Fast Car - - Contents -

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

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