Audi Quattro
Audi Quattro

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, and Audi could officially continue the development project EA 262 so the Quattro could enter world rallying.

Audi AG found it 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. Although initially built as limousines, at least some prototypes were converted to the final shape of what we now know as the Typ 85 coupé profile.

It was at the Geneva 1980 fair, the Quattro was introduced to the public. It made quite an impact as four wheel drive cars until then, were typically reserved for utility and all-terrain vehicles.

Is it ‘Quattro’ or ‘quattro’ ?

Audi Quattro
Audi Quattro at Geneva convention

Even though many are considering this model to be denoted as ‘quattro’, it started off as a unique model named ‘Quattro’ in its type approval.

Looking at photos from its 1980 launch in Geneva, alike early marketing material, the model is written with a capital ‘Q’. And of course there is the 80s graphical workout of the logo making it look like lower-case.

am 6. (bis 16.) März 1980 öffnet der 50. Genfer Automobilsalon seine Pforten. Für AUDI hat diese Jubiläumsausstellung besonderes Gewicht:
Der Audi Quattro feiert Weltpremiere.

Audi press release 27.2.1980

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. Further confusion may come from the usage of lower case in the looser termed ‘urquattro’, but the car is Audi Quattro.

Production series


Audi pre-production Quattro
The first prototype coupé chassis Quattro, IN-NA 96 (D). Photo courtesy of M. Neugebauer.

It appears that Audi started to get the Typ 85 coupé chassis design in place around 1978, seeing some very limited pre-production Quattro builds in 1979.

One of such pre-production Coupé-based Quattros has managed to be hidden from scrapping, and resurrected in recent years, making it what I call the “Stamm-Quattro“. Another is the very public IN-NJ 66 which has been introduced in numerous car magazines and marketing material.

Phase 1: 1980-1982

1980 model, 85A0900… – 292 units
1981 model, 85ZBA90…. – 1956 units
1982 model, 85ZCA90…. – 1935 units

The Quattro were introduced with the ‘WR’ engine, 6J15″ forged Fuchs or Ronal aluminium rims running 205/55 tires, dual square headlights, and a manual ‘016’ transmission. Differentials were operated by two levers alongside the handbrake.

This ‘WR’ powerplant was more or less the same base configuration as adopted from the Audi 200 5T Typ 43, sporting a 79.5 mm bore x 86,4 mm throw to give it the 2144 cm3 displacement. It is the most common engine to be found in the urquattro, as this 200 hp unit was the generic version kept all the way through 1987, until the release of the Quattro 20V.

The instruments were regular analogue ones, surrounded by push-function 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-strip was featuring ‘quattro’ in black insignia.

1981 model brought the pneumatic differential-lock, controlled by a button on the center console, and a new paint color to the palette.

Equipped alike the 1981 version, there weren’t any alterations for the 1982 model.

Phase 2: 1983-1984

1983 model, 85ZDA90…. – 1455 units
1984 model, 85ZEA90…. – 1567 units

1983 introduced the digital instrument cluster featuring acoustic warnings, but it was on the 1984 model we are seeing bigger alterations.

Changing to the lowered suspension – approx 20mm over the early cars – matched to 8J Ronal wheels, and new single piece Cibie headlights, appearance got quite modernized.

ABS was optional, alongside air condition and the interior could opt between leather and fabric. 1984 featured a lovely model year unique velour/part-leather interior, and introduced further paint color option.

A special creation was also the 1983 model seen with IN-C 1917 plates in the Audi Forum Ingolstadt. This has a four wheel steering prototype, without much information around it. It has basically taken the front geometry and mounted that on the rear.

Audi Quattro four wheel steering
Audi Quattro setup with steering arrangement also at rear axle.

Phase 3: 1985-1987

1985 model, 85ZFA90…. – 1530 units
1986 model, 85ZGA900… – 774 units
1987 model, 85ZHA900… – 435 units

1985 featured mainly the same car as the 1984 model, still on the ‘WR’ engine. For countries with special emission-demands – such as Switzerland and Sweden – the urquattro is now offered with the ‘GV’ engine at 165 hp. New interior options with fabric or leather, and a 2-step turn-button for controlling the differential. Exterior, one-piece Cibie headlights gave the Quattro a modernized look, in combination with a change for fully black taillights and reflex-strip.

There were no alterations for the 1986 version, and no significant changes for the 1987 model.

Phase 4: 1988-1991

1988 model, 85ZJA900… – 610 units, incl. 200 edition Spéciale
1989 model, 85ZKA000… – 462 units
1990 model, 85ZLA000… – 413 units
1991 model, 85ZMA000… – 23 units

1988 finally brought the partial galvanization of these chassis, and was the final year where Audi offered the Quattros featuring a 10V configuration.

Generally, the market was offered the 2.2L ‘MB’ – a motor with capacity increase to compensate the introduction of the catalytic converter, and the change for the modernized K24 water-cooled turbo.

1989 was the year Audi started offering the Quattro with the more modern configuration of the ‘RR’ 20V motor. Now marketed as ‘Quattro 20V’, something that is also reflected on chrome badges on the boot lid.

It was 6 years since the Sport Quattro introduced 20V engines, ran by full electronic Bosch Motronic fuel management, so it was about time to bring this technology to the masses (of sport car buyers).

This engine did 220 hp at 5900 rpms and 309 Nm, with a 9.3:1 compression ratio. The boot lid was made of ‘Fibron’ light-weight material, and the digital instrument cluster featured red illumination, now without the analogue warning module.

There were no differences between 1990 or 1991 models, with a total of 898 20-valved cars produced.

Edition Spéciale & Quattro 20V edition

During the 11 year production span of the urquattro, there were actually 2 special editions – both available during the last phase. One a 10V, the other a 20V.

When the ‘MB’ was released for the 1988 global market, the Swiss market saw the “edition Spéciale” – 200 individually numbered Quattros, picked randomly from the 85ZJA900… VIN range. These all featured the 10V ‘WX’ engine (a de-tuned ‘WR’ base) at 162 hp, cruise-control, sun-roof, analogue instruments and a full leather interior (with strong similarities to what would define the following 20V interiors).

The second was a “Quattro 20V edition” campaign variant (package) of the Quattro 20V in 1990. This was campaigned alongside the Audi 80 (2.0 115 hp, 2.0 16V 140 hp) and the Audi 90 (2.3 10V & 2.3 20V), and was seemingly a package consisting of air conditioning, a sun-roof, part-leather interior, cruise control, and a sport steering wheel.

Audi Quattro
1988 design, more specifically the Edition spéciale.

The American spec Quattro: 1983-1987

Audi Quattro American '83 model
A 1982 mid-year press release photo of ’83 model Quattro – courtesy of Audi of America

It appears Audi of America started promotions in mid-1982 for a 1983 model release, also here denoted as ‘Audi Quattro’, with sales kept into 1987. Overall sales to North America are seemingly 793 cars; 664 on the U.S. market, and Canada saw 99 cars into their market.

Now there are some unique features of the North America supplied cars. Albeit being delivered with a European chassis number, they are given a similar, but unique, chassis number range and registered according to that. These are in the style of WAUDC085**A900*** where the second asterix denotes the model year and the last three the running number, just like European Quattros.

Visually they mainly have the ‘phase 1 looks’ with quad headlights and the red and amber taillight/reflex combination, although to suit the different dimensions of license plates.

Gone were the fog lights, and the bumpers are the more massive ‘Safety bumpers’ kind, with front turn signals now being re-positioned from the corners to more centered and being of a stripe design.

All model years featured the 2144 ccm ‘WX’ downgraded motor of 162 hp and featuring a catalytic converter.

Audi Quattro American '85 model
’85 model Quattro – courtesy of Audi of America

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’ with lesser performance. I’ve yet to figure out the exact differences, as the little I find tells the same spec as for ‘WR’.

It could make sense that the 1983 model of the urquattro could introduce since late ’82 a light weight aluminium engine basis for the Group B Quattro A1. There have been a few engine blocks surfacing for sale claiming to be aluminium, but with the design of a regular cast-iron bottom-end.

Special builds

Treser’s Pierburg upgrade

There has been some special spawns of the urquattro 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.