Conventional enthusiast wisdom would say that if you want an older, sturdy German off-roader, you want a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. However, that stance completely ignores a very important vehicle in Audi and Volkswagen’s history – the Iltis. The story is multi-faceted, but it boils down to two different stories; Volkswagen’s need for a replacement for both the Type 181 (“Thing”) and DKM Munga, and the birth of the legendary Audi Quattro. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Volkswagen consolidated the various Auto Union brands into a revised Audi lineup – the result of which was an opportunity to replace Mercedes-Benz as the German military vehicle supplier, a lucrative contract. To do so, Volkswagen built a new Type 183 vehicle using spare parts from the lineup of vehicles it now oversaw – the chassis was in large part based upon the earlier Munga, and the mechanical components based upon the Audi 100. The second story goes that in winter testing of some Audi and Volkswagen products, snow covered roads seemed to be the undoing of all but one of the lineup of cars brought along; the new Iltis simply left the other cars behind and impressed engineers Jorg Bensinger and Walter Treser (yes, that Treser), who theorized that the drive system could see road use. The result was the blueprint for the Audi Quattro that would debut in 1980, but not before Audi and Volkswagen won the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1980 with an Iltis. While the Quattro legend would take Audi to a whole new level in the 1980s, not much appreciation is given to the father of the Quattro – they’re rare to find for sale but offer a neat alternative to the normal off-roader:
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