CC Capsule: 1988 Audi Quattro – Stumped

Meeting a legend is a strange experience. If you’re an admirer, there can be too many things that pop up in your head at once, which you then try not to express so you don’t come off as obnoxious. Or you can just blank out from sheer excitement. You may find yourself saying inane things, like “I’m your number one fan,” resulting in awkward smiles all round. Misery. If you’re not a fan, you don’t really know what to say. “I liked you in that thing you did… you know…on TV, like ten years ago.” Disaster. Either way, you can be a little tongue-tied.

The Audi Quattro is a legend. No question. Launched in March 1980, the 5-cyl. all-wheel-drive coupé broke new ground for performance cars and transformed the genre. Then Audi entered it as a rally car, where it dominated the field to such an extent that everyone went AWD in short order. It was one of those rare trailblazers that re-defined a category of cars for a generation. That’s about all I know – and all I care to know, really – about the “Ur-Quattro,” other than this one’s slightly less abrupt nose makes it a post-1985 model.

If I were Jim Klein, I could wax lyrical about this car all day and probably most of the night. Alas, I’m not, so I won’t. To my eyes, the Quattro was unfortunately born a few years too late, at a time when Giugiaro was perhaps too dominant in European design. There’s nothing positive to be said about the styling, which I realize is completely incidental in this particular car, as the really interesting bits are underneath.

I didn’t have time to photograph the interior, which is a damn shame. If the exterior is anything to go by — this car might as well have escaped straight from the Ingolstadt Museum – the interior must be a true time-warp. And much as I don’t admire the styling or the era all that much, time-warps are always fascinating.

This is another one of those CCs, like that Lancia Prisma I posted last month, that just came to me. It was about 5PM when I saw this familiar Audi shape from my balcony, parking itself almost in front of our building. I saw the driver get out, so I hurriedly put my shoes on and went downstairs to get a better look. Gotta love Tokyo’s excellent CC delivery service.

By the time I had crossed the street to get a decent three-quarter front shot, the owner was on his way back. I managed to catch the Quattro as it went off – discreetly, not in a flurry of decibels like an air-cooled Porsche or an Alfa. Audi built just over 11,000 of these well-behaved automobiles in 11 years, so I’m not holding my breath until I find another one on the street. Hopefully, if I do, I’ll know what to say.


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CC Capsule: 1987 Audi Quattro, by James Pembroke Tenneson

Classic Drive: 1984 Audi Sport Quattro – I Drove My Hero, by Jim Klein