When we photographed Jason Hayden’s Corrado (et 1/10), we assumed his Mk5 GTI 2.0T engine, transmission and interior swap was about as crazy as anybody would get with the VW’s coolest coupe. The amount of time and money it takes to carry out such a transplant means very few people are prepared to expend so much effort on a 20 year-old car. However, we didn’t reckon on Ryan Miller!
He’s the owner of R Miller Autobody in Palmyra, PA and you can see more of the company’s work in Jason Murphy’s Mk2 GTI elsewhere in this issue.
Thirty-one year-old Ryan founded the business straight out of college when he was 18, but bought the Corrado when he was 16: My friends were getting into VWs and I really liked the Corrado, he began. Unfortunately, I swiped the driver’s side on a guardrail and damaged it pretty badly. I didn’t think it could be saved, so started stripping it and selling off parts.
The next year, he enrolled in a tech course at high school, which showed him the car might be salvaged after all. He swore never to sell it but, over the years, it suffered some abuse. We used the engine bay as a fire pit, Ryan recalled. The firewall became a BB gun target, and we ruined the floor dragging the body from place to place.
Its salvation came about six years later. He wanted a project that would showcase both his shop and his skills, and his first car was the perfect starting point.
I drew up a wish list of turbos, big brakes, even a Syncro conversion, but it had all been done before and was going to be very expensive, Ryan said. So I thought about buying a car that had everything and swapping it. Naturally, the S4 came to mind and when everybody told me it was crazy, they just made me more determined.
As a bodyshop with a rig to straighten crashed cars, Ryan had access to precise measurements for both vehicles. He spent almost four months calculating and planning. I felt it was possible, although some days I had my doubts, but when I started the project I realized the damaged floor and engine bay would need to come out anyway, so I felt better about mistreating the car, he said.
The plan was to swap the S4’s front and rear subframes into the Corrado, complete with all the suspension, brakes and powertrain parts. The Audi subframes use four big bolts, so I used steel plate to create mounting points, Ryan told us.
The front-end was cut from the Corrado, replaced by the S4’s front floor section, suspension towers and tranny mounts plus a homemade firewall.
With the engine and suspension in position, he found the driveshafts were too wide and the engine too tall for the Corrado body. Therefore, he cut away the four fenders and fabricated his own widebody around the wheels in sheet steel.
He needed an extra 2" clearance to close the hood, though. Rather than fit a hood bulge, Ryan raised the front fenders 2", which was considerably more difficult than it sounds.
He cut the front fenders along the upper coachline, then added a 2" strip of metal below it, all while retaining the original lines at the base of the windshield. It’s so clever, most people can’t tell what’s different, but the Rallye grille gives the game away: I had Rallye lights on a previous Corrado I’ve had four ’Rados in total and wanted to use them again. In the past I had to cut off the bottom section of the grille below the headlights, but by luck, this part is exactly the same height as the metal I added, so it fitted perfectly, Ryan revealed.
With his quattro-style fenders completed, a fiberglass Rieger front bumper was cut into six pieces and rebuilt to accommodate the extra width. He then fabricated M3-style side skirts that also meet the new fenders and bridge across to the door sills.
You might notice the Audi door handles, but did you realize Ryan made his own door skins to eliminate the prominent coachline along the side? They flow perfectly with the upper coachline and into the fenders, making them difficult to spot on first inspection.
In the rear, Ryan kept the stock bumper but made it 2" taller by plastic-welding part of another bumper to it. I’ve always liked the stock bumper and plastic-welding allowed me to do something I’d always wanted to do, he explained. The rear S4 subframe was similarly bolted to the car with all its suspension. He then constructed top mounts from steel tube and plate.
The S4’s rear axle meant the fuel tank had to go, so Miller fitted a 15-gallon fuel cell from Summit Racing into the trunk. He made sure to transfer all the Audi’s pumps and senders so the engine and electronics would work properly. I didn’t cut a single wire on the Audi, Ryan proclaimed. Everything was unplugged and transferred over. There are even rear door harnesses in my rear quarter panels so the dashboard doesn’t show an open door.
The only warning light I have is for the airbag because I wasn’t confident about reassembling the bag, but everything else works properly. From the radio station display on the S4 dashboard to the ABS and traction control, it all operates like it did in the Audi. And, to be honest, I’m amazed it all works so I try to drive it as much as possible.
Yes, that’s an S4 dashboard. Apparently, it fitted with almost no modification. The width was perfect, although the stock door cards were too thick, so he made fiberglass panels where they meet the dash. With his home-made firewall, Ryan was also able to push the dash forward about 3" since it’s deeper than the Corrado fascia.
With a pair of Yonaka seats on Corrado frames, the only other major interior addition was the custom rollcage in the rear. I had a ’cage in another Corrado but it was difficult to get out, so I built this one to be easier, Ryan explained. It’s not needed structurally, but it seemed to fit with the theme I was going for.
With its S4 steering, brakes, suspension, engine and drivetrain, any aftermarket modification seemed superfluous. I wanted to build it like factory, so I fitted new carpet, sound deadening and can plug a VAG-Com into it if I need to disgnose a problem. I was then going to modify it the next year, but now I’m probably going to start another project, Ryan revealed.
As it stands, the brakes remain stock, the struts were upgraded to H&R coilovers, while a set of 18x8" RS4 replica wheels sit at each corner. I wanted to get some big wheels but these came up on eBay and have a 1" lip to give them more offset than stock, but one day I’d like to get wider wheels, he continued.
The stock 250hp 2.7L twin-turbo V6 was treated to APR stage 1 software as well as a K&N filter in a modified airbox. The stock side-mount intercoolers remain but the car needed a custom exhaust something Ryan built from 2.5" pipe, incorporating the stock cats without mufflers.
With these parts, the motor is good for around 318hp and 382 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to keep this incredible machine entertaining.
Despite the tremendous scope of the project and the quality of the finished product, it only took three months with help from my best friend and right-hand man Jason Murphy to build the car into primer. It then took another year before it was painted in this custom grey, but Ryan is justifiably proud of his accomplishment, if slightly shy about the attention it receives.
After 13 years, the business is doing well and Ryan acknowledges the support of his wife--Sarah in pushing him to complete the car. However, we wanted to know what was next. We’ve got some big plans, Ryan revealed. I don’t want to hype it up before it happens but it’ll be like nothing seen before!
To be honest, we often hear such claims but, if Ryan and Jason build the car they described to us, it will genuinely be unique. Hopefully, we’ll be able to reveal it in our Garage Projects section as it starts to take shape this winter. And he hopes to have something ready to show at H2Oi this year as a teaser for what’s to come.
So remember R Miller Autobody as a new force in the European tuning scene and expect some more amazing projects to come.
1990 VW Corrado G60
Owner: Ryan A Miller
Location: Palmyra, PA
Occupation: R Miller Autobody owner
Engine: ’01 Audi S4 2.7L twin-turboV6 30v conversion withAPR software, custom 2.5" dual exhaust with 3" tip, K&N filter in modified airbox, 15-gallon fuel cell
Drivetrain: stock Audi S4 quattro all-wheel drive with six-speed manual tranmission
Suspension: stock Audi S4suspension components front and rear with H&R coilovers and custom top mounts
Wheels & Tires: 18x8" Audi RS4 replica wheels with 1" lip, 205/40 R18 Yokohama S.drive tires
Exterior: handmade R Miller Autobody metal widebody plus fiberglass front bumper and side skirts,stock rear bumper made taller, taller front fenders, Golf Rallye headlights and grille, custom doors skins with Audi handles, stock Corrado hood and tailgate, stock tail lights painted red, car painted custom grey
Interior: stock Audi S4 dash, center console, steering column and interior lighting, Yonaka seats on Corrado rails with Schroth harnesses, custom rear rollcage, Auto Meter boost gauge and shift light on A-pillar, custom door card panels
Audio/Visual: stock Audi Bose system
Thanks: Sarah, Jason Murphy