40 Years of Audi Quattro

By: Unique Cars magazine

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audi quattro 2 audi quattro 2

The Audi Quattro was an engineering revelation that set the company on a path to motorsport greatness

Considered by many as one of the most significant cars of the 20th century, the Audi Quattro is celebrating its 40th birthday this year.

It made its debut at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show in March and was the first rally car to capitalise on the motorsport rule-change allowing four-wheel drive vehicles.


The idea for a high-performance four-wheel-drive car was proposed by Audi’s chassis engineer, Jörg Bensinger, in 1977, when he found that the VW Iltis 4WD could outperform more powerful cars in the snow. Bensinger began developing an Audi 80 in co-operation with Walter Treser, Director of Pre-Development. In 1981 Audi driver Michèle Mouton became the first female driver to win a world championship rally, piloting an Audi Quattro.

Audi continued its rallying dominance in the fast, fragile and fatal Group B era as well as successfully tackling events like America’s Pikes Peak hill climb, won in 1985 by Michèle Mouton in the driving seat, who set a record time in the process driving a short version of the Quattro coupe. Audi built a total of 224 short versions and today they are highly prized.

| Reader Ride: 1983 Audi Quattro Group B rally replica


Circuit racing was the next challenge for the Quattro and in 1990 and 1991 Audi V8 won back-to-back Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft driver’s titles, becoming the first company to achieve this feat.

Audi also enjoyed success in the American IMSA series with its all-new tubular-steel spaceframe, clothed in a body that resembled the 90 Quattro. Power was from a 2.2-litre, five-cylinder engine producing a staggering 710bhp.

Today badges on all Audis equipped with the famed four-wheel-drive set-up feature a stylish  lowercase ‘q’.


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