For Audi enthusiasts

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28 December 2006

There’s a friendly sense of rivalry around the office here at Vortex Media Group. I can’t say that if I meet my counterpart Bryan Joslin who runs our BMW website on the way to the watercooler, that it’s a race or anything…. but bring up competitive topics like the debate of “M5 vs. S6” and you’re likely to hear a spirited conversation. As with any competition, sometimes you come out on top and sometimes you don’t, and it was with just a little bit of envy that I heard the announcement from BMW of their creation of a restored BMW 2002 from 100% BMW Classic parts.

Now granted, were this a debate, I could just throw the ground-up replica Auto Union racecars as a trump card to show Audi dominance, but honestly the BMW project still leaves me a bit green with envy. Rebuilding an attainable car such as a 2002 out of parts available over the counter, albeit at premium pricing, and it’s easy to see why many iconic 2002s show up at events like Washington, DC’s Deutsche Marque Concours when there’s usually only one or two equally iconic Ur-Quattros.

As the owner of Fourtitude’s Type 81 Audi 4000 quattro project, a series that has been slow-moving as parts trickle in from far-flung sources such as German Ebay, I can certainly appreciate the availability of parts obsolete… even at premium prices.

Jump from last summer’s Deutsche Marque Concours to this year’s SEMA show and you’re talking a whole other ballgame. There were no BMWs or Audis over the age of five to be seen, while American muscle cars are not just common, they’re seemingly everywhere. Rebuilding muscle cars, hot rods, and other vintage American iron is a big industry for the American Big 3. I doubt Bill Ford or Bob Lutz put much of the meal on their families’ tables based on crate engine or vintage parts sales, but the engine and parts business isn’t just Ford being good guys and supporting their heritage, it’s also a money maker.

As I walked around SEMA, this level of business got me to thinking. I knew some Audi AG executives of the highest level were also walking the show to try to determine just where Audi fits within the SEMA experience. I knew that Audi of America had charged four ad agencies shopping for the Audi account to finish the statement “Audi + America = ?”, and with an eye on SEMA and what goes on here, it’s not hard to imagine some sort of tie-in for Audi of America.

SEMA being distinctly American, I began to add these things together and an idea started to take shape. Not knowing numbers, the business case, or even the legitimacy of the base leaves this idea a bit out there to be sure, but as an Audi enthusiast it’s easy to get excited about such a plan. So here it is…

Rumor is that Audi is developing a modern 5-cylinder turbocharged FSI engine for an upcoming TTS or TT RS model. Though it’d be mounted transversely in the TT, the idea of an in-line 5, particularly one with the latest in FSI injection technology certainly draws attention at the very mention. Having heard this rumor, I’ve asked just about anyone with the four ring logo on their business card for a guage on the likelihood of such a motor. None have said no, but none have confirmed it either. Claiming ignorance with the occasional smile leads one to believe that such an engine is being considered, if not developed. Okay, we’re part-way there.

Were this engine to go into production, it could likely be Audi’s version of the Hemi. Turbocharged Audi 5-cylinder motors, particularly with rare RS2 or Sport quattro componentry, hold as much cred amongst Audi loyalists as the legendary Hemi did for Mopar freaks. If Chrysler could bring back the Hemi and sell a modern version as a crate application for vintage Mopar restorations, couldn’t Audi sell these 5-cylinder TFSI motors as crate applications for vintage Audis?

If Audi could develop a longitudinal application, or even work with an aftermarket conversion specialist in given markets like perhaps 2Bennett in the USA, to create a conversion kit for these motors, would owners of vintage Audis line up to buy it?

If mounting hardware and electronics were sorted to fit in cars where the original 5-cylinders fit, then one could easily see such motors being installed in everything from first generation 4000 and Ur Quattro models to the last of the C4 100s, B3 Coupes, sedans and Cabriolets.

Were Audi to consider such a program, it would be a fantastic anchor for the launch of a more extensive Audi Tradition branded line of classic parts such as those offered by BMW or Mercedes-Benz. Even better, a show like SEMA might be the perfect place to debut such a program. Much like Chrysler with its seriously insane vintage Challenger and Charger booth cars, one could easily imagine a seriously built ur Quattro with Audi Tradition crate motor underneath the hood as a star attraction within any potential Audi stand.

Alas, this idea is based so heavily on rumor and on no solid information gained by reliable sources, the realist in me suggests one not get one’s hopes very high. Still, this whole concept sounds like a cool idea to us and as such we put it out there for anyone at Audi who might care to listen.

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