Starting over can be one of life’s necessary evils. Whether it’s a job, relationship, or even a beloved project car, sometimes it all goes to hell and you need to take a deep breath, put on your big-boy underwear, and start all over again. And if you’re stronger and wiser for the experience, you might even count on a better outcome the second time around.
Sam Howard, from St Cloud, FL, knows a thing or two about starting with a new project. He had a good thing going with a ’03 B6 Audi A4 sedan. Not one to copy the Hondas buzzing around the local scene, Sam had an eye toward the tasteful Euro side of the tuning spectrum. From a full engine build to suspension and cosmetics, the A4 was his pride and joy.
Then life kicked Sam in the ’nads, a hit-n-run left his A4 totaled. Chances are, you know where we’re headed but, suffice to say, Sam didn’t take it lying down. He quickly devised a Plan B – another A4.
Not wanting to travel exactly down the same road, and recognizing that in the subsequent years the A4 sedan had become more popular, Sam opted for a wagon. “I was tired of seeing everybody drive the same car,” Sam said bluntly.
So he used the insurance settlement to purchase an Atlas Grey B6 A4 Avant 1.8T quattro.
As is sometimes the case with some insurance policies, Sam had the option to salvage the aftermarket parts from his totaled car. He even went so far as swapping engines between the sedan and wagon to make the rebuild easier, and when you read the spec of the “old” engine, you’ll understand why.
Fully built from the bottom-end up (by 1.8T guru, Shawn Grawunde of Lutz Performance), the engine had Integrated Engineering rods and an AEB head built for 8500rpm with Supertech valves and springs.
Forcing air through the head was a sizeable Garrett GT3076R attached to an SPA manifold and 38mm TiAL wastegate. A 3” downpipe and cat-back exhaust handled the waste.
On the intake side, Sam used a Precision front-mount intercooler and Apikol Big Plenum short-runner intake manifold. Stage 2 Snow Performance meth injection helped stabilize intake temps – a must for boosted cars in Florida’s heat and humidity.
Fueling was handled by a set of 860cc Siemens injectors, Bosch 005 pump and Maestro 7 software, with an Innovative LC-1 wideband allowing the owner to stay on top of critical info for the 1.8T’s long-term health.
What’s it like to drive this big-turbo A4 Avant? “My favorite part is the open dump valve I run. Whenever I hit boost and the wastegate opens, the car screams!” Sounds about right to us.
Besides the legendary quattro all-wheel drive system, power was transmitted to the standard five-speed manual by a Clutch Masters clutch/pressure plate, with a combination of 034 Motorsports and Neuspeed engine and trans mounts holding it all securely. Finally, a Neuspeed short shift kit provided faster shifts.
By starting over with an Avant, Sam was free to go for extra style this time, and that meant air ride. It’s hardly controversial these days, but some still question pairing engine mods with air suspension. But since German manufacturers have been equipping their own luxury performance wagons with OE air suspension for years, Sam was even more comfortable with his decision. He went with a combination of Air Lift, Universal Air, Viair and Accuair products, combining the trunk install with an Alpine audio system.
One of the other parts rescued from the salvage yard was the giant Porsche Cayenne six-piston calipers and 14” front rotors. “People still freak out when they see those massive brakes on a wagon,” Sam laughed.
Covering the big stoppers was a set of 19x8.5 and 19x10.5” polished DPE GT7 forged wheels wrapped in Achilles tires. Again, we’d question why somebody would cut corners with budget tires after significant engine and brake upgrades, but to each his own…
Balancing the overall build are exterior mods that include a böser carbon fiber Eurogear hood and Oettinger body kit. Inside, he went for S4 front Recaros and brushed aluminum RS4 trim to take an OEM+ approach.
There are certainly crazier builds out there, but that’s not what this project was about. Sam summed it up nicely when he said: “I built this car for me, to my taste.” And to us it has a great balance of style and performance, poise and personality.
Starting over isn’t easy, but a positive attitude makes it possible to minimize the grief and maximize the results. After a terrible setback, Sam Howard picked up the pieces (literally) and in almost a short time had all but replaced the bitter taste in his mouth with sweet satisfaction.