1985 Audi quattro - A Restoration Tale

Hi everyone, I thought I’d share this story on a restoration project for a quattro that’s been full of ups and downs and covered many years (seven in total). This may serve as a warning or inspiration depending on your viewpoint, for anyone considering undertaking this process and if you’re not in a position to carry out the majority of work yourself to your own standards, what potentially lies ahead. At least I can say it’s had a happy ending. So, this is not designed to put anyone off at all, but food for thought when considering all your potential paths to a restored quattro.

Norman Shearer

Some background to the ownership

The car belongs to a very close friend — Mr Sam Kerr. His very generous and lovely wife Isobel purchased the car for him as a surprise for his 50th Birthday (I got some socks and pants from mine). Isobel herself (along with the rest of the family) are all petrolheads, for example, she owns a B7 S4 V8, which probably gives you a flavour of some dinner topics (when it’s not the Dogs).

After the first few years of ownership and some fun Tours which many of us here in Scotland undertake on a regular basis (in whatever car we can get our hands on), Sam decided it was time to give his quattro a bit of a refresh (little did he know at this time) starting with some investigation into some minor oil leaks in the engine bay. Well that’s what I remember anyway! Lucky I remember anything these days!

Offering to assist, this is where the real story begins…

The quattro in question

The car started off life as a 1985 WR in Amazon Blue. At some point in its life prior to Isobel buying it, it underwent a 3B engine conversion, complete with a stage 1 remap, so pretty peppy for a quattro. Now, before we hear any mention of “it’s not original”, the car is Sam’s pride and joy, it has oodles of sentimental value for obvious reasons, I guess it will be handed down and it’s much faster than mine! Boo…

Sam’s quattro arrives at Ecosse.

The Start

Utilising a friend and old school independent (on my doorstep too) who’s very capable at all things VAG, we checked it in for a health check and investigation of the engine. Initial inspection concluded that the cylinder head could use a refurb, so plans were put in place to do this when it was decided by Sam we would just go for a full engine rebuild.

During this decision process, the Independent had acquired a new business/establishment, so there was a natural delay whilst the transition took place and the car was then moved to the new location ready for engine removal. Engine was removed and sent for the rebuild.

Fun now starts

Whilst the engine was away, a chap who frequented the new establishment who happened to be a local panel beater/painter saw the quattro sitting in the corner enquiring what the plans were. One thing led to another, as he seemed very keen and pointed out how easy it would be to paint the engine bay with the engine removed. A quick call to Sam and a reasonable quote later and the go ahead was given to paint the engine bay. Again, during this process, the painter in question proclaimed his desire and ability to do all the metalwork on the car and paint it to a high standard. Time to get Sam on the phone again and a ball park figure was agreed and the go ahead sanctioned. At this point (from memory) we are in 2014.

The long haul begins

The Engine, complete after its overhaul, was not especially long in being returned to the garage, however, the painting of the engine bay at this point had not commenced.

Over the course of the next 6 months, admittedly, there were a number of metal repairs made in and around the engine compartment, the Engine Bay was painted and to a very high standard I may add.

The next phase involved cutting out and repairing the well acknowledged areas that go in a quattro, namely all the arches front and back. There was a reasonable degree of metal to be removed and replaced. The old fashioned panel beater approach of using braising to seal up repairs and minimise filler was the preferred method adopted.

After what seemed another slow start to the process and the passing of another few months, the Wings, Doors, Boot Lid, Bonnet were all removed to allow access/inspection and the commencement of the metal repairs. It was also decided that the Engine would be left out until now identified repairs behind the wings and areas around the foot well could be completed whilst keeping wiring etc out of harm’s way

The progress from here was very slow indeed. Small spirts saw both rear wheel arches cut away and handmade replacements sections were constructed and spot welded into place. Front wings were likewise repaired and additional repairs to the inner wings down from the A-Pillars also under went repairs.

Sam takes ill

2016/17 (I think) Sam takes ill with a very rare blood disorder that attacks the immune system, as he spends a few spells in Hospital and was very weak. He lost lots of weight and struggled to even walk, it was not a good time. A very worrying time for all his family and friends!! To this day, Sam undergoes regular visits to the doctor/hospital and whilst he will not be cured, he motors on rattling with all the pills he takes and remains smiling like he does, never complaining!

Time speeds on…

During this time and after a few visits from Sam and Isobel to the garage for progress updates, it becomes evident that the car has all but stalled. It’s now late 2018. The Engine had been re-installed but not yet fully hooked up. Unknown to any of us, the Painters’ wife was now well in the clutches of a cancer battle. The decision is taken to try and find an alternative paint shop whilst leaving the painter to tend to his wife during a very difficult time for him.

Whilst we instructed the Garage to concentrate on getting the Engine running, a search began for a suitable body shop that would be willing to take on the remainder of the work. This wouldn’t be easy as most paint shops are more interested in quick turnaround insurance jobs these days and not part completed restorations.

After informing the Painter we were relieving him of the quattro (wishing him all the best with his wife), we ask what’s left to do, so he points out the areas of metalwork still to be completed, which consisted of a strip behind one wing, 2 strips in the boot floor, one in the passenger foot well and finishing off the rear wheel arches. Not insignificant, but not thought too excessive — by me at least.

We also agree that prior to removing the car, the Engine work had to be completed and after quite a few issues, the Garage also managed to get the car running properly.

Ecosse Automotive to the rescue

It’s now July 2019. In the background, Isobel and I had already decided to try and get the car done as quickly as possible and not tell Sam, as we would like to get it back to him as a Xmas surprise if this was possible. We tell Sam that I’ve found somewhere else that I knew (without disclosing details) and that they were going to take the car in for assessment but wouldn’t likely get it started to the following year… Car is now transported from Callander to Bo’ness in 2 stages. Firstly the car, then I borrow a van (thanks Drew) and fill it with all the removed parts and drop it all off.

Sam’s quattro leaves Callander to Ecosse.

Having dealt with Ecosse Automotive in Bo’ness a few times before, doing paintwork on various cars for my family and friends (very well too), I decided to give Greg a call, explaining the time taken so far to get this quattro to where it was and the desire to get this car finished as quickly as possible due to all the issues going on. I described the remaining work (as advised) and was there anything they could do. He said he would get back to me.

2 hours later, I get a call from Greg. He’d worked some magic with the team and the owners, so they agreed to actually block off the entire month of November and blitz the car in 3 stages, first being the remaining metalwork, the second the paintwork and the third the rebuilding of the car. Target completion was to be early December 2019.

Stage 1 — The Metalwork

Ecosse, like many places, do not employ full time metal workers. They are subcontracted in as and when required. It’s now August, the car is there, so plans are made to get a head start and deploy the metalworker as soon as possible. The first visit and assessment was arranged for September.

Oh dear! Initial inspections (some intrusive) discovered that the remaining metalwork was grossly under estimated. Each area that was identified by the previous painter required far more extensive repairs than depicted. Furthermore, there were additional numerous areas that required work, some quite extensive.

Pictures and phone calls continued to flow from Ecosse as each area was targeted, generally with pictures of previously undiscovered repairs and the work required on the known scope. Continuously on the phone to Isobel, never with any good news, it was decided that we were too far into the project and no shortcuts could or would be taken.

As the work grew the ability to get remotely close to the planned completion date looked to be slipping away by the day. In the first instance, the chap doing the metalwork had not planned this additional work into his schedule and wasn’t available to spend the required time on the quattro due to other pre-planned work he had booked.

Obviously, all other work couldn’t progress without completed metalwork, which just kept on coming! As areas around the boot floor were dealt with and work progressed completing the rear arches, other areas and problems were still emerging.

By the time both doors were started, it soon became evident that there were also more issues here. The largely hidden (when hung on the car) areas at the bottom of the doors were badly corroded, driver door especially. Ecosse called me up to go and inspect findings and to discuss the best way forward. It became clear quite quickly that the time and effort required cutting out and repairing these complex areas was going to involve a lot of time and hence money. The decision was taken to find replacement doors.

What would transpire later to become a speed dial to Highland Audi, I gave Paul a call to explain the project and the circumstances surrounding the timeframes and the requirement for good doors. I knew he’d be the most likely candidate to have suitable replacements sitting there but he came up trumps with an offer of 2 doors he’d already had fully prepped and in primer for one of his own cars. These were done approximately 3 years prior and although he had intended to keep them for himself, he offered them up at a very respectable price. This was a huge saving in time and money! As time was always pressing, Paul agreed to drive from north of Inverness to Aviemore one Friday evening where we met and transferred the doors over to me. He also (very kindly) threw in some more bits and pieces free of charge to help the project. Top man!!

We now had the last bits of the jigsaw to allow the metalwork to be completed in terms of replacement panels. However, we are now in early December 2019 and the ever increasing workload, together with the staggered fits and starts to the work due to the unplanned nature for the metal man, meant our original desire to deliver the car pre-Xmas was well and truly out the window.

Xmas holidays came and went and when the work re-commenced in January, further minor areas kept emerging. We were still at this point battling with the availability of getting the metalwork completed due to the previously agreed commitments of the metal man for his other clients. In addition, what always seems as ‘minor’ repair requiring further attention (no such thing by the way) meant that time was rolling on. With an end to the metalwork in sight in March 2020, as we all now know, COVID shut the country down! So, in summary, everything went on hold for the next 3 months at least.

Around June this year, there was a staggered restart for Ecosse. There was a determined focus from them to get the car complete, as obviously time was rolling on and in their words the car was taking up real estate.

Circa the middle of July, the car was considered complete on the metalwork front, so the car now went into full paint mode.

The video below will show some of the issues encountered during this stage.

Photo slideshow of the ongoing work on the quattro throughout the restoration.

Stage 2 — The Paint

Given the experience of Scott (Ecosse head painter) and having witnessed his craft on a few cars belonging to family & friends previously, this was one area I was pleased I could take a back seat.

Such was the attention to detail, when I tried to point out the areas of Satin Black required on the side trims/windows and inside the door checks, he stopped me in my tracks and stated he’d already studied it and proceeded to show me what was required, which was spot on! Here was Scott providing further levels of confidence in the approach to the quality of the job.

As you will see in the video, the car was stripped right down to component parts and external trim level with nothing escaping the restore & paint process. However, it was during this time that in front of the nearside rear wheel arch, the swage line under the old paint was split, requiring further repair and welding to seal properly.

On other fronts, the areas behind the front wings, rear wheel tubs and underneath all received appropriate amounts of sealing and protection. The inside of the boot has also received a sealing process and a few coats of Amazon Blue paint.

Tips — the bottom of the Front Wings where they join/touch the side skirt/sill is a notorious rust point, largely down to the fact there is metal to metal contact there from new and when vibration and weather eventually erode the paint separating them, the rust then gets in and spreads it to the Sill as well as the Wing. We therefore decided to insert a very thin rubber layer between the 2 panels which are not visible from the outside but do enough to separate the touch points in between hence preventing the metal to metal contact and stopping future potential for rust to develop.

Another pinch point at the front of the Wing is where it joins the Front Bumper. There is a metal strip which is not of the galvanised variety that rusts and vibrates between the bumper and Wings, thus causing a similar problem and eventually the rust spreads from the strip to the Wing. Again, similar approach adopted and a suitable separating material was utilised to prevent this happening in the future.

Removing and re-fitting these panels, especially with the likelihood they will have more paint that from the factory will help prevent this process taking hold any time soon but preventing it happening at all has to be the better option.

The 2 retaining strips where the rear bumper interfaces with the rear quarter panel should also have the same approach applied.

Lastly, the lip that is present on the lowest part of the rear quarter panels, front of the rear wheels, should also be filled with any type of sealant/silicon or something suitable, as this is another notorious water trap where the rusts sets in. Filling it up with sealant, level with the metal, prevents the water lying in there and eventually assisting the tin worm.

When the painting was complete, the finish straight out of the gun was the best I’ve ever seen, which is testament to the effort that must have gone into the preparation itself. Scott then went on to flatten and polish it to a standard that later made the Detailer (Craig) say it was the best he’d seen from any Body Shop!

Stage 3 — The Rebuild

The car was now at a critical stage. Having been subjected to a part (but significant parts) strip down in Callander over previous years, there were obvious fears of what got misplaced or lost during the 5 or so years there. The previous painter had also removed parts of the car from the Garage to his own premises which made me doubly worried about what had gone missing or got damaged.

Whilst transferring the car from Callander to Bo’ness we also filled a van with the loose parts, at which point I did notice several obvious larger parts missing (Prismatic Strip for example). Most of this was found at the previous painters said premises, but it would later become apparent there were a few more parts that were missing (never the easy stuff) and some of the parts that were there were beyond restoration. Additional problems would be encountered as I couldn’t openly advertise for parts in the usual places in fear of being rumbled by an internet, all things Audi, car part mogul called Sam. As some may be aware, he has been helping his son Alan restore a B3 Audi 90 quattro 20V, so has been trawling all the sites at the same time as me! Therefore the chances of him spotting me looking for quattro parts (he knows my car has been done in these respects) would possibly alert him to something going on, possibly with his car, which he still thinks is at the back of a shed somewhere unknown to him.

Anyway, first principles were to equip Ecosse with a reference base for all the parts, where they went and if they needed any and what the part numbers were. So a link to 7Zap was provided which was utilised by Ecosse to great effect, you’d think they were seasoned at using it. There were also parts there purchased by Sam who always intended to restore the car and was in the process of parts gathering many years prior. While I recognised some of them, they were luckily still in their bags so had the part numbers to reference on the Web. So what was there we labelled for use at the appropriate time. The diagrams in the system also helped Ecosse identify where things went and if any potential parts shown were missing.

Ecosse deployed one their body shop members John to carry out the refit. John was utterly brilliant! Attention to detail and the quality of how he approached and completed any aspect of refitting parts were faultless! However, he did give me a few headaches by requesting new parts where he deemed existing ones unfit for purpose or identifying were parts were missing, using 7Zap to great effect whilst providing reassurance that the rebuild was being done properly.

The search for the missing and damaged parts became the focus but during the refit and as it progressed, the list of parts required got larger and larger. Every time I thought, phew, that’s it, another phone call or email from Ecosse would request something else. Inevitable I guess.

My default position was always Google. Using part numbers for the search criteria first, I’d see what could be obtained with a straight purchase. This often proved fruitful but often involved ordering parts from USA, Poland, Germany, UK and Switzerland for example, using direct purchases or often eBay. Such was John’s attention to detail; he requested new seals for the switches in the door checks which activate the interior light. I got these from the USA as the part number flagged up as a part also used on old VW Bus’s (eisparts.com). The VAG parts bin in full use on the quattro it seems!

Sam was intending to get the interior of the car done by himself after the originally planned paintwork was complete. After observing the quality of the work done by Ecosse, I spoke to Isobel and after seeing that the car was going to be so nice, it would be a good idea to get the interior done for Sam also. Panic call to Kenny at KA Tech ensues!

A number of parts were proving awkward and in some instances just not available anywhere! As previously stated, I had no ability to go to FB or Forums to ask for parts. Fortunately, Sam is known to lots of our quattro friends, so when I had to get help with these difficult parts and call upon other favours, there was no shortage of people willing to come forward to help the cause for Sam. With a project of this magnitude it is not possible to do it without lots of help. I’m delighted to report that those I know in the quattro community who were aware of the project and its background all came to the foray admirably along with other friends of Sam.

360 degree video of the restored quattro.

The help from all quarters was extremely heart-warming, so I’m now going to acknowledge their help and input — in no particular order:-

Highland quattro — Paul

Hq became my first port of call for most of the difficult items. For example, when there are items like broken caps which cover the nuts on the Wiper Arms, where the heck do you start looking for replacements? Keeping in mind that Paul is restoring quattro’s of his own, he gave up many of his own treasured items for the cause, including complete Wiper Arms to solve the cap issue. This is only one of many items of a rare nature he parted with to help. Many thanks Paul, you are not only a business but a true quattro enthusiast who helps his fellow owners!!

John Clark

When the going gets real tough, the tough go to John Clark. Tough, because prizing parts out of John Clark’s extensive catalogue is like trying to get him to vote Tory! But, when the cause is one of his friends and their quattro, any reluctance to part with his extensive collection turns full circle into someone who cycled 100 miles (no joke) to deliver me some of his parts to me for Sam’s car!! As the re-build was progressing, I was on the phone to him almost as often as Hq, for parts even Hq did not have! He also drove to Kirkcaldy when deadlines were closing in with parts to help me save time. When the strips that hold the carpet along the inner sills were missing, he even furbished me with a pair of those!

John also provided all the footage for the reveal video at the end, using all his extensive equipment and knowhow.

It’s fair to say that without John’s input, I would have been severely struggling to get the car completed!! Huge thanks John, a true friend!!

Gregor Gillies

When in need of a van, Gregor not only assisted with the van itself, he gave up his time to collect from Bo’ness and deliver the interior to Kilmarnock. He then delivered the wheels Sam acquired (collecting them from the Upholsters, where we hoodwinked Sam taking them), and took them to Skidz in Falkirk. Finally, he went back to Kilmarnock to collect the completed interior and returned it to Ecosse. Cheers Gregor, always there when the chips are down!

Darron Edwards

When looking for parts or looking for confirmation of correctness, it felt like I was pestering Darron on a daily basis. He was always there with help and didn’t complain even once! Furthermore, after acquiring a used Fuba Aerial from Hq which had a bent mast, I asked Darron if he could help refurbish/check working and confirm if it was viable. I managed to get a mast from USA, had it all sent to Darron who installed the new mast, checked it was operating and sent it all back within a day of receiving the mast (reveal was imminent at this point). This he did without charge as a contribution to the project!

As one of the figureheads in the quattro community, you have demonstrated that you are a true and genuine person to the cause of keeping quattro’s alive! A true gentleman also, thank you mate!

Isobel Kerr

What can I say? Sam, you are one lucky man, but I’m sure you already know this!

I can only assume how difficult it was trying to keep this a secret for the past 18 months whilst having continuous covert calls from me (several times a day latterly) and being asked to part with large sums of money (some that would bankrupt a small nation) on my say so alone, is very humbling and very trusting of you! Thanks for sticking with me!!

Edward Heath

After having Edward do a sketch of my own quattro (to an exceptional standard I may say) my wife Sandra suggested it would be a great idea to have Edward do something theme wise for Sam’s reveal also. I agreed. I thought of just having the car with Sam standing next to it. I proceeded to ask Sam’s daughter Rebecca (keeping it secret from Isobel too) for some pictures containing Sam but I didn’t elaborate why, just asked her to keep it quiet, which she did. She sent me an assortment of relevantly current pictures.

I engaged Edward at this point, explaining to him the purpose and connection with our families. This is where the true artistry of Edward came to the fore. He just said leave it with me.

One of the photos was of Rebecca’s graduation and contained the entire family. Knowing through conversation that one of Sam’s favourite places was Killin, Edward proceeded to produce something I could never have imagined from the initial idea. The detail and effort that was put into the drawing was immense! Totally perfect — Family, quattro and Killin all captured in one fantastic piece of work!

Huge thanks Edward (fellow quattro owner also) for your massive effort on this. Just looking at it tells its own story of the work you put into this!!

Ecosse Automotive

Well, what can I say about this company, other than the best I’ve ever come across and with a massive portfolio of capabilities, all carried out to the highest possible standard! Ecosse came to the rescue and were prepared to shut off their order book to accommodate the cause. Highly commendable and I believe if it wasn’t for the complications mentioned, they would have pulled off the original planned schedule.

Their approach to doing the job properly became very apparent early on. I was used to their workmanship with the various and comparative small jobs I’d been involved with in the past. But getting into the levels of work still required on the quattro opened my eyes first hand that their speciality was attention to detail. No stone was left unturned, they looked into every aspect of the body (and it transpired the rebuild too). The results are there to be seen, so I’ll leave you to ponder over at what I believe to be the best paintwork on any quattro I’ve ever came across personally!

Massive thanks to Ecosse for all the other help that’s too numerous to mention and the professionalism of everyone involved in all areas of the service!

Prestige Number Plates

Given the reveal was looming and I was actually struggling to find anywhere that were prepared to do authentic period number plates, I stumbled upon Prestige after seeing a post on FB by Kenny Lunt. I contacted them and after explaining the circumstances to Steve he not only let me jump the waiting list he even paid for the special delivery himself! Now that’s true service! Cannot recommend them highly enough and the plates themselves were perfection. I bought some for myself too.

Skidz Falkirk

After the reveal date was set, Sam decided to purchase a set of 16” replica Ronals. Not in itself a problem but within 3 weeks of the date, Sam gets an email (advised to me by Isobel) stating the wheels should not be used due to a fault machining the bolt holes and that the wheel bolts would not fit. A solution was not expected in 2020. Skidz stepped up after they investigated the issue and solved the problem very quickly and simply by using different bolts, but they were prepared to re-machine the wheels if they had to and to meet the deadline. Again, more top service!!

KA Tech Kilmarnock

Many thanks to Kenny from KA Tech for pulling out all the stops to fit in the interior work for Sam’s car at very late notice. Thanks also for your observations and recommendation for getting the finest Italian Leather which is beautiful in the car. Cheers mate!

Bodyshine Auto Detailing — Kircaldy

Last but by no means least, Craig from Bodyshine. Knowing there was a Ceramic coating to be applied after the paint work, Craig requested that the pin stripes and decals were not applied to the car until this was completed. He duly arranged for this process to be done at his unit when all polishing and applications were complete.

Again, the effort and attention to detail was next level, inside and out. He made what was an exceptional paint job even better, which I genuinely thought was not possible, but he pulled it off!

I’m going to let the pictures (which in this instance don’t actually do it justice) tell the story. Top man Craig, you’re a star and an amazing talent!

Gregor MacKenzie

Another talent, and great friend Gregor from Killin has taken all the pictures and the footage from John Clark and edited it into a video to show the restoration and the final reveal. Fantastic piece of work Gregor and massive thank you for the hours of effort you put into this. Much appreciated!!

The Reveal

I’ll let the video do the talking, but it was to take a wicked final turn this restoration and rendered much of the panicking to make the planned reveal date void. On the Thursday before the Saturday reveal, I get a phone call from Isobel stating that her sister in law who was at their house 2 days prior, had been taken to hospital with confirmed COVID and that they were going to spend 2 weeks isolating. The concerns over Sam catching this given his delicate heath suddenly made the car situation take an appropriate back seat! Daily updates from Isobel gradually eased concerns and Sam got surprised in true Car SoS fashion on Saturday 3rd December 2020.

Sam with the quattro on reveal day.

I couldn’t give him a Car SoS keyring (I think they’re reserved for the show) but gave him his keys back in a genuine Car SoS Mug.

I hope Sam can now enjoy many years happy motoring in his quattro, as for sure, nobody deserves it more!!

A video recap of the reveal.

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