By Greg Raven
To say that the new Audi 4000S Quattro is exciting scarcely describes all the wonderful attributes of this car. Small wonder, then, at the impact it has had on true connoisseurs such as ourselves. Other people have been intrigued by the possibilities implicit in this plucky little four-wheel drive as well, including Porsche Sports Manager Peter Falk. During his last conversation with us, Peter spoke at great length of the possibilities for developing a truly safe car based on the Quattro, and it was evident that he could barely contain his enthusiasm for a similar project at Porsche at which he could only hint vaguely.
Mustering our little band of experts, we decided that with minimal effort we might be able to second-guess the Factory and come up with an automobile that would be very close in concept to the ideal safety vehicle. We set to work immediately on the 4000S Quattro that Volkswagen of America (VOA) had loaned us for evaluation. Fortunately, one of our secretaries has a nephew George who dabbles in cars and used parts, and he agreed to let us use his garage for our workshop.
Our initial impression of the 4000S Quattro was that it was nimble, fairly quick, eye appealing, and definitely up-market — in short, a totally unsafe automobile that presents a perfect target for vengeful highway patrolmen and radio thieves. Our first goal then was to make the car as inconspicuous as possible to avoid attracting unwanted attention. So, off came the gorgeous Ronal rims and fat, low-profile tires, as well as the front air dam and the rear spoiler. Out, too, came the top-of the-line Blaupunkt radio and speakers and much of the plush interior. The flawless fire-engine red paint was covered in an unassuming off-black, and the thick side molding was removed to make way for parking lot dings, all part of the extensive “urban camouflage.”
Test driving our “new” creation revealed that, even on its bald, skinny tires, it was still very sure-footed due to the complex and expensive transfer cases in the drivetrain. And, although the car looked slow, it still drove fast … much too fast for safety. Clearly, there was more work to be done.
Removing the center and rear differentials were real tests of our abilities with the cutting torch, but worth the effort. The handling began to get skittery enough to slow down even our most intrepid hot-foot. To make the car safer still, the front and rear anti-roll bars were removed, and one of the spark plug leads disconnected to reduce the power output. This combination made it almost impossible to exceed the 55 mph speed limit. The suspension modifications gave the car a very predictable feel. Entering a corner at almost any speed produced plowing and loud complaints from the tires, excellent indications of excessive speed. This in sharp contrast to the original 4000S Quattro, in which any corner could confidently be entered at virtually any speed — very dangerous.
Our finished project is everything we hoped it would be. It is, we feel, much safer for the average driver, and the small amount of labor that went into the project will no doubt be more than offset by a reduction in speeding tickets and radio thefts.
A sad note ends this story: VOA was not amused to learn of the extensive R&D we had invested in a car that was to be on loan to us only for two weeks, and so far our insurance company has steadfastly refused to pay the alleged “damages,” claiming that it was not an accident but rather a deliberate mutilation. Too, we did not realize as much money from the sale of the removed parts as we had projected in our original analysis, but George assures us he got absolute top dollar for everything. So, as it stands now, in spite of all our work we are left with no car, no money, no support from either Porsche or Audi (Peter Falk has yet to return our repeated calls), and, unless Porsche comes out with something almost identical to our project car within two weeks (as we promised our publisher), no job.
|Price as demolished
|Safety wheels and tires (78 series)
|Camouflage paint job and body work
|Garage and tool rental (three days)
|Acetylene and oxygen refill
|Misc. expenditures (George)
|Legal fees to date
|Sale of wheels and tires, Blaupunkt radio, complete interior, differentials, and suspension
|Yearly insurance savings*
|*This savings is due largely to the cancellation of our policy.