Wednesday 4th January 2012


Rare, expensive and fugly in a way that only a road-tamed rally car could be

As you well know, PH classifieds is the Mars Bar of internet displacement activity: we all have our own strange way of consuming it. There are certain cars I seem to check without fail: one of them is the Audi Quattro, or UR Quattro, or whatever you want to call the proper Quattro.

There several reasons for this. The first is that, one day, I want to own one. The others are less straightforward - I derive a ghoulish fascination from seeing some of the terrible things people have done to them. The last is simple: the unicorn factor. I have only ever seen one of the ultra rare Sport Quattros for sale in the classifieds but, a few weeks back, another one surfaced.

Big money but a super rare find
Big money but a super rare find
The Sport Quattro is, to re-use a tired but useful simile, rather like the slightly unfortunate looking girl in the sixth-form who is known to excel at bedroom gymnastics - irresistible because you know the strange proportions hide something worth driving. Note: I resisted 'riding'.

Not enough noise was made about this car at the time, or since. As a nipper I remember reading Mel Nichols' wonderful drive story in CAR magazine ('Quattro Vadis') and seeing shots of it bullying corners into submission with that distinctive prow-rising body position.

The Sport Quattro was born of homologation necessity, in other words to try and beat Lancia and Peugeot in the Group B rally era. Its shorter wheelbase made it more agile, but the motor was still hung-out ahead of the front axle for maximum understeer and the rally version just couldn't match the quasi-silhouette racers from France and Italy.

'Wrong' place but bags of character
'Wrong' place but bags of character
What's it like as a road car? I have no idea. Yep, here's me new to PH, supposed to give you insights into all manner of rare metal, and the first car I choose is a stranger to me. And that's why I find it so captivating. People I know and trust say that it's still remarkably fast and must have felt catastrophically rapid in 1985. To the best of my knowledge, that year only three new cars could hit 62mph in under five seconds: the 911 Turbo, the Countach and the Sport Quattro. Maybe a trick Aston Vantage would manage the same. There you go, another argument for us to get lost in: fastest accelerating cars of 1985. If anyone says 'Vector', it's an automatic red card.

Back to the short Quattro. It's a very special beast: Kevlar panels, 2.1-litre motor giving 306hp, 320mm swiped from the wheelbase and around 1,290kg - even with leather trappings and power windows. It's a rare thing too. Just 224 were produced, but there seems to be a little debate as to how many ended up as street cars. Some say only 20 became rally cars, but the works team had a habit of butchering road cars in the middle of forests to give Walter an un-bent chassis.

Group B version in characteristic pose
Group B version in characteristic pose
Talking of Herr Rohrl, this is what he told me about driving the rally version, with the experimental PDK transmission. "I remember on the Monte Carlo event seeing all the other drivers get out of their cars behind me on the start line. They just wanted to see and hear the car launch because it was unbelievable, even to them."

As a rally obsessive, the Sport Quattro is in my ultimate garage top 10. £149,950? For me it ticks all the boxes needed to justify the price: rare as a decent (dry) Hungarian Grand Prix, proper motorsport heritage, devilishly expensive to repair and cool. Now I just need to drive one. There's no footage of the road car being nailed to inspire but here's some stumpy-Quattro rally car goodness to savour. For the geeks out there, listen at 1:18 to the gearchanges. That was the PDK gearbox at work - the predecessor to the transmission that now dominates the fast car marketplace.

Audi Sport Quattro
2,133cc 5-cyl turbocharged
Power (hp): 306@6,700rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@3,700rpm
MPG: 27.4 (at 120km/h)
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1986
Recorded mileage: 54,145
Price new: DM203,850/c. £54,000
Yours for: £149,950

See the original advert here


Author: Chris Harris
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