Fast Car - - Contents -

There aren’t many mod­i­fied S3 Saloons about. But af­ter peo­ple have seen this one we reckon they’ll be a few more.

Carl Sa­gan, the em­i­nent as­tronomer and cos­mol­o­gist, once came out with this mind-bend­ing quote: “If you wish to make an ap­ple pie from scratch, you must first in­vent the uni­verse.” [De­spite him be­ing one of my favourite peo­ple, this is not ac­cu­rate. All you need to do is wait for an ap­ple pie to fluc­tu­ate into ex­is­tence in ac­cor­dance with Boltz­mann and the prin­ci­ples of en­tropy – Ini­tial G].

It’s a trou­bling no­tion for any­one of a cre­ative per­sua­sion (as you all surely are), as it ef­fec­tively strikes the con­cept of true orig­i­nal­ity firmly off the board. What he was get­ting at is that every­thing who ex­ists is sit­ting at the end of a very long chain of ac­tions and con­se­quences. If you truly wish to take some­thing back to first prin­ci­ples, it’s not just a case of un­screw­ing all the bits and see­ing how it works. True orig­i­nal­ity can only come from jump-start­ing the sec­ond big bang and cre­at­ing a whole new uni­verse for your­self, cross­ing your fin­gers and hop­ing against hope that some­thing sim­i­lar to Earth will evolve, with a breath­able at­mos­phere and plenty of crushed di­nosaurs be­neath the rock to use as petrol in the cars you also hope will ex­ist.

You might think this no­tion would leave the world of car modifying bereft and hope­less. But no. With the bur­den of or­ganic orig­i­nal­ity lifted, we’re free to take the nuts and bolts of what’s es­tab­lished and find new ways of re­work­ing it. So it is with Steve Fraser’s Audi S3. Sure, on pa­per it may ap­pear to be fol­low­ing a for­mula – hot mod­ern VAG, bagged over scene-friendly wheels – but the re­al­ity of the car is so much more than that. It’s a glo­ri­ously fresh cre­ation that turns heads wher­ever it goes and plas­ters a Cheshire cat smile across its driver’s face on a daily ba­sis.

Now, some of you will be reg­u­lar show-go­ers who’ve clocked the reg­is­tra­tion num­ber and felt a flicker of recog­ni­tion across your frontal lobes. This S3, you’ll be un­sur­prised to learn, isn’t Steve’s first show-qual­ity build. “I pre­vi­ously had a Mk6 Golf GTI show car, which was fea­tured in Fast Car last year,” he says. “And it did pretty well at all the shows across 2015, tak­ing Best Mk6 near enough ev­ery­where.” He’s a guy who knows what he’s play­ing at, that much is ob­vi­ous. So why make the swap from in­ter­na­tion­ally revered hot hatch to off­beat three-box sa­loon?

“Well, I never re­ally planned it this way,” he laughs. “It all hap­pened af­ter be­ing at Revo Tech­nik for the day hav­ing my K04 turbo fit­ted to the Mk6, and see­ing their Audi I kind of fell in love with the brand from there. The next thing I knew, I was sat in my lo­cal Audi deal­er­ship buy­ing one of my own.”

In­deed, this pur­chase jumped the gun con­cern­ing even the most rudi­men­tary plans that had been thrown about. A whis­per of

“I kind of fell in love with the brand. The next thing I knew, I was sat in my lo­cal Audi deal­er­ship…”

a pos­si­bil­ity turned into a sug­ges­tion that he might ac­tu­ally like to buy an S3 sa­loon. A few specs were mapped out, then the sly grin of ac­cep­tance as he de­cided to or­der his very own S3 from a cherry-picked spec list. “But this one had al­ready been built to pretty much the spec I would have gone for,” says Steve. “It ticked all the boxes. So I made a deal.” And, with­out any sem­blance of hes­i­ta­tion or de­lay, the game was afoot.

“The build is an on­go­ing thing,” he con­tin­ues, with the straight­down-the-line, no-non­sense man­ner of the sea­soned car builder. “It won’t be done un­til it looks the best it can, and is as pow­er­ful as I can go with it still be­ing re­li­able.”

What’s per­haps most im­pres­sive about this car is that, de­spite the un­doubt­edly size­able price tags at­tached to the var­i­ous up­grades, he’s not afraid to get stuck in and wield the span­ners him­self. Not that we’re knock­ing peo­ple who farm their projects out to spe­cial­ists, of course – that’s what they’re there for, and we can’t all be ex­perts. But for Steve, it’s a mat­ter of pride to use his own blood and sweat as a sort of ad­he­sive in the build.

“A lot of the work on the car I’ve done my­self, un­less it’s some­thing out­side of my com­pe­tence,” he says. “I fit­ted all of the Air Lift sys­tem my­self, and then left my boot in­stall to my spon­sor Car Au­dio Se­cu­rity to fin­ish off, as I suck with wood­work! The brake con­ver­sion – fit­ting all the grilles and car­bon-fi­bre parts – I did that all. The APR soft­ware was done by APR UK at Awe­some GTI in Manch­ester. The Mill­tek down­pipe and cat back ex­haust sys­tem was fit­ted and made by EMP Per­for­mance, and fit­ting the in­ter­cooler and the dyno run­ning was car­ried out by VRS Northamp­ton.”

A dis­parate cast of char­ac­ters, com­ple­ment­ing Steve’s own ef­forts with the right ex­per­tise where it was re­quired – the key el­e­ment is to know one’s lim­its, en­sur­ing just the right bal­ance of per­sonal in­volve­ment and a qual­ity fin­ish.

The way the sa­loon sits over those evil black Ro­ti­forms is to­tally bang-on, tes­ta­ment to the fi­nesse and pre­ci­sion of the Air Lift in­stall, and those TT RS brakes look ap­pro­pri­ately menacing peep­ing through at the front, with their wavy RSQ3 discs. Ap­pro­pri­ately? Why yes, be­cause some­thing re­ally quite mis­chievous has gone on un­der the bon­net. The stock S3’s al­ready-hy­per 2.0-litre TSI mo­tor has been trans­formed by EMP’s tick­ling stick, kick­ing out a fright­en­ingly mighty 400bhp. So the fin­ish might be pure show, but the hard­ware is all go. Af­ter all, this is no pam­pered show queen, trail­ered ev­ery­where and kept in a car­peted garage. Far from it. “Oh yeah, it’s a daily driver,” Steve as­sures us. “I work for Bri­tish Gas so I’m driv­ing around in a van all day, but in the evenings and week­ends this is taken out and given a damn good thrash­ing!

“Peo­ple’s re­ac­tions to it al­ways seem pretty good too, es­pe­cially with it be­ing the only S3 sa­loon in the UK mod­i­fied to this level – it’s pretty cool to be the only one, it keeps peo­ple in­ter­ested with do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. I’ve done the whole Golf stuff, but hey, I’m sure it won’t be long un­til a few more of these start ap­pear­ing. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what oth­ers do with them to be hon­est. It’s tough be­ing on your own some­times…”

As is the na­ture of cars like this, it’s con­stantly evolv­ing and has in fact al­ready changed markedly since our shoot. It’s now got dif­fer­ent brakes, and Steve’s plan­ning a win­ter makeover in­clud­ing dif­fer­ent wheels and a colour­ful in­te­rior shake-up. And at the time of writ­ing, Steve’s fly­ing off to Cal­i­for­nia hav­ing left the car with Revo Tech­nik for a new hy­brid turbo. “We’ll see what power we can push out of it safely. Yeah, that’s some­thing to look for­ward to when I get back,” he grins. “Hope­fully the car will scare me again – 400bhp was start­ing to get a bit bor­ing!”

Strewth. He hasn’t cre­ated a fresh uni­verse from scratch, but Steve cer­tainly lives in an al­ter­nate di­men­sion from the rest of us. He’s like some sort of in­fal­li­ble modifying su­per­hero.

Well, per­haps not to­tally in­fal­li­ble. “I al­ways end up mak­ing the wrong de­ci­sions, then chang­ing my mind, then chang­ing it again,” he laments. “My friends are what save me here. They play a big fac­tor in build­ing my car, as their opin­ions make a huge dif­fer­ence in help­ing me work out which route I take this project down. There are al­ways hur­dles with this car, with it be­ing so new there’s al­ways lit­tle nig­gly bits we have to work around.” But that, of course, is what makes it all so sat­is­fy­ing. It may not be in­vent­ing the uni­verse, but this S3 is def­i­nitely rip­ping up the rule book.

It may seem to be fol­low­ing a for­mula, but the re­al­ity is very dif­fer­ent

Mods in­clude a Mill­tek down­pipe and cat­back ex­haust sys­tem

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