It’s all but impossible to describe the Audi Quattro Sport without falling back on cliches, but then that’s largely because few other cars have had as big an impact on the world of motorsport and the wider automotive industry. Commissioned by a then little known German car maker with a modest budget and lofty ambitions, the Quattro soon became short hand for early ’80s rally success, the twin virtues of all four-wheel drive and forced induction effectively culling the top flight careers of a succession of hitherto dominant Group 4 cars like the Ford Escort RS and the Fiat 131 Abarth. It didn’t so much move the goal posts as give them a good kicking, followed by a ceremonial burning!
Fast forward a couple of decades and several hundred thousand cars, and Quattro has become more than merely a byword for WRC success, it’s the linchpin of its maker’s marketing strategy and a famous brand in its own right. That’s all very impressive of course, but it doesn’t alter the fundamental truth that for countless rally fans ‘Quattro’ will always by synonymous with the likes of Walter Rohrl, Stig Blomqvist, Hannu Mikkola and Michelle Mouton, invariably threading the unwieldy Ingolstadt beast down an impossibly narrow special stage. The owner of the Sport replica you see here is a classic case; a lifelong Quattro fan and an individual with a passion for those rally cars birthed under rallying wildest, Group B era.
If you know one thing about the Sport Quattro and the though process which created it, it’s the fact that Audi Sport engineers chopped a full 12.6in from its bodyshell in order to tame the somewhat unwieldy handing of the original A1/A2 cars. While only partially successful (the Sport remained a tricky machine to drive at the ragged edge), this dramatic reduction in length gave the ‘short’ Quattro its uniquely truncated appearance, and the modification to this particular car actually already been carried out by a well known Audi specialist.
This took place back in 2011, quite near the beginning of Retropower’s existence, and we wasted no time in carrying out the bodywork changes requested. One of the biggest changes involved the relocation of the cooling system to the boot, just like the works rally cars. Doing this involved the creation of two extra tunnels beneath the chassis, one for the exhaust, another for the cooling pipework, plus the downward facing scoop located beneath the boot floor, a component intended to funnel an increased volume of cool air onto the face of the rear-mounted radiator.
While the Quattro already boasted a roll-cage when it arrived at Retropower we all felt that there was room for improvement, which is why we found ourselves heavily modifying the rear structure, door bar layout and the leading edge of the cage. The latter is now a fully triangulated design, running through the front bulkhead and connecting to the front suspension turrets. The effect is two fold – the owner knows that he’s better protected should the worst happen, and the car itself is now a far, far stiffer prospect when being pushed at or near the ragged edge.
Not all interior changes were quite as focussed, the new bucket seats, flocked dashboard, Spa Gauges instrument panel and deleted steering column stalks all key examples. We were at pains to ensure that this wasn’t like comparable Sport replicas – we wanted to ensure it was built with the same attention to detail as the works machines which inspired it, and the interior is a key example.
All-wheel drive might’ve been a key component of the Quattro’s motorsport success but it was its five pot engine that won it a place in the hearts of rally fans across the globe, and the one now housed in the front of this example is a cracker. We were initially requested to fit a dry sump system to the engine and no more, though this subsequently evolved in step with the wider brief underpinning the whole car and we wound up giving the 2.2 engine a complete rebuild, just to be on the safe side. It has subsequently been re-mapped and placed upon the dyno of one of the UK’s most respected engine builders (one with a famously conservative rolling road), with a thumping 512bhp the result – comfortably more than Messrs Rohrl or Blomqvist ever had at their disposal when piloting ‘works’ S1 Quattros.
There’s always the temptation to go too far with a project like this, to try to draw too obvious a parallel between it and the works rally cars themselves, which is why we opted not to apply an Audi Sport livery. The colour it now wears is about as far removed from the grimy world of stage rallying as it’s possible to get, it having been originally conceived by and for Lamborghini. Lamborghini Grigio Estoque, an almost impossibly evocative name for an incredibly moody shade of grey, has proved to be perfectly at home on the Sport’s truncated, box-arched lines.
The Sport Quattro – easily one of the most impressive cars to ever grace a special stage, and one we’re proud to have been able to pay tribute to via this rebuild.