Monday 27th February 2012


PH BLOG: THAT ORIGINAL QUATTRO

So was the Quattro we shot with the A1 Competition Line really the original?


The authenticity of historically significant cars can be a thorny one, no more so than in the case of competition cars. And no more than that in the case of an old rally car.

So is John Hanlon's 'first rally Quattro' really that?

Mikkola has been reunited with the car
Mikkola has been reunited with the car
If it is you'd perhaps be surprised that Audi would have let it go. But the car, which is now for sale, was a shadow of its former self when Hanlon first came across it. "I just wanted an old Quattro and I could tell it was one of the oldest I'd ever seen," he says.

Check out the photo in the sales brochure and you'll see a roughly painted shed of a car, body panels piled up on it and bearing the scars of a gradual evolution from works rally prototype to hard working rallycross campaigner. Perhaps understandable that Audi hadn't quite realised what they had. Nor, in fact, did Hanlon.

Our contact at Audi is understandably cautious about the 'first rally Quattro' status and measured in his description of it. "Some of the parts on the car would have been there when it ran in 1980, parts of it have been replicated," is the official line, the reasonable point being made that unless you take a car from the finishing line and straight into a museum you can never be 100 per cent sure. And this car was constantly developed over its life, this being the very start of the rally Quattro lineage.

Photo of Arne Hertz and Hannu Mikkola...
Photo of Arne Hertz and Hannu Mikkola...
But what makes Hanlon so sure? Well, he knows his stuff. A Quattro nut, he owned a dozen long-wheelbase road cars from 1989 onwards before graduating to a SWB Sport Quattro and then his first ex-works rally car - an A2 - in 1996. He now has six, this one, an ex-Blomqvist A2 Group B, another Group 4 car (under restoration) and three short-wheelbase Group B S1 Sport Quattros including Michele Mouton's Pike's Peak car and an E2 built for Walter Rohrl but never competed after Group B was banned before it ran.

The ad for the car alludes to Hanlon and his team discovering elements of the car that verified its authenticity as the first of the breed. Like what? "When they first developed it for competition they needed to run a larger bore exhaust to reduce the back pressure," says Hanlon. "One of the engineers suggested they put the exhaust in a tunnel in the bodywork beside the transmission tunnel to get it out of the way and improve the ground clearance but it had been plated-over some time later." Uncovering these tell-tale signs is something Hanlon likens to "automotive archaeology", the painstaking removal of tacked-on plates revealing some unused bracket or apparently random piece of welding that, through painstaking research, proved to Hanlon he'd unearthed that very first car.

...faithfully recreated by Hanlon and Mikkola!
...faithfully recreated by Hanlon and Mikkola!
"The research which goes into the cars prior to working on them, is an immensely time consuming, but important and fascinating aspect of ownership," says Hanlon. "And you have to obtain all of that before you can touch the car, in order to retain as much originality as humanly possible. I never make assumptions - very much a case of like my Dad taught me; 'measure twice, cut once!'"

Audi is right of course - without taking that car straight from the finish line, still dripping with mud, sweat and champagne, there'll always be a suggestion of Trigger's broom with any old competition car. Especially a rally car. There's no doubting Hanlon's passion though - his amazement that, through his cars, he's been able to mix with his heroes and even drive alongside them is as genuine as you could wish for.

Persisting with original features like the notorious Pierburg injection system - Audi's historic fleet mechanics think he's mad for doing so - underline his passion for originality. And any man whose van contains a pile of Quattro cylinder heads (and a very big dog) is clearly all right by us.

A fabulous opportunity and a fascinating bloke. All off the back of an Audi A1 with some fancy stickers.

Dan


The sales brochure on Hanlon's car with more details of its history:

Page 1 (click to enlarge)
Page 1 (click to enlarge)
Page 2 (click to enlarge)
Page 2 (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

Author: Dan Trent
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