A modified Audi

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There are so few Audis rushing around this country that one could understand the German tourist who simply stared, open-mouthed, at the subject of this month’s Motor Sport modified car test. In the gentle surroundings of Greenwich Park the Audi Super 90, with its knobbly rally tyres, black number squares on its doors and DUKW-like raised suspension, was indeed on unfamiliar ground.

The point is that this Audi, the hottest of the breed, was one specially modified for rallying and autocrossing by the Swan Hill Garage, Shrivenham, the area main agents for Mercedes-Benz, VW and Audi. The car was delivered to us just after it had completed its maiden event, the Safari South-West Rally, and shortly before Bill House and Geoff Shepherd took it off to compete on the R.A.C. Rally. Consequently one could forgive the car’s ostentatious appearance, although it did receive a few black looks from some of the staider members of the community.

Very little had been done to the Audi, but 90 b.h.p. (D.I.N.) in just over 19 cwt. of vehicle makes quite a good formula for a fast five-seater saloon. The car had heavy-duty shock-absorbers and springs, which resulted in a ground clearance of some 9 in. At the rear a heavy-duty anti-roll bar supplemented the beam axle and torsion bar suspension, and the steel wheels were fitted with 6.75 x 13 Dunlop SP44 radial tyres.

The engine and gearbox mountings had been stiffened considerably— so stiff in fact that while we had the car it was impossible to engage first and second gears while in motion. To rectify this needed only a relatively simple adjustment by the garage but it did prove a little irksome battling through London traffic. Having to use third gear getting away from 1,500 r.p.m. did not please the car one bit. This tightening of the gearbox (which is to alleviate undue motion from the column-mounted lever) and engine mountings does create considerable internal noise. However, this is hardly likely to upset the people for whom the car is intended, rally crews. While on the subject of the gear lever, perhaps one could reiterate what so many drivers have said about the Audi—a hurried gearchange can mean crunching one’s knuckles on the windscreen.

Being a sporting car, this Super 90 had a laminated windscreen, a HaIda Twinmaster, a Flexilight and switches for four auxiliary lights. For normal use this battery of illumination is removed from the grille, leaving the switches, which are mounted where the radio would normally fit, ready when needed. Alongside these light switches is the stalk for the two-tone Maserati air horns, which supplement the standard horn on the steering wheel. In place of the usual Keinzle clock immediately in front of the driver is a small Vdo tachometer, which reads up to 8,000 r.p.m. This of course should never be reached, the makers indicating that peak power is developed at 5,200 r.p.m. The top torque, 109 lb. ft., is developed by the Mercedes-designed engine at 3,000 r.p.m. This is a push-rod unit, mounted ahead of the front wheels and inclined 40 degrees to the right. It has an 11.0:1 compression ratio, flat head and combustion chambers set in the piston tops.

HIGH SITTER.—The Audi Super 90 looks ready for the rough roads while parked in a quiet cul-de-sac. The raised suspension and black number squares made the car look quite distinguished.

The modifications so far completed amount to about £100, plus an extra £20 for that necessary rally aid, a sump guard. On the rough stuff the Audi would particularly need one, for the sump hangs down quite low in the airstream. More developments can be expected by Swan Hill, who are being closely watched from the sidelines by the British concessionaires in Brentford. Among projects expected after the R.A.C. Rally is over is to bore the engine to a capacity of a litres and to fit Weber carburetters. A somewhat larger plan that has so far only been thought about is to fit a floor-mounted gear lever in place of the awkward column unit.

Initial impressions of driving the modified Audi were not too favourable. But it must be remembered that it is not a car for commuting; it is a car to take on long journeys and over suspect roads and as such it succeeds. The high gearing means that the Audi prefers an open road in front of it, and then one forgets the fussiness encountered on very cold mornings. The driving position can be adjusted to suit most people, thanks to the adjustable back rests, although the sporting driver may have difficulty heeling and toeing, the organ pedal accelerator being placed far nearer the floor than the brake pedal.

Acceleration was brisk, the front wheels pawing at the road and the needle moving easily around the rev.-counter. It felt a little strange, sitting so high off the ground, and the peculiarly shaped steering wheel added to this impression. But once in the swing of things it was possible to push the Audi quite hard around corners even though it needed rather a lot of movement on the steering wheel. Over particularly rough roads the ride was quite remarkable. Indeed, this was perhaps the feature that impressed more than any—the Super 90’s ability to flatten out severe undulations. A non-driving passenger simply shut her eyes when she saw the size of some of the holes in the track, but this was not in the least necessary. The Audi rode over them all with hardly any drama. It will indeed be interesting to follow the career of this car in British rallying.—R. F.

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FILMS

The winter season of film shows is well under way and among the professional efforts Castrol gave a party to launch their three films for 1967/68. These cover motorcycling, touring and Grand Prix racing, the one of the 1967 German Grand Prix being particularly good, full of colour and action, the eight camera teams covering the 14-mile Nurburgring extremely well. It was unfortunate for the film-makers that the Castrol-sponsored Eagle-Weslake of Dan Gurney went out with a broken drive-shaft when holding a commanding lead in the closing stages of the race. The film is appropriately called “The Ringmasters” and runs for 37 minutes, during which time there is never a dull moment. For the motorcycle world there is a 30-minute film on the 1967 Senior T.T. in the Isle of Man, which not only covers the race dramatically, but depicts real road racing and illustrates clearly why a car race on the Mountain Circuit could prove to be a world classic. The close-ups of Mike Hailvvood after battling with the 500 c.c. Honda for seven laps are some of the best ever seen. It was no easy task and all the strain and fatigue of his winning ride are beautifully portrayed, while his one-word reply to the reporter who asked him how he felt after winning the Senior T.T. is a classic. Even if you are not interested in motorcycle racing it is worth sitting through the first 29 minutes just to see and hear that final sequence. It makes Grand Prix car race winning seem like child’s play.

The third film of the 1967/68 series is a potted tour from Greece to London, made by an Australian film group, its only merit being that it shows how far behind the Australians are in film making! As always these films are available on loan to clubs from Castrol House, London.

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The Things They Say…

“An elaborate tool kit is just an encumbrance. You need a jack and a wheel brace, of course, but beyond that I have found that if anything is wrong with the car that can’t be fixed with a nailfile, and an adjustabe spanner you may as well write it off anyway.”—Harold Jackson, writing in The Guardian

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“‘The Black and White Minstrels,’ after 10 years in ordinary black and white, go into glorious colour on December 8. If there is one show on TV of which people say: ‘I wish I could see that in colour,’ it’s the Black and Whites.”—a non-motoring quote from the B.B.C.’s newsletter “Looking Ahead,” which we couldn’t resist.

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