Audi Alchemy

By Les Bidrawn

European Car, April 1994
Photos by the author

European Car magazine article cover photo
cover photo

Platinum and gold are closely related on the periodic charts; just a few atomic particles set them apart. Miniscule as they may be, these same reconfigured electrons are responsible for vast differences in metallic composition. Project cars are much the same way; there is a fine line between elemental saturation and understated elegance. A case in point is this diamond silver 1980 Audi 4000, whose demeanor is as striking as a solid platinum hammer.

Rolling off the Ingolstadt, Germany assembly line in July of 1979, AUTI 1 start ed life as a very humble 1980 California model Audi 4000 four-door sedan. Equipped with a 76 bhp 1588cc engine with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and a four-speed manual transmission, the car was not an autobahn burner. However, its Giugiaro-styled shape was crisp, the interior was intelligently designed and its ride and handling characteristics were precise in the best VW/Audi tradition.

Dashboard image Owner Ti Kan drove the Audi is its factory state for nearly five years until the performance itch started. The modification process was a gradual one, and like the software engineer he is, each step was researched and documented with great care. Kan's goal was to retain the creature comforts of a daily driven sedan with a sport-edged flair.

Kan wanted to stay true to the classic Audi styling so exterior changes were kept to a minimum. To that end, factory parts were used wherever possible. The front air dam is a BBS component but the European head lamps, side skirts and rear valance are all from an Audi microfiche. The Ronal R8 wheels are larger versions of the same wheel Audi used on the 4000 series from '85 and on. These components were chosen to interface with the sport suspension Kan would later weave into the project.

The engine change came relatively late in the chronology simply because the faithful 1.6-liter motor would not quit. At 180,000 miles, Kan lost patience as it seemed the car was immortal.

Kan had the New Dimensions crew install a new 2.0-liter factory long block featuring 40mm intake and 33mm exhaust valves. This inherently torquey motor provides gobs of power in conjunction with several potent modifications. On the intake side, an '85 4000 Audi manifold features the larger throttle opening for a direct bolt-up of the big-bore Neuspeed throttle body. A Neuspeed G-grind camshaft was chosen for its good low/midrange torque curve. Beneath the block sits a rare European cast aluminum oil pan, specifically designed for the longitudinally mounted engine. Finned and baffled, the pan offers greater heat dissipation and helps keep the oil from sloshing around during spirited cornering. The exhaust is comprised of a '79 Audi Fox dual-outlet manifold, Techtonics downpipe and Leistritz muffler. The catalytic converter and lambda air sensor are retained for emission legality.

The 2.0-liter engine is mated to an Audi type 013-2N medium ratio five-speed transmission and 210mm clutch. Kan originally installed a close-ratio five-speed like those on later model 1.8-equipped 4000s but found that the additional power of the 2-liter was happier with taller gears.

The 4000 suspension was massaged with a combination of factory and aftermarket components. Crowning the engine bay sits a custom fabricated and powder-coated stress bar from Motofab. Eibach progressive rate springs house hydraulic Koni adjustable dampers, providing a firm but not harsh ride. The anti-sway bar combination is comprised of a front 23mm unit from an Audi Turbo coupe; the rear is a Suspension Techniques unit measuring 25mm. The Ronal R8s measure 15x6 and carry BF Goodrich Comp T/As, sized at 205/50ZR15. Underneath these elegant wheels sits a major brake upgrade spliced from an '87 16V Scirocco. The Audi was converted from 9.4-in. solid front disc/rear drums to VW's four-wheel binder system with 10.1-in. vented fronts and 8.9-in. solid rears. The calipers were fitted with Repco MetalMaster pads, and the rubber brake lines were replaced with braided stainless steel units. This brake upgrade was almost a necessity as the relatively light (2300lb) sedan found itself capable of speeds far exceeding the factory's expectations.
Throttle body image The original blue velour seating was in bad shape after years of daily use. Moreover, the instrumentation did not accurately reflect the extensive high-end modifications Kan had engineered into the motor. Subsequently the cabin was upgraded to Audi Quattro specifications with a pair of Quattro seats in front and a Quattro bench in the rear. A rich gray leather now covers the seats and door panel, with portions of the leather "gathered" for a more sumptuous look and feel. Additional foam padding was also added under the door panels and rear seats to increase noise insulation.
This beautifully crafted interior took a full month to complete and provides a stunning parallel to the exterior paintwork. Upgrades continued inside with auxiliary VDO gauges located up high in the special Audi Sport instrument cluster housing where they are easily read. The 85-mph speedometer was removed in favor of a 120-mph unit. The instrument lighting in all gauges, including the radio, was converted to glow red like later model Audis. Factory parts were also used for the central locking system and one-touch power windows, which are designed to retain power after ignition shut-off until the driver's door is opened.

Kan spent years designing and building high-end home speaker systems and audio electronics as a hobby, and be applied the same principles to the Audi's sound system. All speaker enclosures are specially designed utilizing the Thiele/Small parameters of the speaker drivers and tuned to complement the acoustics of the car. The electronic and passive crossover networks are also custom designed to match the drivers. The mounting locations of the ten speakers of Audax and Peerless manufacture were also carefully selected to provide optimum stereo imaging, yet they intrude little into passenger or luggage space. The system totals 250 watts ampli fied~power (somewhat small by today's standards) but the emphasis is on sound quality rather than sheer sonic pressure. A headphone jack console (the "Duo Sound" unit as used on later Audis) is installed on the rear deck.
Tail image The entire car is protected by a custom Clifford/Auto Page alarm amalgam. When the car is disturbed, the alarm will sound, the antennae will raise and a signal will be sent to Kan's pager.

There are few visual signals that indicate this Audi is anything special. It sits a mere 1.25-in. lower than a standard 4000, and the Diamond/Silver paint looks remarkably unremarkable. However, while other 13-year-old cars are heading for the salvage yard, this Audi runs with a brand new lease on life. The sum of its parts is part of a stunning platinum equation; those who understand its understated styling and uncompromised performance will undoubtedly appreciate the formula.

New Dimensions Ltd.
2240 De La Cruz Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95050
(408) 980-1691

Note: New Dimensions retail store and service facility had ceased operations. I do not know the status of their online business.

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