Could Have Been: Audi Variant of Porsche 924

We touched on the state of play for model development at Audi in the early 1970s In a recent story about the Audi 50-based A0 Coupé study, a time that saw Ingolstadt develop and produce other products such as the Type 183 (a.k.a. VW Iltis) and the  EA 425 (a.k.a. Porsche 924).

This moment in time was fluid for model presentations. Volkswagen was urgently seeking a direction beyond the Beetle that largely spoke to its entire business success to that point, and with the acquisition of Auto Union – NSU GmbH, it had now had a portfolio of brands with which to work.

One of the next projects was EA 425. Historic reports suggest this car was first considered as a Volkswagen. Its architecture would be the Audi water-cooled 4-cylinder mounted in the front but behind the front axle, with Audi transmission used as transaxle located in the rear for optimum near 48:52 weight balance. The Volkswagen board would eventually take a pass on EA 425 and sell the model to Porsche, another company seeking to broaden its range beyond the air-cooled rear-engine 911 that represented an equally staggeringly large amount of Porsche’s business. EA 425 would eventually become the Porsche 924, said to scrap the entire exterior design of EA 425 to make their own 924 product.

Most references of EA 425’s other-than-Porsche planning suggest it was considered as a VW and less mentioned but possibly an Audi. Worth noting, the project was developed by Audi, was powered by an Audi engine and the Porsche 924 was even produced at the Audi plant in Neckarsulm.

Considering all this, further scrutiny of the A0 Coupé proposals do make you wonder if EA 425 wasn’t also seriously considered as an Audi. Design drawings form the time show the A0 Coupé as both a Polo Coupé and an Audi 50 Coupé. You have to remember that designs and placement at whichever brand the Board chose was largely interchangeable at the time. Audi and VW’s air-cooled product were similar in design cues, so much so that the 50 and Polo represented literally just a grille change.

Also, the Porsche 924 launched around the same time as production of the Audi 100 Coupé S ceased, more than spanning the 5-year gap between Coupé S and B2 Audi Coupé GT and quattro. The lack of sporty coupe at Audi is noticeable, because such a vehicle was a staple in the post-war range with the exception of this time after 100 Coupé S and before B2 80 Coupé.

Considering that, we took a closer look at several of the A0 Coupé designs shared from this time. What’s remarkable with some of them is how proportionally on point they are with the Porsche 924, and thus how they could very easily have been adopted to become an Audi version of EA 425.

As you can see from the select group of photos taken from the A0 Coupé mix, some of these designs are proportionally seem closer to the Porsche 924 than what an A0 Coupé would have likely looked like. We can assume that, like the Scirocco and Corrado, an A0 Coupè would have shared footprint proportions with the hatchback versions, yet with a longer overhang. The EA 425 by comparsion was longer and lower due to its longitudinally mounted engine with transaxle at the rear.

It’s interesting to reconsider these particular designs in the vein of being based on EA 425 / Porsche 924. Rather than the bulbous glass rear windows of the 924, these show a more traditional hatchback and even shooting brake / squareback design that seem to harken similar other sports coupes of the era, cars like the Lotus Eclat and Elite.

How then this car would have made it to market is also interesting to consider. Would it have been badged 80 or something else entirely? Could a turbocharged variant such as the 924 Turbo have made it to market? And also, would it have curbed the momentum for Audi to develop the quattro?

It’s hard to tell. History played out as it did, and so we’ll never know. The quattro became an icon, whereas cars such as the Porsche 924 and Lotus Elite are obscurities compared to their own brands’ most iconic models.

Car Design Archives – Audi A0 Coupe Study – Porsche 924 Development History – The Porsche 924 Story – Porsche’s Deadly Sin 5: Engineering Project EA 425