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Posted by Glenn Rowswell on 7th July 2020

Concours restorations are all well and good, but it’s the personal touch that really sets a build apart. Juho Mäntylä’s ’84 tuned Audi Quattro shows how to mod an old-school rally icon that sends a signal through the ages…

There are few cars that embody the spirit of 1980s performance as cohesively as the Ur-Quattro. The ‘Ur-‘ prefix means ‘primordial’ or ‘original’; this model was the upsetter, the first of its kind, the car which showed the world that all-wheel drive systems needn’t be solely the preserve of agricultural machinery, they could be used to accentuate manic performance machines’ abilities too. Indeed, in one fell swoop, Audi’s Quattro system changed the very nature of rallying, making the rear-wheel drive entrants redundant almost overnight. And as a road car, the Ur-Quattro ticks a lot of retro boxes – those bullish box arches, the oh-so-eighties digital dash, the perfect folded-paper lines. It’s not hard to see why Finnish fan Juho Mäntylä fell in love with the model and had to have one of his own.

In fact, Juho – ‘Juice’ to his friends – has been an Audi man from day one, so this old-school acquisition was almost inevitable; a car to make long-held dreams come true. As with the best dream-weaver narratives, the beginning of Juice’s Ur-Quattro adventure, back in early 2012, was not without drama: “My father called to let me know that he’d found the perfect car for me, so we set out on a road trip the next day,” he recalls. “We hitched the trailer to the trusty A6 and headed off toward Nurmijärvi, which is about 20 miles north of Helsinki, aiming to arrive at 8:30pm. But that didn’t happen.” The first hurdle was trying to find the money for the purchase, with the banks shut and limited cash machine options, leading to a mad struggle to find the funds. Then, they got flashed by a speed camera. Shortly after, they were pulled over by a police car with blues-and-twos ablaze – and finally, the A6 proved not be quite so trusty, breaking down and leaving them stranded. Thankfully the recovery man agreed to tow them and the trailer to a rental place where the intrepid father-and-son could hire a van and soldier on. They eventually arrived at 1am. It wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy, would it?

Now, generally speaking it’s pretty dumb to buy a car in the dark. Trust us, we’ve done it. But there was something special about this one. “It was just beautiful,” Juice recalls. “All of the evening’s disappointments evaporated into the air.” That’s the effect of a true feelgood car, it makes petty trivialities simply vaporise. So all the guys had to do now was haul it home, get a few hours’ kip, then assess the state of the car and draw up a battle-plan…

A 1984 car, the Quattro had originally been bought by a small business-owner in Sweden, who had used it as a daily work hack until ’92, at which point it found itself laid up until 2004 before being brought over to Finland. When Juice bought the car, it was largely original aside from a few minor tweaks, and came with the benefit of a comprehensive history and even the original paperwork from 1984. His approach, then, has been one of gentle and respectful evolution rather than radical reworking. The essence of the Quattro – an element so important that the car is named for it – is that otherworldly four-wheel drive system, and Juice is pleased to highlight that it’s as hewn-from-granite today as it was from the factory. Joints and bearings have been renewed, and the fundamentals refurbished, balanced and painted, although the setup really is testament to how correct this was right from the drawing-board. The centre and rear diff lock were failing, but this was remedied simply by refurbing vacuum hoses and diaphragms, and it was really just inactivity that was seizing things up; these cars love to be used and, with everything refreshed, that’s exactly what Juice is doing.

The Quattro system may be the party piece, but the car’s character would be nothing without its legendary engine: early Ur-Quattros (1980-87) ran the 10-valve SOHC five-pot turbo, a 200bhp barnstormer, although there’s a twist in the tale here… cars built for the Swedish and Swiss markets had the controversial ‘GV’-spec engine, which was fundamentally the same as the ‘WR’ enjoyed everywhere else except that the K-Jetronic system was tweaked to run much leaner for emissions reasons. (Still, at least it wasn’t a US-market car, whose ‘WX’ engine was strangled down to 162bhp…) So job one was to bolster the motor to ‘WR’ spec, as well as adding a K&N filter in the stock airbox, which gives Juice a healthy 200bhp.

This is all a little more than a simple factory-standard restoration however, and Juice had a vision in mind when it came to adding his own personal touches. In the course of refurbishing the chassis (which enjoyed the same love and care as the Quattro system; everything was either renewed or restored, and Powerflex bushes were added for good measure), he opted to swap out the tired H&R springs for a set of 50mm KAW lowering springs to get the stance on-point. Filling those boisterous arches you’ll now find a set of pukka BBS LMs, an impressive 9.5” wide apiece, with beefier Audi S2 brakes peeping out through the slender spokes.

The real talking point, of course, is the eye-catching Rothmans livery. Part of the inspiration for this was the fact that the car’s original paint is a rich dark blue, and this tied neatly into Juice’s notion that he wanted a motorsport-inspired vibe for the car. There followed a protracted period of painstaking design work, creating a faithful tribute to the livery worn by John Bosch and Steve Bond’s Ur-Quattro at the Ypres 24-Hour Rally in the mid-1980s. Working in harmony with the hunkered-down stance and motorsport wheels, it presents a truly arresting profile.

And, with all of that rally magic going on outside, it’d be a shame to leave the innards untouched, wouldn’t it? So inside, basking in the eerie green glow of that fabulous dash, you’ll now find Sparco Sprint seats with Schroth 3-point harnesses, and a grippy Sparco wheel to match.

So this has been a labour of love; an artistic tension between period-correct restoration and rally-tinged mods. “The biggest hurdle has been finding original parts,” says Juice. “Audi simply got rid of some of the part numbers when the production of them ended, so comparing all the possible VAG codes I managed to piece it together with different aftermarket part numbers – it’s a very time-consuming process! But it’s important work, these cars need to be saved and kept alive. Information and knowledge must be passed from older enthusiasts to the younger ones, so we can enjoy seeing these cars driving around in the future.”

You see, Juice hasn’t just built a glorious slice of retro four-paw splendour, he’s done a favour to posterity itself. And he’s far from done with it. “An engine rebuild and some further suspension mods are coming next,” he grins. “Then a new paintjob and interior re-trim – trying to keep it as original as possible of course, but in the end it’s my car so I’ll do whatever comes to my mind. Just like this Rothmans livery!” That, we reckon, is a thoroughly healthy approach. Juice has saved this car for future generations, working as closely and forensically as possible to Audi’s own designs… but at the same time, he hasn’t been afraid to have a little fun with it. What’s resulted is a 21st-century interpretation of a 1980s icon; old-school, new rules. Tomorrow’s petrolheads should be very grateful.

Tech spec: 1984 Tuned Audi Quattro

Engine & transmission:
2.1-litre 10v straight-five turbo, K&N air filter, new engine and gearbox mounts, stock transmission
Power: 200bhp, 210lb.ft.
9.5×17” ET32 BBS LM wheels, 215/40 Federal tyres, Audi S2 brake calipers, EBC drilled and grooved discs, EBC Green Stuff pads, KAW 50mm lowering springs, Powerflex bushes, upgraded arms and torsion springs.
Rothmans livery (Ypres 24-Hour Rally tribute), race tow straps, Hella yellow fogs.
Sparco steering wheel, Sparco Sprint bucket seats, Schroth 3-point harnesses, fire extinguisher.

Words Dan Bevis Photography Jape Tiitinen