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Getting an Audi ur-quattro inspected

A full inspection takes around two and a half hours and generally costs about £150 depending on travel expenses. The result is generally a three to five page report depending on exactly what is found. A proper inspection will not only spot potential problems with the car - it will tell you if it has been modified in any way. This can be very important, since modifications (no matter who carried them out) must be notified to the car's insurers.

All of these extracts are taken from real reports, though identities have been disguised.

First of all - identity crises. Met in about one in five inspections:

Boot roof sticker says 85-F-xxxxxx. Water box plate agrees but has been cleaned aggressively and fixed using non-Audi rivets causing depressions in the plate. The firewall VIN is in non-Audi lettering and omits one zero from the middle of the number. The inside of the engine bay is actually painted red, not black.

That one was a cut'n'shut just in front of the A-pillar - sometimes legitimate if a damaged end is replaced with one legally acquired from a scrapyard and the work is done by properly qualified welder using a body jig. That one wasn't - it was 2mm longer on the left than on the right. They can be a lot worse (again, the next one is a genuine case - a car claimed to be 1983 Model Year):

There were several immediate concerns:

The car is in fact a 1987 vehicle with a true VIN later than 85-H-900252. This is proven by the presence of a longitudinal ABS accelerometer under the rear seat and the ABS controller in the rear right C-pillar having the appropriate description: "Nur in Verbindung mit λ-Beschleunigungsschalter". There are many other indicators - the sloping front grill was not introduced until the 1985 Model Year, the double bulb rear lights not until the 1986 Model Year, and the interior is also from a later car - Platinum Leather was not available until Model Year 1986. The 8" Ronals were also introduced much later than 1983.

A 1983 car with its VIN excised was found in Luton by Bedfordshire Police in 1996. This vehicle was last seen as a stripped carcase in a scrapyard a mile or so north of Desborough in Northamptonshire and was probably the source of the VIN number welded into the bulkhead.

In the above case, DVLA had incredibly accepted the 1983 car's V5 for modification twice - once to change the engine number to the one in the 1987 car, and once to change the colour from the 1983's brown to the 1987's colour. Hey presto - a car with a bulkhead VIN that matches the V5 (from the 1983 car) but with all the details helpfully changed by DVLA to match the 1987. Neither HPI, Halfords, the Association of British Insurers or the police knew there was anything wrong with the car.

Here's another one:

The VIN plate and bulkhead VIN stamp identify it as 85-E-xxxxxx, a vehicle built sometime in May 1984. Two things are immediately obvious - the front panel is of a later date, since the sloping grill was not introduced until the 1985 Model Year and the interior - Platinum Leather - was likewise not available until 85-G-900 001. The VIN plate has been re-affixed, the boot sticker has been removed and the engine number destroyed, any one of which would raise the possibility that the car is not what it claims to be.

One more, from October 2006 (slightly edited):

The vehicle fails initial probity checks. The original VIN plate is missing and a crude duplicate has been made up out of an aluminium blank. The true VIN number WAUZZZ85ZJA900nnn has been incorrectly copied into the pseudo-VIN plate as WAUZZZ857JA900nnn because the Z on the firewall stamp resembles a 7 - an impossible value. The boot sticker is missing and has possibly been used to make up a Service Schedule booklet.

Technical stuff. The warning systems on ur-quattros are quite complex for the age of the vehicle and are very often partially or completely disabled, often deliberately to sell the car:

Sometimes the news is good - major work has obviously been done but the documentation is missing. Receipts may have been retained for VAT or other purposes:

The invoices accompanying the car are not complete. In the first instance, a new auxiliary radiator has been fitted and is not documented in the receipts. In the second, the owner states that stainless oil cooler lines have been fitted but there is no receipt for this. In the third, the clutch pedal is relatively light for the mileage and there is no trace of thrust bearing rattle, suggesting the clutch has been replaced. The car also performs extremely well in the "dipstick stumble test" - actually stalling, which is unusual. This suggests the engine is more airtight than one would expect at the recorded mileage - replacement of the rear crank seal (the usual source of air leaks) would be consistent with the clutch having been replaced.

Here's a common one. The WR (1980-1987) exclusively uses timing to control the engine - because the advance/retard operates over a wide range, it needs a specially wide rotor arm tip:

Both the rotor arm and plugs are incorrect for the car. The rotor arm especially should be replaced as soon as possible - this will improve high-end performance.

Many things that the layman would never detect (and nor would most garages) lead to performance issues. Heaven knows how many cars have been chipped when all they needed were a few minor repairs:

Failed enrichment solenoids (WR engines) and throttle body switches (MB engines) are actually good news - they mean the engine cannot have been thrashed recently and both are cheap to fix.

Some things have potential to cost money in the near future:

There is a receipt for oil cooler lines in the documentation. The top line has been fitted in such a way that it is seriously kinked at the oil cooler end - this may inhibit flow and should be corrected before the vehicle is subjected to sustained high speed driving, e.g., on a German Autobahn.

And another:

The engine and exhaust system are incorrectly positioned. Despite several invoices mentioning exhaust and head work, there is no conclusive proof that the right engine mount has been changed. It may be that it has, and the wrong (non-hydro) mount has been fitted, or the incorrect number of spacers. Whatever the cause, the exhaust downpipe is too near the body and the rear of the engine is too near the subframe. Exhaust manifold failure is only a matter of time.

And occasionally you spot a real tough one:

One issue that may have major implications is a barely perceptible depression in the roof line at the back of the sunroof rim, left side of car. This is very hard to see. The point is directly in front of the main anti-roll bar, which passes across the car just behind the sunroof and is also the reason the sunroof only tips and doesn't slide. These depressions are often found in vehicles that have sustained significant frontal impact - in this case on the left side. It is suggested that the bodywork repairs be carried out by a bodyshop capable of measuring the chassis accurately.

A proper inspection requires not just the Mk I eyeball, but test equipment (a MityVac, a calibrated boost gauge, test leads for later cars, a coolant system pressuriser) and a degree of experience. Sometimes minor repairs are necessary to get the ECU out of "limp home" mode for proper testing. Knowing roughly when certain parts normally fail (clutch release bearing, brake pressure accumulator) sometimes raises suspicions about the recorded mileage - especially in the absence of an MoT certificate audit trail. The inspection report serves not only as a benchmark, but also a list of tasks to be planned.

A sample checklist is available but don't be fooled into thinking this replaces a pair of experienced eyes.

Intercooler water spray
What is this hole (in the washer fluid bottle) for?
Has someone sneakily removed an intercooler mister?

Call 07833 654800 to arrange an inspection. Unfortunately you can't get a free one by asking of the car is known or has previously been inspected - the status of a car can change in a remarkably short time.

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