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Ur-Quattro - Driving A Legend

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives Topics:  Audi Quattro

Ur-Quattro - Driving A Legend

Geoff Maxted
November 26, 2013

Audi Quattro Audi Quattro Audi Quattro Audi Quattro
Now that’s what I call horticulture. You don’t get that sort of ornamentation down at the garden centre; but it doesn’t stop there. At the very hospitable Audi event at Walton Hall in Warwickshire this Monday a little gem took pride of place and this is it:

The original. The legend that is the Audi Quattro; this one dating from 1989. I asked if I could take it out and was quietly stunned when the answer was yes. The Ur-Quattro was arguably the first production car to bring permanent four wheel drive and a turbocharger fully to the attention of the car buying public thanks to its rally successes.

Over two decades have passed since this car was in its heyday and it is frankly amazing just how far the motor industry has come. Opening the door was like going back into history in an automotive time machine. Now I know how Howard Carter felt when he opened Tutankhamun’s tomb. ‘Where is all the seat adjustment’, I wondered, ‘Whither the climate control?’ That’s how much we’ve been spoiled. This venerable motor even had that ‘wet dog’ smell unique to old cars.

Nevertheless, at the turn of a key, the engine sprang immediately into life. I actually laughed out loud when I found that I needed a thigh of steel to depress the clutch. Selecting a notchy first gear I inched forward and, thankfully without stalling in front of everybody, accelerated up the drive and was reminded again how much things have changed.

We have gone soft. We have been cosseted in luxury and supported by many driver aids. Getting back to basics like this was a reminder of how it felt to be solely in charge of a large chunk of flying metal powered by a five-cylinder 2.2L turbo motor with just three pedals and a steering wheel for support. When new, this car would have produced over 200bhp, although time and 77,000 miles has taken its toll. Nevertheless, the old dog still had plenty of life in it as I approached my first junction and found to my consternation that brakes had obviously been an afterthought. After that exciting interlude, I drove with due diligence.

It was an awesome experience. I could feel and sometimes hear all the moving parts going about their business and felt fully connected to the road. The steering was communicative and surprisingly accurate and in corners the car remained settled thanks to the legendary four-wheel drive. This was proper driving rather than the remote experiences we have now and all to a magic soundtrack from long ago. Even the seat creaked.

The ageing plastics of the dashboard held an LCD electronic instrument cluster that looked like early Doctor Who vintage but it all worked well. Even the clock was spot-on for time.

I drove this iconic car for a half hour and realised that we have lost as much as we’ve gained in motoring. I savoured every moment and, do you know, at the end of my drive I was quite fired up.

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