So is John Hanlon's 'first rally Quattro' really that?
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.
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.
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.
The sales brochure on Hanlon's car with more details of its history: