Buying Guide Audi Quattro

Buying Guide Audi Quattro

This technical groundbreaker is also a tough, usable classic, and interest is increasing in all things Eighties, making it a keen investment too.



Fearless Audi Quattro buying

Buying Guide How to get yourself an Audi Quattro while they’re still good value (just)

Now is a good time to buy an Audi Quattro. Few cars embody Eighties design, technology, culture and motor sport quite like it, but price growth has been steady rather than wild like a Ford Sierra Cosworth’s. Also, given that it embodied Group B rallying, a basic Quattro costs a lot less than, say, a Lancia 037 Stradale. It’s a well-built, reliable machine, but it is complicated and not necessarily straightforward to run. Historically, parts supply has been the main problem, but as the cars appreciate in value and are increasingly treated to professional restorations, this has slowly started to change.

Audi Quattro

For up-to-date Quattro buying advice, we turned to Simon Wiggett of Classic Quattro in Devon, Rupert Turner of Somerset-based AM Cars, and Scottish Audi parts remanufacturer Highland Quattro.

Which is which?

UK deliveries started at the end of 1981, in left-hand- drive form only (right-hand-drive from September 1982). These earliest cars (dubbed WR after their engine code) featured cable-operated differentials, but by March 1982 they’d become switch-controlled pneumatic items.

‘It’s well-built and reliable, but also complicated and not necessarily straightforward to run’

Digital instrumentation featured from October 1983, along with standard anti-lock brakes; there were also revised third and fourth gear ratios. Six months later the suspension was lowered by 20mm, while Ronal 8J wheels were fitted. A front-end restyle in September 1984 brought a sloped grille and headlamps, colour-coded spoiler and smoked taillamp lenses. The restyle also accompanied full bodyshell galvanisation.

The short-wheelbase Sport, for Group B rally homologation, was introduced in 1984. Its highly specialised nature takes it outside of the remit of this guide, though we will discuss replicas later.

In November 1987 the engine was enlarged to 2226cc (MB engine), a Torsen centre differential was introduced and a sunroof became standard. In 1989 the engine became a double overhead-cam 20-valve (RR) with twin three-way catalytic converters; the interior trim was upgraded too. The last Quattro was built in spring 1991.


The 2226cc 10-valve model gives the best balance of cost and reliability, but engines on all models are generally tough. Rebuilds are expensive and spares can be hard to find, so beware of cars advertised as projects. It’s hard to cost an engine rebuild too – if some parts need completely replacing rather than reconditioning, they’ll often need fabricating from scratch unless you can find a donor car.

When you do get to inspect your Quattro, listen out for ticking from the exhaust manifold as the engine warms up. This indicates a cracked manifold, with new replacements currently unobtainable and hard-to-find second-hard replacements £1200.

Audi Quattro

Look behind the offside corner of the front air dam, at the oil cooler and the unions on its pipes. These corrode, leading to oil leaks. If the engine runs badly or won’t start, check the boost gauge. A permanently high reading means the inlet manifold pressure sensor has packed up; replacements are £150 and fitting is easy. The cambelt should be replaced every 45,000 miles or five years, but it’s not that straightforward so it’s sometimes overlooked. Turbochargers have been known to fail, the signs being poor performance and blue exhaust smoke. Check for evidence of oil changes every 3000-5000 miles, with fully-synthetic oil, along with new filters, bearing in mind that WR engines have two of them.


The transmission is incredibly durable. The synchromesh wears eventually and with a gearbox rebuild typically £1000, most owners live with it or fit a used gearbox for around £300, plus 10-12 hours’ labour to fit. Clutches typically last 150,000 miles, but if abused they can last much less, so check for slip. Check the pneumatically-operated differential locks haven’t seized up; the switch in the centre console should illiminate a light on the dash. If not, they’ll need freeing off and lubricating; an easy job.


Rust can be an issue for earlier, pre-galvanised cars (from 1980 to September 1984) around the windscreens, especially where the A-pillar meets the scuttle, the boot floor and the sills. Galvanised cars withstand rust well, even today – Audi used a much thicker layer of zinc than the rest of the industry – but still inspect a 1985-1990 car carefully for rot, especially around the sunroof panel. You’re best off avoiding cars with significant rust in the major body panels. Not only is it a sign of poorly-repaired accident damage, replacement panels are unavailable. Body restoration costs are significant – rectifying and respraying a rotten pre-galvanised car can cost as much as £20k, with more minor trim-off work such as sills and roof pillars commanding £5k to fix a moderately rusty car. Galvanised cars tend to reveal corrosion in a slower, more locally-treatable way, around £1k per rot-spot to fix.

Electrics and trim

The most common problem with the earliest cars is corroded connections. Tracing dodgy connections can be a pain, so because most problems can be traced to the fusebox it’s worth checking – replacing it will cost around £800. But if the car needs completely rewiring, this is a labour-intensive job which involves a full interior stripout and a £3k bill.

The trim itself is very hard-wearing, which is good news because new replacements are extinct, so it’s worth paying a premium for a car with a really good cabin. Specialists often turn to breakers to harvest interior parts, with some generating large bills through scarcity – seat-tilting mechanisms fetch £100, for example. A common solution to damaged interior plastics, especially doorcards butchered by owners fitting aftermarket speakers, is to plastic-weld them back together, then get them covered in leather.


Although the Quattro’s braking system is reliable and powerful, and very modern-feeling especially when equipped with ABS from October 1983, the brakes can be prone to binding if the car has been left to stand for a while. If the brake pedal is hard underfoot, chances are either that a seal has failed in the master cylinder, causing the fluid to be directed incorrectly within the brake circuits, or the accumulator has failed. The latter is more likely if the brakes bind lightly rather than locking on solid.

If it’s the master cylinder, solving the problem is relatively cheap – new items are available from £50 plus a few hours’ labour to fit. Highland Quattro supplies replacement accumulators for £95, but installation is much more involved, because the unit also pressurises the power steering system, so the work involved could cost in excess of £500.

Sport Quattro replicas

The lure of replicating the Audi Quattro’s finest hour, be it on the rally stage or on the road, has resulted in a lot of aftermarket-built short-wheelbase Sport Quattros. Some were built professionally by the likes of Dialynx and LCE Performance, whereas others have been individual garage projects.

Typically, this has involved cutting a 320mm section out of the bodywork aft of the doors to shorten the bodyshell, and fitting replica glassfibre body panels all round. If you’re looking to buy one, ask what was done to protect the steel structure after the cut-and-shut process – cutting would have gone through the galvanising coating on post-1984 cars. Such modifications are often accompanied by huge power outputs of anything from 300-700bhp. Beware smoking exhausts – a sign that seals have blown as a result of the engine being pushed to its limits.

Replicas are not often passed off as the real thing, but it’s not unheard of. A dead giveaway is the wrong windscreen – the genuine Sport used a more upright item from an 80 saloon. Genuine Sports also feature Audi Sport-built engines with KW-prefixes, a build number from coachbuilder Baur riveted onto the radiator support brace, and a chassis number beginning WAUZZZ85ZEA905.

Engines largely reliable; cambelts need doing every 45k/five years. Running one can throw up challenges, but these Group B-era icons reward those who put the effort in. A car with poor trim will cost you hours scouring eBay and autojumbles. Cars built from late 1984 had galvanised bodies which helps them last, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to corrosion.

What to pay

  • Although sought-after, there’s no significant price premium just yet for early square-headlight WR cars. Quattros tend to be priced on condition rather than rarity, with a decent 10v WR or MB starting at £20k, mint-condition examples making £36,500, and the very best dealer-sold mint early cars fetching £50k.
  • 20v Quattros have always been considered to be more desirable, commanding a £13k premium. The best concours-condition low-milers can make as much as £75k.

Owning an Audi Quattro

Darron Edwards

‘I own four Quattros – a pair of 1985 models, one black one white, a rare 1982 factory right-hand drive model in rally replica colours, and a left-hand drive 1981 car I’m restoring’ says Darron Edwards. ‘The key to reliability is regular use – a Quattro is meant to be driven. I use mine for regular trips to the coast with the kids, camping weekends, and of course car shows. ‘They’re easy to work on, especially once you’ve spent time getting to know the ins and outs of the car. Very few specialist tools are required. They do suffer from poor wiring connections, but my cars have been very reliable – I seldom carry a tool kit, in all honesty! The real problem with Quattros is sourcing certain parts. While certain mechanical items shared with Volkswagens are relatively easy to come by, Audi-specific bits are much more tricky.

‘Fuel economy is acceptable – on a cruise you’ll easily return more than 30mpg, and there’s plenty of power from any of the engines. They stop well too, there’s decent room inside and they’re comfortable for long trips.’

Keith Mardon

‘My car shouldn’t technically exist – it’s a 1989 10v,’ says Keith Mardon. ‘It was a 10v built during 20v production, although I’ve since found out that Audi kept building certain older specifications until the parts ran out. Chassis numbering and specification gets chaotic with between-generation Quattros as a result. ‘I’ve had it 24 years, and it has never let me down over 60,000 miles – and it has more than 100k on the odometer. I’ve just kept it well serviced and replaced consumables. ‘I did have to replace the electric aerial, which shows how expensive the parts can be – it was £600 – and I have a new exhaust manifold ready to fit, because mine is cracking. Audi remanufactured a small batch eight years ago.

Audi Tradition actually makes a lot of parts, but doesn’t ship them to the UK any more because of Brexit-related costs. The key to getting cheap parts often lies with finding a time-served Volkswagen-Audi parts specialist who knows what was used on what – some bits are common to VW Golfs, for example, so will be cheaper.

‘The worst part to fail is the ABS sensor. It’s no longer available new, but will render the car an MoT failure if it doesn’t work. There’s one on eBay at the moment for £180 and the description doesn’t actually say if it works or not.’

Sponsored by Carole Nash Insurance

Peter McIlvenny of specialist classic car insurer Carole Nash says, ‘The days of a cheap Quattro are a distant memory. I’m tempted to say that the values will have topped out now, but I thought that five years ago and they just keep going up. If you’re looking to buy, find the best you can afford, and if that means a project, take special care when it comes to the bodywork. Values are hard to pin down, partly because of the small number for sale and the various specifications offered during production, and the varied conditions you’ll encounter, but expect to be comfortably into five figures, and that’s before you have started any restoration work.’ Classic car insurance quotes: 0333 005 7541 or

CAR FOR SALE 1985 Audi Quattro – est. £25k-£30k

A UK-supplied rhd WR-spec car with low ownership to be sold by Classic Car Auctions on the 24 September. Presented in rare Amazon Blue with gold alloys in great condition. Part of a collection for the last few years and used infrequently. Fresh MoT prior to the sale. While not concours, it wouldn’t take much to bring it to the next level. The interior is excellent. Original book pack including a stamped service history for much of its early life.

No comments yet. Be the first to add a comment!
Drives TODAY use cookie