FOUR FULL CIRCLES

By Stuart Grant with photography by Oliver Hirtenfelder

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Revolutionary technology combined with top-class drivers meant the Audi S1 quattro dominated world rallying in the 1980s. Known as the Ur-quattro, which translates to Original-quattro, it is a respected classic and on the short list for many collectors. South Africa saw them rallying in the hands of Geoff Mortimer and Sarel van der Merwe and a few road users managed to lay their hands on them. I tracked down one of these, previously owned by another well-known motorsport name – Neville Lederle.

Lederle, who died aged 80 in 2019, was born in Theunissen in the Free State. His F1 career kicked off in a Ford-engined Lotus 18 in 1961. He retired from the Rand Grand Prix with gremlins but finished fourteenth in the Cape Grand Prix in 1962. He then acquired a Lotus 21 with a Climax engine, which he powered to fifth in the 1962 Rand Grand Prix and fourth in the Natal Grand Prix. A sixth place in the South African Grand Prix earned him his World Championship point.

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While practising for the ʼ63 Rand 9 Hour he broke his leg, resulting in him missing a large portion of the 1964 F1 season. When he returned for the end-of-season 1964 Rand Grand Prix he finished tenth, just failing to qualify for the 1965 South African Grand Prix.

With business interests now at the forefront of his mind, he retired from the sport in ’65. These business interests included Phoenix Motors, the Volkswagen dealerships steered by his father in Bloemfontein, Welkom and Kroonstad. With these ties to VW, and therefore Audi, the picture of why Lederle got his hands on the four-ringed icon becomes clearer.

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Launched in 1980, the quattro was based on the Audi 80 but employed a four-wheel-drive system with the intent of taking advantage of new rallying rules that allowed for this – the Italian word for ‘four’ lending its name to the car. It was also the first vehicle to pair a turbocharged engine to four-wheel drive. In road guise the power was delivered by a 2144cc inline five-cylinder 10-valve SOHC, with a turbocharger and intercooler. It thumped out 197bhp and 285Nm of torque at 3500rpm to sprint from zero to 100km/h in 7.1 seconds and on to a top end of over 220 kays per hour.

Over time it evolved to a 2226cc 10-valve, still belting out 147kW but peak torque delivered lower down in the rev-range. By 1989 the 2226cc lump received a 20-valve DOHC, good for 162kW and a top speed of 230km/h.

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Over its eleven-year production span Audi manufactured 11 452 Ur-quattros with very little in the way of changes. Early cars like this one pictured have an analogue dash but from ’83 a very modern digital LCD display found home. At the same time the four individual headlights were replaced by two single items and by 1985 the flat grille was face-lifted to a sloping item. To combat lift-off oversteer, the rear suspension geometry was tweaked and the rear anti-roll bar removed. From ’84, wheel size went from 6x15-inch with 205/60-15 tyres to 8x15-inch with 215/50-15 rubber, and suspension got a 20mm drop. From 1987 a Torsen centre differential was used, replacing the manual centre differential lock.

From the outset the Audi proved a winner on the rally stages with the likes of Stig Blomqvist, Hannu Mikola and Michèle Mouton (the first female driver to win a world championship rally) behind the wheel. The rally machines were initially based on the road versions but as the Group B format took shape, so Audi adopted some more specialised and wildly-winged versions – eventually topping out with over 500hp and composite panels in 1985. With two driver titles and two manufacturer titles Audi commemorated the success of the original vehicle by badging all subsequent Audis fitted with four-wheel drive as quattro – with a lowercase ‘q’.

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On the local rally scene, the Volkswagen South Africa quattros dominated with Sarel taking the driver’s title in 1983, ’84, ’85 and ‘88 while Mortimer took the spoils in 1987. The road car Lederle owned too started life as a VWSA car, with then MD Peter Searle the first owner. A car of this nature had to go into the correct hands and as a VW dealership manager with some proper driving pedigree the S1 was offered to Lederle in 1981. Neville kept it for a year or two before selling it on to a Johannesburg resident. From there the Audi seems to have gone into hiding and the relatively low mileage indicates it spent time in storage.

In 2013, Neville’s son Scott spotted a red quattro in Geoff Mortimer’s workshop. He mentioned he’d love to find his father’s old silver machine. In a case of the right place at the right time, Mortimer put him in touch with a man selling a quattro. Unbelievably it turned out to be Neville’s Audi – proved by his handwriting in the manual found in the cubby-hole. Scott pounced, closing the fourth circle in ownership.

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An immaculate original car, complete with brown interior, it is a step back to the ʼ80s when Audi started its march to the top of the pile and the word ‘quattro’ became a legend.

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