Custom gold paint, carbon hood and hatch, Bomex body kit, Bride seats, Takata harnesses... You probably guessed these aren't the modifications on this fine '07 Audi A3 2.0T, but part of a spec list from a '95 Mitsubishi Eclipse. And this is how Nate Leon entered the tuning scene.
"When I was in high school, I delivered pizzas in my Eclipse," he began. "Every paycheck went into the car. After 18 months,I had lot of money invested but it became too low to continue the deliveries. So I became a cook, but didn't make as much money. Then I quit and started working for DTM Autohaus as a driver, salesman and events planner."
To give Nate the benefit of the doubt, he built his Eclipse during his teens before the whole Fast & Furious scene blew up. Now in his 20s, he's moved on to bigger and better things.
"Since everybody at the shop thought my Eclipse was beyond rice, I was pressured into selling it," Nate said. "I wanted the Audi A3 badly, but assumed it wasn't even close to being affordable. Then one day, I checked some auto loans and surprisingly, I came up with a really low interest rate. So I sold the Eclipse, got the A3 and DTM helped me put it together."
Once Nate took possession of the car, there was no question what he would do. With the guidance of DTM Autohaus, it was almost too easy. "DTM and I knew exactly what we wanted," he told us. "It came out pretty much the way I planned it."
To start, Nate sourced his front and rear valances, plus a front splitter and side skirts from Rieger. "All the other body kits available were complete bumper replacements," he told us. "But I just wanted valances, so Rieger was the obvious choice. I decided to paint the inserts on the skirts, rear apron and the front splitter in a gloss black for contrast."
Nate didn't hesitate to add a Caractere roof wing, which again was the only one available. Smoked blinkers continued the black 'n white theme, and upgraded 8000K HID headlights completed the exterior.
Lowering the car involved Cross coilovers, an unfamiliar brand to the Euro community. However, Cross has a good relationship with DTM and Nate was first to demo the suspension on an A3.
Another first is the JBT big brakes, which were fitted and tested on Nate's car. "JBT is local and was willing to help with the project," he explained. The new front stoppers feature a four-piston caliper with 14" two-piece, slotted rotors. Stainless lines ensure a strong pedal feel.
"I came across the wheels by accident," Nate remarked. "I was looking at Oettinger or something Euro, but found cheap Works on the internet. Somebody bought them for a B7 A4 but the offset was wrong. However, they fitted my car perfectly."
The black-faced, staggered VS-XX wheels measured 19x8.5" front and 19x9.5" rear, matched to Dunlop Sport Maxx tires.
Since the A3 is a daily driver, he wanted to maintain reliability. The stock 200hp 2.0T motor has been upgraded with the basic parts, such as APR software and 3" downpipe. Being another first for North America, Nate fitted a 3" quad exhaust from Neuspeed. The cold-air intake was provided by evoms, along with a polished heatshield and engine cover. Lastly, a Forge Motorsport blow-off valve expels excess boost into the atmosphere.
Pop open the doors and Recaro Speed seats jump to attention. Harnessing Nate and his passenger are a set of Schroth belts. The rear seats and panel inserts have been wrapped to match the front seats. "It's the same material as the Recaro Pole Position seats," he noted. "My interior used to be a grey and tan checker, but California Upholstery in Bell Gardens, CA retrimmed it for me."
Finishing the interior is an AWE Tuning vent gauge to monitor boost. There's also a Defi EGT gauge, Oettinger door sills, carbon pedal rest and a Personal shift knob.
To entertain Nate on his daily slog through LA traffic, he added a stereo system. Inside the cockpit are 6.5" Alpine speakers, while two 12" subs add bass from the trunk. The plexiglass enclosure housing the subs was then painted gloss black. Two Alpine amplifiers sit on a rack atop this enclosure.
"Almost everything went on the car within the first month," he said. With more time, he plans to do further engine and interior mods. In the long term, Nate hopes to repaint the car and do additional bodywork.
Today, you'll find Nate at most Hot Import Night events, where he's an event coordinator and is helping to bring more Euros to the forefront of the aftermarket community.
Tech Spec2007 AUDI A3 2.0TOwner: Nate LeonLocation: Los Angeles, CAOccupation: Hot Import Nights Coordinator
Engine: two liter four cylinder 16v FSI turbo with APR stage 3 software and 3" downpipe, Neuspeed 3" quad exhaust, evoms intake, polished turbo heatshield and engine cover, Forge Motorsport blow-off valve
Transmission: six-speed manual transmission
Suspension: Cross coilovers
Brakes: JBT four-piston front big brake kit with 14" two-piece slotted rotors and stainless lines
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" front, 19x9.5" rear Work VS-XX wheels with 235/35-19 Dunlop Sport Maxx tires
Exterior: Rieger front valance, front splitter, side skirts and rear apron, Caractere roof wing, smoked bumper lights, HIDyanmic 8000K xenon lights, Weather Tech tinted window deflectors, titanium window tint
Interior: Recaro Speed seats with Schroth Racing harnesses, rear seats and panel inserts trimmed to match, Oettinger door sills, carbon pedal rest, AWE vent gauge, Defi EGT gauge and control unit, Personal shift knob
Audio/Visual: two Alpine Type-E 12" subwoofers, 6.5" two-way front speakers, 6.5" four-way rear speakers, four-channel and two-channel amplifiers, plexiglass trunk enclosure painted black
Thanks: Ryan and Edgar at DTM (www.dtmautohaus.com),David at M1 Autobody, Jack at Dunlop (www.dunloptires.com), Jan at 5D Graphics, Amy at Meguair's (www.meguiars.com), John at AWE Tuning (www.awe-tuning.com), Frank at JBT Brakes (www.jbtmotorsports.com), Danielle at Recaro seats (www.recaro.com)