The Quattro brotherhood – AUDI QUATTRO RALLY CAR MANUAL

With Ferdinand Piech’s unofficial blessing secured, Jorg Bensinger then had to turn his theories into reality. To do so would need an engineer of some skill, but Roland Gumpert was still tied up with the litis programme, which meant that Bensinger would have to call upon someone else’s services. Whoever joined Bensinger’s team in February 1977 would have to build and test a new concept in complete secrecy, and the chosen man to lead the build was Walter Treser.
The 37-year-old was a racer and engineer who had competed as a BMW driver in the European Touring Car Championship before becoming a development engineer at Pirelli. Treser had only recently arrived at Audi but he had all the credentials needed for the job of exploring what potential there was for four-wheel drive with regard to tyre wear and performance. ‘I simply liked the idea of developing a vision for a car in a form that didn’t exist at that time,’ Treser remembered. ‘And to show the world that we could do it better.’
The first test hack was made during March 1977, using a two-door Audi 80 bodyshell that was painted in a nondescript shade of red with a black vinyl roof – outwardly every inch the ‘teacher’s car’. But the lessons that this example, code-named A1, would teach were rather more engaging than Year 9 Geography.
Because the project was even secret within Audi it was impossible for Treser’s team of Frankensteins to outsource parts for their monster or have new parts drawn up and made. This meant that parts needed to be improvised from existing stocks and the man who knew most about the Audi parts bin and how to bastardise its contents was a veteran engineer called Hans Nedvidek. He had cut his teeth on the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 team of the 1950s and if parts needed modifying or fabricating to suit the A1 then Nedvidek got it done.
Quite who fathered the hollow transmission shaft that allowed the front and rear wheels to be driven without a transfer box has not been answered definitively. The four-wheel drive sat under Bensinger, while transmission engineer Franz Tengler is cited by Audi as the man who conjured the fix, while Quattro authority Jeremy Walton understood from his visits to the factory early in the car’s life that it was the redoubtable Hans Nedvidek who had fabricated almost all of the modifications.
Ultimately, credit for the entire creation of Audi’s four-wheel-drive system rests between 12 engineers who worked in secret for five months. Their handiwork would come to redefine the Audi brand, the parameters of road car handling and eventually the sport of rallying.
Once Piech had sampled and approved of the illegitimate car’s qualities there was only one thing to do: it was time for the A1 to be revealed. So it was that the little red Audi 80 was presented internally to the senior staff at Audi as less of a fait accompli and more as a source of wonderment in the autumn of 1977, with a slightly tongue-in-cheek sense of: ‘Oh look! How did this get here! Good heavens!’
Fortunately for the career prospects of all concerned, the very obvious potential within Bensinger’s A1 development hack delighted Audi’s management. An official request was made for the four-wheel-drive prototype to be designated EA 262 (short for Entwickung Auftrag or development project), and with the green light shining overhead it was time to turn the humble A1 into a performance motoring legend.

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