The birth of the quattro is somewhat unclear. Some publications say that the quattro is largely down to one man, Walter Tresser, one of Audi's senior project managers. He apparently decided that the 4WD system from the VW Iltis cross country vehicle could be developed to produce a high performance Audi. He actually built a prototype allegedly without permission in order to prove his theory.  However, Jeremy Walton's much sought after book "quattro" does not mention him at all! Whoever thought of it should be well pleased with their efforts. The part this is agreed on is that it was born from the Iltis 4WD cross country vehicle.

This system was installed into an Audi 80 saloon for initial developments. The project formally began in May 1978 to develop the road car but the 4WD coupe was also meant as a serious competitor for international rallies.

This made the quattro somewhat unique amongst it's class as it was developed from a road car and was not a purpose built rally car like much of it's opposition (Peugeot 205T16, Lancia S4, etc.). Even though the mighty S1 bore little resemblance to any road car Audi produced, much of the technology used in this rally machine was used to benefit the road car technology (Torsen differential, etc.).

The original Group 4 Quattro

The original rally Quattro appeared as a course car in late 1980 and it's potential was obvious. It was based on a 2145 cc 5 cylinder turbocharged engine producing 320/330 bhp. It was homologated into Group 4 on January 1st 1981 and it's first competitive outing was on the Janner rally in Austria driven by Franz Wittmann (it won). It's WRC debut on the Monte Carlo rally driven by Hannu Mikkola and Michelle Mouton. It was not the best start for the team as Mouton's car retired before reaching a stage with dirty fuel and Hannu Mikkola crashed out whilst leading. However, the pace of this new car was breathtaking. On one 14 Km stage, he caught and passed a more "conventional" rally car after only 7 Kms ! At the end of that stage, Ari Vatanen (then driving an Escort) and his co-driver, Dave Richards (now of Prodrive fame), had a bet as to what Hannu's time would be. Dave Richards said Hannu would be joint fastest but Ari said he would be 10 seconds faster than the next car. Hannu laughed and said " I was 1 minute 10 seconds faster than the next car"! The rest of this season was encouraging if not altogether successful. The car won the Swedish rally on snow, was 4th on the Portuguese, blew up in Corsica, disqualified in Greece (inner headlight saga), 3rd on the 1000 Lakes, 1st in San Remo (with Michelle driving) and 1st on the RAC. Hannu Mikkola was 3rd in the drivers Championship while Audi were 5th in the series for Makes.

In it's natural environment - The Gp 4 Quattro

During 1981, developments were made to improve reliability and reduce weight. For 1982, a light alloy cylinder block was homologated saving 22 KGs. The oil coolers were also relocated to the boot spoiler to improve cooling in the cramped engine bay. Despite this work, 1982 was similar to 1981 with results being mixed. Mikkola won in Finland and on the RAC with 2nd places on the Monte Carlo and San Remo; Blomqvist was 1st in Sweden and San Remo with a 2nd on the 1000 Lakes; whilst Mouton won in Portugal, Greece, Brazil with 2nd's on the RAC which gave her a chance at the world drivers championship but retirements on the Monte Carlo, New Zealand, 1000 Lakes and Ivory Coast rallies meant she narrowly lost out to Walter Rohrl in an Opel Ascona. However, Audi did win the World Championship for manufacturers and Mikkola was 3rd and Blomqvist 4th in the drivers series.