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Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10

Illustration for article titled Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10

Every so often you meet somebody that’s driving their dream. Here are two.

Naturally, the more correct sedan pairing for an Audi RS2 would be a Mercedes-Benz 500E. Both were built in the Rössle-Bau factory inside Zuffenhausen, a collaboration with Porsche that used the wound-down 959 production line. A few more historical details and pictures at the below link.

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Obsessing over the minutiae of the first RS2 is one thing, but perhaps of more interest is its status as an obtainable dream. Do you remember what your first dream car was? Mine was, and remains, the Ferrari F40, but that’s far, far beyond the grasp of an ordinary prole. Maybe I might swing a drive in one at some point, but the closest I’ll get to ownership is a Kyosho 1:18. Matt Farah talked about this problem on the Smoking Tire podcast long ago, when he bought his dream car, a DeLorean DMC.

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Illustration for article titled Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10

Happily, for owner Rob Stevenson, that first frisson of joy came as a kid on holiday in Germany seeing an RS2 spool up and launch out of a parking lot like a Vergeltungswaffe rocket coming off its concrete launch pad. What was that thing? The hook was set.

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Thanks to Canada’s 15-year grey market import law (why we’ve had the R32 GT-R for so long nobody looks twice anymore), Rob’s dream would float closer over the years, depreciating as it did so. Finally, he snagged one - just a few months before it was legally importable - and spent a memorable honeymoon ripping around Europe in an RS2. Incidentally, his wife let him postpone the honeymoon until he could find the car: talk about your soulmate.

The RS2 is based on the Audi 80, and at low revs, that’s exactly what it’s like to drive. The seats are extra snug, but as a wolf in particularly somnambulant wolf’s clothing, it’s just a little German wagon. Wind it up though, get above 4000rpm, and the beast shows its fangs.

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Illustration for article titled Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10

As the boost rises, the RS2’s 2.2L straight-five growls in fury, a guttural, back-of-the-throat rasp that raises your hackles and heartrate. Suddenly, dear old grandma has drawn back her lips to reveal yellowing canines and leapt for your throat - this is the same howl that once coursed through dark Scandinavian forests, flinging gravel with Blomqvist or Röhrl at the wheel.

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Illustration for article titled Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10

Hot damn! The RS2’s 310hp is pretty ordinary these days (Golf R? Close enough), but the theatrical way it delivers the power is still special. The car wears collector’s plates, and Stevenson is an engineer - he has other toys, but this is the special one. 5000 miles from where it was built, this RS2 has found its home.

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Illustration for article titled Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10

Through Rob, I met another engineer and Audi enthusiast with a dream drive. Sean Douglas first saw this car doing battle with the Lamborghini Diablo, my beloved Ferrari F40, and a RUF 911 in the pages of his dad’s copy of Road & Track. The same reaction: four doors? What was that thing?

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More Alpina history and a few more pictures of Sean’s machine are above, but let’s let Belgian F1 driver and 24 hours of Le Mans winner Paul Frère sum things up.

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“For me, this is the car. I think this is the best four-door in the world.”

Illustration for article titled Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10
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A contemporary of the E34 M5, the Alpina B10 looks similar to its race-bred cousin, but is very different. That car is built for dancing along a circuit; this thing’s a twin-turbo intercontinental missile made to lunge along the autobahn at crushing speeds. Behind those four headlamps is a 3.5L straight-six, turbocharged and intercooled up to 365hp and 385lb/ft of torque.

With a five-speed gearbox, that was good enough for Road & Track’s instrumentation to record a top speed of slightly above 180mph. Heilige scheiße! Sure the multi-spoke alloys give the game away to anyone paying close attention, but that kind of performance from a sedate four-doored sedan is enough to set your spargel on fire.

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Illustration for article titled Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10

This is a very familiar car for me - we had an E34 540i growing up - and the thinness of the A-pillars and athletic response of the chassis is filled with nostalgia. Remember when BMWs were just so good? Before the side vents and the 24-pieces-of-M-flare there was substance, purpose, drive. Now take that drive and turbocharge the bejesus out of it.

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Cruise missile. Easy enough to drive at normal speeds, the B10 is just a freight train when you uncork the twin-turbo ‘six. Torque comes on in a creamy shove from low rpms, the inline six making that distinctive, perfectly balanced honk, and then its shift up and pull-pull-pull-oh-right-this-ain’t-the-autobahn-hello-officer.

Illustration for article titled Unobtanium und schteel: the Audi RS2 and Alpina B10
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The B10’s actually much rarer than an F40 (507 made), but Douglas has a German source for parts, and there are a few of these around in the area. It gets driven rarely, but regularly, living the sort of pampered life it would have led when brand new in the hands of a well-heeled owner.

Both the RS2 and the B10 were horrendously expensive when new, but both are now in the hands of gearheads who had to stretch just a little to afford them. Both Douglas and Stevenson work on their cars themselves - they pretty much have to - and they have the patience to source parts when needed and deal with the intricacies of owning a rare and once-costly machine. The legal loophole makes ownership possible, of course, but there’s something more required here. Owning a dream takes luck, and hard work, and dedication, and love.

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@brendan_mcaleer

www.brendanmcaleer.ca

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