When I was about 14 or 15 I built a model of an Audi Quattro GT. It was my dream car. At the time Audi was winning all the rallies and setting all the records, and I was in love. Of course I could never afford one, and I still can’t. But one day I got a chance to come as close as a poor man can get.
I was driving my car-less friend Peter around in the miserable little Edlekampfwagon. We were on a busy road, but out of the corner of my eye I spied an Audi with a “For Sale” sign. I had no money at all, but I turned into the parking lot anyways. It must be a reflex that I can’t control. To my complete surprise it was a black 1984 4000 S quatro for only eight hundred dollars. I literally had to pinch myself, could it be real, could it possibly even run for that price? Then I remembered, I had no money.
I turned slowly toward my friend and began to speak as I was still forming a plan to get the money. Peter…., I said, you need a car don’t you; after all, that’s why I am driving you around isn’t it? “I see where this is going” he said. To make a boring story short, after some talking and some gun swapping as well, I was able to come up with four hundred dollars. So I did something I never do, I prostituted myself I called the owner of the Audi before having all of the money together. I had to at least know if it ran.
The owner turned out to be a nice fellow who told me that it did indeed run, quite well as a matter of fact. I asked him why he was selling it and he said that it had been a parts car for another one. But since nothing had gone wrong with the other one, and he had sold that, so now he was getting rid of the parts car. I told him that I had four hundred dollars and would have the rest in a week when I got paid. Without me even asking he agreed to hold the car for me with no money down!
A week’s time rolled by, I had completed my dealings with Peter and had gotten paid. I called the man and met him with the Audi. It was finally mine!
It had a faded black paint job, a sunroof, locking differentials, a manual transmission, power everything, and bad tires. And it drove like a dream come true. Sure it was not a turbo coupe, but it was close enough for me.
On the drive home I had some twisty country roads to navigate. Of course I pushed the car to the envelope to get a feel for the handling. But the envelope was too big! It stuck to the pavement like chewing gum. I gave it more speed, but still the edge was not even close. Finally I arrived home before I got up the nerve to really see where the limits were. One should keep in mind that I was accustomed to an 1981 automatic Rabbit, so my sense of proportion may have been a bit off. But it really did grip like nothing else.
During the time I owned the Audi I was still working for the security company, but I had now become a supervisor and was commuting regularly. On one occasion I was asked to work out at a distant Forest Service station for several days to guard against a potential ELF arson attack. During that time the Earth Liberation Front and the anti-WTO anarchists provided no end of security-related employment opportunities all over the northwest.
It was a great opportunity to drive my car as fast as I wished through beautiful twisty forest roads. I slept in the wildland fire barracks but I lived in my car for that weekend. And I enjoyed every minute of it. No ELF terrorists came around to set the place on fire so it would have been pretty boring without the Audi.
Now I know what you are thinking, it’s an Audi, surely you must have had some problems with it. And you are correct as usual. Of course the sunroof leaked, but that’s really a given. And the Rube Goldberg vacuum controlled locks worked, some of the time. And the electric windows worked on their own schedule, as well as the differential lock switches. And there was the time that the brake master cylinder just locked up. And the time that the tire went flat just after I crossed the Washington/Oregon bridge in heavy traffic. I am sure I am forgetting some of its many shortcomings. But that is really the point here. I am forgetting them because of its many great qualities, like a first girlfriend, or a mother’s only son.
I began working as an armed bouncer in Portland on the weekends. The club I worked at was in “the hood” as they call it. And the Audi was very popular amongst the gangsters and pimps I was working with and against. But it’s crowning achievement came when I finally discovered the limits of it’s traction. I routinely took the twenty mile per hour S curves on my way to work at eighty miles per hour. But logging roads were much more fun. One day Peter and I were up in the woods shooting targets when I got a call from my wife. She was very pregnant with our second son and called to inform me that she thought she needed to go to the hospital. We were at least fifty miles away, twenty of which were logging trails. So we threw everything in the car and made like a bat out of hell.
I pushed the car to the absolute limit. It scared even me. We were driving narrow winding trails at eighty to ninety miles per hour and exceeding one hundred on the straightaways. When we got back onto the pavement I asked Peter if he was OK. “What do you mean?” He said. I asked him if I had frightened him to which he simply said, “no, I know you can drive like that just fine”. But between us, and now that he has passed away, I was driving way to fast, I and it scared me to see just how fast I could go in that car. We made it back in time to learn that it was false labor, but that was alright; it was plenty of fun getting there.
Now I suppose I should tell you why I ever got rid of such a machine. It was hunting season and I was scouting out a remote area. I went to turn around in the road and all of a sudden I heard a nasty pop! And then crunching and no more connection to the engine, just revving. The front passenger side CV joint had gone out. I could have locked the center differential and made it back essentially in rear wheel drive. But of course because it was an Audi, the center differential lock refused to work just then. So I got ready for a twenty mile or so hike back to town. I got about a half a mile down the road when a pickup came along. It was the only other car I had seen that day. They stopped and offered me a ride in the back which I gladly accepted.
After the Audi got towed all the way back home I was hit with the price of the new half shaft. So I started thinking, what if the transmission went out, or the differential? The prices were astronomical. And then slowly all of the failing of the car that I had been mentally repressing came creeping up on me. The many tow truck rides, the times spent stranded on the side of the road, so I decided to sell it.
I didn’t want to fix the half shaft so I sold it for four hundred dollars to my friend at the VW junk yard. But the vehicle I replaced it with made the Audi look as dependable as Abe Lincoln, but that will have to wait.