Respect is due to the owner of this '03 Audi TT 1.8T quattro. Sonny Chan is a software developer from Chicago, IL, who had never touched a car until he came across this topless TT. He had also never had any friends who were into Euros - his buddies come from an old-school Japanese import club called 935 Draggers, and many of them couldn't tell the Audi rings from the Olympic rings if their life depended on it.
Living in Chicago and having worked in Wisconsin for two years, the drop-top Audi isn't a typical daily driver with all the snow the region accumulates. But Sonny had his reasons and embarked on an incredible journey.
"I needed all-wheel drive," Sonny started. "In the winter, the cities used tractors to plow the snow instead of salting the roads, so I knew the roads would be decent. I also wanted a car that would be fun to drive because I knew I would be commuting a lot. I didn't need anything too big, nor did I want to pay too much for it, like some other European cars such as BMW."
Taking a leap of faith with Audi, Sonny purchased his new TT in 2003. "Because it was a Euro, I had to do my own research since my friends only knew about Japanese cars," he continued. "I didn't care too much to modify it at first, but after getting used to it I wanted more power. There's no point making a car look good if it doesn't go anywhere."
Wasting no time, Sonny went for a big turbo conversion with the help of VFC Engineering in Chicago. The TT's 225hp 1.8T was quickly transformed to a healthy 390hp with APR's stage 3+ kit. "I went with APR because it's been around longer."
A new Honeywell/Garrett ball-bearing turbo makes the stock K03 look like a peanut, but the larger turbo required a new exhaust manifold, intake hoses, front-mount intercooler and 3" turbo-back exhaust. For fueling, APR provided the thirsty motor with high-flow injectors and a fuel pump, while excess boost is recirculated via a GFB Stealth diverter valve.
With around 165hp over stock, the six-speed transmission would require a clutch upgrade, so a Southbend stage 3 was installed. A Competition Haldex controller also gave Sonny more chassis control over the all-wheel drive system.
All that power and grip without the proper stopping and handling upgrades would equal a flawed sports car. So Sonny lowered it using KW Variant 3 coilovers. Understeer correction was done with a 25mm rear sway bar from Neuspeed.
New brakes were next, and Sonny chose a motorsport-inspired Alcon setup. The kit from Stasis Engineering included 14" slotted rotors and four-piston calipers up front, while the rear received lightweight rotors. "It's much better than stock, and you don't see these everywhere," he explained.
A set of lightweight wheels would follow and Sonny looked to his import friends for help. "I guess I was still influenced by the Japanese scene. All my buddies have Volk or Rays wheels and I really liked the design of the Volk Progressive TE but wasn't sure they would fit. I got them anyway but the bolt holes were wrong - they were 12mm and Audis are 14mm. It was the only headache I had but simply re-drilled the holes."
After fixing the problem with the 19x8.5" Volk wheels, Sonny mounted 235/35-19 Kumho tires on them.
With a TT that could spank most cars on the streets of Chicago (especially his boys from the import scene) he felt the car lacked style and searched for rare body parts until he came across German tuner PPI, which engineers and tests aerodynamics for functionality and speed.
"I was trying to stay away from carbon parts," Sonny said. "I wanted something people never get to see, so ordered the PPI RS kit from Germany."
First introduced at Essen '04, the RS kit has many elements most body kit manufacturers wouldn't think of. The front bumper features larger air openings to feed the intercooler. The titanium front grille was designed to make the TT appear slightly wider and bolder.
Down the side, Sonny fitted the PPI door panels that reduce air turbulence along the lower edge of the doors. Rear cooling sills were also mounted to aid air flow to the rear brakes. The rear bumper has an integrated deflector and aggressive titanium diffuser below the tail lights. To finish the exterior supplements, PPI mirror trim and Euro-spec blind-spot mirrors were added.
Gold Coast Autobody fitted the body panels, but the original silver paint was in question. "Back in 2003, silver was cool, but it became more common and there was another modified TT in silver, so I talked to my friends about a color change. White was considered until I saw a Lamborghini Gallardo in Giallos Midas pearl yellow. My friends and I knew instantly that color was for me."
The remainder of Sonny's efforts went into the audio system, where Diamond component speakers, amps and subs were chosen to garnish the cockpit. Two monitors and a 20GB Phatnoise MP3 database in a suede trunk enclosure complete the system, thanks to the craftsmen at Mobile Concepts in Chicago.
Sonny has plans for an on-board computer and carbon engine covers but for now, his first project car deserves our respect.
Tech Spec2003 Audi TT 1.8T Quattro RoadsterOwner: Sonny ChanLocation: Chicago, ILOccupation: software developer
Engine:1.8 liter four cylinder 20v with APR stage 3+ turbo kit, Honeywell/Garrett ball-bearing turbo, APR cast exhaust manifold, MAF sensor housing, silicone intake hoses, high-flow injectors, fuel pump, front-mount intercooler, 3" turbo-back exhaust and software, VF-Engineering pendulum, engine and transmission mounts, GFB Stealth FX Hybrid diverter valve
Drivetrain:stock six-speed manual with Southbend stage 3 clutch, Haldex controller
Suspension: KW V3 coilovers, Neuspeed 25mm adjustable rear sway bar
Brakes:Stasis/Alcon 14" front big brake kit and rear rotor upgrade
Wheels & Tires:19x8.5" Volk Progressiv TE wheels, 235/35-19 Kumho tires
Exterior:PPI RS TT front bumper with titanium grille, rear bumper with titanium diffuser, side sills, door panels and mirror trim, OE European blind-spot mirrors and Aero wiper, Lamborghini Giallos Midas paint
Interior:AWE Tuning vent boost gauge
Audio/Visual:Kenwood KVT-719DVD receiver with navigation, six Diamond component loudspeakers, two amplifiers and two 8" subwoofers, 20GB Phatnoise MP3 system, two Savv monitors, suede trunk enclosure
Thanks:Ming Ng, Jon Domingo, Doug and Robin Hillman at VFC Engineering, Mitch, Leno and Tito at Gold Coast Autobody, Jon, Tony, Mikey and Vic at Mobile Concept, Joey Feng at TopSpeed, Robert at Fizz Autosports, 935 Draggers Midwest