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Racy but spacey

THE Group B Audi Quattro has become a legend in our collective. It is our modern version of a fire-breathing monster, to be conquered by men of pure intentions and chivalrous actions.

The car that we usually see these days at historic rallies or hillclimbs are decorated in Audi race colours or the yellow of a cigarette company, which was the correct sponsor for some of these monsters.

Walter Rohrl was one of the original knights who fought and tamed the beast and for that, we will always feel the need to bow down before this hero and maybe even kiss his hands in the hope he would bestow upon us some of that legendary hill and toeing ability or maybe even some of that steering witchcraft.

True story: I met Stirling Moss for the first time at a Proton-Lotus event at the Paris Motor show, when the Hethel brand were showing off five concept cars and Danny Bahar, the chief executive officer then, made the unbelievable claim that they would introduce five cars within five years.

I wanted to snort when I heard his claim but there were some ridiculously fancy finger food being distributed that I hadn’t tasted, so I thought, better try not to get kicked out.

Besides, I just spotted the British knight, for he is a Sir, sitting quietly at one corner and I really wanted to shake his hand.

I painfully gulped down the snort of derision, and possibly some snot along with it. Once I overcame the gagging reflex from the terrible aftertaste of both, I walked up to Sir Stirling and made it clear that his driving abilities overpowered his dark colonialist past.

The Corolla Liftback had a vague resemblance to the Quattro.

Well, actually I said: “Hello Sir, it’s great to meet you.” But I got a sense that the subtext was received loud and clear.

Clearly, it was time to stop talking before I embarrassed myself but all our heroes are powerful magnets of faux pas and so I continued: “Can I take a picture with you?” - forever branding myself as an intrusive fan whose shallow life is reduced to collecting useless memorabilia when it should be about collecting memories.

“Why don’t you put away that camera and spend a few minutes asking me some mundane questions as an excuse for me to regale you with tales of my exploits,” he retorted. It shook me to the core.

Of course, he didn’t say anything remotely rude because he’s a proper British Knight, the Queen would get angry at him if he did.

He just looked at me with sad eyes and pulled me to sit next to him for the shameful Polaroid moment but I got the subtext.

We were on fire with subtext that night.

I think I even told Bahar exactly what I thought about his ridiculous plan by just picking up some finely minced corn-fed goose liver on a piece of indistinct crispy baked carbohydrate.

Boy, was he surprised!

And so, after that shameless name dropping, I will now continue on with this shabbily researched piece about a car that I though was one thing when it was something else.

It is 1981 and I take you back to the idyllic aspiring dormitory town of Kulim in Kedah, when we are just starting the school year and everyone has to tell a short story to the class about what we did during the long year-end break.

I killed it with a fantastic story of a road trip from Kedah to Johor - I thought no one could beat that.

Boy, was I wrong. A gangly Chinese boy, who was annoyingly always beating me to the top spot in class, told us how he had a chance to fly on the Concorde during the long break.

Some of the local rednecks did not even register how fantastic that story was but my jaws dropped and smashed into a thousand pieces.

The Group B Audi Quattro was a legend in rallying.

Just as I was about to raise my hand to demand proof, he whipped out, in dramatic fashion, no less, a photograph of himself in the cabin of said supersonic Phoenix with the speed display behind him.

This photographic evidence put him at 1.2 times the speed of sound. Kaboom.

It was so awesome that some kid from Kulim would fly on the Concorde during the school break. His dad was fabulously wealthy, a local property or construction magnate or something.

Weeks later and I was still shaking my head in amazement when another unbelievable thing happened. It happened while I was actually shaking my head, which was why I never caught a proper look at it and so this week’s story is based on sketchy memory.

Actually, when it happened it wasn’t really a jaw dropping moment because I didn’t know the significance of what passed before me. I was the redneck this time.

I saw a red car with four rings on the nose and so I knew it was an Audi. It looked a bit like the KE70 Toyota Corolla liftback but much prettier.

By the way , I think this Corolla Liftback is one of the prettiest Japanese cars of the period, and certainly ranks as one of the best looking Japanese cars of all time, but that is for another day.

Years later, in 1985 the Quattro started making waves in the World Rally Championship scene, dicing it with the Lancia Delta Integrale and suddenly, I remembered the red Coupe and I thought how fantastic it was that someone in Kulim had bought a Quattro years ago.

I kept telling my brother about it and I remember that it was a bit different than the car I see in the rallies, somehow longer and more graceful.

As it turned out the car was just a normal Coupe or it could have been a proper AWD Quattro but it looked different because it did not have the now iconic flared wheel arches. The Quattro badging stickers on the side did not appear until the mid-1980s, so the only way to identify the early AWD cars would have been small badging on the car or trim difference. Since I only ever saw the car once and I wasn’t sure it was even a local car, I cannot tell you which model it was. All I can say is that this is one of the earliest cars to have impressed me with its looks, the other one is, of course, the Corolla Liftback.

The reason the title of this article is the Audi Coupe and not Quattro is because I don’t want you to think that I am so besotted with my hometown that I see everything with rose tinted glasses that I even remember the cars as better than they really were.But did you know that rose tinted glasses is believed to help with migraine? Maybe I should get a pair.

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