Words & Photos by Henry Phull
The popularity of air ride has grown considerably over the past couple of years. Not only has it become more accessible, but many people have finally realised how practical it really is. With so many options now available, it doesn’t have to break the bank either. The question is, if you want someone else to do the work for you, then where do you go? Whilst there are plenty of shops dotted around the UK, Only Charged Dubs (OCD) have put out some incredible work as of late and are one of the few that go above and beyond to cater for the customer. The key word that comes to mind with these guys is variation. If you read our show reports, you will have seen plenty of their cars (and customers’ cars) pop up. They were kind enough to invite us up to their headquarters in Doncaster, South Yorkshire where we were welcomed with open arms. Spending a few days with these guys was more like hanging out with mates than visiting your typical garage – the whole experience was a pleasure. Although mostly known for their air installs in the ‘slammed/stance’ scene, the business didn’t actually start off by working with suspension. In fact, OCD is a lot more than just an air ride shop. So let’s take an inside look…
Catching up with the owner Matt Payne is always a refreshing experience. Unlike so many people in the industry, he’s completely open about his business and the community in general. One thing that has always stuck with me is that he’s always looking to solve problems, however big or small, so it’s really no surprise that his company has achieved so much. But how did OCD get to where they are today? “It all came about from my Mk2 Golf project. I was working as an apprentice for my local VW dealership when I bought my Golf, which I spent 3 years fully rebuilding from a 1.6 Driver to a G60 8v conversion. Fully overhauled, the only thing I couldn’t do myself was the paint work as I was building it on my parents drive.” Matt reminices. This led him onto the path of G-Lader rebuilds (superchargers found on the G40 & G60 Volkswagens – hence the name ‘Only Charged Dubs’), after other enthusiasts saw the work on his Mk2. He even started developing his own parts for the Golf that weren’t available, as you do. Slowly but surely Matt began to build a customer base on the main UK G60 online forum at the time.
“As well as doing more work at home on friends’ cars, word of mouth spread, leading to more and more jobs” Matt explains. At the time his daily driver was a Skoda Fabia, and to make this more practical he started to look into air suspension. Because he was starting to lug more and more parts around, Matt wanted to lower the car in a way that would accept the excess weight. “I managed to get a trade account for air suspension which led on to installing air to a friend’s car shortly before the Elsecar Megameet 2013, which made OCD more well known in the ‘stance’ scene.” he says. Anyone starting up on their own cannot wait until they’re in a position to quit their full time job and concentrate on their true ambition, I can tell you this myself from starting Slam Sanctuary. Well, for Matt this opportunity came soon after that Megameet. He said goodbye to his job at Volkswagen and set up shop in a unit next door to Darkside Developments in Barnsley. With help from their team, together they pushed the OCD brand forward by modernising the website, adding more products and providing the much needed extra space for installations and “crazier work!” Matt laughs.
After 12 months in his first ever unit, neighbours Darkside Developments decided to re-locate to a new premises, which meant that Matt could also move the business back to Doncaster, his home. Not only was the new unit on his doorstep, but it was also closer to Carl Atkins, the man behind OCD’s boot installs and custom fabrication, overall making it a worthwhile move. “OCD had reached a point where it could stand on it’s own two feet much better and was needing much more operating space, both for stock and workshop.” Matt reveals. They’ve just finished it off to a state where they are happy with it, with a brand new showroom and waiting room. Having spent a good few days there myself, I can tell you it’s a great place to be and hang out.
With the facilities covered, OCD can offer anything from VAG servicing to full-blown engine swaps and classic car restoration. “Of course, G-Lader services, parts and expertise is something we will always offer. It’s where my VW love came from and I still believe there’s nothing quite like a well tuned 8v G60 engine in a classic dub!” Matt points out. One thing I do love about OCD, is that they give their customers a broad range of options to fit most budgets. Unlike a lot of salespeople, Matt and the team won’t just try and sell you the most expensive product. This has been an aim of theirs from the beginning. “Everyone loves an R8 on air with expensive wheels, but in reality only a lucky 1% can own that. So we aim to offer the same parts, service and options to every customer.” Matt explains. The key to Only Charged Dubs? Offering a wide range of products of course. If you’re looking to bag your car, a look on their website shows that there’s several options. From the popular Air Lift Performance, HP Drivetech, AccuAir and VIAIR options, to brands such as Airdynamiks, Air Zenith and several BagRiders products. Plus, they even offer their own “Bags by OCD” branded items – which we’ll look at shortly. If there’s no kit readily available for your car, Matt and the team will come up with a solution.
OCD keep a large variety of stock on their shelves, from air tanks of all sizes, fittings, compressors, and tons of spares which makes them one of the few companies that can offer their people specialist items next day to your door if needed. This is always handy if any of your components fail and you get stuck. With shipments coming in every week from the USA, OCD are now the sole UK distributors for BagRiders (a large air ride distributor in the USA), meaning that you can order most hard-to-get items from OCD without paying those dreaded import charges if you were to order direct from the States. With their online sales ever increasing, Matt says that 2016/17 will show an even bigger expansion with more and more products being added across their range.
Only Charged Dubs recently introduced their ‘Bags by OCD’ range of air bags. The idea initially came up whilst they were working on their demo Mercedes-Benz W201. Of course, being a classic car everything on the Merc had to be custom made… “We found that there is an ‘ok’ range of bags to work with instead of independent springs. But bags that work over dampers are hugely limited, and the ones available are ok on some platforms but offer poor drop or lift on others depending on how they are set up.” Matt explains, “Plus there’s no options of sleeves over dampers too, meaning some cars with tight suspension space either have to lose out with no air option or undergo expensive custom work to the rest of the suspension.” To combat this, they launched ‘Bags by OCD’, a product that is moderately priced alongside most air suspension kits, which work and perform to the same level, but allowing a bigger range of custom bags. Designed to work with BC Racing’s Extreme Low coilovers, they allow customers to mount the bag on to the threaded body, sealing it to the damper giving the maximum drop and lift that the damper gives. Obviously this still allows for BC’s threaded body adjustment, dampening adjustment all round plus camber front top mounts of most applications. Most kits retail at around £1300-£1500 depending on the rear bag mounting. So far they’ve used these kits on a BMW Z4, VW Mk6 GTI and will soon be testing on a Honda S2000 and Lexus IS220. Plus, having universal bags readily available means they can be used on cars with absolutely no air options available, such as our own Slam Sanctuary demo Audi A6 FWD which we’ll be showing you soon!
Being the main UK distributor of Airdynamiks, this was the first time I had the chance to check out their products in person. I have to say that the build quality and attention to detail is second-to-none. After noticing them testing various car kits around 18 months ago, they got in touch and began working on a kit for their Audi C5 A6 Allroad demo car, a customers Audi A1 (and Polo platform) and their Audi Mk2 TT Quattro demo car. Based in Canada, the turnaround time on these products means a slightly longer wait, but it is definitely worth it. Sister company to Scale Suspension, who primarily build top end racing suspension for track, time attack and drifting, Airdynamiks use the same dampers which they convert into air suspension. “Their twist is using a range of air bag sizes to suit certain models of car. Giving a smaller air bag if space is tight but also giving a much better spring rating. A smaller bag allows for a high bag pressure at ride height, whilst using less air tank volume. So less compressor time!” Matt says. These kits come with threaded body dampers, dampening adjustment and optional camber top plates for most applications. “As well as anodized components, stainless hardware and powdercoated mountings these kits don’t just work well, they look the part too as well as lasting for years!”. I was so impressed with the quality of these products that we decided to make them available through the Slam Sanctuary online store, too.
“Our air suspension work is something we have grown slowly and worked hard to get to the point we’re now at. We feel we aim our work to an ‘OCD’ level of fit and finesse, being able to carry out almost any modification to a customers car. From simple suspension swaps, crazy show installs & wheel/tyre fitting and fitment.” -Matt Payne
I asked Matt the all-important question, what he thinks OCD are best known for?… “I’d like to think our friendliness and social side” he replied, and I completely agree. In fact, I often come across his comments throughout social media which are always trying to assist people, not just selling a product 24/7. That’s absolute gold right there and a rare thing. “OCD has always been something more than just a specialist shop. Friends and customers are always welcome to our shop to just chill out. We feel this is something that has quickly dropped from the scene and made things more of a competition than an enthusiasm.” he continued. The idea of bringing back this enthusiasm for the cars and seeing customers projects go from standard to magazine featured is what it’s all about for Only Charged Dubs. Plus, that VAG group technician training really gives them the upper hand when it comes to find their way around most Volkswagens, Audis, Seats and Skodas. That background has built Matt’s vision of keeping to a certain quality of work which he strives to keep to a factory level. “I’d always like to think should our work be seen at another garage their technicians wouldn’t notice what we’d installed against the factory components of the car.” he adds.
(left-right) Carl, Joe & Matt
With four main members of staff; Matt the owner and technician, Carl who carries out the boot install work, Joe who runs front of house – answering customers calls, emails and handling orders including packing day in, day out, as well as Danny who runs the graphic design side of things behind the scenes, Only Charged Dubs are some of the friendliest and approachable bunch of guys in the industry. Not forgetting, professional, full of knowledge and brilliant at what they do – so there’s no stopping them! With plans to completely overhaul their online presence this year by adding an even bigger range of air suspension kits, expanding on their coilover range in addition to a much-needed FAQ section and an overall easier shopping experience, it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled to their social media and website. In the meantime, you’ll find them at most of the UK car shows, so hit them up with those tricky questions for your build! Also, make sure you check back to Slam Sanctuary soon to find out how they got on with bagging our Audi A6 Avant demo car that we let them loose on for a few days.
More info on Only Charged Dubs:
Near Doncaster, South Yorkshire?
Check out the OCD Open Day this Sunday 22nd May 2016!