You want provenance? We’ve got provenance. Check out this rather lovely Audi V8 currently for sale on eBay. As it stands, the Audi V8 represents a rather special moment in Audi’s history. It was the first Audi to be fitted with a V8 engine, but not only that, it was the first Audi to combine quattro all-wheel drive with an automatic transmission. The Audi V8 also effectively paved the way for the Audi A8 and therefore Audi’s assault on the premium market. And we haven’t even got on to its pretty successful motorsport career.
So the Audi V8 is a rather coveted machine in enthusiast circles, even if it wasn’t the commercial success Audi had hoped it would be. It just looked too much like the Audi 200 to steal buyers from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, despite Audi telling anyone who would listen that all the panels and styling details were unique.
Today, numbers are dwindling fast. Big, 25-year old V8 Audis aren’t the most sought-after of machines for the consumer casually searching the ’net for cheap motors. Especially those which don’t have the kudos/car park appeal of an Audi wearing an A8 or A6 badge. Of all which makes them super desirable to PetrolBlog.
And we happen to think that this particular Audi V8 could have the best provenance of the lot.
It was owned by the late and definite great, Tony Rolt who was described in one of his many obituaries as “Racing driver and Colditz hero”. In another, he was referred to as “one of the last grandees of the British motor racing community”. They simply don’t make gentleman like Tony Rolt anymore.
When he passed away in 2008, Tony Rolt – or Major Anthony Roylance Rolt – left behind a legacy that wouldn’t look out of place in a copy of Boy’s Own. Had it not been for the Second World War, the name Tony Rolt would probably be up there with the very best racing drivers of all time. He was already enjoying success when, during the Second World War, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade.
In 1940, as part of the British Expeditionary Force, Rolt was awarded the Military Cross for his part in repelling a Panzer Division bound for Dunkirk. This included helping a wounded soldier whilst fighting off the advancing tanks.
Sadly, when France fell, Rolt was captured by the Germans and sent to various prisoner of war camps before ending up in the fearsome Colditz, East Germany. This was his punishment for a total of seven failed escape attempts, including one which saw him recaptured just yards from the Swiss border.
Undeterred, Rolt set about building a glider in a hidden room within the castle. It was known as the “Colditz Cock” and had it not been for the liberation by the US Forces in 1945, it would have flown from the castle roof. To Rolt it was his duty to escape, not a fanciful and heroic thing to do.
After the war, Rolt returned to motorsport, competing three times in the British Grand Prix and sharing a victory with Duncan Hamilton at the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours. In 1954, Rolt would return to Le Mans where he’d finish second at the wheel of a Jaguar D-Type (he raced a C-Type in 1953). Following the fateful events of the 1955 race, at which 83 spectators lost their lives, Rolt gave up racing and forged a career as an engineer.
He would go on to pioneer the development of anti-lock braking systems and, perhaps more notably, the potential of four-wheel drive technology. His work in this field led to the development of the Jensen FF – an achievement marked in a small way by the number plate attached to this Audi V8.
Rolt’s Audi V8 was powered by the 3.6-litre V8 developing 250bhp. Top speed was a claimed 144mph and it would reach 62mph in a leisurely 11.2 seconds – you can blame the power-sapping automatic ’box for that. In truth, the 4.2-litre V8 from 1992 onwards was the one to go for, offering 280bhp, lots more torque – 280lb ft as opposed to 250lb ft – plus a whole two seconds off the 0-62mph time.
But in its day, the 3.6-litre V8 represented a milestone, being the first completely new engine Audi had produced in over a decade. It was a unit it would keep all to itself and was, in effect, the equivalent of two Golf GTi 16v engines – twin camshaft cylinder heads and four valves per cylinder. Naturally it made all the right noises too.
A total of 21,565 Audi V8s were sold between 1988 and 1994, but according to How Many Left?, there are just 12 left on the roads of Britain today. So Tony Rolt’s old Audi V8 is a bit special.
Does this particular Audi V8’s ownership history make it any more special than the other V8s left in existence? Arguably not – it’s not like Tony Rolt achieved anything in this particular car. But then with cars formerly owned by Championship-level footballers and rejects from I’m a Strictly Failed Celebrity Jungle Wannabe, Get Me Dancing commanding a premium, there’s no reason why this Audi V8 should be any different.
It sounds like it could do with a respray and there are one or two warning lights to see to on the dash, but it has got an MOT until March 2014 and it does come complete with Tony Rolt’s ‘FF’ plate. What’s more, 5% of the final price will go to Help for Heroes, which has got to be a good thing.
Bidding is currently up to a paltry £499.99, although crucially the reserve isn’t met. A little bit of British history in a distinctly German V8 – what’s not to like?
Check out the Audi V8 for sale on eBay here.
Audi V8 images © eBay, Colditz © Wikipedia.