Another day, another Dreamer. This contender, however, stood more chances than most.
Oh how the mighty fail
Walter Treser is a name you might have heard somewhere before, he’s as close as you can get to an automotive god, working in many areas of automotive development until he caught his big break at VW. While working there on the new lighweight military vehicle named Iltis, his team accidentally built a Jeep that handled beautifully. Treser joked with the top brass that if the car had more power it would be the ultimate machine on all terrains.
As a man with proven talents, VW listened and soon Treser was working on a new Audi, with an off-road system inspired heavily by the Iltis. This concept obviously became the Quattro. A name that still sells Audis today. By the way Treser even came up with that name, as Audi actually wanted to name the car (and this is not a joke!) “Carat” instead. Imagine trying to impress your mates down the pub with your new S3 carrot, it would be just too embarrassing.
With the successes mounting up, Walter wanted to go solo and have his name on the cars he put so much effort into for once. Initially working with what he knew, his 4wd monster baby, the Quattro. The halo Audi was a formidable machine which spoke in results over style, but Treser wanted his car to stand out on the French Riviera as well as on the results sheet.
Being the 80’s there was only one way it could have gone, convertibles were all the rage, but being a perfectionist the Quattro was never going to have a fabric ‘tramps hat’ roof like the rest. No this conversion needed some real engineering meat to keep this German interested, so folding/flipping hard top it had to be.
While the car certainly was impressive with its crazy mechanism, it was also extremely compromised, losing the back seats completely made the car looked more pick up than sports car.
Walter needed to start from scratch to make his idea work, so not one to sit on his laurels he started designing a car for the youth. The finished car was extremely futuristic in style, it looked like a supercar but obviously not many youngsters could actually drive a supercar.
The Tr-1 as it was known was aimed at taking on the hot hatch instead. It should come as no shock that this car used mainly Volkswagen components, including the 16v engine from the Golf mk2 GTI albeit mounted in the back with an added catalytic converter to keep the treehuggers happy.
I know what you’re thinking, 4wd folding hard top convertibles are heavy right? Well, no, firstly Treser seeked to distance himself from his Quattro favouring mid rear drive fun over grip and capability. Secondly, this car used a pioneering Hydro Alluminium chassis with quality plastic trim attached meaning it weighed only 1050kg, which was about the same as the Golf, meaning bar the cat, the performance was strikingly similar.
Seems complicated, so he must have bitten off more than he could chew?
Another resounding no I’m afraid. This car went through an enormous amount of endurance testing, spending a lot of time at Michelin’s R+D facility in the south of France as well as racking up the miles at VW’s formidable Ehra Leissen test track. That’s where James May maxed out the Bugatti Veyron on old new Top Gear!
The Treser debuted at the 1987 Frankfurt Autoshow, just when BMW announced their equally wacky new Z1 roadster. Despite this, the Treser still gathered a lot of interest. Including some worried glances from the Munich boys apparently, everything was set, with a Berlin factory readying itself and the illusive promise of a full fat Turbo variant only boosted the fanfare!
Exciting times were ahead for this new operation. The car had true safety credentials, due in part to its clever structure but also due to the fact it had 6 headlights in total. The price wasn’t even too bad, Treser enjoyed the praising interviews, even comparing himself to Ferrari by telling one magazine “Enzo Ferrari was 48 when the first production Ferrari was made, I am only 47…”
So what went wrong?
Bankers. Yup, that evil bunch who wreck economies for personal gain, managed to be the spoilsports for the company that had everything going for it. You see, if there is one thing that the people on Wall Street hate more than the general public, it’s the dreamers out there. Even though every ingredient was right, nobody wanted to take a punt on the Tr-1, a shame really that it was third time unlucky for a man who gave so much to the motoring world.
At least Gumpert had slightly more luck when he left Audi.