Four rings, fifty years

My good friend Mark McCourt, senior editor at Hemmings Motor News, was ruminating one fine day and realized that 2019 marks 50 years of presence in the U.S. marketplace as a standalone brand. You’ll remember that Audi, a prewar conglomeration created by the combining of makes such as Horch and Wanderer, among others, was originally marketed alongside Porsche via corporate ownership. The first Audi was the 100 saloon from 1969, generally regarded today as something less than a reliably or fetchingly stylish automobile.

Things got better in a hurry for Audi. The single greatest event that cemented its place in history came in 1982, when the ur quattro became the world’s first production car with permanently engaged all-wheel drive – yes, predating Subaru. It was one year after Michele Mouton, aboard an Audi coupe, became the first woman to win a round of the World Rally Championship. That made Audi in global rallying’s deadliest weapons, its short-wheelbase quattros in the hands of forest legends from John Buffum to Walter Rohrl, at events from Monte Carlo to Pikes Peak. Audi went on to master unitized body construction using all aluminum. In circuit racing, Hans-Joachim Stuck took an IMSA GTO title in a Sport Quattro, and who could forget Tom Kristensen’s incredible run of nine wins at Le Mans aboard Audi prototypes? Mark actually beat Audi to the punch by bringing up its golden anniversary in the United States, and Audi responded by creating the timeline you see here. So, sincere congrats to both Mark and Audi.

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