AUCTION HIGHLIGHT: 1981 AUDI QUATTRO

Press car provenance often attracts keen bids, and period competition history even more so – but what if a car has both of these as part of its history?

AUCTION HIGHLIGHT: 1981 AUDI QUATTRO

If your car has special provenance, there’s a very good chance it will do well in an auction. There is nothing quite like a compelling story to get bidders intrigued and excited, so a fascinating history can make all the difference when it comes to the sale price.

Press car provenance often attracts keen interest from bidders, and period competition history even more so – but what if a car has both of these as part of its history? It’s time to talk about a very special 1981 Audi Quattro, which has now been bought and sold twice on Collecting Cars.

Despite being a left-hand-drive car, this ‘Ur’ Quattro was delivered directly from the factory to the UK, where it was registered as ‘BRP 223X’ and was assigned to press duties by the PR department for VAG in Milton Keynes. Numerous period press photos exist of the car sporting this registration, which add to the wonderfully well-documented history.

Perhaps its most famous press feature was in the April 1982 issue of CAR magazine, where renowned motoring writer and editor Mel Nichols reported on driving it in the south of France as he followed the Monte Carlo rally. Nichols noted in the article: “Despite the tightness of the bends and road’s bumpiness the Quattro swiftly demonstrated the point that makes it so attractive as a rally car: its ability to put power onto the road.”

Having been sampled by numerous motoring journalists during its early road car life, a decision was made to convert the Audi to rally-ready specification. The aim was to produce a reliable car for Audi Sport UK to use in practice sessions and reconnaissance, so the project was carried out by David Sutton Motorsport in West London – the same workshop that looked after all of Audi Sport UK’s ‘Works’ cars. 

The build is understood to have included a Terry Hoyle engine, a fully-instrumented rally interior, and a Safety Devices roll cage. Following completion, the Audi was used by Sutton’s team as a practice car in the Acropolis Rally of Greece for US driver John Buffum, and in preparation for the Manx Rally by Finnish legend Hannu Mikkola.

In 1983, the Quattro was promoted from practice car to competition car. It was campaigned in the Rothmans Circuit of Ireland Rally, driven by Ulster Rally Champion Robert McBurney. Again, numerous period photos show 'BRP 223X' attacking various stages around the Emerald Isle, further padding out its remarkable history file.

Around two years later, David Sutton sold the Quattro to the Portuguese privateer José Vieira Barros. He raced it in international events, including the Rali Vinho da Madeira in 1985 (car #28) and 1987 (car #36). Barros’ business interests in the UK led to the car returning there in the early 1990s, where it was sold to the founder of the Historic Racing Drivers Club, Julius Thurgood. 

The car was subsequently sent to the West Yorkshire workshop of former WRC team mechanic, Colin Parkinson, for engine-out restoration works. It was also fully repainted at this point, which revealed that the Quattro retained its original shell.

After the restoration, the car was sold, and later became part of a private collection of rally cars in Northern Ireland. The car's current powertrain is a turbocharged 2.1-litre inline-five-cylinder unit, understood to have been originally built and tuned by renowned Audi motorsport engine specialist Lehmann Motoren-Technik AG in Liechtenstein.

The engine was subject of a rebuild in 2009 at Dialynx Performance, which is regarded as the UK's leading Audi/VAG specialist powertrain tuner. Around the same time, the car was taken to Francis Tuthill’s workshop for a partial restoration and thorough recommissioning, ahead of entries in the Trackrod and Manx Historic Rally events, and demonstrations at the British Rally Show in 2010 and 2011. In 2016, the car underwent a programme of work to return it to the same specification and livery as when it competed in the 1983 Rothmans Circuit of Ireland Rally. 

In more recent years, the car has been prepared for and driven in the non-competitive Lombard Rally Bath, which featured 125 cars and world-renowned drivers such as Stig Blomqvist and Malcolm Wilson – and during the event Blomqvist signed one of this car’s door panels. It was also on display at the Race Retro motorsport gathering in early 2020, where it was exhibited in the ‘Hall of Fame’.

Beyond the factory team cars, there are few Quattros as well documented as 'BRP 223X'. It is featured in 'Audi Quattro' by Graham Robson, the DVD of 'The World's Greatest Rally Cars' presented by Tony Mason, and Jeremy Walton's book, 'Audi Quattro: the Development and Competition History'. It was also featured by Classic Cars magazine in June 2017 and in a short film by Petroleum & Co., showcased below.

Having spent its first year on the road as a well-documented press car before the rally-spec conversion, this particular Quattro boasts an unusual and fascinating history. It helped boost publicity for Audi’s new model, helped rally champions prepare for critical race days, and ultimately saw competition of its own between 1983 and 1987. 

Last sold on Collecting Cars in August 2020 with a winning bid of £52,500, this Quattro is an unapologetic compromise between an exciting road car and period-perfect rally competitor. While ‘Works’ cars now fetch significant six-figure sums, this car was part of the team behind Audi Sport’s 'tour de force' in 1980s rallying, and boasts fantastic motorsport provenance at a fraction of the cost.