Conceived in secret and only
allowed to compete after
a rules change was snuck
through, Audi’s all-wheel-drive Quattro changed the
sport of rallying forever.
omewhere between Nuremberg and
Ingolstadt in the south of Germany,
there’s a quarry. In that quarry, under the
cover of darkness, in early 1979, project
EA 282 was wheeled out and fired up.
Meanwhile, Ford’s Bjorn Waldegaard
was on his way to the first ever World Rally
Championship for Drivers and all was well in
the land of Fiat’s 131, Lancia’s Stratos and
Ford’s Escort. Rear-wheel drive was king.
Unbeknown to them all, everything was
about to change, and rallying as they knew
it was about to be turned on its head.
Four years earlier, Ferdinand Piech had
taken charge of technical development
for Audi. Piech was a man of some
motorsport standing, with Porsche’s
vastly successful 917 racer among his
achievements. But Audi in 1975 was a
different proposition – global domination
of the rally world wasn’t exactly imminent.
Coincidentally, but soon after Piech’s
arrival, the German government tasked
Volkswagen with producing a four-wheel
drive military vehicle. Having bought Audi
10 years earlier, VW passed the job along.
Audi had come with a subsidiary carmaker
called DKW which had already made an
all-wheel-drive car, the Munga, in the 1950s.
The VW Iltis was built using Munga-type
tech, with an Audi engine and gearbox
whose clutch was modified to direct power
“Before halfway on the first stage,
we’d caught the guy in front of us.
I knew then the car was good”
to all four wheels. Early testing, in northern
Finland in 1977, set Piech’s mind racing.
The Iltis, blessed with just 75hp, had wiped
the floor with much more powerful
rear-drive cars on a frozen test track.
Piech gathered a small team from
Audi’s development group and talked
them through a plan involving an Audi 80
and four driveshafts. When that worked, a
160hp motor from an Audi 200 was fitted.
Board convinced, Project EA 282 was born.
The outside world had no idea what