The Audi Quattro was a project started in 1977 under Jens Bensinger and was kept secret until FIA approved use of four wheel drive in the top class of rallying, Group 4. Audi AG finally found it would be the perfect way to prove the advantage for it’s middle-class road-going cars, so funds were given the project. Prototypes were based on the Audi 80 and featured the drive train from a VW Iltis and the engine from the Audi 200 5T.
‘Q’ versus ‘q’
Even though many are considering this model to be denoted as ‘quattro’, it started off as a unique model name ‘Quattro’, and the lower-case ‘quattro’ has been found more in instances where it was an optional extra – i.e. for the Audi Coupé quattro of the same typ 85 platform. In modern age it is also commonly known as the urquattro.
At the Geneva 1980 fair, the Quattro was presented for the world press. This car made a big impact as four wheel drive, until then, was preserved for utility and all-terrain vehicles.
It came with the ‘WR’ engine, 6×15″ aluminum rims, dual square headlights, and a manual transmission. The instruments were regular analogue ones, surrounded by push-functional buttons, and the interior was brown and paint options were between saturn metallic, diamond silver or venus red. Taillights were separated red and amber, while the rear reflex plate was read featuring ‘quattro’ in black insignia.
1981 brought the pneumatic differential-lock which was controlled by a button on the center console, and a new paint color.
Equipped as the 1981 version, it wasn’t any alterations for the 1982 model. Export for the US version was started. These came with the bigger “safety bumpers” which are bigger than the European spec ones, and a – somewhat – correlating, US specific chassis numbering.
1983 introduced the bigger differences, as it now featured a digital instrument cluster featuring acoustic warnings. Exterior was wider 8″ rims and new, wider headlights. ABS was now optional, alongside air condition and the interior could opt between leather and fabric. 1984 featured mostly the same car, but added another paint color.
1985 featured the same engine as before, but for countries with special emission-demands – such as Switzerland and Sweden – the urquattro also came with the ‘WX’ engine with 165hp. New interior options with fabric or leather, one-piece Cibie headlights which gave the car a newer look, black taillights and reflex-plate, and a 2-step turn-button for controlling the differential. No alterations for the 1986 version.
1987 model was pretty much the same car as 1986.
1988 finally brought the partial galvanization of the chassis. 10V Quattros were now offered as the 2.2L ‘MB’ – to cope with the introduction of the catalytic converter. It also introduced the K24 water cooled turbo.
It’s worth noting, that was intended for the general market. Switzerland however saw the “edition spéciale” – 200 individually numbered cars – of which all featured the ‘WX’ engine (a ‘WR’ base), fully equipped, analogue instruments and the option between fabric or full leather.
20V ‘RR’ engine came in the 1989 model, now with a new, fully electronic Bosch Motronic fuel injection. This engine did 220 hp by 5900 rpms and with 9.3:1 C:R. The boot lid was of fiberglass, and the instrument cluster featured red illumination without the analogue warning module.
There were no differences for the 1990 or 1991 versions, with a total of 898 20 valved cars produced.
Audi Quattro model year identification (chassis numbering)
Below is the official overview. Please not it follows the model year, and that is typically changing in August or September.
1980 – 85 ZAA 900*** og 85 ZBA 900*** – 292
1981 – 85 ZBA 90099*** – 1956
1982 – 85 ZCA 900*** – 1935
1983 – 85 ZDA 900*** – 1455
1984 – 85 ZEA 900*** – 1567
1985 – 85 ZFA 900*** – 1530
1986 – 85 ZGA 900*** – 774
1987 – 85 ZHA 900*** – 435
1988 – 85 ZJA 900*** – 610
1989 – 85 ZKA 900*** – 462
1990 – 85 ZLA 900*** – 413
1991 – 85 ZMA 900*** – 23
Production stopped in May 1991, with a total of 11 452 Quattros.
Was there an aluminium engine in the urquattro?
For Sweden and Switzerland, there was in parallel to the ‘WR’ engine a Quattro engine named ‘GV’. I’ve yet to figure out the exact differences, as the little I find tells the same spec as for ‘WR’. But there is a known fact that both countries had stricter rules on emission.
It could make sense that the 1983 model of the urquattro could introduce late ’82 the light weight engine basis for the Group B Quattro A1. I have at least seen an engine block for sale claimed to be aluminium, but with the looks of a regular cast-iron bottom-end.
There has been some special spawns of the urquattro, and was built by Treser. Besides making a hideous roadster, they delivered aftermarket items such as wheels, spoilers, a special rallye-look dashboard with analogue instruments, sport steering wheel and gear knob, own bucket seats and even a 10V tuning solution featuring the fuel distributor from the Porsche 928 (plumbing its outtakes). That combined with different compression ratio, new pistons, a camshaft, a bigger intercooler, and exhaust valves, made their typical package marketed as 245~250 hp. Tresers could also opt for a lengthened 5th gear.
Not direct special editions of the urquattro, but both Treser and ABT had Audi 80 quattros featuring the 2.1T from the urquattro. Even Audi AG had an Audi 80/90 quattro built with urquattro looks and parts.