quattro File

The History of the Audi quattro

At the quattro Owners Club, we have an extensive knowledge base about the Audi quattro.  The following information is intended only as a guide, and should be treated as such.

On 4th March 1980, the Ur-quattro was unveiled to the world. At its heart, was the unique 4WD system, a design which could trace its roots back to the 1954 Audi Munga which had been designed for the German military. However, it would be the Iltis of 1967 that gave up its transmission.

The 4WD system faced one major problem. How to transmit power both front and rear without the use of bulky transfer gearboxes? This question was solved by the use of a hollow shaft and a piece of precision engineering that would see the 4WD become an integral part of the Audi quattro.




The centre differential is built into the back of the gearbox. The gearbox primary shaft, as an extension of the crankshaft, drives the hollow secondary shaft. This secondary shaft drives the centre differential cage, a solid shaft, running inside the hollow one transmits power from the centre differential to the front and the prop shaft running off the centre differential cage takes drive to the rear.




The improvements to the system were pioneered by a group of twelve Audi engineers, who managed to prove to VAG management the system could be effective in a permanent car application. Their research was given the go ahead, and the project was granted full blessing in November 1977.

Initially only 400 cars were planned to homologate the car for competition, but 11 years later Audi had produced 11,452 quattros with the last one rolling off the production line on 1st March 1991.

Throughout its lifetime, the model continually evolved.

March 1980


  • LHD only
  • WR engine 2,144cc
  • 7.0:1 compression ratio
  • solid tappets
  • 200 bhp
  • 210 lb-ft
  • Twin square headlamps
  • Black boot-lid and spoiler
  • Centre and rear differential operated by floor mounted lever and cable
  • 6J x 15 Ronal multi-spoke wheel (7J x 15 Fuchs wheel an option) 205/60 VR tyres
  • Brakes - front discs 280mm x 22mm - rear 245mm x 11mm
  • Analogue instrument display
  • Mokka cloth
  • Four spoke steering wheel with turbo script


March 1981

  • Cable operated differentials changed to push/pull pneumatic switch system

October 1982

  • RHD now available from chassis 85DA900556
  • Headlamps replaced with single lens Cibie units

December 1983

  • Bosch ABS fitted as standard
  • Green digital dash with synthesised voice fitted
  • Switchgear around instruments revised
  • Material changed to graphite in interior
  • Steering wheel changed to that fitted in the Audi 100 but covered in leather

March 1984

  • RHD wiper pattern introduced
  • Rear suspension geometry altered
  • Rear anti-roll bar deleted
  • Suspension lowered 20mm
  • 8J x 15 Ronal multi-spoke wheel introduced with 215/50 VR tyre

September 1984

  • Front end restyled to incorporate sloping grille and headlamps
  • Boot lid and spoiler now colour coded to bodywork
  • Rear lights and prismatic strip now tinted black

March 1985


  • Push/pull knob for centre differential changed to rotary control switch
  • Voltage and Oil temperature gauges fitted to centre console

September 1987

  • Twin hydraulic bonnet struts fitted
  • MB engine introduced
  • 2,226cc 10v
  • 8.6:1 compression ratio
  • hydraulic tappets
  • water-cooled turbo
  • TORSEN centre differential fitted, enabling power to be split front to rear by 75 – 25% either way
  • Rotary switch changed to single push button to lock rear differential
  • Front twin pot brake calliper introduced
  • Front brake disc changed to 276mm x 25mm
  • Boot lid changed from steel to fibreglass


October 1989

  • RR engine introduced 20v
  • 9.3:1 compression ratio
  • 220bhp
  • 228lb-ft
  • Rear brakes enlarged to 269mm
  • Wishbones now forged alloy rather than pressed steel
  • Steering wheel changed to three spoke item made by Personal of Italy
  • Half-leather interior now standard

Production ends


The original idea was only to build 400 examples to homologate the car for competition, however throughout its eleven year production run 11,452 quattros were manufactured.

The last Ur-quattro rolled off the production line on 1 March 1991, which Audi retained for their museum.