For Audi enthusiasts

05rode 80 photo



4 February 2011

Like I said back in 2005, it all started with a picture. As a teenager I didn’t know why I loved Audis, I just did… and to fuel that love I’d picked up a copy of the now-out-of-print “quattro – The Development & Competition History” by Jeremy Walton that’d been stuffed into the bargain bin of the bookstore at a local mall. Of course all matter of ur quattros that were featured in the book were of interest, but my curiosity peaked on page 217 where just one photo of a clearly upgraded 80 sedan caught my eye.

Upgraded as it was with Recaro seats, 5-lug Fuchs rally wheels and more, the car took the timelessly shaped and Giugiaro designed Audi B2 4-door sedan body style and upgraded it to something that had never been built in series production back in the day. Nowadays the idea of an Audi muscle sedan is not so abnormal but during the rally era of the ‘80s it was the fastback coupe that ruled the production performance roost in Ingolstadt.

This enigmatic upgraded 80 sedan parked in what looks like the garage of Audi Sport’s works team may have been one of the earliest takes on the whole OE+ style. With the exception of what appears to be a Treser front bumper/splitter, the car looks like something Audi might have built had homologation rules ever forced Ingolstadt to produce a 4-door on performance and equipment par with the venerable Ur quattro.

So like I said, I’ve wanted to build this car or something like it for a long, long time. When we’d first launched this project back in 2005, I’d even picked up a $250 roach of a car on which to base it. Of course the thing had to be quattro, and if I wanted the real deal when it came to that original Giugiaro design then it had to be a pre-facelift car. That narrowed down the candidates because, in America at least, this setup was sold for just one year as the 1984 4000 S quattro. The $250 example proved these cars weren’t that hard to come by and certainly much more affordable than the often $10K plus Ur quattro.

I even stripped the car’s exterior, prepping it for paint. I began to amass a horde of cool parts in order to complete the build. Euro lights and both BBS and Kamei chin spoilers were sourced from Ebay Germany. Recaro seats much like those seen fitted to that car in the photo and also standard fare in the venerable Sport quattro were picked up from a Long Island Porsche owner who’d listed them on EBay. An Audi Sport steering wheel from a 20-valve Ur quattro was nabbed out of the UK. A set of Fuchs rally wheels popped up on and I grabbed them right away. I even picked up a drivable beater of a ’91 200 quattro 20-valve with solid drivetrain as a likely engine donor.

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to my build. Priorities changed. I had my first child. And, as life got in the way, it became harder and harder to justify dumping a crazy amount of money into a car that would never have the collectible value of an ur quattro. Any money invested would likely be lost. I came to the realization that, much as I loved it, I was Don Quixote and that $250 4000 quattro was my windmill.

If I was going to do this, I’d have to figure out a way to build a car that at least made some semblance of sense… and in the project car world, this is no easy task.

Then one day I found a pristine example. At 164,000 miles on the odometer the thing was no museum piece but it was also no roach. Turns out the car was practically in showroom condition, better than any car with one-third its mileage would have a right in boasting. The price was fair, but the car was on the West Coast and I was some 3,000 miles away on the East. It didn’t matter though. I bought it anyway.

Once back in my garage next to the $250 roach that had now been designated as a parts car, I began to evaluate my new find. The reality was that the car was a total catch. The historian in me began to nag and suggest maybe I shouldn’t modify such a nice car. Yes, it wouldn’t need paint and yes the countless pieces of trim and more were there, intact and pristine. Still, the likelihood of there being more 1984 4000S quattros out there in this condition was thin. Unlike the Ur quattro, these cars were driven hard and put away wet… if put away at all.

At the same time, leaving this car simply the way it sat was… well… boring.

I decided to let fate make the decision and established a litmus of whether I’d build the car or not. I desired European bumpers and was realizing they were honed in the purest of unobtainium. While I could find a very few on German EBay, no one ever wanted to ship the big heavy things to the States.

Not having any luck, I even put the car up for sale just last fall. A few people called explaining the car was also their “unicorn” as it had been for me. I was told twice a buyer would be by with cash to pick it up. They never came. Maybe fate wouldn’t let them.

Then, just last week I found that Martin Pajak of fame was selling off some parts including a full 5-lug conversion… and he had Euro bumpers he was willing to part with as well. It would seem fate has spoken and the game is afoot.

The Car in the Photograph
I emailed a contact at Audi Tradition in an effort to learn more about the car in the black and white photo. I learned the photograph itself was likely shot in 1983 based on the racecars seen in the Audi Sport Garage that is the backdrop. In Germany, the 80 quattro had been available since the autumn of 1982.

Audi’s got a long tradition of executives who tailor their own special cars and this 80 quattro is part of that practice. It seems the white 80 in the photo was owned by Reinhard Rode who joined Audi in 1978 to handle the early rallying efforts. During his tenure Audi won the 1982 championship and in 1983 Rode moved to the department who handled motorsport for importers and tuners.

According to Audi Tradition, the car likely featured a turbocharged 10-valve engine and drivetrain from a 200 Turbo quattro at the time. That seems evident by the car’s 5-lug hub setup.

I followed up my contact with Audi Tradition by dropping a note to Jeremy Walton, author of the book where I’d found the photo. It turns out Walton had taken the photograph of the car himself on a visit to Ingolstadt in 1983. Mr. Walton is checking to see if there are any more photos and Audi Tradition is checking to see if there is a way to contact Mr. Rode. If I’m able to tell more of the story of the pictured car then I’ll make sure to do so.

The New Plan
As I emailed back and forth with Audi Tradition, they also recommended I not modify the car because the quattro sedans have become quite rare. If I was going to modify it though, my friend at Audi Tradition suggested I might model it after the 1984 Rally of Sweden. And while that might be tempting, this seems like a plan that would be better to base on a white car or a car I plan to strip down to the frame. Mine is too pristine.

In as much, I’ve given this a lot of thought and here’s the plan. I’m not going to do the RS2-spec 20-valve crazy build I’d envisioned so long ago. Frankly, I may not even do a motor swap at all unless the current engine fails… which is unlikely. Even then, I’m not too keen about cutting out the battery tray on such an original car in order to fit a turbo setup.

I’ve been reading up on the R-Gruppe 911 scene and like they way those guys think. These vintage 911 owners often go heavily on the period-correct OE+ theme. Second, those with valuable or rare 911s tend to stick to modifications that can be returned back to stock with relative ease. Sounds like a plan.

The $250 roach is now gone, though not before I grabbed a few key components out of it such as rear seat, dash and door panels. That aforementioned 5-lug conversion and those Euro bumpers are on the way and we’ve got some more in mind.

For now we’re going to focus on the following…

• Suspension, Brakes & Wheels – With the 5-lug conversion we’ll be swapping out the suspension as well. I’ll take that chance to lower the car to a more effective but not slammed ride height in order to improve handling and appearance. We’ll then swap to 15-inch period-correct Fuchs rally wheels as seen on that black and white photo car and shoe horn in a set of G60 brakes. These are a popular choice in the 80s vintage Audi tuning scene and they’ll fit underneath a 15-inch wheel.

• Exterior – We have those Kamei and BBS chin spoilers for the car and we’ll paint and install one of these to subtly upgrade the exterior appearance. Though the BBS appears to be heavier duty, the Kamei looks more like the chin in the photo sans the bumper cover and snow plow length. It also doesn’t obstruct the car’s lower grille-work so air flow is uninterupted. We’ll add Euro lights and Euro bumpers with foglights and parking lights relocated to the bumper itself like the European 80 quattro.

• Interior – We’re going to remove and preserve the car’s pristine yet boring brown mouse fur seats and door panels and the plan is to upholster the Recaros and the roach’s donor rear seat and door cards in brown leather to match the current setup in a way consistent with the period. The Audi Sport steering wheel will go in and we may even re-cover the donor dash in leather or vinyl since our original has some minor cracking.

We’ll see where we are by the time we’re done with the above. Our guess is that we’ll have built up a head of steam and not want to stop there. There’s a whole host of things we could do… maybe an engine swap or other less-known modifications from the catalogs of companies who cater to older small chassis Audis – 034 Motorsport and 2Bennett come to mind.

If you have any suggestions, drop us a note. We know there’s a small and tight-knit community for these older cars and we’re sure we could benefit from the knowledge of that group as we consider where to go from here.

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