The Nutschell Collection
When I think back to the first cars I fell in love with, they’re all chunky, wedge-shaped beasts. The 200SX. The Celica Supra and MR2. The StarQuest. But there was one car that stood out from the rest.
You already know the one I’m talking about. The one that revolutionized the world of rally. The one that, if we’re honest, we know inspired every turbocharged, all-wheel drive vehicle made since 1980. The one an entire generation sees in their minds’ eyes—and wishes they owned—every time they see its name emblazoned on the back of a modern Audi.
It’s the Audi Quattro. Damon Schell has one. And it’s an amazing machine.
[tgp] Introductions: My understanding is you’ve got the Quattro, 914, and TT—and they’re all immaculate daily drivers. Is that correct? Anything else you’d like to see when you’re introduced in the automotive press?
[you] Indeed that is my current fleet. I give names to all of my vehicles and if you follow on IG long enough you’ll see them more often referred to as Pebbles (Quattro), JeTT (TT), and Goose (914). I tease that when people ask me for JPGs I assume they mean JeTT, Pebbles and Goose.
I usually have a Jeep Wrangler of some sort as well and am currently keeping my eyes peeled for another or an older analog SUV… my Colorado birth roots get upset when I don’t have a 4WD to balance me even if the Quattro sort of applies.
The TT is my daily driver and is in great shape for almost 20 years old, but has its typical little Euro electrical glitches and quirks on occasion.
The Quattro came to me from the previous owner in the exact spec it currently sits (minus 10k+ miles) and could also easily be a daily although I don’t really do that as much as I used to. The thought of trying to find a windshield or new headlight among other things keeps me from using it for weekday commute, but it does get out every weekend and some weekdays generally at off peak hours to reduce that risk.
The 914 is nowhere near original in color, motor or spec but is in good shape as the original owner did restore it in 2002-3 after 30 years of ownership. Each is a 2-door and manual gearbox but quite different in appeal and driving feedback so pretty diverse in my appreciation for chassis and engineering.
On Audi Quattros…
[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As a Quattro owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them?
[you] The Quattro is a marvel to me in design and engineering… It’s a different experience for everyone, but when I sit in mine I’m transported back to my childhood with the smells, textures and sounds.
I was fortunate enough growing up in Colorado to frequently visit Pikes Peak and the historic hill climbs as a boy. Even more fortunate to have grown up spending time in the backseat of an urQuattro close in spec to mine because a friend of mine’s father (also a VP at my mother’s workplace) bought one new in ‘84 which is where my personal awareness and fascination with Audi and the urQuattro began at age 10.
When I uncover her or open the garage door I pinch myself with my good fortune of owning such a storied machine that shaped a good portion of my automotive fascination… I certainly never fathomed I would be lucky enough to have one in the incredible condition that Pebbles is in and know that I was very lucky to find her and be able to obtain her when I did.
I’m the fourth owner. (Fifth on record, although the third only owned it long enough to flip.) I love the iconic Giugiaro-designed wedge shape; the simplicity in all lines and forms but with all the emphasis on stance and tire offset under the swollen box flares that basically made them a must have for rally cars that followed or iconic race inspired street chassis of the era as well.
I stare at the exterior and interior and see the Bauhaus design philosophy well before it was noted as an influence on the first generation TT among others. It’s so purely resolved in its form, even if very quirky and sort of ‘parts bin’ feeling once you open the hood and see the lengths Audi went to in its creation.
[tgp] How did you end up in this camp? Why have you stuck around as long as you have?
[you] For me it was what I kind of eluded to before… I have always been fascinated with automobiles and have been drawing them since I could pick up a crayon or pencil. My parents knew I was sort of destined to become a car designer and for the same reason I was likely destined to own a Mars Red urQ for the same reasons of being so heavily influenced by one in my childhood.
I am not solely an Audi or VAG group guy, but the designer in me sees the depths they go to with design resolution, advancement in design driven production methods, as well as their passion to remain tied to the heritage and lineage that got them here. I appreciate that vision and the unwillingness to waiver which keeps all of their owners feeling included whether they own a 40-year old chassis, or the latest model. Although that doesn’t really work for most mass production products in the market.
I stick around because even though I’m watching the automotive scene change at an alarming rate in my design work, I am more satisfied with analog feedback than any technology can provide. There is something about rowing through gears, and needing both hands and feet to perform the driving tasks.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate technology, connectivity, and the conveniences that come along with autonomy… there is a place for it. But to be truly engaged with a vehicle’s chassis, drivetrain, motor, and feedback is my absolute favorite thing to feel and do. I only wish Audi was as great at supplying their historic chassis owners with parts and maintenance support as I see Porsche, BMW, and even Mercedes doing. The true Audi enthusiasts and passionistas are a rare bunch that is willing to deal with the frustrations that may come along with the lack of parts infrastructure.
The Audi community…
[tgp] How’s the Audi community doing these days? Where do y’all hangout, share tech, and whatnot?
[you] The Audi community is a solid bunch, supportive like none I have ever seen in the automotive community even though pretty small in numbers due to the fact that older chassis are not huge in numbers like Porsche and BMW are. Even if we’ve never met, I know many of them by name across the globe due to social media.
As I said before the Audi and maybe more specifically the TT/UrQ owners are an unusual bunch that appreciate the ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ (progress through technology) aspect of design and engineering… but by far the biggest Audi purists that follow me or reach out are generally most enamored about the lore and legend of the inline 5zyl and its use in dominating Group B rally first… and then IMSA, GTO, Hillclimb, TransAm, and so on and so on afterward.
I see the design first since I am not an engineer nor very mechanically inclined, but I find most older Audi fans are engineering first, design second although happy that both combine together so nicely.
This gearhead life…
[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?
[you] Automotive culture is alive and well if you’re online or on social media… so many romantic images and fantastic events, rallys, drives, gatherings, social clubs with many more popping up all the time for every chassis and genre of enthusiast. We are truly spoiled in SoCal to have the weather year round to see and drive and experience them as the norm even if roads are filling up with typical SUVs and trucks making it hard to just go for a drive. But I think no matter on–road or off-road enthusiasm, there is definitely a state of uncertainty in just how those passions will translate into the next generations, or perhaps more so how the governing of ICEs and their use in the slightly more distant future will unfold, making it harder to share them with the next generation of enthusiasts.
As strong as the passions are, the greater automotive purchasing masses are more in love with ease of use, ease of non-ownership, or ease in convenience and connectivity experience than they are looking for actual engaging experiences with their vehicles. I think it has always been the smaller portion of the population that buys a vehicle wanting a relationship with it rather than just its use as Point-A-to-Point-B transportation. But the amount of people have grown so much that the proportion seems more lopsided than ever and it becomes harder for manufacturers to spend the time and money to engineer the cars for the smaller market segments that exist since the ratio of those sales is a challenge.
I would love to believe that enthusiasm and ownership of more passionately owned/created vehicles can be sustained and not become an experience only those with enough money would be able to enjoy. California is a gift and a curse in that regard… so high in it’s push for environmental standards due to the mass amounts of people and cars owned.
[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?
[you] As I grew up it was really my grandfather that instilled the most automotive fascination and passion in me at a young age. He always had some sort of enthusiast cars and was very open in his admiration for all chassis and silhouettes. Super diverse from Model As to Cadillacs, to Mercedes sedans, Ford Mavericks, Cortinas, Datsun 510s, and he often spoke of brands, experiences and the relationships he had with each of them. He’d let me help him wash them and then ride along to the store.
As far as my fascination with Audi and Porsche though, it was the President and fellow VP at the company my mom worked for my entire young life that made me truly pay attention and feel the competitive nature of what a brand or chassis could mean.
In ‘84, the VP bought the urQuattro and the Pres bought a 911. I was immediately hooked, and to hear them banter back and forth about why one was greater than the other, or who “paid too much for a VW,” or the benefits of AWD vs. RWD… well, the two of them and all the passions they shared solidified my love for automotive ownership and love for a diverse range of creations. To limit myself to just one is unimaginable…
Would you like to know more?
Catch up with Damon on Instagram: @Nutschell