Project Fünf Zylinder: Introduction

Rowdy 3

We’d like to introduce you to Bradley Brownell! Bradley will be sharing progress as he works to restore his 1995 Audi C4 UrS6. You can find his other writings at Hooniverse, FLATSIXES and on the Cammed & Tubbed Podcast. Do you have an Audi that you’d love us to share? Drop us a note!

Words & Photos: Bradley Brownell

Introducing Project Fünf Zylinder

I should probably start by explaining that this Audi is not new. It is not even new to me. I’ve owned this 1995 S6 for about three years, and it is served me well, covering 25,000 miles in that time as my nearly-daily driver. Those familiar with the C4 UrS will be aware that it is a comfortable commuter, and agree that it deserves to go on drives as often as possible. I am sad to say, however, that those 25,000 miles have been difficult for my automobile. As we close in on the 200,000-mile mark, it needs some restoration work to get it back to tip-top.

This will not be a traditional project car, as we will not be aiming for big power, and we will not be showing up at SEMA to hawk some new fancy wheels. The point of this project is closer to an OEM+ refresh, something that most owners of old Audis could reasonably do on their own and be all the happier for it.

History

A few years ago, when I purchased this S6, it could be said that it fell into my lap by sheer luck. I’d always been a fan of Audi products but frankly didn’t know all that much about the C4 chassis or specifically the UrS. The search began when my wife totaled her daily driver, and the insurance company cut us a check. Luckily we were not in a hurry to get anything, as we had other cars for each of us to commute.
When I mentioned the dearth of good cars on the market to a co-worker, he stated that his Audi was for sale if I was interested. I told him that I’d like to take it for a test drive, and we discussed price.

In the end, I got a fine motor in (mostly) the condition that you see it here today. For the price of five thousand US dollars and a high-mileage Saturn SL2, we drove home five-cylinders of turbocharged fury. As delivered, the Audi, affectionately dubbed ‘Rowdy’ by my wife, featured some light modifications, including a hard-wired through the dash Valentine radar detector, handpainted pinstripes, clear vinyl rock protection all around. A chip-tune of unknown origin, a 2Bennett 3” cat-back exhaust, a StopTech front big brake kit, and a set of H&R sport lowering springs on Bilstein dampers. Those four modifications aside, the S6 is almost like new, down to the phone in the center armrest. If my memory serves correctly had just touched 165,000 miles. I was as happy as a clam with my new Pearl White 2.2L 20v Turbo Quattro beauty.

I believe I am the fourth owner, and this Audi has been across the country many times. I have documents going back to 1999, and I have service records for Audi dealers in Wisconsin (where I believe it Audi delivered it in early 1995), Alaska, Kentucky, and Ohio where I purchased it. Since then I’ve moved to Nevada and obviously took the car with me. All of those cross-country trips explain, at least in part, why the car has so many miles.

Rowdy 1

What’s Next?

Since that time, the Audi has served me quite well as a semi-daily commuter. When in Ohio, the Audi shared garage space with a Porsche 944. When I moved to Nevada, the 944 said goodbye, and out west, we welcomed a Porsche Boxster. Between the two vastly different cars, both of German origin, I carve out my 5-days-a-week short 30-mile round trip commute, plus weekend trips to gorgeous mountain roads.

In the time that I’ve owned the car I’ve only had a few minor failures, and everything has worked well. A while ago, we survived an ignition coil failure, which we’ll talk more about in the next installment. Shortly after moving to Nevada, the sunroof motor failed, and I sourced used replacement through eBay. A few weeks later, the trunk latch failed, and it was back to eBay for a replacement.

As it ages, and the miles rack up, I’ve been forced to recognize that a few other things need some attention on the car, both mechanically and aesthetically. The current list of projects, headlined by a timing belt and water pump service that I’ve been putting off for a while. Also coming down the pipeline is a complete brake overhaul, including new rear calipers and rebuilt front calipers. At some point, all of the drivetrain bushings could stand to be replaced, and certainly suspension bushings are in need of replacement in the short term.

I have a small list of minor items that need replacing: Starting with the new door-bottom trim, the driver’s door also needs to be adjusting to close properly, the Sunroof needs new seals, the drivers’ seat heater needs repairs, and there is a small tear in the rear seat that needs attention.

After all, of these items have been addressed, we’ll probably work on pumping up the power a little with more boost. Boost is addictive, and more is always better.

Rowdy 6

Drive Report

It is often a bit difficult to review your daily driver, as it rapidly becomes ‘the norm’ against which you rate all other transportation, but I am going to try. I will attempt to be objective, even though I have developed a loving relationship with this Audi that I drive every day. I love this car so much; I probably should have given it a Valentine’s day card over the weekend.

Every morning when I walk out to the garage and fire up the 2.2 liters in-line five under the hood of my hefty German sports sedan; a little smile creeps across my face. The enlarged exhaust from 2Bennett has been on the car for years, but it allows a polite yet exciting rumble that sounds as fresh as the day they installed it. The exhaust is not too loud and certainly isn’t intrusive in the quiet cabin, even in the near-silent winter desert mornings of the North Reno/Sparks suburbs.

I’d be lying if I said the shifter was crisp and direct; the transmission uncertainty catches reverse to back out of my garage and onto the street. Flopping back up into first as we take off down the road. Acceleration is modest, as this is a hefty beast of a car, but once the boost starts to feed in, it feels like someone hit the fast-forward button on life. With nearly 300 horsepower available under your right foot, this tuned UrS is fast enough to get out of its own way, and will win drag races against most compact Korean SUVs. As time moves on, 300 horses do not sound like all that much, but in the mid-1990s, this was Sportif.

The large, well-bolstered, multi-adjustable leather seats are extremely comfortable. They would not describe them as Barca-lounger comfortable seats like a large American sedan might have, but cradling and comforting like an afternoon in a hammock on a warm spring day. Without wanting to be cliché, everything falls readily to hand for the driver, and with the level of adjustment nearing infinity, the driver has no reason to be uncomfortable in an UrS.

Interior materials are nice, as almost everything you touch is leather, and plastics molded in a way to give them texture and reasonable comfort. The steering wheel is firm and perfectly sized for a proper mix of steering feel and effort. There is plenty of room in the driver’s seat, even for a large driver like me, and you could easily seat another full-sized adult behind me.

In comparison to today’s tech, the infotainment system in this lovely automobile is a bit limited. My SatNav comes from a windshield mounted smartphone, and there is no satellite radio available. Using the optional audio system, we’ve got an excellent selection of Bose speakers that do well enough for my tastes, and choice of AM radio, FM radio, cassette tapes, and a pre-loaded 6-disc changer in the back. Being a traditional old Audi driver, I bounce back and forth between NPR on the FM dial, and audiobooks sourced from my local county library on my way to work.

When giving this car the beans, you notice that there is still body roll, and the bump damping is a bit less than it might have been 20 years ago. The sport suspension, combined with larger than stock wheels and shorter than stock tire sidewalls conspire to make the ride worse than stock, but still better than most anything else on the market. The sport springs help reduced body roll, as the car sits lower on stiffer springs, but the sway-bars are still stock, resulting in more body roll than currently desired. Even with the body roll, and the somewhat bump-responsive ride, this Audi handles much better than it has a right to. Steering feel is a bit numb, but in all, not bad for a full-sized sedan.

With the big brake kit installed, it was necessary that the stock 16” wheels also be removed years ago. In the summer, a set of 17” double-spoke wheels from a B7 A6 have been mounted with Hankook Ventus V12 Evo tires in wider than stock 215s. For the winter, a set of 17” Avus wheels with studded Winter i-Pike tires make quick work of snow and ice. Also because of the StopTech system, the car also has a tendency toward front-biased braking, which can be disconcerting if you’ve never driven the car before.

For the money outlaid, this is an excellent daily driver, and should continue to be for many years to come. Part of the reason for this upcoming restoration project is to maintain the car’s long life. We plan to have this car for the rest of its life or ours, and should quickly reach half-a-million miles in that time. By keeping the systems in tip-top condition and tackling the little issues now before they become big issues, we are extending Rowdy’s life into the foreseeable future. More coming soon, but for now, just assume that I am enjoying driving the car as much as possible.