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Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

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Quattro designer admits fault

2010-11-26 07:03

CREATIVE CONTEMPT: Perhaps the most collectable Audi ever built, yet the Sport Quattro’s designer does not keep a copy of it at the front of his portfolio.

It remains one of the most revered performance cars in history, but its designer thinks that in hindsight he created a Quasimodo of sorts.

In an interview with British publication Autocar Peter Birtwhilste, who is now boss of Mazda’s European design studio, described the seminal 1980s all-wheel drive performance car as, "bloody ugly."

Originally built to serve Class B WRC championship homologation purposes back in three decades ago, the short-wheel base Quattro variant was produced in very limited road going numbers – with only 200 being sold.

Shrunken wheelbase, silly aesthetics?

Birtwhilste’s greatest challenge was packaging the all-wheel drive mechanicals on Audi’s 80 series platform, then shortening the wheelbase to rally competition specifications.

"Although it did what it needed to do, it looks awful," said the man who chopped the seminal Quattro’s wheelbase by 290mm to appease engineers in the company’s motorsport division.

Adding extended wheel arches, cooling vents, a more rakishly angled windscreen and an aft spoiler were all deemed necessary at the time to ensure Audi had a suitable base to homologate its awesome S1 WRC competition cars from.

The short-wheel base Quattro was powered by a 225kW version of the 2.1-litre in-line five turbocharged engine. It is considered one of the most valuable 1980s performance cars by collectors.

Why is Birtwhilste’s hindsight criticism of his truncated Quattro creation important? Well, Audi is about to do something similar again with its new Quattro concept.

Unveiled at the Paris auto show two months ago, the Quattro concept, true to its lineage, will ride on a shortened RS5 platform, with its wheels spaced 150mm closer together. Powering the Quattro concept will be a 300kW version of the 2.5-litre FSI engine, currently doing duty in the TT-RS and recently confirmed RS3 Sportback.

Will it be a future classic? Or perhaps it is set to suffer the same fate as the Sport Quattro - being derided by its creator in three decades hence.


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