tier down in power strike me as flawed in theory but pretty decent in practice. Yeah, the steering feel’s not great.

            There’s certainly no perfect way to skin this cat; every set-up has some negatives. My gripe is that AWD sells more than it ought to because of marketing and because of complicit scribes who don’t bear the negatives of AWD in terms of up-front cost, lower MPGs, and maintenance.

  • avatar

    A while back there was one at a place I was working. I could dig it but I had no idea how rare it was.

  • avatar

    Decades ago I thought about buying a Coupe GT version. Lovely car, wonderful to drive. I looked under the and thought, “Yeah, that’s gonna cost a fortune to maintain.”

    • 0 avatar

      How so? From underhood photos, it actually looks pretty darn reasonable: longtiudinal I5. Maybe I’m just jealous, I’m staring down a power steering pump replacement on my A4 (reman pump that my brother put on loses assist at low speeds), and just taking the serpentine belt off requires putting the car into the “service position” (either that or clever use of a crows foot wrench and some cussing).

      • 0 avatar

        That entails taking off (part of?) the front clip, yes? You should take advantage and have this guy hit it with his plankton polisher: ;-)

  • avatar

    I’m curious how trashed the dash is under that carpet cover…

  • avatar

    The Quattro Turbo was a parts bin special. The turbo and AWD were bolted on the Coupe. Along with the auxiliaries; oil cooler, injector cooler (fan with duct to blow air over injectors), and later cars had an extra electric water pump to circulate coolant after shut off.
    With all that stuff they were a tough job to work on. The exhaust system in the turbo area was known to come loose regularly and was very difficult to get to. The oil cooler seals leaked a lot. Probably because it was near the turbo and the seals got cooked.
    Glad I don’t have to work on them now.

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