Guest contributor: Dave Tenbroek on his Audi RS2 Avant
The Audi RS2 Avant, a joint collaboration between Porsche and Audi in the early ’90s as well as Audi’s first “RS” car, is a rare beast, with only 2891 examples built from 1994 to 1995. To own one in Canada, where they were never sold*, is to be in a club of exactly four. Meet Dave Tenbroek, member number one of that club.
*Nor were they sold in the US.
MCB: How did you first learn about the Audi RS2?
DT: My journey started way back in high school, when my girlfriend’s brother had a 1977 VW Scirocco S. From that point I became a VW freak and have not looked back. The love affair evolved into Audis when I saw a Coupe Quattro for the first time. I was driving an ’81 Scirocco at the time and had entered it into a winter rally with our local sports car club. Sitting in the parking lot with all the other entrants was a brand new red 1990 Audi Coupe Quatto. What a perfect car for navigating the snow-covered back roads of southern Alberta. I was just blown away that someone would expose such a beautiful car to the elements of this event.
My interest in rally racing and the VW/Audi brand brought me one step closer to the RS2 when one of our national professional rally teams brought over a 1993 Audi S2 from Europe to race in the Canadian Rally Championship. I saw it in person when they made their tour stop in Calgary and was blown away by the power and the sound that came out of this 2.2L 5-cylinder turbocharged engine. It was reportedly putting out 422 hp and 386 lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t long after that the 1994 Audi RS2 started appearing in the car magazines. Of course I was only able to enjoy it in pictures as there was no way we’d be seeing any over in North America.
MCB: How did you decide to import one into Canada?
DT: It was a gradual process. That love affair with the S2 was rekindled back in 2006 when I was participating in a local Audi GTG and met a guy with a black 1990 Audi Coupe Quattro that was converted to full RS2 Spec. I had recently purchased a 2001 S4 but after seeing the Coupe Quattro I made it my mission to find one and give it the same treatment. The Coupe Quattro’s in North America only came with a NA 20V 5-cylinder engine so the trick was to find a donor engine from a ’91 Audi 200 Turbo or an early ’90s S4 that both came with the 20V turbocharged engines. The 200 was a slightly easier route to go as it still ran with a distributor which made the electronic portion of the swap simpler.
After about 6 months of searching I found a suitable candidate in Washington state. It was a Pearl White Coupe Quattro that seemed fairly unmolested for a 16 year-old car. After a bit of negotiation I convinced the owner to drive across the border to Vancouver where I conveniently have a cousin who owns an auto service shop and who has a keen interest in German cars as well. After a thorough inspection I got the thumbs up from my cousin and made arrangements to travel to Washington to bring it across the border. The whole process was fairly painless as long as you had all the paperwork in place.
Over the next few years I started doing the research and collecting parts that I’d need to do my own RS2 conversion. A lot of my time was spent on a UK forum called S2forum.com. The knowledge of the members there is simply invaluable but unfortunately with knowledge comes the realization of the costs involved in taking on this type of project.
Instead of spending all this money on a $5000 car (that in the end will still be a $5000 car, just with a lot more power), why not buy the real thing?
Then the light bulb came on. Instead of spending all this money on a $5000 car (that in the end will still be a $5000 car, just with a lot more power), why not buy the real thing? I polled a few people that had done the conversions and the dollar value was not that different compared to getting the real deal. The difference is I’d be getting a rare Audi icon that may even turn into an appreciating asset as the years go by. In an instant my focus had changed. Instead of scouring the forums trying to determine whether RHD parts would fit into LHD vehicles, I was now scouring the classifieds for RS2s.
One of the many benefits of living in the Great White North is our lenient importation rules compared to the US. Basically anything 15 years or older can be brought into Canada without having to meet the federal requirements for newer vehicles. I made the decision to start looking for RS2s back in 2008, which meant 1994 examples would just start becoming eligible for importation.
MCB: How did you find yours, and how long was your search?
DT: I spent the next few months scanning the classifieds of sites like pistonheads.com, but they cater more to the UK crowd meaning most of the cars were going to be RHD. The issue with that, other than the steering wheel being on the wrong side, was that only 180 RS2s were made in RHD. The other 2700 or so were LHD and mainly sold in Europe. I found some other sites similar to Autotrader here in North America, but there were very few decent RS2 examples to be found. Many had high miles or mechanical issues and they were starting to creep into the price point where people could afford to purchase them but not necessarily maintain them. These cars were also becoming quite popular with the tuning crowd who would exploit Audi’s bulletproof 5-cylinder to create megahorsepower RS2s. I just wanted a clean, low-mileage, unmolested example.
By this point I was getting somewhat discouraged with my prospects. I lacked the resources within Europe to help in my search and although it would be easier dealing with someone in the UK, I did not want to settle for a RHD version.
Then one day on one of the North American Audi Forums, I read about a guy in Vancouver who was in the process of importing the first RS2 into Canada. I diligently followed the thread to get as much information as possible. A few months later I came across a new thread titled “1994 RS2 FOR SALE!” Turns out it was the same guy who had imported the first RS2 into Canada. After just a few months of ownership he came to realize that he was not in the position to be taking on the responsibilities of owning and maintaining one of these rare and special Audis and was looking for a new owner.
He was amazed at the condition of this 15 year-old car. If we weren’t family, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he came up with an excuse to turn me off it so he could buy it himself.
The interest was high but with a majority of it coming from the US (with its 25 year importation rule) there was little hope he could get a sale from someone south of the border. I emailed him immediately after the post appeared in Quattroworld and started a dialogue. After determining I was serious about the RS2 he agreed to help me get it inspected. I had him drop it off with my cousin again, who was more than happy to spend some time with the RS2. I anxiously waited for his phone call hoping he wouldn’t find something that would be a dealbreaker. When he finally made the call it couldn’t have been better news. He was amazed at the condition of this 15 year-old car. If we weren’t family, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he came up with an excuse to turn me off it so he could buy it himself.
MCB: And where did the previous owner find the car?
DT: The PO actually found the car while scouring the Japanese auction sites for Syncro Westfalias that he wanted to import into Canada.
The Japanese government makes the feasibility of owning these older cars very difficult and therefore it encourages its people to sell their older cars and buy new.
The importation of 15 year-old Japanese cars into Canada has become a big thing here. The Japanese government makes the feasibility of owning these older cars very difficult and therefore it encourages its people to sell their older cars and buy new. The auction sites are set up to get these older cars out of the country and the whole process and rating system is well-controlled by the government. Typically you know exactly what you’re getting without having to physically see the car.
MCB: What are parts and maintenance like on the RS2?
DT: The most valuable tool for this RS2 was the factory parts catalogue that I found through the online Audi/VW community. This catalogue has the ability to cross-reference any part that you are looking for on the RS2 with all the other Audi models to see if it is available on a N.A. version.
There are parts that are RS2-specific, however. This spring I renewed the entire suspension and brake system on the car to tighten everything up. This included all the rubber bushings, ball joints, tie-rods, brake lines, rotors, pads, struts, and strut mounts. Of all those pieces, the front stuts, sway bar links, and hub bolts were the only parts that had to be sourced from Europe. Luckily I have a very understanding wife who agreed to drop into an Audi dealership in Northern Ireland while visiting some family this summer to pick up some of those parts for me.
MCB: Taking delivery of the car must have been exhilarating and unlike any other car buying experience (new or used) you’ve previously had, given that it’s such a rare car.
DT: At the time I agreed to purchase the RS2 it was still the first one in Canada, which made the trip to Vancouver to pick it up even more exhilarating. The car was still at Fred’s Automotive (my cousin’s shop) when I flew in to see it for the first time. My cousin picked me up at the airport and I got to hear all about his experience with it for the last couple of days. He had proudly put it on display at the front of his shop and he’s sure it brought in extra business that week.
I took it out for a quick spin around the block and knew right then and there that I had made the right decision.
Once I got to the shop I had about an hour alone with the car as I waited for the owner to arrive. I took it out for a quick spin around the block and knew right then and there that I had made the right decision. Having owned a 1990 Coupe Quattro I instantly felt comfortable in the driver’s seat. The biggest difference was the white gauges (compared to black in the Coupe) and the body-hugging Recaros. And the POWER!
MCB: What are some of the other cars you’ve owned, past and present?
DT: I’ve been a VW family owner from day one, as I mentioned. I started with a 1975 VW Scirocco with an auto tranny as my first car. That was honestly a piece of crap but it did not deter me from the brand. I soon upgraded to an ’81 Scirocco that I enjoyed for about eight years before the electrical gremlins rendered it undriveable. I also owned an ’84 GTI for a short period of time but the need for some cash for an engagement ring necessitated the sale of that gem. Luckily I still owned the Scirocco. A few years later I was finally able to purchase my first new vehicle, a ’96 VW GTI VR6. At 172 hp I was in heaven compared to the 72 hp of the Scirocco. I hung onto that one for about seven years which brought me to a stage in life where I could afford something a bit more upscale— a mint 2001.5 S4. I loved that car but the more I read about it the more I felt I was driving a ticking time bomb. After a couple of years I decided to sell it, which then started me on my project car phase.
The first of the two cars I bought to replace the S4 was an ’86 911 Carrera Targa, and with the money left over I picked up the ’90 Audi Coupe Quattro. I drove these two cars for four years before I came across the RS2.
The Porsche was such a good car that all I really did in five years of ownership was put gas in it and change the oil every fall before putting it away for the winter. The Coupe Quattro turned out to be a very reliable daily driver as well, not to mention an exceptional winter car. With a good set of winter tires, nothing could stop that car.
My wife’s A4 Avant was upgraded to an ’08 S4 Avant when the warranty expired. Even though I loved my project cars, a part of me wanted to have a newer vehicle in the family. Besides, my wife refused to drive my “beaters” as she fondly referred to them. Luckily for me she loves her Audis, too, and prefers manual transmission, so I never complain about getting to cruise around in the 6MT B7 S4.
MCB: Driving impressions?
DT: After having driven the Coupe Quattro for a number of years I presumed the experience wouldn’t have been significantly different than the RS2. Boy was I wrong. The first thing I noticed was how much tighter the car felt. Audis aren’t known for their steering feel or turn-in response, but I could instantly feel that this car was far superior to the Coupe Quattro.
After having driven the Coupe Quattro for a number of years I presumed the experience wouldn’t have been significantly different than the RS2. Boy was I wrong.
There is definitely some turbo lag. The car is heavier than the Coupe Quattro with a slightly smaller engine so driving it under 3000 rpm makes it feel like a typical economy car, but as soon as that tachometer needle hits 3500 you feel yourself pinned to the seat followed by a seemingly never-ending wave of torque that hurls you down the road and scrambling to find the next higher gear. Then it happens all over again. The car pulls like a freight train through all the gears and never seems to want to call it quits.
Porsche took the engine from the S2 (which started at 230 hp) and added new exhaust cams, bigger injectors, a larger intercooler, bigger turbo, revised intake manifold and a tuned engine management system to produce 315 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque. That’s 141.5 hp per litre, one of Audi’s highest specific output engines to date! Top speed is 163 mph or 262 kph.
The suspension was revised with Bilstein shocks and thicker anti-roll bars. The brake rotors and calipers came from the Porsche 968 Club Sport which means the car stops just as well as it accelerates. The wheels are Porsche cups from the 911 of that era.
The slow in-fast out standard does not apply to this car. Just point the car where you want it to go and step on the gas.
Having all this power wrapped up in Audi’s venerable quattro system makes this car a blast to drive in all road conditions. The slow in-fast out standard does not apply to this car. Just point the car where you want it to go and step on the gas. You won’t be disappointed.
MCB: Long-term plans for the RS2?
DT: I made the difficult decision this summer to sell my 911 and my Coupe Quattro. I always felt that those two were keepers but after purchasing the RS2 and spending many hours tinkering with it in the garage, I realized that I don’t have the time for three project cars. I can’t see myself ever selling the RS2, though. I’ll just be performing routine maintenance to keep it running as long as possible in stock condition, though it’ll be hard fighting the urge to get some chip tuning done, which would yield an easy 360 hp.
I can’t see myself ever selling the RS2.
I love the fact that the RS2 is mostly unrecognizable to the average motorist but when someone who knows anything about these old Audis sees it, their expression is priceless. I didn’t buy the car to cruise the strip like guys with their Lambos and Ferraris, but I’m confident knowing that there are very few cars that can match the performance of this 17 year-old wagon.
In the meantime I’ll continue to venture out to the Rocky Mountains on the weekends to carve through the mountain passes and listen to the wail of the RS2 along the canyon walls, satisfied knowing that I’m enjoying a rare piece of Audi history.
Words and images: Dave Tenbroek