Common practice for shops and/or people in the tuning industry is to use a car as a platform to promote products or a style. Less common is for a car to be built, completely changed… and even completely changed again. However, that’s just the considerable process this RS-converted B5 S4 Avant has been subjected to at the hands of dubkorps.com’s founder and AWOL.tv co-creator J.J. Larson.
To say this car’s been around the block from a developmental point of view is a gross understatement. The car has evolved perhaps even more than its illustrious owner… so we’ll do our best to tell its story.
Back when Larson first picked this car up, he might have been considered a “club guy”. J.J. was one of the founding members of the super creative DubAudi Gruppe – a mix of enthusiasts who were known as much for their scene-leading builds as they were for their genre-leading video production back before everybody was doing it and few today do it as well… even still.
Back then, Larson picked up this B5 S4 Avant with the full intention to do an RS 4 widebody conversion and a comprehensive build. As Larson explains, “I’d always wanted to convert an S4 to an RS4 ever since I first saw them. I wanted a low, fast all-wheel drive wagon for a long time. I was attracted to the B5 body styling for it’s round subtle lines and good proportions. I have nothing against the more modern Audi designs with their bottom heavy styling, but the older style just does it for me. I found an abnormally good deal on a 2001 S4 on AutoTrader back in 2005 and pulled the trigger.”
Up to this time, Larson was perhaps best known more in the graphic design world. His sheer talent mixed with is appreciation for the tuning scene had him doing web design work and graphic layouts for our now dormant sister publication Motive Magazine. Round about that time, he’d just picked up the car and Fourtitude was just a year old. It may not be surprising then that the car’s early public awareness came as an early and short-lived project car series here on Fourtitude. Essentially, that’s the first time the car transformed from stock and somewhat unloved S4 to widebody RS.
Through contacts he’d made thus far in his tuning career, JJ had sourced all of the parts necessary for the conversion. This included RS 4-spec fenders, quarter panels, bumpers, doors, side skirts and hatch spoiler. At the time of the build, it was also re-sprayed in the then-new Ibis White paint code from Audi.
The only body part that wasn’t sourced were the inner rear quarters. According to J.J., “To keep costs down I opted to just replace the outer quarter panels. When you go this route you need to cut off the old fender flares because they will be 3 inches inside your new wide arches in the end. You’re not going to get very low or be able to run RS4 fender liners if you don’t!”
Being able to get low would become very important, but that’s further down the road.
During the next five years, things would change a bit for Larson. DubAudi had changed a bit as clubs sometimes do, and J.J. departed the club to found a car enthusiast clothing line and automotive video production company. The “RS Faux” as he’d come to call it, saw duty as both daily driver and also as event display asset… wearing a rack-mounted roof box and seemingly a new set of wheels for every show in which it appeared.
Soon J.J. moved west to California. The B5 went with him, and evolved even more. With 5-years of ownership on the car, J.J. admits he got a bit bored decided it was time for a new look. In 2011, Audi’s Ibis White paint gave way to olive green paint sourced from the U.S. Marine Corps. At the time (and really before anyone was doing matte paints or military themes), J.J. had his Dubkorps clothing line and the military theme worked well the tone of his line.
Out in California, J.J. began working heavily with Rotiform. You’ve likely seen some sort of iteration of this car on the web or near a Dubkorps x Rotiform booth all over the country, and not surprisingly it most often is shod with their wheels in 18×10.5… from their SJC in silver to a reflective gold TMB.
For J.J., it was this evolution of the RS Faux that was most memorable… and not just because the Marine Corps green was so ground-breaking. “Finishing the flat olive stage with gold Rotiforms really stands out. It was purely a grass roots project, with a bunch of friends… prepping and painting the car ourselves in a remote location and far away from home, with a very small window of time and with all of us sick with the flu. I couldn’t get over how well it actually turned out! I had kept this transformation under wraps and was going for the surprise factor at the upcoming Southern Worthersee event in Georgia. After convoying for 11 hours and only 10 miles from the host town, my friend smashed into a black bear at 4AM in the middle of the mountains in North Georgia… with hood crumpled, headlights, grille and bumper cracked and coolant everywhere. The bear ran off and we limped it (mostly coasted) down the hills into town. Surprise factor accomplished.”
A year later the car was again re-sprayed matte black, though maybe that wasn’t his favorite because six months later he re-sprayed it again. And, since many were now adopting the matte look, J.J. wanted something more classic. Thinking back on a burgundy Audi Fox his dad had driven back in the day, J.J. ordered up some Aston Martin Merlot Metallic.
That’s about the time where we caught back up with the car. It had just been resprayed in this wine-colored hue and was accented by classic BBS RS 3-piece wheels with 16-inch centers, up-converted with taller rim halves by Rotiform, running on Hankook tires… and it was enjoying yet another show debut at Maryland’s H20i.
Another change made to the RS Faux since the last time we’d seen it was swapping its KW V3 coilovers for an Air Lift Performance air suspension that he’d actually been running for about a year.
Under the hood, the car is considerably modified. Larson had begun with a Stage 3 APR build, though the car has similarly evolved over the years as he’s experimented in this department also. Currently the car runs a Tial 605 biturbo upgrade, Evolution Racing intercoolers, an RS 4 Y-pipe, 034 Motorsport intake and motor mounts, and MAF, injectors and software from EPL.
Not surprisingly, the cabin of the car is also tailored to J.J.’s tastes. Recaro seating was a must, as was a stock B7 RS 4 flat-bottom steering wheel… again, one of the first to be installed at the time when the B7 RS 4 had just hit market. Other audio upgrades and hardware for the air suspension were necessary, but installation of these had to meet Larson’s need for functionality. As J.J. tells it, “What I am not crazy about for my lifestyle is audio or airbag control systems that take up valuable space in the car. This car has always been very utilitarian whether for picking up tshirt cases or hucking a bunch of video equipment in it. For years I ran a snowboard cargo box on the roof full time for even more storage. My air components are tucked away under the rear cargo floor and the audio integrated into the factory side panels in the cargo area. Lux Motorwerks did an amazing job with the audio as well as integrated a Valentine 1 radar detector remote display in the rear view mirror.”
As of this writing, J.J. still has the car… and it’s still Aston Martin Merlot Metallic… well maybe. The BBS wheels are long gone, replaced, replaced and replaced again. No doubt you’ve probably spotted it at an enthusiast show somewhere around the country.
In the nine years that Larson has been calling this Avant his daily driver, some things have changed. Obviously the car has over-and-over. RS-converted Avants aren’t quite as rare as they used to be and more and more cars are adopting many styling points and upgrades that Larson has pioneered. New exclusive clubs made up of owners with intricate builds are doing the club thing much as DubAudi did back in the day, and there’re now a fair number of enthusiast clothing lines following in the footsteps of Dubkorps. It’s fair to say both J.J. and his B5 have inspired the scene on so many levels and we’re looking forward to watching where things go from here. The next evolution of this B5 or of J.J. Larson himself is always intriguing to watch.