Seven years is a long time for a car these days, especially in the hands of an enthusiast. In 2003, St√©phane could have no idea his Avant would take him on the adventure that it has. A story of success, heartbreak, and redemption, this wagon is above and beyond the definition of "more than meets the eye". A plethora of OEM parts and just enough aftermarket options combine to make you both question and appreciate it all at once. So without further adieu, Audizine proudly presents the first ever feature article on an active Audizine Moderator - St√©phane Vannier, AKA AvanTTix, and his 2003 A4 1.8T Avant.
When we say more than meets the eye, we really do mean it, and in more ways than one! First off, this car has a lot more done to it than most would even realize. Hiding under the hood is a K04 turbo kit with dual side mount intercoolers, a Milltek high flow cat, and a Milltek Sport performance cat-back exhaust down the middle. The ride height is lowered by way of a KW V2 coil-over kit, and the A4s standard brakes have been upgraded to those off an S4.
Also, this car transforms from a summertime stunner to a purpose driven winter transporter. In the warm dry spring and summer months of Northern California, the wheel wells are fitted proper with 20" Forged Sportec Mono 10s. The front end is equipped with the highly sought after Sportec front bumper lip which has been custom molded. Sportec can also be found on the side skirts, sitting nicely with the S4 door blades and rear bumper to really keep the OEM style he preserves so well.
In the cold and wet months of winter, the big twenty inch rollers are swapped out with a much more practical set of 18 inch OZ Superlegerras. The rare and rather pricey Sportec front bumper makes way for a more common and much easier to replace or repair OEM S4 front bumper.
Now the real piece de resistance is the interior. Once inside, you are surrounded by a full S4 headliner swap. Recaro Seats with Nogaro Alcantara inserts hold you tight as you stare deeply into the color instrument cluster blended with the beautiful MK2 TT multi-function steering wheel. A must have was the RNS-E navigation with Bluetooth and rear view camera. Overwhelmed yet? We warned you, one can obsess a lot in seven years!
However, in those years not all has been good and trouble free. Some of you may know that this Avant suffered an accident a few years back which should have ended its life right there. But with all of the work St√©phane had put into it, he was not about to let that happen. After fighting and pleading with his insurance for over a month he was able to convince them not to declare the vehicle a total loss. Once released it would take another six months to get the wagon back up to running order. Today St√©phane once again proudly drives his 2003 A4, as well as a 2002 MK1 TT he picked up last year after the Avant was "done". It's a true story of automotive passion and love that can inspire us all!
- Borg-Warner KKK K04-015 Turbocharger
- MTM Tuning Software & Larger Fuel Injectors
- Ported & Polished Manifold
- JetJockey's Turbo Inlet Pipe
- Forge Motorsport 007P Bypass Valve
- Milltek High Flow Cat & Milltek Sport Performance Cat-Back Exhaust
- Dual Side Mount Intercoolers w/ Apikol Single Mount Intercooler
- MTM Sport Clutch
- AMS Short Shifter
- APR Snub Mount
- KW V2 Coil-Overs
- S4 H-Sport Sway Bars
- 20" Sportec Mono 10 Forged (Summer)
- 18" OZ Superleggera (Winter)
- Front and Rear B6 S4 Calipers
- ECS Slotted/Cross-Drilled Rotors
- Carbotech Bobcat Pads
- StopTech Stainless Lines
- Black Roof Liner, A,B,C & D Pillars, Sun-Visors, Dome Light Housings, Grab Handles & Sun-Roof Cover
- Recaro Seats w/ Nogaro Alcantara Inserts
- Color Instrument Cluster
- MKII TT Multi Function Steering Wheel
- RNS-E Navigation plus System w/ integrated Bluetooth & Rear View Camera
- Valentine One Radar Detector w/ Integrated ADR V1 Interface & Remote Audio Adapter
- Auto-Dimming w/ Compass Rear View Mirror
- Denim Blue Belt Trims
- Euro Shift Knob w/ Nogaro Alcantara Shift Boot
- European "All Weather" Mats
- TT & RS 4 Pedals
- CoolAir Glove Box
- S4 XenonPlus e-Codes (Philips "Power2Night" H7, LED City-Lights, BA9Xs, Osram Diadem PY21W) & 3000K HID Fog Lights
- Molded Sportec Front Lip w/ A4 Black-out Hood Grille (Summer)
- S4 Front Bumper w/ S4 Black-out Hood and Lower Center Grilles (Winter)
- S4 Rear Bumper w/ Black Molding
- S4 Lower Door Flares
- Sportec Side Skirts
- Votex Roof Edge Spoiler
- Matte Exterior Pillar/Window Trims
- Wide-Angle Auto-dimming Exterior Mirrors
- Smoked Side Markers
- Screwless Magnetized Front License Plate
- 35% Side and Rear Windows Tint
- Dual Rear Fog Lights
- Debadged (inside & out)
Well I actually can't think of much else I could do to the Avant at this point. Plus with the acquisition of the TT Roadster, I've been busy thinking about and researching what I could do to that one.
Q (Audizine): So first off, when exactly did you pick up the A4?
A (St√©phane): I took delivery of the Avant in January of 2003.
Q: Please explain to our readers how your time with this car has been.
A: It's been pretty good thus far with the exception of rear-ending a Toyota Camry. Thankfully nobody got injured in the accident. But I will probably always recall standing there inspecting the damages to the Avant and being convinced I had just totaled it. When you put so much effort and energy into an object it becomes more than just an object - it becomes part of who you are. Seeing it in the middle of the road with its front end all smashed up and with the passenger side airbag deployed was devastating. It took a lot of effort and time, over a month, to convince the insurance company to not total the Avant. It took even more time and money to put it all back together, another six months or so.
Q: And after all of that, there are other Audis recently added to the stable?
A: Yes, I acquired a 2002 MKI TT 1.8T 225hp earlier this year. I love the Avant and she will always be the favorite, but with all the things I've done to the Avant I wanted to have another project to mess with. I debated between a Roadster, a VW Type II Bus or an old-school Porsche. In the end I decided to stay in the family and picked up the Roadster. I don't believe I'll get another one. Owning two cars while living in San Francisco is already challenging enough as it is.
Q: Was the A4 your first Audi? If not, what other models and years have you owned?
A: Yes the Avant was my first Audi. I actually never thought I would one day own an Audi, let alone two. I grew up in Europe and over there cars in general are much more expensive than in North America. I don't think I would be owning an Audi if I was still living in Europe.
Q: How long have you been into Audis and in the European tuning scene?
A: Well I guess I've been into the European scene for a while having grown up in France. I remember when I was a teenager a friend of my brother had a MKIII GTI and once gave me a ride in it. I was drooling!
Q: How long have you been into cars in general, as an enthusiast?
A: A long long time. I used to have collection of Burago Die Cast cars ranging from 1/18, 1/24 and 1/43 scales - Formula 1, Ferrari, Mercedes, and Alpha Romeo. When I was a teenager, pretty much every year the family would go over to Italy while we vacationed in the French Alps. My parents would buy alcohol and cigarettes, and my brother and I would buy two or three Burago Die Cast cars. I think my nephew has now claimed ownership of that "collection".
Q: Where do you think that passion and enthusiasm comes from, can it be traced back to anyone or anything?
A: I honestly have no idea whatsoever. With the A4, I started by wanting to do small little things, to importing S-line seats from Germany. From there it just kept on going and never stopped.
Q: What do you most love about the car?
A: Its color. Denim Blue is such an awesome color. That and quattro. The fact that it can handle pretty much any type of road condition is just amazing. I really fell in love with it the first time I drove it in a snow storm on my way up to Whistler/Blackcomb. It kept on going while others where either stranded or in the ditch.
Q: What's your biggest peeve in regards to the car, the one thing you dislike the most?
A: That it didn't come the way it is right now from the manufacturer. Nowadays there isn't much I dislike anymore. Things that I didn't like I just replaced or upgraded them. Although, there is actually one thing I haven't done anything about. I wish it was a six-speed manual, especially now that I own the Roadster which has a six-speed manual trans.
Q: Can you explain your modding style? Do you prefer more go, more show, perhaps a combo of both?
A: In terms of styling I try to preserve and respect the overall OEM style. If you know the car and the brand, you will know what has been done to the Avant. But for people who are not familiar with it, the car just looks like it came from the manufacturer that way. That is until I start describing what exactly was done to it. The look of disbelief in their eyes as they start scanning the interior and realizing how much effort went into it to get to the Avant to where it's at right now. Whenever I see that look I know I've done well.
In terms of show and go, I started with what would be considered as show.¬† Although for me it was the appeal of retrofitting options that I wish had come straight from the manufacturer. Then I looked at performance and tried to improve there too. I'm sure there is plenty more that could be done to the engine to get even more power out of the Avant, but I'm contempt with what I've done and I'm extremely satisfied with its current performance.
Q: Which mod are you the most proud of or happy with?
A: I think it would have to be my S-line seats. Before the Avant I had a 2001 Jetta 1.8T Wolfsburg. The "Wolfsburg Package" came with cloth bucket seats, very comfortable seats actually. I've never been a fan of the stock seats in the A4, and always wished I could have had seats similar to the ones in the Jetta. So one day, while browsing all the cool options on eBay Germany that I wish the Avant had come with, I came across an auction for a set of S-line seats. At the time there was no information on swapping seats with partial or no power to full power seats. But, after taking to Duan (AKA: foofigther) who just told me "try it, you'll figure it out", I contacted the seller and bought the seats. I arranged for pick-up and shipping, cleared customs myself and there I was, with a set of S-line seats from a Sedan that I had no idea how to install in my Avant.
It's funny, despite believing that you've covered all your bases, sometimes things just creep up; like how will the cargo cover in the Avant hook up to the back of the backrest from a Sedan. But the swap turned out to be pretty straight forward, until the passenger seat stopped working because the fuse had blown. Ever tried finding out the location of the passenger seat fuse in a Bentley manual? Don't bother. I have since sold that set of seats and moved on to a set of Recaros. I'm quite proud of those too.
Q: Do you prefer to do the work yourself, or do you have a shop or specific person perform the work?
A: I used to do most of the "aesthetic" modifications myself, breaking a few things along the way, but I have always left the mechanical ones to people with the appropriate skills and knowledge. These days, I'm fortunate enough to have a terrific mechanic - Freddie at East County European Autoworks. He knows Audis inside out, and is as passionate and meticulous as I am. So most of the time we work together, or I should say, I assist him. I come up with the next modification, find as much information as I can about how to get it done, and bring it all to Freddie. He goes ahead and implements it, filling in any gaps, and getting things to work. I think he has as much fun as I do plus he gets paid for it. Hey wait a second...
Q: Describe your fondest memory of owning, modifying, or driving the A4.
A: The best memory actually comes as a result from the worst memory of my ownership of the Avant, when I rear-ended that Camry. As I mentioned it took a lot of time to get it back on the road, and on many occasions I second-guessed myself as to whether I had made the right decision to not let the Avant be totaled. But ever since I got it back, every time I drive it, whether it's to run errands, commute to work, or go for a road trip, I'm so thrilled to drive it and so pleased I went through all that trouble instead of letting it go.
Q: What would be in your ultimate garage, if money were no object yet you could only choose two vehicles?
A: I never really thought about it, but one of them would be a Ferrari for sure.
Q: What do your friends and family think about your passion for Audis?
A: Given that my family is still over in Europe, I don't think they quite realize how bad this addiction is. As for my friends, they used to make fun of it with remarks like, "so what have you done to your car now?", every time we would see each other. But they have always been supportive of it. They understand it's a hobby, a passion, and they respect it. They are actually pretty curious about what new idea/thing/mod I can come up with and always ask what's in the pipeline.
Q: How does your love for cars and Audis affect your life, does it play a pretty big part?
A: A fair bit. I spend a lot of time online researching whatever next modification I've got in mind. Plus being an Audizine Moderator requires spending a decent amount of time addressing concerns and reports from users.
Q: What brought you to Audizine, and how long have you been with us?
A: I started checking out the Audi online community a couple of months before I ordered the Avant. Back then I was pissed at Audi for removing the auto-dimming mirrors option for the 2003 model year, and I was trying to figure out whether my saleswoman knew what she was talking about. But I only signed up on Audizine in December of 2003. Back then I spent most of my time on AudiWorld, but for whatever reason, within a couple of years Audizine became the place I hung out more and more. However, since I bought the Roadster, I've got to admit that I've gone back to QuattroWorld (the "new" AudiWorld) to check out the MKI TT section.
Q: When you're not on Audizine, or out playing with the Audi, what do like to you do for fun?
A: Running, mountain biking, hiking, and skiing.
Q: Any word of advice for your fellow enthusiasts, a bit of wisdom you'd like share from your nearly eight years of owning and modding Audis?
A: Modding is an addiction, don't kid yourself on that one. There is no such thing as doing just that one thing. Once you start you can't stop. But, and I know it's a clich√©, if you do start then do it right the first time. Spend the right amount of money to get either brand new parts or higher quality parts. If you don't you'll most likely just end up doing it all over again.
Q: And lastly, please feel free to give your thanks and shout-outs.
A: In the seven-plus years of owning the Avant, I've met a lot great people who've been either an inspiration, a supporter, mentor, installer, fabricator, supplier, or friend. There are way too many of them to name them all, and I'm extremely grateful to have interacted with all of them. But I do have to give a special shot-out to Greg (AKA: 400HPA4) who sourced so many European parts for me and obviously to Freddie (AKA: fapodaca) at East County for putting up with me.