Good morning, and welcome to the middle of the week! Today’s challengers both share just a bit of DNA with everybody’s favorite bonkers race cars, the FIA Group B rally cars. But before we get to them, let’s see what you did with our two Canadian clunkers:
It’s the X-Trail by a country mile. Or country kilometer, because Canada. It’s not often a non-running car beats a running one, and I don’t think it’s ever happened by this wide of a margin. As it happens, I agree; the Mercedes is cool, but something about little 4x4s really appeals to me, so I’d prefer to revive the Nissan.
Now then: Chances are good that I don’t have to tell you what Group B was. For a few glorious years in the 1980s, rally racing featured some of the fastest, wildest, most dangerous machines around, until the speeds and the death toll both got too high to allow the madness to continue. Audi ushered in this era with their Quattro all-wheel-drive system, and won pretty much everything that Lancia and Peugeot didn’t. Mazda’s RX-7 Group B effort was only rear-wheel-drive, but it managed a few decent runs, and made quite a showing in IMSA sports car racing in the 1980s as well.
Our Audi featured today has the Quattro drivetrain, but lacks the fire-breathing turbocharged engine of its Group B sibling. And our RX-7 is, in fact, rotary-powered, which I felt I owed you after Friday’s LS swap. Let’s take a look.
1986 Audi 4000CS Quattro – $4,800
Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter overhead cam inline 5, five-speed manual, AWD
Location: Walnut Creek, CA
Odometer reading: 179,000 miles
I remember reading somewhere that to demonstrate the prototype Quattro’s capabilities, Audi engineers drove it up a ski slope. I tried to find confirmation of this tidbit for this article, but I couldn’t track it down again, and I can’t remember where I read it. So it will have to remain hearsay. It is a cool story, though. And the Quattro’s prowess on gravel and snow is legendary. The original Quattro was a two-door coupe, but starting in 1984 the system was made available on Audi’s small 80 sedan, sold as the 4000 in the US.
The original Quattro system used an open gear differential between the front and rear axles, instead of the Torsen diff or viscous coupling that’s more common these days. The center diff can be locked by a knob on the center console, visible in the photo above. Position 1 locks the center diff; position 2 also locks the rear diff, which means you pretty much have to high-center the entire car to get it stuck. Early Quattros were only available with five-speed manual transmissions.
Powering all this mechanical wizardry is Audi’s inline five, in this case naturally aspirated, and shoehorned into the 4000’s nose at an awkward angle. That’s the radiator sitting next to the engine. The seller says this five runs great, and just had a tune-up.
It’s largely rust-free, which is a rare treat for a 4000, and it’s stock, which is getting to be even rarer. These cars were cheap for a long time, and too many of them suffered absurd modifications at the hands of backyard mechanics who fancied themselves “tuners.” This is one of the nicest 4000 Quattros I’ve seen for sale in a while, and yes, I do keep an eye out for them. I’d love to have one of these.
1984 Mazda RX-7 – $4,200
Engine/drivetrain: 1.2 or 1.3 liter two-rotor Wankel, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: Sacramento, CA
Odometer reading: 200,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does
After years of experimenting with rotaries in family cars, pickup trucks, and even a bus, Mazda finally figured out that the little spinning triangles truly belonged in sports cars. The RX-7 was introduced in 1978, and it was a big hit, especially here in the US. I can’t tell exactly which model this is; I’m sure some eagle-eyed readers will be able to tell, but I believe this one has either a carbureted 12A (GS or GSL model) or fuel-injected 13B (GSL-SE model) rotary engine.
This is another terse ad; all we’re told is that it runs well, and has new tires and current tags. It’s in decent cosmetic shape, with a little peeling clearcoat and some minor dings. The inside looks nice, but the stereo is missing. All the better to hear that rotary soundtrack, I suppose.
These early RX-7s were cheap for a long time as well, but are starting to attract some collector attention. This one feels a little expensive to me, but maybe that’s just because I remember when they were $1500 all over the place. It does have a shit-ton of miles for a rotary, and who knows how well it has been cared for? If you aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of rotaries, as I am not, it might be best to find an expert to check it out.
I know some of you have been disappointed by the prices of some of our recent cars, but the simple fact is that “cheap” cars are getting more expensive. If I tried to stick to the original $2500 price cap, we’d be looking at a lot of crusty Malibus and clapped-out PT Cruisers. These two are both priced higher than I’d like to see, and probably higher than I’d be willing to pay, but they don’t seem too far out of line. Besides, it’s not like either of these is available in any old used car lot these days. If you want one, this is what they cost. So which one will it be?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
I was ready to vote for the RX7, had one and loved it, but the car looks like it has a cheap lipstick on a pig paint job and the rest of the car hasn’t really been cared for very well. Add to that I am getting old and a little creaky, and, while I still can hop in and out of a low two seater (I have a Porsche 924S and a TR250) the Audi looks a little more user friendly, and also compete.
Had a 1984 RX-7 for years and loved it, it’s got my vote. Mine was in a somewhat unfortunate tan/beige color, but looked pretty cool nonetheless.
Loved that car, but got tired of fighting leaky gaskets/bearings with only an apartment parking lot to work in. If I’d had a house and garage like I do now, I’d probably still have it. That thing was fun to drive. There’s something about the torque curve of a rotary combined with a lightweight car that made it one of the more fun manuals I’ve ever had.
It wasn’t a ski slope. It was a fucking ski jump. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hW-QCtbV5M — there is even a “making of” video (but only in German). Spoiler: The car really drove up the ski jump. It had spiked tyres, of course, and some extra safety equipment in case something went seriously pear-shaped, but apart from that it was a perfectly normal Audi.
They repeated the stunt in 2005, for the silver anniversary of the Audi Quattro, with a then-new Audi, on the same jump. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDZHOvO-txI
I sold my last 4000 CS Quattro with 220,000 miles on it. This one is just broken in…
The Audi, because the inline 5 sounds so good!
I really like spinning Doritos, but I readily admit that I have no clue how to work on them, and my only personal experience with a rotary was with the Renesis in an RX-8. An experience which has left me scarred and full of distrust. I’ll continue to admire RX-7s from a distance. That Quattro on the other hand? Parts availability might be tough, but I’ve spent plenty of time under the hoods of various VAG products from various generations, so this thing doesn’t scare me. My vote is for the Audi.
I want the Audi, but that RX-7 has so many childhood dreams associated with it to vote otherwise. Adult me Audi…everyday. Today, adult me did not vote
That Audi is worth quite a bit more than that with just a LITTLE bit of work.. I am kicking myself right now because I’ve been looking for one for years, I used to have one. They’re so rare and so nice to drive. I bought another car instead just a month ago so.. here we are.. UGH.
So, time for a team-autopian effort to get DT to buy the RX-7?
Yes, it would be a perfect time for him to turn over a new leaf. He has sold some cars and moved out of Detroit to sunny southern California. Now that he could enjoy it year round without it becoming rust-bait, it’s a fantastic time for him to finally get an SA/FB.
This is one of the extraordinarily rare situations where the German car will be less of a headache.
Normally I would vote for the RX-7, but putting it up against a 4000 changes my pick.
I have a soft-spot for the 4000. My dad had an 82 and an 86. I still vaguely remember riding in the front seat (certainly frowned upon today) and running errands with him on weekends.
Give me the Quattro, and a psychiatrist!