Collector Steve Bullock explains why he still has a burning passion for a car launched 30 years ago and why, when it comes to models, the Quattro is still one of the hottest collecting themes around today

 

  

“Fire up the Quattro!” If you’re a fan of the TV series Ashes to Ashes you’ll immediately be aware I’m quoting the irreverent DCI Gene Hunt. For those of you not familiar with the cult show, I won’t even attempt to explain the rather complicated plot: suffice to say that it’s a sort of sci-fi cop show set on the mean streets of 1980s’ London and the red Audi Quattro featured in it has gone a long way to making the Audi Quattro uber-cool again!

  Not that it hasn’t always been, in my opinion anyway ­– but let’s just say the Gene Hunt effect has given the car’s value on the second hand car market a real boost. For me though, the value doesn’t matter, I love the car and have no intention of ever parting with mine. In fact I’ve never driven another car that is so rewarding, you always get out of a Quattro smiling!

At this point, I should point out an anachronism: in 1981, the year in which Ashes to Ashes is set, the Audi Quattro was not actually available in right-hand drive form in the UK, and the car shown in the series is in fact a 1983 model with slight changes to the headlights and other features. Actor Philip Glenister, who plays Hunt, admits to being aware of this, but simply counters with: “But who cares? It’s a cool car”. And you just can’t argue with that.

Anyway, since Ashes the car does get a lot more attention and, hopefully, it’s also prompted Audi to look favourably on owner’s requests for spares to carry on being produced.

The Audi Quattro is, after all, an absolutely remarkable car. Launched in March 1980, the Quattro proved a great way to kick off a decade in which Audi’s Vorsprung durch Technik philosophy really came into its own. With the Quattro, Audi introduced the first permanent four-wheel drive system to grace a high performance car, and by the time production ended in 1991, 11,452 handbuilt examples of this automotive pioneer had rolled off the production line in Hall N2 at Audi’s Ingolstadt factory.

The car was well ahead of its time in the 1980s; not only was it the first mass produced road car to have four-wheel drive, it also had a five-cylinder turbo-charged engine.

During the eleven years of production there were not many changes to the car though: trim, lights, ABS, Torsen differential and wheels being the main ones. The cars are known by their engine type: WR until 1987; MB 1987-89 and RR 20 valve from 1989 till the end of production.

As previously mentioned, all of the early cars were left hand drive, and although Audi at first claimed that conversion to right hand drive was impossible, a number of conversions were undertaken – the best of which was carried out by the David Sutton Motorsport team. Audi was later (in 1982) to relent and produce a right hand drive car, although the brakes, servo and master cylinder remained on the left, worked by a long pushrod running across the bulkhead behind the heater from the driver’s pedal.

Other notable changes took place for the 1984 model year with ABS a standard fitting along with dark rear lights, sloping one-piece headlamps and digital dash with voice (audible warning system) – very 1980s! Sadly, the voice was deleted with the introduction of the MB engined car. 

Today, we in the Quattro Owners Club believe there are about 1,000 original Quattro models left in the UK, with about 500-600 of them still on the road.

In 1981, Audi debuted the Quattro in the WRC (World Rally Championship) and won three events, and the rest, as they say is history. Indeed for me, like many other drivers, it was the impact the Quattro made in rallying that first brought the car to my attention. When it came to motorsport, the Quattro was to totally rewrite the rule book. In 1984, Audi decided to develop a short-wheelbase Sport Quattro, very much with motorsport in mind. This had 18 inches removed from the chassis behind the driver to improve handling response and featured a newly developed four-valve turbocharged engine with aluminium cylinder block that delivered 306PS. Although nominally a road-going car, this special model took over as a serious rally contender from the earlier A2 Quattro. Only 244 examples of this innovatively designed and engineered car were produced, in order to meet FIA regulations and enable Audi to homologate its rally entries for the Group B regulations of the World Rally Championship.

There’s no doubt the modifications to the Audi Sport worked, but personally I’m not a fan of the road-going Sport (which puts me in a minority amongst Quattro owners, but each to their own, I say) as I found they made the car ‘twitchy’ and not as easy to drive as the longer wheelbase version. No, I’m happy to stick with my own LWB road going models. Regardless, it may seem like a cliché to claim that one car changed the face of motorsport, but the Audi Quattro really did.

 

The models

But of course, once you own the car you start to look out for scale models, and there are some terrific ones out there. Numerous model manufacturers have offered the Quattro in a variety of scales and materials. My collection is far from exhaustive – I’ve managed to collect 42 different models so far, and my collection’s still growing rapidly. This, therefore, is just a little taster – as there really are masses more models of the Quattro to be found.

 

Matchbox Superfast

Very early on in the car’s history, back in 1982, Matchbox introduced a 1:58 scale rendition of the Quattro in its Superfast line-up, and this was to be offered in a variety of road and rally finishes. Not surprisingly, as the hobby is full of copycat models, it looks like Hong Kong based manufacturer Maisto based its 1:64 scale version on the Matchbox casting, as the similarity is remarkable. Other than the almost indiscernable difference in scale though, I can immediately tell the two versions in my collection apart because the Matchbox car features a registration number, while the Maisto model doesn’t. Examples of both the Matchbox and the Maisto models can still be picked up very cheaply at swapmeets or on eBay.


 

Made in Germany

As you’d expect, being a home-grown marque, the Germans manufacturers have produced some really excellent models of the Quattro in recent years. My favourites are the 1:18 scale AutoArt models. Saying that, the road going model is marketed as an MB Quattro, while it is in fact clearly based on a 1988 20 valve RR. Don’t let that little description error put you off though, because it’s beautifully detailed. Nice touches include the sunstrip on the front windscreen, the Quattro script in the heating elements of the heated rear window and the rear washer jet, along with a really well replicated engine under bonnet.


It’s been released in a number of finishes, the hardest to find being the Tornado red, which was only made available in Germany – hence the German registration plates. This is puzzlingly as it was one of the most popular colour options with Quattro owners in the UK. Instead however, along with black (Ref. 70301) and silver (Ref. 70303), AutoArt issued the model in Tizian Red (70304), a colour you’d be lucky to see on British roads – although perhaps this production run was intended for a wider market, as instead of an authentic registration, the numberplate simply carries the wording ‘Quattro’.

There’s also some been some superb Quattro rally cars from AutoArt. These feature a correct roll-cage interior and all the authentic exterior accessories for the numerous rally cars represented.

And then, of course, there’s the road-going Sport Quattro (SWB), which has been issued in a variety of colours. At around £80 each, the AutoArt models are pretty pricey, but boy are they’re worth it!

Also very expensive, but beautifully crafted, are the Scala43 kit built by hand, crisply cast resin models, with white metal ancillary parts. The paint finish is always flawless and the models feature some amazing detail, including some of the best photo-etching you could hope to see. Despite hefty price tags, these stunners sell out fast. There’s a whole series to track down too. Perhaps I could re-mortgage the house?


Generally more accessible, although there are of course always exceptions, are the numerous road and motorsport Quattros, both 1:18 and 1:43 scale, produced by Minichamps – all well worth keeping an eye out for.

I mention there are always exceptions because one of the most interesting Minichamps models in my collection is the 1985 25th anniversary model of the Audi Sport Quattro (Ref. 505 05 006 03); this is presented in a special display case, with the car and the stripped-down modified chassis plinth mounted. I’ve never seen an example at any of the shows I’ve attended or in the shops – and so I assume it is either very scarce and/or was a dealership only model. In any case, it makes a fabulous display item.


Another rare Minichamps/Audi anniversary model is one bought from the Audi Quattro Owners Club, of which I am a member. This was made especially for a trip the club made to the Audi factory in Germany in 2001. The model is in a standard white finish, which is very unusual to come across for some curious reason best known to the model manufacturers. Once again, I have yet to see one of these models come up for sale – understandably, club members have been keen to hold onto their individual trip trophies.

One of the tiniest versions is produced by Schuco, to 1:87 scale. The version I’ve seen, a Monte Carlo rally rendition (Ref. 25594) was amazingly detailed considering its size.

And while we’re covering German manufacturers, there was also a 1:43 scale Quattro produced by Conrad (Ref. 1020), which features opening doors, bonnet and boot. Although obsolete, you may still be able to find an example if you scout around.


 

Majorette, Solido and Norev

Back in the 80s, French manufacturer Majorette released a rather toy like 1:43 scale Quattro as No. 221 in its range, in rally colors and with opening doors.

And in 1983 Solido (another French brand) used its 1:43 scale Audi Quattro coupe casting for both the road and rally versions. The road going version is rather a nice little model, with opening doors and a heated rear windscreen. Produced as a re-run of the original model, the Rallye San Remo model came with its bonnet transfer factory applied and an extensive transfer sheet so you could create the Audi Sport works livery yourself, along with a colour photo showing where the transfers needed to be positioned. However, while the model was finished in correct works ivory, with black trim and white ‘alloy’ wheels, the interior remained as it was cast for the road going version, with back passenger seats rather than roll cage.

Norev has also produced a number of 1:43 and 1:18 scale road and rally Quattros (the 1:18 scale version features opening doors and boot, a bonnet that lifts to reveal engine detail, and working steering). The latest 1:43 scale release, which represents the 1987 Audi 200 Quattro Safari Rallye Kenya winner, as driven by Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz (Ref. 830076) will set you back over £30, but it very accurately captured, and is definitely one on my wish list.

 

Polistil, Bburago and Detail Cars

Offerings from Italian manufacturers include Polistil’s rather crude, approximately 1:40 scale rendition and Bburago’s 1:43 scale rally model that’s adorned with stickers which do not seem to have stood the test of time too well, judging by most examples I’ve encountered. I’ve also seen a 1:24 version die-cast version produced by Polisitil (Ref. 3127), carrying race number 10 and Unicars/Esso sponsorship and there was a Audi 4 Sport Rally 1:25 kit from this manufacturer too.


But there are, of course, also the splendid Detail Cars models. Although if push came to shove, it would have to be the Minichamps models for me, they compare pretty favourably with their German counterparts.  The 1984 Rally Sanremo Audi Quattro (Ref. ART 494), finished in the Audi works team colours, as driven by S. Blomquist and B. Cederberg, is a good case in point. Just look at the detail to the six front spot lights and the authentic spoked alloy wheels. Equally attractive is the Team Fiori car (Ref. ART 495) with its two headlight clusters on the extended grille. And Detail Cars also produce a very good example of the long wheel base road car in a choice of colour finishes.

 

Guisvaal

Spanish manufacturer Guisvaal has modelled a basic but quite nice little 1:43 scale Quattro with opening doors, while a simple plastic version in 1:24 scale was produced by the Spanish company Inmetro.

 

Trofeu and Vitesse

From Portugal, there’s the splendid 1:43 scale Trofeu models. In my opinion, they’re on a par with Minichamps. In some respects, they’re better – the roof mounted aerial for example is much finer on the Trofeu renditions. I have a number of different rally versions in my collection now, including: the Michele Mouton/Fabriza Pons No. 12 car from the Portuguese rally in 1981 (Ref. TR1603) and the No. 2 car driven to victory in the 1982 San Remo Rally by Stig Blomquist and Bjorn Cederberg (TR1606); the No. 3 car that earned the above mentioned team another first in the 1983 RAC Rally (TR1609) and the No. 3 car that came in first for H. Mikkola/A. Hertz in Portugal in 1983 (TR1608).

Vitesse models also have their roots in Portugal although today the brand is part of the Sun Star Group operating out of Macau in China. Road and rally cars are included in the range. For example, there’s an Audi Quattro Coupe (Ref. 20776) in Mars red, produced in a limited run of 2496 pieces. And amongst the rally models there’s the more recent the No. 11 Audi Quattro that raced in the Greek Acropolis Rally of 1982, driven by F.Wittmann and P.Diekmann (Ref 42056), which features an opening bonnet, revealing a detailed engine, and a set of decals to create the authentic ‘R6’ scheme. Also a limited edition, 2160 examples were produced.

Sun Star

Based in Macau, China, Sun Star has produced a number of 1:18 scale Quattros, but I’ve got to say I’ve been pretty disappointed by them. While the shape of the car has been captured well, on the two 1:18 scale rally examples I own the bonnet just doesn’t sit flush. While on the road car, the interior is very plasticky. Not impressed. 

Another incredibly successful Chinese brand you’re no doubt familiar with is IXO. Its Classic Rally Cars series includes the Audi Sport Quattro No. 2 car of Bjorn Cederberg and Stig Blomqvist from the 1984 San Remo Rally and the No. 5 Christian Geistdorfer and Walter Rohrl car from following year’s event. But this manufacturer has also produced 1:43 scale Audi Quattro models as promotionals and for part works, as I believe some of the other manufacturers mentioned in this article, such as Trofeu, have also done.

 

Phoenix from the Ashes

The models mentioned and illustrated in this article are, no doubt, just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t, for example, touched on the slot cars in my collection – and there are several very good ones from Scalextrics, SCX, etc. There is therefore, plenty of scope for serious collectors, and with the car enjoying such a revival in interest, I think we can safely assume there’ll be plenty more models of this 1980s’ icon to come.