Audi History: The Audi TT

1999   2019 Audi TT

In 1998, Audi debuted the iconic TT, a sporty 2 2 with a timeless design and a deceptively storied heritage.

At first glance, the Audi TT appears relatively standalone, certainly in American markets. You’d be hard-pressed to locate a straight line anywhere on its distinctive styling. It’s not a particularly luxurious vehicle, either, at least by Audi’s standards. But it’s certainly the best bang-for-your-buck in the Audi lineup. Against other Audis, the TT appears small, peppy, even retro-inspired. However, Audi designed the TT this way quite deliberately. A mixture of German and American designers, led by J Mays and Freeman Thomas, penned the 2 2 as the first sports car to debut on Audi’s new A4 platform. But the story doesn’t begin when J Mays’ pen hit the paper. For the true beginning, we’ll have to go way back to 20 years prior for the release of another legendary compact sports car.

Creating the A-Platform

1979 Volkswagen Rabbit brochure

The Volkswagen Mk1 Golf/Rabbit’s internal designation is the Typ 17. Brochure images sourced from

The year’s 1973, and the Oil Crisis tightens its grip across the world. Volkswagen struggled to move Beetles like they used to, with foreign competitors producing modern, innovative designs. Since the early 1950s, Volkswagen sought to replace the aging Type 1. Although many tried, none made the cut. Realistically, the vehicle that succeeded the ubiquitous coupe had some mighty big shoes to fill. It took a design penned by world-renowned Giorgetto Giugiaro, one he considers his magnum opus, and the perfect storm of the Oil Crisis to see the project through.

And in May of 1974, the first-ever Volkswagen Golf debuted in Europe. Known at the time as the Rabbit in the US, the Golf set the benchmark for what defined the hot hatch to this day. And, crucial to the story of the Audi TT, it marked the first iteration of Volkswagen’s new A-platform. Throughout its initial iteration, Volkswagen adapted the compact chassis with a wide variety of bodies. This first production run lasted until 1983, seeing everything from sporty coupes to pickup trucks.

A Design to Stand the Test of Time

Throughout the years, Volkswagen Auto Group (VAG) continued improving the design, with each marque contributing. The platform saw a total of 4 major iterations between 1974 and the 1990s, featuring bodies by VW, Seat, Skoda, and Chery. However, Audi continued production of its 80-series platform at this point, its last gasp being the S2. The S2, itself a successor to the famous Quattro, stood as a mighty saloon car, easily capable of 155 mph. And while no sane person argues that the S2 isn’t sporty, it certainly wasn’t a light, nimble mid-entry level car. That said, the A-platform certainly made a name for itself as a host of such vehicles. The Golf GTI and Scirocco 16v, among others, represent quintessential hot-hatch design. For Audi to follow in such vehicles’ footsteps, they thought outside the box. Rather than a hatch, they instead chose a 2 2 coupe/roadster configuration for their sporty little car.

In the early 1990s, automotive markets took a drastic turn away from larger, boxier 1980s vehicles into curvy, smooth compacts. With this shift in sensibilities, the 80-platform sold poorly in US markets, leading Audi to rethink its design priorities for the next generation. And so, with the 3rd iteration of the VAG A-platform running its course, Audi took the reins in designing the new chassis. And, of course, a brand-new sports car along with it, a spiritual successor to the S2.

The Audi TT Concept

Audi TT Concept

Penned by J Mays (Yes, his first name is simply “J”) and Freeman Thomas, the 1994 TT concept draws inspiration from much farther back than the Quattro this time. Rather than the timeless boxy styling, the TT derives its cues from interwar Auto Unions. This influence is primarily seen on the heavily-rounded nose and proportional rear, along with the extended fender flares and hard lines cut into the front fenders. The bulbous shape remains quintessentially German due to racers such as the Silver Arrows, making the TT’s origins obvious to even untrained eyes. And much like the streamlined racers of yesteryear, the design evokes a function-follows-form aesthetic. This trend continues into the interior, with steel inserts on plastic trim, a no-nonsense steering wheel, and a functional short-throw shifter. However, because it’s German, concessions were made to include supple leather seats.

This classic racing inspiration goes further than skin-deep, however. Named after the famous Isle of Man TT, the car boasts an all-new take on VAG’s famous EA-series of engines, the 1.8L R4. This 20V 1.8L turbo I-4, created entirely by Audi, appears quite modest to the uninitiated. Developing just 161 horsepower, it’s a far way down from the 227 of the S2. However, in spite of its unassuming displacement and figures, it marks Audi’s next great motorsport engine after the Quattro’s I-5. Since its inception, this overbuilt underdog’s seen the engine bays of everything from Golf GTI’s to Formula Twos, producing anywhere from 145 to over 480 horsepower. To this day, the EA113/EA827 remains one of the most popular German engines for aftermarket tuners and racers. Prized for its reliability and ease of modification, the engine proved a perfect fit for the TT, lending it accessible, repeatable performance.

The Production Audi TT Debuts

Following rave reviews of the concept, Audi forwent altering the body style, choosing instead to only include the most minor alterations. Primarily, the main difference is improved visibility with additional rear quarterlight windows. The interior, designed by Peter Schreyer and others, remained relatively unchanged as well.

1999 Audi TT

Audi designated the TT as 8N. It marked the 2nd car on the PQ34 A4-platform, the first being the Audi A3.

In October 1998, the Audi TT entered into full production, some four years after its first showing. Audi originally offered the car as just a coupe, though the roadster variant debuted shortly after in 1999. Overall, Audi marketed the car towards a younger, fun-loving, sporty demographic. As such, the car remained affordable by Audi standards and featured relatively few luxuries. For example, the original TTs featured only manual gearboxes and no active assists or rear spoiler. However, following a number of high-speed accidents, Audi implemented the latter two features on all TTs, and issued a recall. Much like the 80-series which preceded it, the TT also boasted Quattro AWD as an option, providing a 97.5% rear /2.5% front torque split.

Audi TT production line

Audi provided the only face-lift to the original TT for the 2003 model year.

Throughout its initial production, the TT underwent little cosmetic or powertrain changes in the mainline run. However, by 2003, Audi did expand its list for those craving more performance. The first major addition came with the VR6, a 3.2L unit boasting 247 horsepower. In addition, they offered the TT with a semiautomatic transmission, either a  direct-shift gearbox for the 3.2L Quattro or Tiptronic for all others. And in 2005, Audi went one step further. In the tradition of its S and RS models, Audi offered a TT Sport in a very limited-production run of just 1,165 units. This model pushed 240 horsepower from the 1.8L turbo and weighed 165 pounds less, claiming a limited speed of 155 mph over the standard 146 mph. Audi produced 800 of these in right-hand drive, making the left-hand drive variant the rarest standard-production TT.

Still Going Strong

The original Audi TT, overall, marked a success for Audi in terms of design and marketing. The press scarred the TT’s reputation in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s as an unsafe youth’s car. But this ultimately worked in Audi’s favor. Publicity, and the TT’s distinctive characteristics, propelled its popularity in spite of relatively low sales figures. Since its debut, the car received 3 major iterations across 2 platforms: the A and MQB platform. The TT also sees heavy use in motorsport, taking its first DTM title in 2002 driven by Laurent Aïello. Since then, Le Mans featured it as a safety car in 2009. And to this day, the TT continues racing in all its iterations, from a favorite mid-range track car to high-level competition.

Audi History: The Audi TTTT RS. Introduced in 2009, the latest iteration features a whopping 394 horsepower coupled to a 7-speed S-Tronic transmission.

Complementing the R8 halo car, the TT offers that same level of excitement in a practical 2 2 package. And while less prestigious these days, even a first-generation TT hasn’t lost its luster. With the bulletproof 4-cylinder and timeless design, it’s no wonder the Audi TT became such a well-recognized car. When it comes to compact sports cars with good power/weight ratio and daily usability, you can certainly do worse.

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I’ve been an automotive aficionado since I had baby teeth. My path was set when I first leaned on my grandfather’s classic Porsche as I learned how to walk. One of my first memories was my mother sitting me behind the wheel of her Pontiac and talking me through the instrumentation and controls. Even though I was a mere three or four years old, I was instantly sold, and filled notebooks with technical drawings, sketches, and collections of manuals of all sorts of cars. I’ve actively tracked developments in automotive and motorsport technology for well over 20 years, and pride myself on being intimately familiar with the functions and history of a wide range of vehicles.

My primary goal as a writer and enthusiast is to equally learn and share what I’ve learned in a constructive and interesting way. I maintain connections with people from around the world and can read technical manuals in Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, granting me access to a wide array of resources. My primary focuses are deep-dives into historical topics, motorsport discussion, and learning about the complex mechanical elements of such vehicles. As such, my research is never perfect; as anyone into cars will attest, the more you learn about cars, the more you realize how little you actually know. Therefore, I always welcome fresh knowledge and corrections to help me better my work in the future.

A Rare 1982 Audi Ur Quattro is Found in Scotland after almost 30 Years

1982 Audi Ur Quattro

After Almost 30 Years, this Alpine White Audi Ur Quattro from 1982 is Found and Rescued from a Scottish Garage

Just last month, a 1982 Audi Ur Quattro got to see the sun after being locked away in a Scottish garage since 1994. Featured on Jonny Smith’s The Late Brake Show was Jason and his late brother’s Ur Quattro, which was stored in his garage for reasons unknown, and then left untouched for 28 years. That is, until Smith came along to show the world an incredibly rare and rally bred beauty.

Having sat in a windowless garage for nearly three decades, the interior was a tad dusty, but intact, colorful and bright – just like it would have been in 1982. No sun damage or bleaching, no rodent damage, and very little water and mold damage – despite being so close to Scottish shores. The only evidence the car had even seen the light of day beforehand was a few retro packs of cigarettes and an air freshener.

After phoning a friend who had access to a trove of classic Audi knowledge, he was able to find out that the car was hand-built by a team of Audi workers in July of 1982 – before mass production took affect for the company. It also happened to be only one of 70 right hand drive models sold in the United Kingdom, making for the Alpine white Quattro with matching Fuch wheels the stuff of legends.

1982 Audi Ur Quattro

A Rich and Capable History

What makes the Ur Quattro that Smith stumbled upon so special wasn’t just the origin story, but what came of the result. For instance, the Quattro was inspired by Volkswagen’s very capable but fairly unknown Iltis – an off-roader that was used by the German military. Audi, knowing that the Iltis could quite literally go anywhere but was slower than molasses on a winter day, decided to take what made the Iltis so successful and make it prettier and faster. And thus, the Ur Quattro was born.

Once the Quattro was introduced into professional rallying, though, the world of rally was forever changed. Anyone who is into rally knows the Audi Quattro – and how much of an impact the permanent 4WD system had on competing manufacturers.

1982 Audi Ur Quattro

While Smith didn’t take the precious Audi home, he did try valiantly to try and start the famous 2.2 liter five-cylinder up. Despite fresh oil, cleaning up the distributor points, sprucing up the plugs and hooking it up to a bigger battery, the Quattro needed more attention that Smith could give it. Shortly after Smith’s visit in Scotland, the one of a kind car went up for auction and was sold for £20,250. To check out the listing and more photos of the incredible car, click here.

To view the original video, check out some retro wrappers and newspapers found in the garage and what Jason’s brother traded in to get the Audi, watch the video below.

Cars were always a central part of Kristen’s life. It all started with passing tools to her colorfully cursing sailor of a father while he was underneath Chevy Novas from the 1970s. Eventually she was promoted from Tool Monkey to Apprentice – auto mechanics were her first love. Having graduated from California State University, Monterey Bay in 2020 and married a successful mechanic, she spend most of her days reading, writing and talking about what she loves most: cars.

Audi History: Advancement Through Technology

Audi History

Audi history: how passion and ambition built Germany’s premier auto marque of the early 20th Century.

Vehicles bearing the Audi and Horch names were some of the finest, most premier automobiles in history during the early 20th century. By the late 1920s, the names were on sleek convertibles and luxurious limousines alike, with two things in common between all models: their smoothness and their silence. Indeed, early Audis were remarkably smooth for gasoline vehicles even by today’s standards. One could easily balance a coin on its end on a running 4-cylinder’s exhaust header, for example. Such traditions continue today, with Audi responsible for creating dozens of modern classics. But like all modern auto-manufacturing greats, Audi was born from humble beginnings, in the mind of one man with a vision.

The Emergence of a Giant

In the year 1885, German innovation was immortalized in the history books with the release of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. The patent holder, Karl Benz, would later run the largest automobile plant of its day. However, one of his engineers, a man by the name of Dr. August Horch (pronounced “Hork”), had an entrepreneurial spirit about him. In 1896, Horch made a decision that would later create a legend in its own right. He decided to go into business for himself.

August Horch

Dr. August Horch

A. Horch & Co. was founded in Cologne in 1899, with the primary directive to create the smoothest-running premiere automobiles in Germany. Horch himself was relentless in his passion for engineering excellence from the beginning. He purchased a former spinning mill in Reichenbach im Vogtland and converted it to a manufacturing plant that met his standards (a building that still stands today). 

However, Horch came to disagreements with his shareholders while developing his first vehicles and ultimately parted from the company. When he tried forming a new company under the same name, he encountered legal troubles as the original Horch & Co. still owned the trademark. Horch struggled to come up with a new name and bounced ideas off his friends and business partners. His friend’s son was studying Latin at the time and suggested the name Audi, which is the Latin translation of the German word Horch, meaning, “Listen!” Horch felt it was an inspired choice, and from then on, the name was set.

The First True Audis

The first vehicle to wear the Audi nameplate was the Type A, which was completed in July 1910. Horch’s vehicles set the standard for early automotive innovation from the very beginning. The first marked deviation from its contemporaries was Audi’s trademark quiet and smooth engine. But Horch wasn’t content to stop there. With nearly every new model, another feature was released. For example, Audis were the first practical vehicle with a driveshaft as opposed to drive chains. They had engines that could propel consumer-level vehicles to over 60 miles per hour quietly and reliably. They were the first successful V12 manufacturer in the world. In September 1921, the first production car with left-hand drive left their factory. The first 15 years of Audi were indeed marked with as much technological development as the previous 30 years of bespoke automobiles.

Audi History: Advancement Through Technology

Manufacturing standards of early Horchs and Audis were just as rigorous, with Horch’s tooling resulting in tolerances of up to one-thousandth of a millimeter. Everything down to the camshafts was still built completely in-house, at a rate of just two units per week. These handmade vehicles became the Rolls-Royces of Germany, with clients up to and including Kaiser Wilhelm I driving a Horch. Horch himself hired artists rather than car designers to pen the bodies of his new models, ensuring that his name would grace the most beautiful cars on the road. Commanding prices equal to over $300,000 today, his vehicles quickly set the standard for premier German manufacturing. Horch himself would retire in 1920. However, vehicles bearing the Horch name continued production. At their heyday, Horchs would occupy 55% of large-displacement bespoke vehicles on German roads in the 1920s.

Cutaway of Audi's first six-cylinder, the 1925 Type Msubsequent Types B, C, and D would remain competitive in their respective Grands Prix against the likes of the W25 Mercedes, Type 59 Bugatti, 8CM Maserati, and many others. Despite the breakout of World War II, the legacy these vehicles would create endured well into the 20th century and beyond, cementing them in the annals of motorsport, and indeed automotive history.

Press photos by Audi MediaCenter

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Matt’s been an automotive aficionado since he was a toddler learning how to stand by leaning on his grandfather’s classic Porsche. Since then, he’s been thoroughly and utterly captivated by all things motoring. He’s also a novelist and short story author, and enjoys writing across many genres. His primary goal is to share some of his love of automotive and motorsport history through the medium of writing, as well as talk about this passion we all share in a thought-provoking way. He’s a true a sponge about vehicles, and enjoys learning about just about any aspect of motoring, especially historically significant and/or oddball stuff.