When the 30th Anniversary of quattro GmbH display opened earlier this month, a rather unassuming first-generation Imola Yellow TT coupe was part of the show. Were it not for some minor changes to the chin and an interesting decklid spoiler, even the most discerning eye may not have seen it as anything more than a yellow TT 3.2. However, a simple view of the engine bay with its longitudinally mounted 2.7T biturbo proves the car is much more than that – a little-known secret prototype quattro GmbH dusted off in order to celebrate its most storied, often secretive past and a Frankenstein-like car most worthy of this Halloween season.
Of course the 2.7T needs no introduction amongst Audi aficionados. The mill came standard in notable cars like the B5 S4 or the original allroad, and a Cosworth tuned higher output iteration even powered the legendary B5 RS 4 – the first full-blown RS-car to come from quattro GmbH.
Even still, nearly any of those aficionados can also tell you that the swap is not so easily done in a TT. The TT, as you’ll recall, has a transversely mounted engine on the Volkswagen Group corporate A-platform. As such, the only V6 to ever make production in the car was the narrow-angle VR6 sourced from Volkswagen.
So what the hell was this car? We asked noted Neckarsulm-based enthusiast photographer Gunter Stachon paid a visit to the Audi Forum Neckarsulm to capture the car for us in these exclusive photos. In the meantime, we caught up with quattro GmbH’s product boss Stephan Reil last week at the Audi RS 7 launch in Nevada and grilled him on the car’s history.
Reil began by putting the car in perspective. “The idea was, after launching the RS 4 B5, that we needed a sports car. Of course we didn’t have the R8 and our sports car was the TT, so we thought there should be a high-performance TT. That was the reason why we started the project.”
At that time Audi had no modern 5-cylinder engine in production. In order to bring the TT (mk 1) up to a power range suitable to the makers of the RS 4, an alternative to the 1.8T engine had to be arranged. The 2.7 biturbo from the then-new RS 4 wouldn’t fit transversely, so the idea was to take the RS 4 platform and cut out 170 mm ahead of the fuel tank, which matched the wheelbase of the TT.
You’re reading that correctly. While most fans looking to emulate such a build might consider some creative way of mounting the engine… and we’ve seen longitudinal 2.7Ts in A-chassis cars before, this project instead took an entire RS 4 chassis donor in order to make it all work. This included engine, transmission, rear differential, axles, brakes and even wheels from the B5 Avant. All of the underpinnings were RS 4, and then then quattro GmbH staff added the body of the TT on top of that. By going this unique route, Audi was able to completely utilize the RS 4’s drivetrain for the project, opening up a power potential of 380-400 hp while utilizing the well-developed torsen-based quattro system.
A look inside the TT also reveals a car that looks surprisingly close to production. The cabin is immediately familiar to anyone who knows the first-generation car well, though 20:20 hindsight now helps identify parts like the Alcantara steering wheel (fitted with TT aluminum-trimmed airbag) and Alcantara Recaro racing seats similar to what was fitted in cars like the special RS 4 Sport built for the 2000 Essen Motor Show just one year before this car was created.
By today’s understanding of platforms, the method of building the car seems quite unconventional, especially when you remember that a 3.2 narrow-angle VR6 would eventually go into the TT just a few years later.
Reil’s answer to that was that they didn’t want to develop that then-new engine. They were quite happy with the RS 4 drivetrain and, to Reil directly, “we thought it would just be a really cool approach for a high-performance TT mk1.”
Reil reports the car has nearly 20,000 km on it. Back in the day, it was driven a lot.
“It’s unbelievably fun to drive. When you put yourself about 13 years back, a TT with such performance abilities was ubelievable. It was out-performing a 911 at the time.”
The fact that the staff of this website is neither new to Audi nor TT lore, we were dumbfounded when first details of the car were released. Some of the most knowledgeable TT experts among our readers echoed similar surprise at the car’s very existence. We quizzed Reil about this as well and his response was preceded by a knowing laugh.
“Well, maybe your contact with the guys who take the photos at the Nurburgring were not as good as it is today. (more laughs)
“One thing really, if you’re not a real expert, the car looks like a slightly tuned TT. When we used this car, we didn’t have any disguise on it. That’s the same as how it was driven on the road.
Production of this one-off concept took eight months from start to finish. From the outside, it was visually indistinguishable other than the aforementioned deck lid spoiler and front fascia. At the time, there was really no need to disguise the car. At most it might have appeared as just another tuner TT with its minor changes and completely de-badged flank. This was before the days of every spy photographer or car tourist at the Nurburgring having access to an iPhone or digital video camera that might capture the telltale exhaust note of the 2.7T that might have revealed what was installed underneath.
Unfortunately, the project had more than a few chips stacked against it, namely implementation of a very complex production process kept it from its intended small series of production. All that’s a shame really because the B5 chassis really retains legend status amongst aficionados and a two-door sports car with classic design like the original TT and one based on that B5 architecture must assuredly set imaginations alight at the potential of such a car.
Reil further shared that the TT prototype was in use for about a year and a half, and then it was parked in a garage until about two weeks ago. With the 30th anniversary celebration of Ingolstadt’s performance wing, his team figured they would finally share the car with the public.
Engine: V6 DOHC twin turbo with 5-valves per cylinder
Power: 280 kW , 380 hp at 6,100 rpm
Torque: 440 Nm at 2,500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, quattro permanent all-wheel drive
Wheels: 8.5 J x 18, 9- spoke design, 255/35 ZR 18 tires
0-62 mph: 4.8 seconds
Top Speed: about 183 mph / 295 km / h
Dry Weight: 3483 lbs., 1.580 kg
Date Manufactured: 2001
Number of Pieces: 1