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The Audi Quattro was first shown at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show on 3 March. Production of the original version continued through 1991.
The idea for a high-performance four-wheel-drive car was proposed by Audi's chassis engineer, Jörg Bensinger, in 1977, when he found that the Volkswagne Iltis could outperform any other vehicle in snow, no matter how powerful. Bensinger's idea was to start developing an Audi 80 variant in co-operation with Walter Treser, Director of Pre-Development.
The name has also been used by Audi to refer to the quattro (four in Italian) four-wheel-drive system, or any four-wheel-drive version of an Audi model. The Audi Quattro was the first rally car to take advantage of the then-recently changed rules which allowed the use of four-wheel drive in competition racing. It won competition after competition for the next two years. To commemorate the success of the original vehicle, all subsequent Audis with their trademark quattro four-wheel-drive system were badged "quattro" with a lower case "q" and in a distinct typeface which has remained nearly unchanged since its inception.
The Audi Quattro shared many parts and core body components with the Coupé version of the Audi 80 (B2) model range. The Quattro was internally designated Typ 85, a production code it shared with the quattro versions of the Audi 80 coupé Audi 80. Its characteristic flared wheelarches were styled by Martin Smith. The Audi Quattro also had independent front and rear suspension.