You either have it or you don't. Take Marilyn Monroe for example. She exuded classic beauty, classic lines and, quite frankly, looked as good in an evening gown as she did in a T-shirt and jeans. Similar fates can befall our beloved European automobiles as well. A Mk2 GTI can look just as good with G60 flares and big bumpers as it can stripped down with small bumpers and retro styling.
The Audi A3, on the other hand, doesn't have the same chameleon characteristics as the Mk2 GTI. It's a great car and attractive for sure. What's more, the A3 will undoubtedly stand the test of time much like another mod-sensitive platform; the Corrado. But as John Martin at NGP Racing found out, the right parts can make all the difference.
John is a co-owner of NGP, runs the Lorton, VA location, and is an old high-school friend of company founder Dave Graf. The two talked of starting New German Performance many years back, and while Dave followed his dream, it wasn't until 2006 that John returned to the fold. "We both knew we had a love for the industry, we just needed to figure out how to make a living at it. Without the financial status or business knowledge to do that, I moved out to the Midwest to take a management position that lead to invaluable experience in corporate America, but I later learned that wasn't the career I wanted to pursue."
By that point, NGP was a stable business, having been started back in '97 by Dave and his former business partner, Ed Sheets. And with John back onboard, the A3 would be his first build since joining. "I initially considered a Mk5 GTI, but wanted something different," John told us. "In addition, both of the NGP locations do plenty of Audi service, tuning and project builds, but we'd never had an Audi demo car."
The A3, with its potent 2.0T FSI motor and capable chassis, was a good basis for the project. The idea was to create a car that was aggressive enough to turn heads, had the performance to back it up, yet remained refined and reliable enough for anybody to don a suit 'n tie and drive to work everyday.
With NGP an APR distributor since '02, they naturally turned to an APR stage 3 turbo upgrade kit as the basis of the build, with its larger turbo, high-pressure fuel pump, larger injectors, software plus all the associated plumbing and hardware. "APR software is one of the reasons we went down this road. Obviously, there's the option to weld piping and design a custom turbo kit, but it always boils down to the software," John explained.
The rest of the APR parts catalog was added to ensure maximum power, including a Carbonio intake, APR front-mount intercooler, and a modified APR exhaust system with a pre-muffler removed for a more aggressive sound.
Internally, the 2.0T was beefed up with Pauter rods to ensure nothing would head in a direction it wasn't supposed to under higher boost pressures. The stock pistons were retained, but everything was balanced to ensure smoother running.
With a port-matched exhaust manifold and new fuel pump, the A3 laid down a solid 344whp and 284 lb-ft at 22psi. Since the motor had stronger rods, NGP unlocked the race fuel program, which takes advantage of increased timing with 100-octane fuel, and an impressive 363whp and 315 lb-ft was achieved at the same boost.
"From the start, we knew APR upgrades would have perfect drivability. After it was installed, we pretty much drove it out of the shop and ran the hell out of it. It's the sort of kit you can drive all day and still burn the tires off if you want to," John laughed.
With reliability being high on the list for the Audi 8P chassis, the drivetrain was similarly upgraded. A Peloquin torque-biasing differential increased traction, while Spec's stage 3+ clutch and lightweight flywheel kept the engine and transmission on the same page when it came to engine speeds and gear changes.
Appearance is obviously important for any demo car, but rather than opt for expensive custom work or smoothed panels, an Oettinger aerodynamics package was chosen. "We wanted high-quality upgrades that didn't require a lot of modification and were flexible. The Oettinger kit looked too aggressive at first, but it stood out on fit and finish plus its TüV approved, which means it's been tested by the German government and won't negatively impact the performance."
The kit comprised a grille, front bumper, carbon fiber splitter, side skirts, rear valance and roof spoiler. The additions gave the A3 a strong visual impact, and the large front ducts allowed more airflow to the intercooler.
A pair of FK Automotive angel-eye headlamps improved lighting, while the gunsmoke-tinted Lamin-X film was applied to the tail lamps to complete the look.
Suspension is always a crucial to a build, and doubly so when balance was the name of the game. So John turned to Vogtland for a set of its top-end Force Adjustable-series coilovers. Featuring Koni Sport adjustable dampers, stainless steel housings and progressive spring rates, they were exactly what his Audi needed. Lightweight, adjustable Autotech sway bars completed the package.
The trick to finishing the project was choosing the right set of wheels, something which required a few false-starts. The original selection of 18" RH wheels matched to StopTech brakes was a good start, but resulted in too many compromises. "With the 18s it was too low and had some unsavory handling traits from being too close to the bumpstops. And we just weren't happy with the stance. So we decided to go with larger 19" wheels. That way we didn't have to lower the car as much, jeopardizing the handling and ride quality," John said.
NGP Racing is a dealer for Miro wheels, which had just released its STP-3 model at the time - a five-spoke design with a classic look that suited the A3 perfectly.
General UHP rubber is sensibly sized at 225/35 front and 235/35 R19 rear, mounted on 19x8.5/9.5" wheels, respectively. Both run an ET48 offset with no spacers.
The downside of the STP-3 wheels was areduction in brake caliper clearance, which meant the StopTechs were ditched. The stock front calipers were reinstalled, with Powerslot discs, Hawk HPS performance pads, Autotech lines and Motul brake fluid doing a great job of providing a solid pedal.
"The StopTech brakes were great and the car stopped on a dime, but we couldn't push the car to its limits because of the wheel and tire package," John said. "But with the front control arms now parallel to the ground, suspension geometery is improved and the car is more usable. It's 100% better than before. You can bury it into a turn but it doesn't rub, it doesn't bounce, there are no rebound issues, and a bump doesn't throw the car off line," he enthused. "With the smooth and responsive power from the APR turbo, and every component working together, it's a perfectly balanced package now."
And since the car could corner with the best, a pair of Corbeau CR1 seats, would provide the lateral support sorely lacking from the stock recliners. Trimmed in a handsome gray and black microsuede, they add interest to the otherwise somber interior.
In the end, it's clear the Audi A3 can be a real looker, as well as a refined performer... You just need to find the right combination of parts to create something special.
2006 AUDI A3 2.OT
Owner: John Martin
Location: Lorton, VA & Aberdeen, MD
Occupation: Co-owner of NGP Racing
Engine: 2.0T FSI four-cylinder with APR stage 3 Garrett GT2871 turbo upgrade, Pauter rods, balanced rotating assembly, port-matched exhaust manifold, Carbonio intake, APR high-pressure fuel pump, front-mount intercooler and modified APR sport exhaust, high-flow cat/test-pipe system, powdercoated draw pipe, VF-Engineering pendulum mount and engine side mount, Eurojet Racing PCV kit
Drivetrain: six-speed manual transmission with Peloquin differential, Spec stage 3+ clutch and aluminum flywheel
Brakes: Powerslot discs, Hawk HPS pads, Autotech lines and Motul fluid all round
Suspension: Vogtland Force adjustable stainless steel coilovers with Koni dampers, Autotech adjustable sway bars
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" front, 19x9.5" rear Miro STP-3 wheels with 225/35 front, 235/35 R19 rear General UHP tires
Exterior: Oettinger front grille, front bumper, carbon splitter, side skirts, rear valance and roof spoiler, FK Automotive projector headlamps, Lamin-X gunsmoke tail lamp film
Interior: Corbeau CR1 front seats in gray/black microsuede on modified OEM brackets, Corbeau three-point harnesses, New South Performance Columnpod and Indigo boost gauge
Thanks: APR, Spec Clutch, Autotech, Vogtland, RH Wheels, Corbeau seats, New South Performance, Oettinger
Contact: www.ngpracing.com, 877/GERMAN-1