Audi UR Quattro: Rally past makes the case
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Heritage it has in spades but stone chips this beloved classic will have no more
Whether you consider Allister Lowe's 1990 Audi UR Quattro to be a classic depends on how you rate collectability in the equation - and where you live. The US accepts a 25-year rule and the UK road tax regulations specify over 15 years old and above £15,000 ($26,300) in value, which makes this a classic in those countries.
The New Zealand Vintage Car Club allows anything over 30, but I doubt many would quibble with this 26-year-old beauty - not least because there were few changes to the car's exterior over its 11-year production period, during which 11,452 were built. And then there's its rally heritage.
The original Quattro -- the UR, (with the UR meaning original, or first of its kind) -- was produced to take advantage of new rules allowing four-wheel drive in rallying. Before the savage Group B class was banned after several deaths, versions were piloted by such illustrious names as Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, Walter Rohrl and of course Michele Mouton, who became the first woman to win a WRC round in one, back in 1982.
Lowe first encountered Audi as a lad in the UK. He grew up riding scooters, "We were scooter boys," and he owned a Mitsubishi Starion when he was 18. A mate's brother was a Microsoft programmer, and had an Audi Quattro ... "I thought it was ugly, but it stayed with me." On immigrating here 18 years ago he bought an Audi coupe GT, "loved it, and owned it for years".
He spotted this car about 12 years ago. "I'd been looking for one and couldn't find one in New Zealand. Then I saw it advertised on an overseas website - it was in Christchurch and wasn't advertised here!"
He desperately tried to get hold of the owner, but when he finally got through, "It had been for sale for four months, and there was someone flying from Auckland next day. He bought it. He beat me by one day. I was gutted."
Lowe got the buyer's contact details, got in touch and asked him to contact him if he ever sold it.
Meantime, he'd see the car at the February Ellerslie Concours car show and chat to the owner, who decided to sell it two years ago. Naturally Lowe bought it.
There were three different models over the 11-year production run -- this was the latest, the turbo engine now the RR 2.3-litre 20-valve in-line five-cylinder with a 162kW output and a top speed of 230km/h, and it was the rarest and most sought-after, with only about 500 made out of the 11,452 total, he says. "There were three New Zealand-new, and this was a UK import.
"It was in really good condition. I've done some little things cosmetically - the dash had had a 1980s carphone screwed in, and someone had stuck an Audi Sport badge over the holes. A trimmer said it couldn't be repaired, so I sourced another dash from a guy breaking one. It has new tyres - you can't get the original size any more, and these were imported from the US by the previous owner."
The only item not standard - and that includes the heated seats and orange-lit digital dash, very 80s - is the Milltek exhaust, on it when he got the car.
Lowe's found it's hard to source parts, and anyway he's not especially mechanical, so joining the VW Audi SportKlub NZ has been useful.
He says the 20v can be identified by the three-spoke steering wheel, some leather trim, and the Quattro script woven into the partial-leather seats, plus the fact that although it has chromed Audi rings at the rear, the words "Audi" and "Quattro" are conspicuous by their absence. And the later cars, like this one, got a lower suspension, stiffer springs, and a Torsen centre diff instead of the manual centre diff lock.
Is he tempted to run a classic rally in it? It seems not.
"I'd spin off the road, knowing me. It's a weekend driver, it's done 118,000km from new, and because they're so rare I'm paranoid about stone chips. It goes to shows, and around town.
Still, the rally heritage does appeal. "It was an iconic rally car. It changed motoring when it came out. No one had ever done anything like that. The price tag was huge, maybe more than a Porsche, but the Subaru STI and Mitsubishi Evo wouldn't have existed without it." And it does drive superbly, he says. The handling is "awesome. It just takes the lines, and there's a distinctive sound to a five-cylinder, and with the Milltek it has a kind of rumble. The 20v has less turbo lag, too".
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that this car is about to become a star -- of sorts. "It's going to feature in Westside, with a property developer driving it." You get the feeling the actor was under strict orders to handle this rare beast with kid gloves.