53B RS-Turbo 16V (soon to be 20V): A Tribute to Group B and the 1980’s

Inverno Corse (I/C) Prototype (2019)

INTRODUCTION

Some of you already know me as the owner and main author of this website and that obviously makes me one of the best Group B aficionado and connoisseur on the planet. As such, most of my peers surely expect someone like me to own or having built a faithful replica of my favourite Group B car… but the problem is I love too many of them to choose but one! Alongside this website, I have dedicated a good portion of my life to fabricating a rally car heavily inspired by my passion for Group B and to the decade I enjoyed the most. As a true testament to Group B and the 1980’s, this project is controversial and leaves most people scratching their heads!

–Jay Auger
Rally Group B Shrine owner, chief editor and author


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PROJECT DETAILS

The story of this project ironically begins in the mid-2000’s when I had all but forgotten my love for Group B and the 1980’s, my cherished cars long sold, including an 1984 Audi Coupe quattro – dumb me! Long story short, it all boiled down to not having enough confidence in myself to go through with my aspirations. This unfortunately made me purchase newer, more reliable cars.

A few life changing events, including a tidal wave of nostalgia – call it a midlife crisis – kicked my arse very hard, finally giving me the willpower to make my dreams happen. The nostalgic link to the 1980’s, be it music, movies or cars is something that gives me much solace. With these personal moments, for mere seconds at a time, I am able to recall feelings of my youth; a time when everything felt better, when life was simpler, of when I didn’t have to worry about tomorrow. Their effect on me is overwhelmingly addictive.

But over 20 years had passed and most of my beloved 1980’s cars were long rusted-out and crushed by the indomitable salty Canadian winters. Not to mention that my wallet had also thinned out considerably since, hence preventing me from shopping for proper Group B base cars. I thus fiddled with a newer Subaru for a time when a chance encounter with a somewhat decently-preserved and low-priced Mk2 Volkswagen Scirocco made a reboot of the project possible.

Thus I began this extraordinary adventure as a near complete amateur in mechanics, body and fabrication work. Deep study of Group B and tubular rally car design soon ensued, now culminating in over a decade of approximately 3,500 hours of work combined. I am therefore proud to present to you what came out of all this immense effort: the 53B RS-Turbo 16v (soon to be 20v)!

The “53B RS-Turbo”: a tribute car to Group B & the 1980’s

Calling it a simple tribute vehicle would be far too superficial since it is a proper old-school rally car with a lightweight tubular chassis, turbocharged engine and four-wheel drive drivetrain. The result is undeniably a 1980’s melting pot that includes elements of Group 5, Group B, movies such as Mad Max, and more – albeit there exist an anachronism or two under its skin. Considering its aspirations the project itself is incredibly low budget and was mostly funded through parting out both donor cars of their unnecessary parts.

Why not a mid-engine build? The lack of general availability of a proper yet affordable four-wheel drive system for such a layout was the main reason. My lack of expertise to design such complex systems a second. Purists will now cry foul for the lack of a mid-engine layout. My best option was to fit a Subaru-based system to the car albeit I know that most people won’t also understand why the car doesn’t feature a quattro or syncro drivetrain – the latter two simply being too rare to quickly obtain.

Anyway, the car will eventually feature an iconic Audi 20V turbo 5-cylinder engine, which is currently in my possession, when time and funds allows for the swap. This particular Audi engine / Subaru drivetrain combo has already been done by Andrew Hawkeswood of New Zealand in his first S1 E2 replica to very good effect. On a technical and aftermarket point of view, it’s better than with the quattro system – but don’t shoot the messenger!

Why not a kit car or replica? A replica would always remain what it is: making tribute to only one model while fully knowing it is not real. On my end, I love every Group B car no matter their motorsport records, so I thought that I should try and tribute as much of the features that made them so memorable instead. Doing this treatment to a somewhat unrelated car gave me liberties that would have been considered scandalous if made to a genuine Group B machine.

Lancia Delta S4 (rallycross)

Of course, I do have my favourites in the world of Group B cars; which are the Audi Sport quattro E2 (and its Pikes Peak derivative) and the Lancia Delta S4 (and its rallycross derivative). These are obviously better represented in my project but the full list is quite extensive. However, it is important to note that copying them to the last detail never was the intent; I rather much preferred creating my own versions of these Group B features while adapting them to the base platform, with a slight hint of Group 5 mixed in, all the while designing it to be a real-world performer.

DSC_0663

To achieve this, I first designed and fabricated a custom tubular space-frame to which I welded on the floorpan plus firewall, and installed the mechanical components. I chose to overbuild the chassis with larger diameter and heavier gauge tubing than most space-frame Group B cars. Albeit this added some weight, it was mostly done for a maintenance-free chassis, plus some extra safety for my brittle bones! Ultimately, this step turned the car into a rolling “dune buggy” to which a body could then be fitted on. This “silhouette” procedure is similar to what some of the top tier Group B cars actually used and is of similar design to some commercial kit cars as well.

Afterwards came the countless hours of fabrication with the basic hand tools at my disposal. I also had some restoration work to perform on the Scirocco body since some areas were rotted out by rust. Leaving the rust on sure would have made tribute to Mad Max even better but the car would need to pass tech so these spots were fixed. However, I left some of its most inherent flaws (like wavy and/or warped panels due to chassis fatigue) to retain its history intact and keep the car looking 30 years old.

All of the bodywork modifications were made in the very same spirit of Group B; function first, form second, if it ends up looking good then it is only a bonus! However, immense care and devotion was taken to incorporate and marry as much different Group B features as possible in a comprehensive and performing package.

This is all not for show as I’ve put incredible amounts of time in the “think tank” when designing this car; every component was strategically placed to achieve a perfect 50/50 weight distribution (with crew) in a very short 89.0 inch wheelbase package, also marrying ease of service and adaptability to varying conditions and surfaces, hence creating a real rally car within the confines of what I had to work with. However, in the end I am only one person with one vision and a limited budget, but I think the result speaks for itself!

Maybe this next picture explains my challenge best:

Ford - Gruppe B
Genuine Group B cars were built by a whole team of engineers… I was alone with my thoughts.

A complete description of the build would obviously take way too long to detail but for the most part these following pictures will be self-explanatory to the builders of custom racing cars:

The current 435 BHP flat-four engine combined with the current 1090 kg weight, perfect 50/50 distribution (with crew), and (let’s be honest) a few touches of modern technology should make the car’s performance more than a match for most genuine Group B cars. With an ultimate goal of 550 BHP (with the Audi 5 cylinder) paired with a metric tonne or less of weight, the project will remain a work in progress for quite some time as I hope to perform one major “evolution” each year as was permitted by the Group B rules, and possibly implement more 1980’s touches as long as they do not detract from performance.

I therefore dedicate the “53B RS-Turbo” (53 / mkII Gruppe B RallyeSport Turbo) to the exploits and sacrifice of the courageous drivers and co-drivers, imaginative engineers, hardy mechanics, and everyone involved in making what Group B was. I also much affectionately dedicate the car to every artist, actor/actress, musician, filmmaker, and everyone responsible for shaping the 1980’s into the best decade to ever have been. Shall they be remembered forever!

–Jay Auger


INSPIRATIONS

Here’s a list of the features that were implemented into the project and their direct inspiration I used from actual Group B cars and 1980’s popular culture;


INVERNO TIME ATTACK (S-T/A) PROTOTYPE (2017)

The overall theme is a mix of Lancia Delta S4 RX and Audi Sport quattro S1 E2 Pikes Peak – with raised suspension to tackle deep snow

The very first build of the car was specifically aimed for maximum performance / minimal weight in a deep snow rallycross (time-attack) setting. Preliminary testing of the prototype on a dry open tarmac circuit in early November wielded very exciting results to say the least! It drove quite civil below 80 kph but became a true beast as higher speeds were reached. Past 130 kph the aerodynamic support was clearly noticeable and made the car dig in very aggressively in the corners (even if equipped with soft winter tyres) and that took much getting used to!

The giant rear wing is a bespoke replica of the ones used on the Lancia Delta S4 in Group B-era rallycross

All was done in hopes to beat my own winter RX lap record at my usual snowy testing grounds. However, it turned out that the track owner decided at the last minute that he would no longer open the track in winter due to rising maintenance and snow-plowing costs in addition to poor clientele. This has unfortunately busted all of my plans for attempting to beat my record and get much needed benchmark data for future evolutions of the car.

This setup is expected to be eventually transformed for circuit time-attack / hill climb usage. However, there is nothing preventing it from going back to its intended purpose if a snow venue can be once again secured in the future.


STRADALE CORSE (S/C) PROTOTYPE (2018-19) / Road and Rally

The unforeseen annulment of the winter testing forced me to begin working on the road / stage rally version of the car much sooner than expected. In early March of 2018 the car was finally ready to legally hit the streets. It was thus necessary to make the car more street-friendly by replacing and removing some of the more aggressive parts. It is however note to mention that everything was made modular to quickly allow the switching back and forth between versions of the car.

While the I-T/A version focused primarily on maximum performance and minimal weight for a snow time-attack setting, the S/C version was fitted with a passenger seat, as low down and back as possible for a co-driver ride along, jack and tools, partial rally equipment such as a fire extinguisher and camera mount, CB radio, and other amenities such as custom polycarbonate sun-visors and a secondary heater.

Notable exterior changes are the front spoiler delete (which will soon be made to be quickly bolted-on/off), revised front air dam (now in 2-piece), rear spoiler delete replaced by a new adjustable roof spoiler, and rear bumper. All necessary lighting was added such as backup lights, 3rd brake light, dual bulb marker / turn signals, and made fully functional via load resistors. The license plate position was chosen to mirror the vintage offset placement of event plates such as the Monte Carlo Rally.

Mechanically the car is identical minus the exhaust bypass plate and suspension settings. Chassis-wise it is also identical minus the addition of jacking point tabs. It drives phenomenally civil considering its raw nature albeit the high torque capacity clutch is at times difficult to finesse at traffic lights. The car begs for speed and is an obvious head-turner.

DSC_3248 - 2.JPG

STRADALE CORSE T/A (SUB-VARIANT)

The advent of summer brought the need for performance tires and new wheels. However the latter turned out to be a real nightmare of out-of-stock items, bad inventory management, and overseas refunds. Hence I decided to retain the snow and gravel rally wheels but went for a vintage tyre look to satisfy my hidden love for old school muscle cars: BFG Radial T/A – which brought a new “Stradale Corse T/A” sub-variant.

Stradale Corse T/A Prototype (2018)

Further refinements were made to the car such as the replacement of the heavy rear tow-hooks in favour of twin tow-straps, the addition of lateral polymer splash guards, lowered and re-balanced suspension. A quick run-down at the track saw the new tires and suspension settings dial-out the torque-steer issues previously encountered under heavy acceleration in lower gears.

Late summer brought fortune with imported tarmac wheels from Europe, featuring a vintage aero design paired with the look of BBS cooling disc add-ons of the late 70s and 80s racing cars – giving the car a more aggressive stance and corner-hugging abilities. These wheels also add the possibility of using 275-wide tyres in the future. Re-installation of the adjustable sway bars yielded more confident handling amidst the suspension’s modest all-purpose camber settings.

Further refinements were made to the car such as reworked suspension settings, better weatherization, unused frontal grille block-off plates, rear mudflap holders, a new hydraulic handbrake system, and the addition of fully-plumbed (ducts to spindles) air cooling for the brakes at all four corners.


INVERNO CORSE (I/C) (2019)

Winter of 2019 brought the opportunity for actual snow testing at the track, the latter being no longer prepped in the frigid season – meaning that the car had to forcibly plow through six to twelve inches of snow and, by doing so lap after lap, creating a more suitable surface to run on. The air dam, borrowing a similar design to the Audi Sport quattro S1 E2, was originally made out of aluminium for such a snow-plowing purpose – while of course aiding with downforce in other environments.

Amazingly enough, minus a rod of one of the rear mudflap holders that broke off and some minor cracking of the air dam joints, everything held up quite well to the 20+ laps heavy abuse – including, to much awe, the front lip under the front air dam. ^^

Albeit the unprepared surface didn’t allow for a record-breaking run, the car proved to be ferocious on snow and ice by instantly pointing to the desired direction per a flick of the steering wheel and blip of the throttle. Best lap times would match my best run of 2015 made with a more aggressively aero’d and smoother Subaru WRX STi that I ran on a much better overall and prepared surface – hence proving the worthiness and potential of the 53B RS-Turbo.

The addition of “ears” similar to those of the Delta S4, which on my car were set-up as vortex generators rather than air ducts, proved not to be very effective and as such were permanently removed from all prototype versions. Nonetheless, the apparent ruggedness and speed of the overall design used in this test session brings the project ever closer to its final shape when maintenance will be the only item left on the to-do list – even though that is years away!


CORSE RS (C/RS) PROTOTYPE (2019)

The advent of spring meant some more hard work had to be done to further improve and bring it ever closer to its final rally specifications. Chassis-wise the suspension was re-balanced with more aggressive tarmac-oriented camber settings, also hoping to help even out tyre wear. An aluminium skidplate system was created to improve undercarriage protection and overall aerodynamics with a subtle integrated rear diffuser. It was painted blue to tribute Peugeot’s own undercarriage theme in their 205 T16.

Bodywork saw some revisions as well. The front air dam was revised yet again, starting by rounding off the front corners to make the unit more street friendly but more importantly improving its tight corner-cutting abilities for rallies. Strakes were added to the front fenders and air dam to help streamlining and overall downforce generation of the design – most will recall seeing this on the legendary Audi Sport quattro E2.

There’s also the obvious presence of a set of four vintage Bosch Rallye spot lamps – as used on Audi quattros of the period and imported from Europe to some expense. While the bodywork is closing on its final testing phase and form, I decided to tribute my old “WaBi~SaBi” project with thin red line accents – may it not be forgotten as the stepping stone that made the current car possible.

On the mechanical side, some revisions were made such as to the cooling system; modifying the routing of the turbo’s feed line from the coolant manifold to the #4 cylinder instead. It’s similar to a mod now commercially available but to which I made my own to fit my custom needs. On my end this ensures that coolant going through the turbo then goes out to the rear radiator, instead of separating the flow from the manifold.

More importantly, an upgrade to a TD05-20G turbocharger was implemented, which boosted power to a respectable 435 BHP on 91-octane pump fuel. The tubing flow was also improved from the I/C core to the intake manifold by making it one-piece. The “kick in the pants” is very noticeable with the turbo upgrade as the engine now pulls strong all the way to the redline with little lag on initial spool-up. This has helped increase top speed on the test track from 180 to 205 kph (112 to 127 mph). Best 0-100 kph (0-62 mph) sprint was 3.2s attained with a very good launch. All of it elevating the car about on par with the 1985 Group B levels of straight line performance.

The car is now at a point where more improvements will have to wait until the Audi 5-cylinder transplant due to time and budget constraints; engine rebuild / build, adaptor plate, new front subframe with accommodating clamshell bodywork, new vintage dashboard, gauges, wiring, fuel cell(s), and updating safety equipment. It will be a huge package of mods which will most likely sideline the car for about a year, possibly more, making the decision not to rush it and postpone the project for a year or two a logical one. This is why I went with the modest turbo upgrade as to have more fun and enjoy the car in the interim with the current mechanical components.


SPECIFICATIONS

***all specifications subject to change as project evolution continues***

Class/Budget (Canadian Dollars)
  • Group B / 1980’s tribute
  • Bodywork donor car (VW): $1,500
  • Engine & drivetrain donor car (Subaru): $7,500
  • Audi engine rebuild (in progress): $3,500 (so far)
  • Various parts, tools, etc: $8,500
  • Subtotal: $21,000
  • Part out sales: -$4,200
  • Total net cost (2019): $16,800
Project Years / Evolutions
  • Experimentation phases (2007~2015)
  • Initial prototype build (2016~2017)
  • Prototype Evolution (2018~now)
  • Total hours: 3,500 (2019)
  • Inverno Time-Attack (I-T/A) Proto (2017)
  • Stradale Corse (S/C) Proto (2018)
  • Inverno Corse (I/C) Proto (2019)
  • Corse RS (C/RS) Proto (2019)
Engine
Type
  • H-4, EJ257, DOHC 16v, pump gas (to be replaced)
  • I-5, AAN, DOHC 20v, gas (coming ~2021)
Front, Longitudinal
Displacement
  • 2457 cc (Subaru)
  • 2226 cc (Audi)
Compression Ratio
  • 8.2:1 (Subaru)
  • 9.3:1 (Audi)
Power/Torque
  • 435 HP @ 6900 rpm / 91 octane fuel (Subaru)
  • TBA (Audi)
  • 361 lb-ft @ 5100 rpm / 91 octane fuel (Subaru)
  • TBA (Audi)
Materials Block:

  • aluminium (Subaru)
  • cast iron (Audi)
Cylinder Head: aluminium
Aspiration & Injection Subaru:

  • TD05 Turbocharger
  • mid-mounted Air to Water Intercooler heat exchanger / front-mounted core (AWIC)
  • EFI
Audi:

  • TBA Turbocharger
  • (planned) mid-mounted Air to Water Intercooler heat exchanger / front-mounted core (AWIC)
Ignition Subaru:

  • electronic
  • firing order 1-3-2-4
Audi:

  • TBA
  • 1-2-4-5-3
Lubrication System Subaru:

  • wet sump
  • front-mounted oil cooler
Audi:

  • TBA
Cooling System water-cooled, rear-mounted
Transmission
Type four-wheel drive (4WD/AWD)
  • 6-speed manual gearbox
  • custom machined aluminium adaptor plate (AAN)
Gearbox Ratios
  • 1st: 3.636
  • 2nd: 2.375
  • 3rd: 1.761
  • 4th: 1.346
  • 5th: 0.971
  • 6th: 0.756
  • R:3.545
longitudinal, shortened and balanced driveshaft
Differential Ratios 3.90 dual limited-slip with standalone driver controlled centre differential (35-65% to 50/50% lock front to rear ratios)
Clutch dry single plate / 600 lb-ft capacity
Chassis-body
Type fully custom spaceframe chassis, partial Subaru GD floorpan and firewall, integrated steel roll-cage, sealed cabin with rear bulkhead, Scirocco Mk2 body with custom wide arch panels, polycarbonate side and rear screens, custom rear clamshell with integrated roof scoop and cooling ducts, “flat bottom” skidplate system.

  • (I-T/A Proto): rear bumper delete, front aluminium “snowplow” air dam with integrated canards and optional spoiler, large overhang rear spoiler.
  • (S/C Proto): polymer rear bumper, street-legal lighting, modified “snowplow” 2-piece front air dam with spoiler delete, large dual roof spoiler.
  • (I/C Proto): same as S/C plus rear quarter side panels with integrated canards.
Front Suspension independent, MacPherson 32-way adjustable struts, coil-over springs, optional and adjustable sway bar.
Rear Suspension
  • independent, dual lateral links, trailing arms, coil-over springs, 32-way adjustable struts, optional and adjustable sway bar.
  • (dual struts planned in future evolution)
Steering System rack and pinion, hydraulic power assistance with optional cooler 12.0:1 (2 turns lock to lock)
Brakes Front:

  • Brembo 4 piston calipers with 326 mm slotted & vented rotors (tarmac)
  • FHI 4 piston calipers with 294 mm slotted & vented rotors (gravel/snow)

Rear:

  • Brembo 2 piston calipers with 316 mm slotted & vented rotors (tarmac)
  • FHI 2 piston calipers with 290 mm vented rotors (gravel/snow)
  • dual circuit with optional vacuum assistance
  • adjustable F/R ratio
  • vertical hydraulic handbrake
  • fully plumbed air cooling (ducts to spindles) front and rear
Dimensions
length:

  • S/C, I/C, C/RS: 155.0 inches / 3940 mm
  • I-T/A (F spoiler edge to R spoiler edge): 176.0 inches / 4470 mm
width: 72.0 inches / 1830 mm height: varies inches / – mm
wheelbase: 89.0 inches / 2260 mm front track: 62.0 inches / 1575 mm rear track: 61.8 inches / 1570 mm
Rims – Tires Tarmac:

  • Aero 14-JR
  • 15×8″
  • ET+5 (front) / ET-5 (rear)

Gravel/Snow:

  • Speedline WRC spec gravel wheels
  • 15×7″
  • ET+5
Tarmac:

  • 235/60R15 BFG Radial T/A (street)

Gravel/Snow:

  • 195/65R15 GT Altimax snow tires
  • TBA gravel tires
Dry/Unladen Weight
  • I-T/A: 1090 kg / 2,400 lb
  • S/C: 1080 kg / 2,380 lb
  • I/C: 1085 kg / 2,390 lb
Bias: F/R 50% (with crew) (all)
Weight/Power 2.5 kg/HP (5.5 lb/HP)
Fuel Tank 40 litres
Top Speed 260 kph (160 mph) *est

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