Sunday, November 6, 2011

Classic Cars - The Audi Quattro

The year was 1980 and Gary Numan's Cars was at the top of the Music charts. In Britain at the time and throughout Europe, fast cars and so called 'Yuppys' were the order of the day in what becoming an ever more competitive and socially divided world, prior to the technological advances brought by the infant information age.

At the Geneva Motor Show in March that year a car was revealed that was to technically change the future design of most road cars - The Audi Quattro.

The four-wheeled drive turbocharged road car, rally car and angular designed coupe, stole the show and proved that Audi with the new Quattro really had made 'Vorsprung Durch Technik' a massive advancement through technology.

The original or Ur Quattro as it became known, as opposed to subsequent quattro models with a small q, was not the first 4x4 road car; this honour is held by the Jensen FF.

However the innovative four-wheel drive system that Audi developed for the Quattro, did away with all the previous issues of additional driveshafts and extra weight. The Quattro team had produced a practical solution that amazed the motoring world of the day and led the way for the development of all modern 4x4 road cars.

Audi in the 1970's was not the most avant garde of the stoic German manufacturers, however they had a young and enthusiastic research and development team and more importantly, since 1969 the financial backing of owner Volkswagen, which was needed for the Audi Quattro to be born.

The seeds of the Quattro had sprouted three years before the car was launched in 1977 when chassis engineer Jörg Bensinger and a team of Audi engineers were visiting Northern Scandinavia to evaluate the performance of another Audi car, the front wheeled drive 100 series saloons.

While there, Bensinger was highly impressed by the performance of a protype of Volkswagen's Iltis military vehicle which was also being tested under extreme conditions.

The Iltis had new four-wheel drive technology and superb handling which easily outmaneuvered all competition in the snow and ice.

Jörg Bensinger was impressed and on his return to the Audi factory at Ingolstadt, with the encouragement of Walter Treser, a former rally driver and head of advanced development at Audi, in March 1978 the Quattro project commenced.

The Quattro design team started out by taking the worlds first 5 cylinder engine from the highly successful turbocharged 170 mph Audi 200, which was in parallel development at the point in time.

To the 2144 cc engine the team added a single overhead camshaft with two valves per cylinder, which boosted the engines output to 200 bhp at 5500 rpm.

This gave the Audi Quattro a top speed of 137 mph and the car could do 0 to 60 mph in just 7 seconds.

What took the world by storm though was not the power of the engine but the ingenious configuration of the new four-wheel drive system. Based on the Iltris concept, the design reconfigured the transmission and did away with the cumbersome and heavy traditional transfer box and driveshaft.

The Quattro team took the new engine and mounted it on the car in line, rather than in the usual transverse layout of the time. This allowed the gearbox to be attached to the back of the engine in a usual rear wheel drive manner. On the Quattro, power was transmitted through the gearbox in the usual manner, to a small grapefruit sized differential box immediately to the rear. From there it was conveyed by a typical rear axle.

But what made the quattros configuration so special was that it also transmitted power forward, using a hollow gearbox output shaft, to a similar differential that drove the front wheels!

The cars unique handling and sensational road holding that won so many Rallies throughout the 1980's in its sporting configuration, was further enhanced by the Macpherson suspension, all round disc brakes, and low profile radial tyres.

When the World Rally Championships changed the rules to allow four wheeled drive cars, the future of the Quattro was certain. In order to comply with the World Rally organisers rules of homologation, Audi had to produce a minimum of 400 cars per year to be considered a production vehicle. The development project was pushed forward and Audi attempted to build 10 new cars per day or 2000 per year.

All in all, Audi managed to produce 11,452 Quattros over the period 1980-1991. The rally versions the A1 and A2 evolutions, went on to win multiple World Rally Championships between 1981 and 1983.

Today the latest versions of Audis including the stunning RS range, still use the old Quattro technology!

It is still possible to buy an Audi Quattro classic although be prepared to spend a pretty penny, the best cars fetching in excess of £50000. There are not so many original cars still available as later Audi quattro models but they can still be acquired from specialist Audi used cars dealers. Running cost are reasonable and parts available, however like all Audi Insurance, cover for the Quattro is in the higher rating groups, due largely to the cars stunning performance and the growing scarceness of original or replacement parts outside of Germany. Shop around for cover for the Audi Quattro insurance. It may well be worth visiting a specialist classic car insurance website, for cheaper cover. Similarly if you join an Audi Quattro owners club, you'll have access to spare parts and also get large car insurance discounts for being a member!

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