30 Years of quattro

By Michael Satterfield

I have always considered the period from 1974-1994 to be the Automotive Dark Ages, to be fair the Automotive Industry was not the only sector of society suffering from bad design, look at the clothes, architecture, and furniture. Good design and technology ended somewhere around 1968, perhaps the results of the drugs the population was taking, I mean really with a head full of acid, perhaps a Pontiac Astre seemed like a good idea. Cars people wanted to buy did not start to appear again until the mid 1990's. Look back at the 1970's they managed to take classics cars like the MGB, Spitfire, Fiat 124, and Midget and ruin them. But among the Pacers, Yugos, and even the fairly bad Rolls Royce Carmargue, there were rays of sunlight poking through. One of those was the technological tour-de-force that was the Audi quattro.
Not only did the quattro set the standard for bringing innovation back to the automotive landscape, with its turbocharged, intercooled, and fuel injected engine; but it was also good looking, with aerodynamic headlamps, a clean functional interior, and cool ground effects. Contrasting the quattro to an American turbocharged sportscar of the time, the Ford Mustang, and the differences are amazing. The 1980 Ford Mustang had a 2.3 (carb.) turbocharged engine, with a 4 speed manual transmission, and old sealed beam headlamps. It would not get EFI or an intercooler until 1984 when the SVO was released. The Audi was the pace setter that many in the automotive industry attempted to keep up with.

The first AWD touring car since the legendary Jensen FF, Audi had a car that set the brand apart from other luxury car manufactures, but Audi had a eye on the World Rally Car Championship as well. The first rally cars were little more than modified versions of the street cars, just a year later the quattro had made a reputation for itself on the rally circuit, making history along the way when Michèle Mouton became the first female ever to win a world championship rally, in a Audi quattro. Later development would lead to carbon composite Sport quattro built to run in the wild and fast Group B rally class, just 224 Sport quattros were built for public consumption.

The styling of the Audi quattro while not breathtaking, was clean and crisp. Today a clean example is hard to find, but if maintained it wont look as dated as its contemporaries. Designer Martin Smith has always had a gift for creating designs that define their era. He went on to design cars like the Opel Speedster, Astra, and the stunning Ford Iosis and Verve concepts, both those concepts influances can be seen in the current production Ford product lines.