We’re loving the style of this SEAT. We think it might take off!
“Ifeel the need… the need for speed!” A quote guaranteed to irritate the hell out of anyone who works with planes for a living, as airborne militaristic endeavours in real life have very little to do with the super-camp posturing of Top Gun’s USAF. Indeed, the RAF have always conducted themselves with rather more dignity and, as the menacing black SEAT here serves to illustrate, a simmering aura of no-nonsense authority to boot.
It’s a sense of focus that the car’s owner, Liam Gunby, is keen to impress upon us. “I’m not into sports. I have no other hobbies. It’s all about the cars,” he says. “I’ve loved cars my whole life. At school I’d sit in class reading Fast Car and chatting to my mates about what we were going to own in the future. And now I can say that every car I’ve owned has been modified. I’ve no idea how much I’ve spent over the last 10 years, but getting this feature makes it all worth it. It’s like winning a gold medal!” Well, we’re only too happy to oblige…
Having started out with a Vauxhall Nova, Liam learned by doing as he cut out the rust, shoved in a rollcage and all the usual bolt-ons, and had it resprayed by a mate’s dad in Focus RS blue. This laid the groundwork for his next project, a Corsa, which ended up with a very long spec list, before moving on to a similarly adorned Clio 172.
“That turned into a track-prepped car, and it’s the best handling car I’ve ever owned,” he recalls. “Although it wasn’t a practical car to own with a baby on the way. And that’s when I bought a 2007 SEAT Léon Cupra.” A fine choice it was too, with 320bhp. But Liam’s wages sadly only allowed him to run it for eight months before a financial reassessment saw him hankering after something more economical. As luck would have it, a fellow member of the Léon Owners Group had a PD170 TDI and was after a Cupra. So they did a straight swap.
“It was completely standard when I got it,” he says. “I needed the better fuel economy as I drove quite far for work every week. The whole reason for this car was to save money as I had just had a daughter, and I wasn’t going to modify it. That didn’t last very long!”
Those old modding desires began to bubble to the surface. It started off with a few simple touches, as is so often the way. Tinted lights, wrapped badges, but we all know that the little changes are nothing but a gateway drug. Big things always follow. It’s one of the universal constants.
“Just as I was loving owning a diesel, it decided to kick me in the teeth,” Liam recalls with a grimace. “The DPF blocked up and wouldn’t clear or re-gen. It went off to Street Racers, a local garage in Syston, Leicestershire that specialises in tuning. They cut out the DPF and mapped the car for me, and about the same time I had Powerflow remove my backbox and replace it with straight pipes, so now I had nothing in the exhaust system to restrict it. With the Léon faster and louder, I loved it more than ever!”
But all this was just the beginning. A few further exterior embellishments appeared, and then Liam opted to go all-in with a set of coilovers. “Some fellow Léon owners helped me fit the coilovers, and I ran the car as low as I could. I’ve always loved static cars, and getting them as low as possible but making them still work daily.”
Following this, with an eye for the unique, Liam had a variety of exterior parts hydrodipped in a carbon finish, as he was pretty sure this hadn’t been done to a Léon before. And if you’re dabbling with the stance scene, stock rims just won’t cut the mustard, so a flavour of the Orient was infused into the Spanish hatchback with a set of Rota Grid Drifts. It was all coming together very nicely indeed.
And then… disaster! “It was three weeks before VW Days 2015 in France, and one evening a white van decided to push into the side of me around a roundabout, forcing me into a kerb and smashing up my front wing and wheel,” Liam laments. “I actually cried. I loved my car and it had been ruined just before a massive show.”
A kick in the feels, for sure. But these things are sent to try us. After licking his wounds for a spell, our man was determined to come back stronger. He got it fixed up. He made it to VW Days. But any ideas of keeping the car sensible had been blown into the weeds.
“2016 was going to be a busy year for me,” he recalls. “I knew I was going to be going on detachment with the RAF, so I was thinking of selling the car. It spent two-and-a-half months in my garage while I was in America. But when I got back I fell in love with it again. I went straight to Plush Automotive. I know they’re the best in the business. I gave them a deposit and the car was booked in for air ride!
I was always sceptical about air and took the piss out of people who had it… but that was going to be me soon enough!”
Luke at Plush talked the options through with Liam in great detail, as is his way, and between them came to the conclusion that an Air Lift Performance kit with V2 management was the way to go for daily use. “For the entire week I didn’t have the car I was getting more excited about seeing it done,” Liam grins. “The day finally came to collect and I pulled up to the famous Plush driveway – and was gobsmacked. It looked freaking awesome sitting on the floor! They’d done an amazing job installing it all and custom-making the controller mount and the tank wrap to match my headlining. Unknown to me, they also hid my amplifier with the compressor and manifolds. They really went above and beyond, and I can honestly say that having air ride is the best modification I’ve ever made to any car I’ve owned.”
How the tide turns, eh? When Liam returned to VW Days for 2016, all eyes were on the Léon, which this time was effervescently slutdropping in the show-and-shine. The attention was addictive, and while he was still floating six inches above the ground in a blissful daze, his eye was caught by a post on Instagram – a brand new design that would suit the SEAT down to the ground.
“I pulled up to the famous Plush driveway – and was gobsmacked. It looked freaking awesome”
Without hesitation, he got on the blower to Rimstyle to source a set of these rakish new rollers – a fresh quartet of Radi8 R8CM9s. Quite possibly the first set of them to be fitted in the UK, and definitely the first ones bolted to a Léon.
Liam’s still proudly using the car as a daily driver (he’s out there buffing the damn thing every night), and as well as commuting duties, it’s the sensible family car too.“My daughter’s four years old now, and she knows daddy loves his car,” he laughs. “She helps me clean it, and knows how to air it up and down. Plus she loves the fact I have a Minions sticker on it! I drive around with her in her little Recaro seat, she loves it. And I’m proud to say that the car’s all mine – I’ve never had any sponsorship. It’s all legit and paid for. I worked for it.”
And boy, does it show. Never mind your Top Gun clichés. This is one low-down bruiser that wins on its own terms. And if you think Liam’s done with it, you’d better keep an eye on the scene. This mischievous daddy’s just warming up.
“Air ride is the best modification I’ve ever made to any car I’ve owned”
Doorcards retrimmed in diamond-stitched leather