We’ve all got that friend — the one with too many project cars for their own (and their wallet’s) good.
Ade Brannan is one such person – at the last count he owned 12 projects ranging from totally-stripped to (just about) on the road. Yet despite his best efforts to reduce that number, moving one on always heralds the arrival of at least another one — or three.
Of all the cars in the ‘collection’ though, the one that always jumps to the front of the line, whether it’s for daily driver duties, road trips to the Nürburgring, as a camera car for his day job as a photographer, on the frequent track days that he enjoys — or more usually a large injection of time or cash — is Ade’s stupidly-rare 1994 Alfa Romeo 155 Q4 Cloverleaf 4.
After 10 years of on-and-off work and a fair amount of emotional and financial trauma, it’s at a point at which it could be described as ‘done and dusted’.
Never heard of a Q4? I’ll let Ade explain: “These carried the World Rally Championship-winning Lancia Integrale torch after the Delta Evo 2 version ceased production in 1993.”
“The engine and AWD 2-litre 16-valve turbo running gear are as good as identical, but it was sold in far fewer numbers and for a shorter time. First introduced in 1992, only nine cars were officially sold in the UK, with the majority staying in mainland Europe — including mine.”
Incidentally, if you’re pondering what the Q4 designation stands for, ‘Q’ means quadrifoglio – Italian for four-leaf clover — and was applied to Alfa Romeo’s high-performance models, while the ‘4’ designates four-wheel drive. Simple.Doing Circuits
Unlike the Integrale, the 155 wasn’t destined for the rally stage though — that wasn’t Alfa Romeo’s territory back then. Instead, the GTA and V6 TI versions were to make an impressive appearance on the circuit — winning the Italian Superturismo Championship, Germany’s DTM, the Spanish Touring Car Championship, and the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) between 1992 and 1994, which is where a teenage Ade first clapped his eyes on one.
“I watched the 1994 BTCC avidly and just loved the 155’s shape — it looked so ’80s in amongst a sea of ’90s cars, yet it totally dominated and won that year. That’s pretty much the only sporting event I’ve ever been passionate about,” he grins.
Fast-forward a decade-and-a-half, and after making a decent profit from the sale of a Mk2 VW Golf, Ade was finally in a position to buy the big-daddy Q4 version.
“I thought it was now or never and started looking around for one. Of course, there were none for sale, even projects, but then through pure luck, I heard about a complete and roadworthy one for sale down on the south coast, and it wasn’t crazy money.”
Of course, that should have set the alarm bells ringing, but when has that ever stopped anyone from buying a car they’ve set their sights on?
“The bodywork looked like a patchwork quilt, but it seemed to go alright. Well, it did when the owner took me round the block for a test-drive,” Ade recalls. “However, as soon as I started the long journey home, I realised it had a few issues to say the least.”
Stopping off at a garage on the way home to put a fresh MoT (the UK’s annual roadworthy test) on it, the Q4 broke down, needing some electrical gremlins attending to before the test could recommence.
“I made it home, just, but then needed to be in John O’Groats – the most northerly point on the Scottish mainland – for a job early the next day. It didn’t make it… I had to abandon the car at Sitech Racing halfway there – where it stayed for four months.”Bringing It Back
So began the Q4’s long and expensive resurrection to the car it should have been, with Ade adding some improvements along the way, including a temporary ’plate change and the oh-so-period 17×7-inch Compomotive MO wheels the car still wears.
“While it was at Sitech, they kept finding more and more wrong with it — pretty much every gasket was leaking oil, and the clutch needed changing, which meant the entire drivetrain had to be removed. I ended up having to sell a car to pay for it all. Sitech also checked the diff assemblies at this point, and luckily they were both fine.”
As soon as Ade got the car back, he headed straight over to Germany and to the ’Ring, where the turbo promptly let go — the shaft had snapped clean in half.
“I limped off the track followed by clouds of oil smoke and over to RSR where they were able to bypass the turbo oil feed so that I could drive home — albeit very slowly.”
If there’s one other thing the Nürburgring identified, it’s that the Q4 was somewhat out of its depth. “That’s when I decided to get stuck into the mods,” Ade declares.
“The turbo was replaced with ‘stage 3′ spec one, and I added a proper electronic boost control setup with a wide-band sensor and air/fuel ratio gauge, refitted the factory air box to reduce heat-soak, all followed by an EVO Cars remap.”
“GAZ Shocks made up some custom coilovers, and while doing a track day at Knockhill Circuit I suffered serious brake failure, so they were upgraded to Brembos with carbon-metallic pads. These were the most epic brakes ever, but after another trip to the ’Ring, where it didn’t break down this time, I noticed tiny rust spots on the car, created by debris from those pads.”
It was time to get the Q-ship’s bodywork sorted.
Local specialists KD Kustoms took on the work, and, you won’t be surprised to read, got carried away at Ade’s behest.
“I don’t think it had ever been properly cared for cosmetically,” he says. “KD stripped the bodywork right back, and thankfully only found a bit of rust on one of the rear quarters.”
“I found a better set of Cloverleaf side skirts and a Silverstone front splitter for them to fit, then the whole car was resprayed in factory Rosso 130.”All Show & Go
That was in 2018, and the Q4 was to find itself the subject of much attention thanks to its new (short-lived) career as a show car – kicking off with its reappearance on the Retro Rides stand at that year’s Ultimate Stance event.
“I enjoyed showing off something that was quite unknown in that scene,” Ade admits.
But I’ve never had Ade down as having the patience for hours of detailing, so after a decade of highs and lows, you won’t be surprised to read the Q4 is still not finished.
“400bhp is easily achievable with a few bolt-ons and a mapping session,” he grins. “My many other projects are demanding my attention though, and there’s always the next purchase…”
Photography by Adrian Brannan