When you think back to some of the most successful rally cars of the past, more than likely the Audi Quattro will flash into your mind. That is, if you don’t think of older Evos, Subies, Fords, Lancias, and Toyotas.
The thing with the Audi Quattro is that it was the first 4wd rally car to be raced in a professional series. This came after regulations changed and allowed 4wd drive trains. It was also the first car in which a woman (Michele Mouton) won a rally championship. Other notable features were the 5 Cylinder turbo charged engine and in the sport model (see above) a very short wheel base. It revolutionized rallying and changed the Audi brand for many many years to come.
The car itself was based on the forgettable Audi 80. The Audi 80 was based on the regrettable at the time Volkswagen Passat. The same Passat that tried to (and succeeded in a couple cases) murder its owner (And you thought Toyota was the first to have homicidal cars). Over the base 80, the Quattro received many an upgrade including a turbo, revised suspension, widened wheel wells, and spoilers. The actual race car and (VERY) limited race-car based road going version shared even less in common with it. The short wheel based Sport was just over a foot shorter than the other models. That as you can see below, is almost shocking. Why cut that much out? To better compete! Lancia and Peugeot had developed insane rally cars and the Quattro was cut short to reduce weight and help it rotate. Horsepower? Can Has! Up to 590HP!!! The base road going ones had roughly 200hp, which in the 80s was pretty good.
The original Quattro was produced from 1980 to 1991 (with variations in different countries). The Quattro name was eventually applied to the AWD systems in all production Audis that featured it. Recently Audi unveiled a new Quattro concept taking cues from the original. A production version is supposedly (very hopefully) in the works.