When you look at the rude health of Audi right now, it's difficult to remember that its existence in North America was once jeopardized by the very unfortunate "unintended acceleration" problems. The company was relatively small at the time and struggled to cope with the situation.
It happened in the mid-'80s and encouraged the company to reinvent itself, eventually launching new families of cars that were the basis of the products we know today.
Audi's problem was also a uniquely American dilemma, with the rest of the world not experiencing the same furor. There was also another distraction - the quattro.
Having almost singlehandedly brought all-wheel drive to the mass performance market, the quattro quickly went on to dominate world rallying, making it impossible to be competitive with 2WD cars.
Its competition success gave Audi something to cheer about and gave performance enthusiasts something to focus on. Who didn't want a quattro back in the day? It was the epitome of the homologation specials that would eventually morph into the Group A specials such at the Ford RS Cosworth, Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru Impreza.
Yet despite the variety and choice, the quattro retained a mystique. It was more expensive, for starters, making it a rare sight on the road. As it turns out, the cars were also epically expensive to maintain. A good friend of mine once owned a quattro between service intervals. He bought it after the previous owner had serviced it, selling before the next one was due. He couldn't afford the thousands of dollars the dealer was going to charge, yet it remains among his favorite 3500 miles.
The quattro had another Achilles heel - its front-wheel bias for the drive system, as well as most of its weight over the front axle. Many early adopters discovered, to their dismay, that quattro didn't mean you wouldn't crash, learning the real meaning of high-speed understeer.
Once the shortcomings were understood, the quattro continued to be high on the list of cars every enthusiast must own. The problem for US enthusiasts is that only about 700 cars were imported and it's estimated that approximately 400 remain. That's not enough to meet demand, especially when most owners keep hold of theirs as an appreciating investment.
Fortunately, there are facilities around the country devoted to both keeping your quattro on the road and even helping you find more performance, if desired. Our friends at 034 Motorsport, for example, have been one of the leading players for more than a decade but we also recently discovered Iroz Motorsport in Las Vegas.
Hank Iroz introduced us to the '83 quattro that's gracing this month's cover. It doesn't take much for us to be tempted by a quattro story, but when he explained it had a TT RS engine swap, he grabbed our full attention.
It takes a brave man to discard the famous 10- or 20-valve five-cylinder engine that originally came in these cars, but swapping it for the modern five-cylinder 20v from the TT was the sort of resto-mod we could get behind.
Of course, it transpired that the 2.5L block in the quattro is actually the VW equivalent because it's a fraction of the price, and all the internals were being upgraded to reach 580hp, so why blow your wad on a hunk of metal simply to have the right coding?
It didn't worry us, or owner Sean McLane, for that matter. We subsequently discovered Sean also has a Lancia Integrale in his collection, so we might have to pay him a second visit...
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy checking out his quattro, and don't forget to watch the video at www.europeancarweb.com
We also have videos from our First Drive in the Jaguar F-Type Coupe as well as our time with Justin Gomba's WTCC-replica BMW 335i.
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