Tag Archives: Universal Air

Bagging Our Wagon – The Slam Sanctuary Audi C5 A6 Avant

Words & Photos by Henry Phull

 

2016 presented a new chapter for Slam Sanctuary. With the introduction of our Pop-Up Store, I had the task of transporting it around the UK and Europe to multiple automotive events. This meant that I needed a suitable vehicle to haul a lot of gear around, although I still wanted the car to look cool. I knew that whatever I chose, it was by no means going to be a show car, but more of an appealing daily beater that could demonstrate some of the products we sell. A true BMW fan at heart, I first thought about an E46 Touring (having owned one previously, I knew what great cars they are). Unfortunately, they just weren’t big enough, so I then considered E39 530d Touring’s, but the price of these were still ambitious. Then there was the option of buying something newer, like an E60 530d, however then there would’ve been no spare funds to “slam” it.

 

I started looking at Audi’s with the 1.9tdi engine. Although having never owned one myself, I’d heard nothing but good things about the economy of these engines (essential for my needs) and how cheap they are to maintain. With a C5 S6 Avant in my household already, I knew that the C5 platform was capable of fitting all of the Slam Sanctuary gear inside, as I’d used it to transport everything to Ultimate Stance in 2015. Plus, they were extremely comfortable on long journeys – ideal! So, the hunt was on for a C5 A6 Avant. After wasting my time viewing several poor examples, a clean 2004 1.9tdi finally popped up at a local car dealer, overpriced and finished in an obscure colour (hearing-aid beige, which it is jokingly known as amongst friends), it was much tidier than anything I’d seen previously. A deal was done, and it was time to transform it into a wagon worthy of the Slam Sanctuary name.

 

Our Pop-Up Store, all this had to fit in the A6!

 

A TRIP TO ONLY CHARGED DUBS

 

Naturally, the A6 had to be lowered as much as possible… But coilovers or air? That was the question. I’ve had people ask me why I didn’t just fit coilovers if I was on a tight budget. Well, the car was going to be fully loaded and weigh a lot. Coilovers just didn’t seem like the right way to go. In fact, I knew from the start that it was going to have to go on air, as I wanted to be able to load the car up whilst simultaneously having it stay at the exact height I wanted, so that it wouldn’t even look like it was under load. Also, with lots of driving planned to new places, including Europe, I didn’t want the hassle of driving a static low car. I’ve done it in the past and as much as I respect those that have the patience for it, the whole goal for this wagon was for it to be a hassle-free daily driver. The less worrying, the better.

 

 

Prior to picking up the A6, I had been talking to our friends at Only Charged Dubs (OCD) about their own A6 Allroad, which shares the same C5 platform. They’d just bagged it too, so I knew that they would have first-hand experience with the platform and would be able to recommend which method would work best on my car. Matt at OCD was enthusiastic from the get-go and was always keen on discussing ideas to present me with the most affordable custom solution. I was completely sold on taking the car to OCD and letting him work his magic. The toughest choice, however, was deciding what air management to run. I was on a budget, yes, but a manual setup was out of the question. This was going to be a daily driver, so ease of use was essential. I also knew that the more affordable pressure-based digital systems were not as reliable as they claim to be, so it was really Air Lift 3H vs AccuAir e-Level, the two readily available height-sensor based systems. It seemed better to spend more money in the first place and do things right. In the end, seeing as I was going with Air Lift bags, I went with the tried-and-tested AccuAir e-Level management system, so we could demonstrate as many products that we offer as possible.

 

 

Of course, Air Lift Performance was the first choice for bags/struts. However, my A6 is a FWD model and unfortunately Air Lift only offered a complete bolt-on kit for 4WD/Quattro models (standard over in the USA, where Air Lift are based) so we had to go with a front-only Air Lift kit. This meant that a custom setup would need to be fabricated for the rear end… Another reason why I took the car to the very capable OCD.

 

 

Luckily, Only Charged Dubs were just about to release their new line of universal bags (BAGS by OCD) so Matt reassured me that there would be no issues with creating a custom rear air setup specifically for my car using their BAGS. Using custom CNC’d mounting cups, the BAGS would fit perfectly in the rear suspension setup of the FWD A6 with very minimal modification.

 

 

As the A6 was going to be used more like a van than a car, part of my requirements were to keep all the boot space available, in addition to my spare wheel. As I was going to do a lot of long trips in this car, I wanted the piece-of-mind of having a spare wheel should I ever need it. After some test-fitting, Matt and I agreed that the most effective way to go about it was to mount the AccuAir VU4 manifold and ECU underneath the car. Besides, they’re completely weatherproof! With limited spare space in the boot, there was actually one side compartment that was unused. A small Air Lift 2.5-gallon tank and a single VIAIR 400c compressor were selected to mount in this limiting compartment, whilst everything else would be bolted underneath the car.

 

INSTALLATION

 

 

Matt’s first task was to run and connect the AccuAir wiring harness from the rear to the front of the vehicle to ensure we had power for the ECU and VU4 underneath the car.

 

 

Next, he completely stripped the boot, which was actually a lot more time consuming than you would imagine. Audi certainly know how to engineer their interiors! This left the fitting area completely exposed and ready for installation of the air tank and compressor.

 

 

In what limited space we had, the compressor was mounted above the rear wheel arch for a very snug fit. Followed by some minor trimming, the 2.5-gallon tank was secured in the remaining enclosure, preventing it from any unnecessary movement.

 

 

Once the boot was reassembled, the result was a completely hidden air install, easily accessible using the factory compartment cover. This was exactly what I wanted, with my spare wheel area completely untouched.

 

 

The next step was to get the car onto the ramp and into the air to start fitting the suspension components.

 

 

 

The Air Lift Performance struts were a direct fit and designed specifically for the C5 chassis, so installation was straightforward – replacing the existing shocks for the new units, much like fitting coilovers, with the added connection of the air lines.

 

 

The front level sensors were fitted next. The AccuAir e-Level system is based on height, which is determined by specialised sensors on each corner of the suspension. They’re extremely accurate and the system will maintain the vehicle height when loading or unloading passengers or when road conditions change… This is also regardless of load, which is perfect for when I completely load the car up with gear. The location of these is absolutely essential to give an accurate reading. Luckily Matt has installed hundreds of these kits, even on his own C5 Allroad, so he knew exactly where to place them for the best result.

 

 

He then moved on to bolting the AccuAir VU4 4-way manifold and ECU underneath the car. It was mounted to the driest area, close to the rear bumper, keeping it out of the elements as much as possible. Although, being completely weatherproof, it’s really nothing to worry about anyway.

 

 

The 3/8″ air line was then run to all four suspension corners and also into the boot along to the tank and compressor through one of the factory grommets, keeping the install as OEM looking as possible.

 

 

Moving on, it was time for the custom part of the install… the rear setup. The original springs were removed, ready to be replaced with the universal BAGS by OCD.

 

 

These stunning custom bag cups were CNC’d to place in between the bags and the car’s chassis.

 

 

Matt fully pressure-tested the BAGS prior to installation to check for any leaks to ensure no faults during use.

 

 

The only modification needed to install the new bags was to drill a hole into the spring locator so that the bag cup could be bolted in for a tight fit and to avoid the bags coming detached from the vehicle.

 

 

The OEM rear shocks were kept during installation, but I later upgraded these to shorter TA-Technix sport shocks, as the original ones were worn out.

 

 

Finally, the remaining two level sensors were fitted close to the rear beam, to complete the management part of the install.

 

 

Once the auto-calibration was set on the e-Level touchpad, it was finally time to air out the A6!

 

 

 

There you have it. Matt and the team at Only Charged Dubs did an incredible job getting the car on the floor. The first part of the puzzle was complete.

 

THE FINAL TRANSFORMATION

 

Obviously, I couldn’t rock the ‘broken suspension’ look for long, so a few final elements were needed to complete the A6’s transformation. Firstly I just had to put some nicer wheels on the car, so I opted for a set of 19×8.5 Rotiform IND-T’s, which were then powder coated in matte anthracite by our partners at The Wheel Specialist Bournemouth and fitted to a set of Nankang NS20 215/35/19 tyres resulting in some subtle stretch. 15mm spacers were also added up front. To match the finish of the wheels, I called on the services of Jack & Luke at JCT Developments in Ringwood to apply some Slam Sanctuary branding using 3M wrap film across both front doors, resulting in a perfect match with the anthracite wheels.

 

I next visited our friends at Xclusive Customs in Poole to get the rear windows tinted – although I wouldn’t usually go for a complete ‘limo spec’ tint, it was important to hide what I was carrying from view, especially when leaving the car in random places overnight. Lastly, the car was finished off with a Seat Cupra R front splitter which makes the rounded front-end slightly more aggressive. Other than that, the car remains standard. I then got on the phone to our insurers, Herts Insurance Consultants (HIC), to declare the new modifications and agreed on a specialised policy. Don’t forget to do this when bagging your car or your insurance could be invalid… it isn’t always more expensive to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine months of testing and abuse later, I finally took the A6 to the New Forest one evening to capture these photographs. To conclude, this car has been the perfect daily workhorse and it does exactly what I need it to do without costing the earth to maintain. I’ve driven it thousands of miles all over the UK and Europe and had no issues with the air ride whatsoever. I can jump in it and drive anywhere without worrying. If you want a hassle-free way to lower your car, I can’t recommend bagging your car enough. Do not fear if there isn’t a bolt-on kit readily available for your car, hopefully I’ve shown that there’s usually a way around it by using universal bags and some basic fabrication which doesn’t have to bankrupt you. Only Charged Dubs even offer a bag upgrade for BC Racing coilovers now, so there really are endless options out there. Don’t be put off, make it a life on air.

 

Only Charged Dubs / BAGS by OCD:

Only Charged Dubs on Instagram

BAGS by OCD on Instagram

Only Charged Dubs website

 

Air Lift Performance:

Air Lift on Instagram

Air Lift website

 

AccuAir:

AccuAir on Instagram

AccuAir website

 

Rotiform:

Rotiform on Instagram

Rotiform website

 

Herts Insurance (HIC):

HIC on Instagram

HIC website

 

SHOP AIR RIDE & ROTIFORM:

Visit our web store

Air by OCD – Matt Payne’s 1992 Mercedes-Benz W201 190E

Words & Photos by Henry Phull

 

The Mercedes-Benz 190E has been a hit with petrolheads ever since they were used as touring cars and seen throughout legendary motorsport events. However, with the sought-after Cosworth models now out of most people’s price range, the spectacle has turned on to the standard 190E’s, which back in their time would’ve looked like any normal boxy German saloon car, simply blending into the landscape. What owners are doing to them now though, is quite remarkable. Who’d have thought dumping one on the floor and adding some larger wheels could make such a basic car look so appealing? Even though they’ve been a popular vehicle of choice in the modified scene ever since the late 80’s/early 90’s, the demand has massively grown over the last couple of years in the UK show scene… One of our favourites being Matt Payne’s Arctic white 1992 W201 which we’re showcasing today. Although we’ve already featured a W201 this year, Charlie Wheeler’s static 190D (click here to check it out), we’re switching things up and taking an alternative look at how things can be done using air ride, with Matt’s simple yet effective build.

 

 

Matt has been interested in cars for a long time, mainly through family influence. Since he was 17 years old he’s been following the car show scene, attended local meets and helped out on cars with his friends. Training as a Volkswagen technician certainly played a huge part in his ever-growing fascination with cars and predominant obsession with VW’s. In fact this led him onto starting his own business, Only Charged Dubs (OCD), who predominantly specialise in VAG cars – G40/G60 forced induction, air ride, servicing and much more.

 

 

The car that really got his company noticed was down to Matt’s third car, a Mk2 Golf which started out as a ‘1.6 Driver’, which he fully restored and eventually converted to a G60. After two years of daily driving, something more modern was required – a Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo… This really helped OCD grow as a recognised business.. it was the ultimate car to show off their air-ride services to a ‘general’ audience, not forgetting the development of OCD’s custom Polo platform air ride kit which put them on the map.

 

 

So why the Mercedes-Benz you may be asking? “I’ve never been a huge Merc fan, but I’ve always had a soft spot for any modern classic car… late 70’s, 80’s & early 90’s cars just have that square boxy look that I love” he tells us. The Fabia had been around for nearly three years, so Matt decided it was time for a new OCD demo car, whilst he could still drive the Fabia daily (although this has now finally been replaced by a bigger Audi A6 C5 Allroad, on custom air of course). “The 190 seemed to be a new modern classic, and after seeing a couple bagged and thinking we could get a cheap kit for it, I bought this one.” Matt explains.

 

 

Matt found the 190E through eBay, it was a completely standard 1.8 8v petrol, but the head gasket had gone due to lack of use and the exhaust had fallen apart inside so it ran way too slowly for his liking. The all-important paint, however, is original and came up incredibly after a good detailing session and machine polish/seal. It was an ideal base for OCD’s demo car and it meant they could create something from a completely blank canvas.

 

 

“We needed it to be on the floor, looking OEM+ and really show off what OCD and air suspension can do. Not just the usual brands of air & wheels!” he explains. Only Charged Dubs are well known for their custom air work, not just bolting on the usual ready-made kits which are widely available. This car is a fantastic example of what is possible when you think outside the box.

 

 

The air setup on Matt’s car was created completely from scratch, after trying out a cheap kit that was available for the platform and realising it was “crap”. The team at OCD got to work on creating a better solution, including new front arms, bag mounts and a custom BC Racing damper kit with camber top mounts, allowing for adjustment all round. “Our kit is a full comprehensive suspension kit, this replaces the OE front arms with no other modifications required. The only thing that’s needed is 2 holes drilled in the rear upper spring seat to allow the air bags to mount up.” Matt reveals.

 

 

This allows the body of the car to drop as low as possible with no rubbing or catching – now that’s what we like to hear! “This allows much better air bag pressure when driving, allowing a much nicer drive – it really feels like factory still and just floats along the roads.” he continues. After fully testing the setup, OCD’s kit is now manufactured and available for the W201 platform – get in touch with them for more information.

 

 

Along with the custom front LCA’s and bag mounts, Matt opted for Universal Air ‘AirHouse2’ bags front and rear, 3/8″ air lines all run by dual Speciality Suspension 28″ & 24″ air tanks, two Air Zenith OB2 compressors, an AVS 9 switch box, Zaetech Digigauge and wireless touchbox. “The main piece is the RideTech BigRed manifold that really makes the car bounce!” he chuckles… this really has a different effect to airing up and out in comparison to a lot of other products on the market – making it that extra bit cooler! All this has been built into a beautiful boot installation which is a superb demonstration of hard lines and fabrication which OCD are known for.

 

 

With the car on the floor, Matt wanted to get the wheels right. They’d already gone custom with the air ride, so why not go the same way with the wheels? The outcome was a set of Mercedes-Benz ‘Barrock’ wheels, a Mexican hat-styled wheel originally found on W123’s. OCD had their machinist precision cut the wheel faces and matched to a BBS RS 16″ face bolt pattern, allowing them to go for 16″ to 17″ ‘bubble’ step up lips, resulting in 17×8 up front and 17×9 rears. “It’s a slight mod that no one really notices over the custom wheels. Which I like, it adds even more to the OEM+ look of the car and really suits the car well.” Matt explains. These are paired to 195/40 tyres up front and 205/40 at the rear, a tasteful amount of stretch.

 

 

Interior-wise, Matt preferred to keep everything original, similar to the outside of the car. “I wanted black as it doesn’t age as much and appears to be quite rare in the old 190’s”… The only elements out of the ordinary that you might notice are; the Zaetech Digigauge air pressure display which is neatly installed into one of the blower fans and the chunky AVS 9 switch box used to control the ride height. Sticking to a manual air set up just seems so right in a classic car like this – a modern looking digital controller wouldn’t look at home in the W201.

 

 

 

 

We’ve seen the Merc at several car shows this year and it’s unsurprisingly turned a lot of heads. Matt and the team have put just the right amount of modifications on the car. Only air and wheels you may ask… What more could you possibly need on a classic car like this? Matt has put his touch on an already beautiful shape. As well as putting the car on a set of BBS RS for a few shows to change things up, the custom Barrock wheels do suit it perfectly. From now, not much will be happening with the Merc other than a little more colour coding to the boot build over the Winter. Matt mentioned he may even regrettably put it up for sale in the new year to make way for another OCD demo car. Despite the name ‘Only Charged Dubs’, the 190E demonstrates that they really can tackle any sort of air build, whether it’s a ‘dub’ or not. We’ll be finding more about what they get up to with an exclusive shop visit, so check back to Slam Sanctuary soon.

 

 

More info on Only Charged Dubs:

Only Charged Dubs website

Only Charged Dubs on Facebook

Only Charged Dubs on Instagram