|December 5, 2004
Audi at SEMA 2004
A dozen automakers had displays at the SEMA Show, where automotive aftermarket products and 5,000 cars carrying them overflowed the vast Las Vegas Convention Center and spilled onto the walkways and parking lots around the huge, multi-story complex.
Audi was not among those original equipment manufacturers with SEMA displays, although that's very likely to change when members of the Specialty Equipment Market Association return to Lost Wages in November 2005.
Why? Because Audi's North American operations staff sees what's happening to its cars after they leave dealers' showrooms.
"We sell wheels and aero kits and Audi is getting more people with people who want a little luxury," said Mick Okamura, a salesman for 3T Motorsports (www.tanakusa.com) of City of Industry, Calif.
"The young generation wants a clean but sporty look," Okamura added as he stood near a highly modified A4 1.8T that had a prominent place in 3T's booth at the 2004 SEMA Show. "And there are people who can't afford a Mercedes, but who want German quality."
But they also want their cars to be faster or more personally expressive than they are when they come from the factory, so these Audi buyers customize their cars.
The A4 in the 3T booth was equipped with as a showcase for products from Sportec, the German aftermarket parts maker for which 3T Motorsports is the exclusive U.S. distributor. Those parts included a set of 8.5 x 19-inch Sportec Design Mono/10 wheels with Diamond Polish finish, a front spoiler with grille insert, side skirts, 40-mm lowering springs, leather and aluminum shift and handbrake levers and aluminum pedals.
Another German specialty parts maker represented at SEMA was Oettinger, with Hollywood tuner Claus Ettensberger Corp. (www.cecwheels.com) including a new A4 in its exclusive and by-invitation only automotive fashion show held offsite at the Bali Hai Country Club.
Ettensberger is a high-end automotive boutique with a long list of celebrity clients from the entertainment and sports communities. His company imports Lorinser parts for Mercedes, Novitec equipment for Ferraris, A.C. Schnitzer tweaks for BMWs, TechArt parts for Porsches and Oettinger equipment for Volkswagens and Audis, as well as Antera and Azev alloy wheels.
For the fashion show, a female model emerged from an A4 equipped with 8.5 x 19-inch Oettinger RZ multi-piece wheels wrapped with 225/35 Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires, wore a complete Oettinger body kit including front bumper, side skirts, rear skirt, trunk wing and roof wing. The car's performance upgrades included a stainless steel coil-over sports suspension and an engine-tuning package that boosted output to 280 horsepower.
CEC and Oettinger also already have a full line of parts for the Audi A3 that comes to the U.S. in 2005.
Long-time Audi tuner Neuspeed (www.neuspeed.com) of Camarillo, Calif., had its Neuspeed TT on display in its booth. Aaron Newmann said the car was built about a year ago, but has been kept under a very low profile until its appearance at SEMA.
Neuspeed's TT is equipped with Koni shocks, Wildwood brakes and HRE forged and two-piece wheels wrapped with Michelin tires. The car also has a full set of Neuspeed performance parts including a turbocharger, air intake, exhaust system and engine computer chip, all good for extracting 240 horsepower versus the stock 180-hp output.
Inside, the Neuspeed TT has a Boston Acoustics sound system and the entire package is wrapped with Lamborghini-orange paint.
Joshua Decker owns Achtuning, an Audi tuning shop in Redmond, Washington. In the process of customizing cars he "felt a need for seats" that better served his customers' style of driving, so two and a half years ago he started Status Racing (www.statusracing.com).
Status manufactures 9 seat shell shapes in fiberglass, carbon or Kevlar and with cloth, leather, alcantara or even carbon fiber fabric surfaces. Features of Status seats include "memory foam" cushioning and a removable lateral head support designed to be used on track days and then removed for routine driving.
Early in 2005, Status will launch a new seat designed to provide better fit for women drivers, as well as its own line of racing harnesses and some extra-large versions of its seats.
Helping to draw attention to the Status display at SEMA was a much-modified and turbocharged, 500-horsepower, twin-turbocharged "king of the `ring" Audi S4 equipped with a modified factory RS4 widebody kit, Status' Laguna seats, 20-inch Sportec wheels and 380-mm brakes claimed to be the largest front brakes ever installed on an S4.
Samco Sport (www.samcosport.com) also used a hot Audi, a private customer's car modified by EuroCode Tuning of Rancho Dominguez, Calif. The car was a 2004 factory "ultrasport" A4 that wore not only a full set of Samco products, but a turbo, Carbonio cold-air intake, EuroCode exhaust, KW Variant coil-over suspension, Wetworks bodywork and used custom-tuned Revo engine software.
Samco Sport is a division of Silflex Ltd., a 15-year-old British company founded to hand-build silicon hoses for use on trucks and buses. Managing Director Christopher Nurton notes that the company "declines to work for the OEMs," but six years ago began producing its specialist hoses for racing teams and now offers them for aftermarket application as well.
Nurton said the hoses not only come in attractive colors, but high temperature ratings twice those of rubber hoses, are lighter in weight and are resistant to the effects of aging and heat hardening.
Vibrant Performance (www.vibrantperformance.com) also had an Audi A4 1.8T on its stand, and this one had mirrors under its tail end to showcase the company's polished stainless steel cat-back exhaust system that becomes available in January 2005.
Based in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada), Vibrant is a 19-year-old company that developed the first flexible yet weld able coupling for use on original equipment exhaust systems.
Business development manager John Hord said OEM's like the noise, vibration and harshness control that Vibrant exhausts provide, but added that seven years ago the company also got into the performance exhaust business, but now with a system that provides a "deep tone" on acceleration before calming down while cruising.
Hord said Vibrant's cat-back systems provide 4-5 percent horsepower and torque boosts and are available for various Audi applications. Hord said the systems also are 20 percent lighter than OE applications, but use OE hangers and can be installed in 20 minutes.
Wheel maker BBS (www.BBS.com) had an ABD Racing Concept Audi A6 turned R6 on its stand to show off its RS-GT wheel, a forged wheel available in one- or two-piece construction. ABD Racing of Riverside, California started with an A6 but installed an R6 body kit, an S4-style turbo upgrade and chip, added carbon fiber engine accents, revised the suspension, brakes and exhaust, and added prototypes of the upper stress bar and intake system that ABD plans to being producing early in 2005.
At least two other Audis were on display at SEMA. Well, maybe we should make that 2½ -- but more on the "half" in a minute.
Among the cars parked on the walkways in front of the convention center were Kenny Hung's "widebody" A4 and Avalon Motorsports 406-horsepower S4.
Hung's car had custom fender flares added to a Rieger body kit, lowered coil-over suspension, 13-inch StopTech front brakes inside 20-inch wheels surrounded by 255/30 Conti tires, Oriental Kandy Blue paint from House of Kolor, an engine chip, intercooler, custom exhaust and nitrous intercooler sprayer system, as well as a custom interior with a Clarion audio entertainment system with a seven-inch monitor as well as subwoofers and amps.
The Avalon car (www.avalonmotorsports.com) was modified by the Denver, Colorado, tuning shop and has lots of RS4 engine tweaks, custom suspension, 18-inch wheels and Dunlop tires.
"They spent a lot of time on styling for the A4," said Brent Youngbood, who is Tom Barquinero is a partner in the Bend, Oregon, company.
"It [the A4 tail-end design] has emotion," Youngbood added. "It's a rectangle, a triangle and a circle all in there."
Youngblood and his family like to camp, and he got tired to having haul everything on and off the roof of his car. He built a wooden prototype for his trailer idea, took it and the family on a two-week trip, with all their gear stored in the "second trunk," and realized he was on to something.
Production Second Trunk Trailers are made from fiberglass, have independent suspension and plug into a standard trailer hitch. They offer 25 cubic feet of storage and can easily carry four golf bags, which causes Youngblood to refer to it as the "Country Club 4x4."
When not in use behind a car, a Second Trunk Trailer can be stored on a wall-mounted vertical hanger in your garage.