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    Ultimate Sleeper 668bhp S2-engined 90 quattro. Words and Photography Davy Lewis. 80s Revival With the help of a 668bhp S2 engine, this rare #1986 Audi 90 has been brought slap bang into the 21st century. AUDI 90 668bhp S2-engined sleeper.


    At first glance, this may look like a fairly stock and well used Audi 90. This in itself is worthy of attention as there are very few of these mid-’80s saloons left. It’s also a quattro, which makes it even more of a find. The simple, boxy design is everything you’d expect from a 30-year old car – it has the original paintwork and that distinctive smell that only an old car can have. But look more closely and all is not as it seems. The clues are there: the Aerocatches on the bonnet; the motorsport style wheels and those sticky Toyo R888 semi-slicks. But it isn’t until you see the engine that you realise just how special this thing is.

    Lift the bonnet and you’re greeted by a fantastic looking 2.2 5-cylinder 20v lump complete with big turbo. These saloons may have originally come with a 2.2 unit but, the normally aspirated KV lump made a lowly 136bhp. This one produces 668bhp. This is actually an S2 3B engine, and to say that it’s been tuned is an understatement. Will from VRS Northampton has completely transformed this 5-cylinder unit to create a big-power, but highly usable car that fits Stuart’s Elliott’s driving style.

    Stuart takes up the story, “I’ve loved Audis since my dad had them,” he recalls. He had a 100, then a 90, before getting a 90 quattro, which I learnt to drive in,” he says with a big grin.

    While his mates were driving old Mk2 Escorts, he had the keys to the quattro, which must have really been something back then. Fast forward 20-odd years and Stuart was in a position to relive his youth. “I was working offshore and stared looking on eBay for 90 quattros,’ he says. “I found one that had already had the S3 3B engine conversion – it looked a bit rough and had a stock gearbox, brakes and suspension but, I put a bid in.”


    Being six hours ahead he won the car and called his dad to go and pick it up for him. We all know eBay purchases can bite you on the arse, but the car was as described. It was also well known on the S2 forum, so there was a wealth of info available. “I came home and drove it for 100 miles or so just to see what it needed,” says Stuart. “It was running about 280bhp, but with stock brakes and suspension, that wasn’t a good thing,” he laughs.

    Having decided the car deserved some proper love, it was sent to a company who ‘talked the talk’ for some renovation and tuning work. Sadly it then sat there for a year and made no progress. Having bought an uprated radiator from Will at VRS Northampton, Stuart told him about his predicament and Will told him to bring it to him. That was the best decision Stuart could have made.


    VRS has a great reputation for building some of the most capable VAGs in the UK. Main man, Will, takes real pride in each car and this 90 became a true labour of love.

    “We decided to start from the arse-end and work forward to see what needed doing,” says Stuart. “I’d already had some welding done to the offside rear arch and the fuel pump area,” so the upgrades could begin.

    “The plan was to create a quick road car with 500-600bhp that looked stock, but could have a go at Porsche 911s and the like,” smiles Stuart.

    To say he’s nailed it is an understatement. In fact, I can’t think of many other cars that offer such ballistic performance, all wrapped up in such an innocent looking package.

    The heart of this ’80s powerhouse is the S2 engine. It was actually fitted by a previous owner, but has been completely reworked by VRS. You can see the full details in the spec panel at the end of the feature, but the highlights include a fully forged bottom end, beefy GTX3576 turbo, huge 1100cc injectors and a feature packed MoTec ECU mapped by the legend that is, Dave Rowe, from EPS. “There are nine boost settings,” says Stuart. “One to six are for regular super unleaded pump fuel; while seven to nine have advanced timing to allow race fuel to be used.” With nine different maps, there’s something for every situation, making this a very usable and drivable car. “You can just do 30mph with no bother,” says Stuart “and it’ll cruise in sixth on the motorway fine – you don’t get out of it with a headache!” But when you do want to drop the hammer, this 5-cylinder monster delivers a huge punch. Stuart continues, “Using it in the gears it’s savage – in third gear acceleration is brutal and it’ll hit 100mph plus (on a private road of course). A powerful engine is one thing, but unless you can get that power down, it’ll never make for a truly fast car. Fortunately, the chassis and drivetrain has been suitably beefed up to cope with all 668bhp.

    To transfer the power to the road, a B5 RS4 gearbox has been fitted. Mated to a VRS Northampton-spec 6-paddle clutch and flywheel, this thing properly hooks up and goes. With launch control and Toyo R888 rubber, acceleration is mind blowing. On many shoots it’s hard to get a feel for how a car actually performs, but as we’re at Santa Pod for the GTI Festival, I get to watch Stuart take it down the strip.

    Before Stuart hits the quarter-mile, he spends a few minutes prepping the car. By prepping, I mean removing seats. The rear bench is taken out, followed by the passenger leather Recaro. Incidentally, the front seats are from an RS2 and as Stuart says, “weigh a bloody ton!”

    He’s the first to admit he launches it sympathetically, but once it gets into its stride, this thing is quick. A few runs in the high 11s are respectable but, we all know there’s more to come. After a quick chat with Will from VRS, Stuart uses launch control and nails an 11.1sec pass. Impressive stuff – more so when you consider he then drove over 200 miles home afterwards. With some more practice, and an aggressive launch, this thing has the potential to dip into the 10s – seriously impressive for a full road car.


    As he waits in the queue for his next run, Stuart spots a very tidy looking Ur-quattro and stops to chat to the owner. It turns out they know all the same people from the quattro Sport and S2 forums and spend a good 20 minutes chatting about their plans. Before long there’s a small crowd of onlookers. Seeing these two cars together is a rare treat; from middle-aged guys who owned one back in the day, to younger fellas that have been seduced by the iconic lines – everyone loves these ’80s treasures.


    The chassis has seen some extensive work to create something with contemporary handling. There are no off-the-shelf coilovers available for these things, so rather than go to the trouble and expense of having a bespoke set created, Stuart fitted S2 subframes. These allowed the well respected KW Variant 3s to be added. With two-degrees of negative camber, the turn in is crisp and sharp, making the already capable quattro handle amazingly well.

    The paintwork is best described as original. It has a certain patina that adds to the overall character of this car. There’s the odd mark and rust spot, but it’s authentic. Plus this saloon gets used. Hard. Although Stuart is planning to have a few bits tidied, it’ll remain original. “It still had the tow bar on until two weeks ago!” he reveals, “I only removed it cos it weighs 20kg.” Talking of weight, the kerb weight on this thing is just 1200kg. That gives a power to weight ratio of 556bhp per ton, that’s better than a Ferrari 458 and a McLaren F1.

    So what’s next for this 1980s sleeper? Well, after five years in build, Stuart plans to use it as much as he can. That means more quarter-mile runs, some track days and plenty of cross country runs on the road. “I’m going to have the leather removed from the front seats too,”says Stuart. “I’m not a fan of leather, plus these things get hot inside,” he laughs. With some tweed cloth to match the rears, this Audi 90 will look even more period correct, further cementing its status as one of the UK’s finest sleepers.


    It’s so good to see a car like this being kept alive, but more than that, being given a new lease of life thanks to modern tuning upgrades to create an absolute weapon.


    SPECIFICATION #Audi-90-Saloon / #1986 / #Audi-S2-3B / #Audi-90 / #Audi-90-B2 / #Audi-Typ-81 / #Audi-Typ-85 / #VAG / #Audi-80-B2 / #Audi-80 / #Quattro /

    Engine S2 3B 2.2 20v turbo, overbored 0.5mm, #Mahle pistons, forged steel rods, ported cylinder head, VRS-spec cams, stock valves with 5 angle seats, #ARP head bolts with sport #Quattro washers, VRS custom fuel injector rail, #ASNU 1100cc injectors, Audi 7A cam cover machined to accept B7 RS4 coil packs, ARP studs and nuts, #Wagner inlet and exhaust manifolds, #Turbosmart 50mm wastegate, 4-port boost control, #GTX3576 turbo with 0.82 housing, #VRS custom stepped ‘L-shaped intercooler with lightweight core, Turbosmart BO V, #CatCams vernier pulley, motorsport kit sensors – fuel, oil, 4 bar map sensor, custom 65mm core rad, Kenlow fan, custom heat shielding, carbon/Kevlar cam pulley cover, custom VRS 3in exhaust and downpipe, 19 row #Setrab oil cooler, #Aeroquip fittings, VRS custom breather tank, #Motec-M84 SLM shift light, #MoTec-M84 ECU / #Motec , custom loom, mapped by Dave Rowe from #EPS-Motorsport , 9 position adjustable boost, launch control, 2 stage anti-lag, full logging facility, custom VRS strut brace

    Power 668bhp and 519lb/ft DIN (tested)

    Transmission 6-speed B5 RS4 gearbox, VRS-spec 6-paddle clutch and flywheel, 16-row Mocal gearbox cooler just in front of drivers rear wheel

    Brakes Brembo custom calipers with 314mm discs (front), vented S8 mix rears

    Suspension KW Variant 3 coilovers, S2 Coupe ABY subframes front and rear, Powerflex bushes, 2-degrees negative camber

    Wheels and Tyres Compomotive TH with Toyo R888 tyres

    Interior Leather RS2 Recaros up front, OMP dished suede steering wheel, SLM shiftlight, boost gauge, controls for launch control and anti-lag built into centre console, battery relocated to boot, fire extinguisher

    Exterior 1985 4-door Audi 90 saloon, Aerocatches on bonnet, front slam panel modified to fit intercooler, original paintwork

    Contacts/thanks Will at VRS Northampton www.vrsnorthampton.com, Dave Rowe at #EPS-Motorsport

    www.epsmotorsport.com, my missus, my mum and dad, S2 and Classic Audi forums

    Top: Stuart on his way to an 11.1sec quarter.

    “It still had the tow bar until two weeks ago!”

    Left: Interior includes RS2 seats Above right: 668bhp S2 power house Below: Classic ’80s profile.

    Far right top to bottom: #MoTec-ECU in glovebox; gauges and controls for LC and ALS.

    “Using it in the gears it’s savage – in third gear, acceleration is brutal”

    POWER TO WEIGHT

    To appreciate just how fast this Audi 90 is, have a look at these power to weight comparisons. With up to 500kg less to pull around, but similar power, the 90 would be at a huge advantage over these £100k plus supercars...

    2016 Porsche 911 Turbo S 991.........................344bhp per ton
    2016 Ferrari 458 Speciale..........................470bhp per ton
    1992 McLaren F1.......................................550bhp per ton
    1986 Stuart’s Audi 90.................................556bhp per ton
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    BOX OF TRICKS

    Building a competitive hillclimb and circuit machine is no mean feat, as this S50-powered E30 ably demonstrates. Taking the Australian race circuit and hillclimb tracks by storm, this M3-powered 1983 E30 proves age is no barrier to speed and fun. Words and photos: Iain Curry.

    Old BMWs never die, they just get faster’. As bumper stickers go it’s a pretty corny one, but for a certain Australian E30 the line was so perfectly relevant owner Piers Harrex couldn’t resist adding it to his racing car’s rump. With as good as 300 horses at the rear wheels, this 32-year-old E30 has been saved from the scrapheap and turned into one of Australia’s most accomplished and feared circuit and hillclimb weapons.

    It’s the latest creation from the dream factory that is Brisbane-based RX Automotive, a BMW specialist that is the go to place for any serious racing or fast road upgrades in the Sunshine State of Queensland. Piers is the current star driver of the family business, established nearly 40 years ago by his British-born father Simon Harrex, himself having enjoyed a stellar racing career Down Under. Harrex senior kept busy away from the track with a race car fabrication and preparation business, and soon discovered the benefits of specialising in BMWs; growing a passion for the marque that son Piers has inherited. Harrex junior began an apprenticeship at his dad’s workshop as soon as he finished school, but before venturing into BMWs began enhancing a Toyota Celica and then created a Group A-style SD1 Rover with a worked engine. “With the Rover being an English car, it got to the point where the interior was breaking all the time,” Piers said. Dad Simon may be of English heritage, but he knew the Germans trumped the Brits in a car’s reliability stakes, so suggested his son try a BMW – specifically an E30 model – if he wanted to start hitting the race track.



    Ever since his first introduction to the E30, Piers has never budged from his belief they are superb race cars. “I’ve had six now I think, either wrecks to take parts from or racers,” he said. The most desirable from his point of view are pre-1986 E30s as this year is the cut-off point for many permitted modifications in the Improved Production racing class he’s competing in this year.

    This brings us to his immaculate E30 racer, which began life in 1983 as a white 323i. It had been sitting in a car yard practically abandoned for a few years before the Harrexes handed over $250 (just over 100 quid) and trailered it away. “The driver’s window had been smashed and rubbish was being thrown into it,” Piers said. “One of my first jobs with the car was to remove a mouldy loaf of bread from the interior!”

    Progress then moved apace. Piers stripped the interior entirely and took a high pressure cleaner to the shell, repaired the small amount of rust he found and had a roll-cage welded in. For a more enhanced racing look he sourced fibreglass wheel arch flares in the shape of BMW’s venerable 2002 Turbo models from 1973, cut out 70mm of the original guard and fibreglassed them in place. He then gave the rolling body to Queensland paint guru and PBMW feature car owner Julian Seeger, who applied Voodoo blue paint from Toyota’s funky Rukus model. “As a race car it needed to be a colour that was bright and stood out against all the other cars out there,” Piers explained, and the modern colour certainly adds more verve to this E30’s body.

    The exterior has also been modernised with a fibreglass front bumper created using a mould of Australian Touring Car legend Tony Longhurst’s Benson and Hedgessponsored BMW E30 racer. A custom aluminium splitter was added to this, while the #1983 BMW’s chrome rear bumper – which had to remain in situ for the Improved Production series – was taped over and colour-coded for a sleeker style. Under the wider arches are Alpina 7x15” rims from the first generation E21 3 Series, which proved ideal for an old school style and meeting the size requirements stipulated by the Improved Production rules. These are shod in Yokohama A050 semi-slick tyres, which Piers said were ideal for hillclimbs as they are sticky even when cold: there are no warm up laps in hillclimbs remember.

    A common upgrade well-known in E30 circles is using VW Corrado brake discs and Mazda RX-7 four-piston callipers front and twin-piston Nissan Skyline callipers rear. Piers has done just this to improve stopping power, and in a nice touch to hide the imposter brake parts, he’s added yellow BMW Motorsport stickers to the calipers. Suspension-wise the racer has opted for a Ground Control setup – using Eibach springs and Koni shocks – which Piers said is well-proven for track and hillclimb use. The serious work has really come under the bonnet. The Improved Production class allows for certain engine swaps, and Piers has done so by transplanting a 3.0-litre sixcylinder and its five-speed gearbox from an early E36 M3. This engine had detonation problems, so Piers used just its original block and head, building up the rest using brand new components.


    It has been enhanced with 308/315 Schrick cams, larger VAC Motorsport stainless one-piece valves, high compression CP forged pistons and Carrillo rods, then given a carbon fibre air box and Exhaust Innovations manifold leading in to a full custom system. A Bosch 044 fuel pump helps deliver Powerplus 108+ race fuel from a boot-mounted aluminium tank and through Teflon braided hoses, with the whole setup managed by a Motec computer.


    It means this 1983 one-time 150hp 323i is now good for a confirmed 298hp at the rear wheels and 384lb ft of torque. Incredible stuff for a naturally aspirated S50B30 sixcylinder, but to be expected from a racing workshop no stranger to getting the best out of these BMW M Motors. And with the old E30 weighing in at just 1010kg with Piers in the car, that’s a very handy power-to-weight ratio. The gearbox that came with the 3.0- litre E36 M3 motor – the old five-speed manual – has been retained and given an adjustable throw gearstick, while an E36 328i driveshaft and E30 M3 75% locking diff give more confidence for race weekend. It’s true racing business in the cabin, and like the rest of this car, beautifully finished. The driver has a carbon kevlar race seat – from a former V8 Supercar (the Aussie version of our touring cars) – and is held in place by a Sparco four-point harness. Piers has custom-made the dash panel and centre console to contain all the switches, lights and instruments, headlined by white Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges. Another nice touch – and wonderfully lightweight – is the woven cloth for the dash and doorcards, custom-made by specialist #Aerospec .


    So, in reflection, quite the race tool. We caught up with Piers competing at one of his favourite Australian events, the infamous Noosa Hillclimb. It is just under one mile of steep gradient and 14 turns, with the course lined with concrete barriers one side and tree-lined drops the other. In other words, mistakes are always expensive. Piers said he was able to run the whole course in third gear alone once he’d got away from the start line thanks to the 4.67 ratio diff he used from an E30 M3 (this is one of ten he chooses from depending on the type of race event). Thinking about every hundredth of a second as a race driver should: “Why waste time changing gears?” he said.


    Taking class honours in the 2014 Noosa Hillclimb and 15th out of 153 overall, it wasn’t a bad weekend’s work for the E30. With a happy grin Piers explained that his latest creation is a lot more animal than anything he’s made before. “Even so, it’s very neutral to the driver; I thought it would be more taily,” he said. “It still lights its wheels up, but it’s very predictable. Yet so versatile is this old E30 – helped by Piers’ expert mechanical setup – that the blue beastie can be tackling one of Australia’s race circuits almost immediately after a hillclimb. And rest assured it will be terrorising 911s on long track straights just as much as it does Subaru Imprezas in the bends.

    “As a race car it needed to be a colour that was bright and stood out against all the other cars out there”
    “One of my first jobs with the car was to remove a mouldy loaf of bread from the interior!”

    DATA FILE #Hillclimb #BMW-E30 / #BMW-E30-Hillclimb / #BMW-E30-S50 /

    ENGINE 3.0-litre straight-six #S50B30 / #S50 , 308/315 #Schrick cams, #VAC-Motorsport stainless one-piece valves, high compression CP forged pistons and #Carrillo rods, carbon fibre air box, Exhaust Innovations manifold leading into a full stainless steel exhaust system, #Bosch-044 fuel pump feeding #Powerplus 108+ race fuel from boot-mounted aluminium fuel tank, #Motec-M84 engine management system. 298whp and 384lb ft of torque.

    TRANSMISSION #ZF-Type-C five-speed manual from E36 M3 3.0-litre, E36 328i driveshaft, E30 M3 75% locking diff.

    CHASSIS 7x15” (front and rear) #Alpina E21 wheels with Yokohama A050 semi-slick tyres, #Ground-Control suspension using #Eibach springs and Koni shocks, VW Corrado brake discs with Mazda RX-7 four-piston callipers (front) and Nissan Skyline twin piston callipers (rear).


    EXTERIOR Fibreglass front bumper created using a mould of a B&H-sponsored Australian Touring Car E30, custom aluminium front splitter, #BMW 2002 Turbo-style fibreglass wheel arch flares over the original guards after 70mm had been cut away, taped over and colour-coded chrome rear bumper, carbon fibre bonnet and bootlid with pins (replaced by standard steel items for Improved Production racing), Toyota Rukus Voodoo blue paint by Jo Seeger Smash Repairs, colour-coded kidney-grille surround, black plastic wrap over headlight lenses with custom painted chrome rings clipped on, E30 DTM mirrors.

    INTERIOR Fully stripped interior with V8 Supercar carbon kevlar racing seat, #Sparco four-point harness, Momo suede steering wheel, white Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges in custom panel, adjustable throw gear stick, custom Barsted Rollcages roll-cage, Aerospec woven cloth for dash and door cards, boot-mounted aluminium fuel tank with Teflon braided hoses and ProFlow pressure gauge.

    THANKS #RX-Automotive Brisbane, Jo Seeger Smash Repairs Hervey Bay, Robert Novak of Definition Motorsport for the Motec and dyno work.
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