While not all superheros wear capes, they do generally have faithful sidekicks that always have their backs. Thing is, said sidekicks are usually meant to be super subtle, unlike Kim Sandells’s modified Audi RS4 B7!   

Being the owner, and builder, of an attention-grabbing show winner of a modified car is a lot like being a superhero. Bold statement? Yes, hear me out, though. Modern superheroes have a detailed origin story, a series of events that led them through adversity to where they are today. Most have a faithful sidekick, rescued from a life of crime or other bleak future, with them through thick and thin. And, they nearly always have some behind-the-scenes unsung heroes without whom none of it could happen. In that respect, Kim and his trusty RS4 are no different.

In fairness, Kim’s first trials and tribulations don’t appear to be all that bad. A series of hot hatches that culminated in the perfect trifecta of all the Cosworths, three-door, Sapphire, and his holy grail the Escort, can hardly be thought of as a troubled upbringing. The problems started when Kim spent time in the scenes associated with those marques. Kim found himself at odds with the attitudes of fellow owners, especially those who are staunchly anti-modding. Some scenes are troubled by large groups of purists who throw serious shade at anyone who deviates from the norm and anyone who knows Kim, knows he isn’t interested in conforming to any modding boundaries!

modified Audi RS4 interior

Finding the perfect family car

Just as Kim was reaching the end of his journey with the Ford scene, his better half Vicky fell pregnant. The search began for the perfect family car. Kim, like so many before him, said “family car” but meant “next project”. Here is where we meet the Robin to Kim’s Batman, an Avus Silver Audi RS4. It might not be everyone’s first thought when looking for a family car but it has four doors and Isofix so it counts, right?

Feeling the pressure to make a change, Kim made that usually fatal mistake, and let his heart rule his head. He bought the first car he looked at despite it being far from perfect. It was rough around the edges and running like a bag of spanners, but it did have some all-important spec that he really wanted. For some, this is an opportunity. It can be better to get the right spec and fix the problems, than to buy a trouble-free car and then retrofit the spec.

modified Audi RS4 engine

A history with the wrong side of the law

Now, like any good origin story, there should be some run-ins with the polizei, and some dark secrets to uncover. Kim had questioned the unusual quantity of air fresheners that the previous owner needed to keep the RS4 smelling, well, fresh. It was at about the same time as the air fresheners started to wear off and reveal the unmistakable tang of Jamaican Green, that Kim got a knock on the door from the local plod. They were very interested in learning where the RS was from, how long Kim had owned it, and how he acquired it. Apparently, the previous owners had been using the RS4’s road skills, and family friendly storage, to their maximum potential as a drugs mule. That fresh news, plus the rough running, were all it took to set Kim on the path of rehabilitation and redemption for his drug-addled sidekick.

When talking about the rough running, Kim tells me that the engine felt like it was ‘coked up’. I wasn’t sure whether he was expecting to find unburnt fuel deposits, or a few unexpected bags of the Colombian marching powder stashed in the inlet. I didn’t ask in case it triggered some Vietnam-style flashbacks! Now, Kim is a hands-on kind of guy. He isn’t afraid of taking things by the scruff of the neck and making things happen. Before you know it, the engine was out, stripped down, and he was porting, and polishing it himself. It was then rebuilt (cue the superhero training montage scene and dramatic music) with phenolic spacers, a Carbon Induction intake, Tubi exhaust and a trip to MRC to fix the mapping. This left Kim with a safe, respectable 444bhp and a sweet running engine.

carbon backed seats

Audi RS4 becomes a project car

As Kim’s family grew, perhaps unsurprisingly, the practicalities of trying to get two kids, two dogs, a pushchair, and luggage, into a modified Audi RS4 triggered the purchase of an actual family car and the RS4 became the toy. Kim had the dream project he had always wanted and a scene that was more receptive to serious modding. The gloves were finally off!

It started with a set of coilovers and some 19” Rotiform INDs. This had the car sitting and looking right, giving Kim the impetus to start attending shows again.

Thinking back to those early Ford days, and the purists, he was surprised to be part of a scene that was different. A safe space where he could let his creative juices flow, and build something truly bespoke, without being scowled at.

More wheels and suspension tweaks followed, until the car became completely impractical. Kim chuckles as he talks of having to map his way through town to avoid aggressive speedbumps, then being scuppered by surprise roadworks that forced hasty u-turns and redirects. That’s a lot of effort just to do the weekly shopping.

air lift compressor tank

Doubling down on modifications

For most car-modders, this is usually the make-or-break point. Do you replace the now impractical car with something new, and repeat the cycle, or double-down? As you can guess, Kim doubled down. A trip to Ultimate Dubs 2017 started a love affair between Kim and a set of Rotiform wheels that were doing the business on Wayne Simpson’s aired out Audi R8.

For a whole year Kim obsessed over those wheels. Unable to take it anymore, Kim got in touch with Wayne and tried to broker a deal. As luck would have it, Wayne was ready to sell the wheels. After taking a hammer to his mother-in-law’s piggy bank, Kim was off to collect his new wheels. It didn’t take long to realise that an R8 has a bit more junk in the trunk than an RS4, so Kim had to swap the wheel barrels front to back and then spec new barrels for the front, to turn the 13” rear width into a more user-friendly 9”. Kim’s maths skills are absolutely on point, the wheels fit perfectly.

carbon manual gearshift

Carbon fibre dreams

It was around this time that Kim got hands-on again. Wanting to build his dream car, himself, without blowing the budget, Kim decided to hit YouTube. The Audi RS4 comes with carbon styling which Kim wanted to both refresh and add to. Hours of videos, plus hours of practice, got Kim to the point where he was pretty damn proficient at carbon skinning. He is unnecessarily modest about his skills. After a close inspection of his handiwork, I can assure you it’s flawless.

The way the weaves flow and match, is beyond factory. Perfection. He started with the B pillars and then worked his way through the seat backs, harness guides, seatbelt covers, kick plates, dash end covers, steering wheel, handbrake and gearstick. He entrusted the interior retrim to Seamline Automotive who went to the lengths of visiting an Audi dealer so they could measure the pattern on a C8 RS6’s seats so they could recreate it on these stunning Nappa leather seat inlays. The laser etched Alcantara adds a real VIP touch to the gearstick, horn and airbag.

Kim’s carbon work continued in the bay. Kim stripped out the yellowing factory carbon and reskinned it, whilst adding to the scuttle, battery cover, ECU cover, side engine cover, slam panel, grill surround and MAF housing. The manifold was stripped and polished for good measure.

Kim was happy to take advice, along the way, from everyone’s favourite carbon guru, Paul at C6 Carbon. As a result, Kim knew who to send the wheel lips to when he wanted the awkwardly shaped rings skinned to perfection. Kim took on the job of skinning the barrels, so it was truly a team effort.

Carbon fibre engine cover

Creating a modified Audi RS4 that was unique

For all that I’ve said about scenes, and how the VAG world is more open, of the VAG marques, Audi owners seem to fall into two camps when it comes to styling and tuning. On one side, the purists who are certain that Audi engineers have already built the car to perfection. On the other, are those who will go to much greater extremes to make their car different.

Kim sits in a little furrow of his own, a hybrid if you like. When asked about bodywork changes, he points to how perfectly styled the RS is straight out of the box, but then he mixes it up with some subtle changes, such as the narrowed rear place recess, A4 DTM front splitter, M Carbon rear diffuser, and then the not-so-subtle colour (more on that later). Possibly the most subtle, to the point that it even confuses some of the more knowledgeable VAG fans, is the spoiler…

With the spoiler, Kim took OEM+ to an extreme. If you’re scratching your chin as you look at the pictures, it’s an Audi TT 8J electric rear spoiler. Kim sourced a full boot lid so that he would have the correct mounting points and wiring to make the factory part work. The metalwork was expertly welded in by Kim’s good friend Jason Ballantyne. The finish is a work of art. It could not look more factory than if it had come straight from Ingolstadt. Kim did toy with getting the factory speed controls working but realised that he wanted more control than that, so another good friend, Steven Pimblett, reworked the wiring so that a dash switch can adjust the spoiler to the exact height Kim wants at any given time.

rear shot of modified Audi RS4

Lamborghini paint

We can’t talk bodywork without telling the story of that stunning colour. Youtube influencer Lord Aleem had Lamborghini develop him a personal colour for his new Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, named Viola Ashifa in honour of his mother. For Kim, it was love at first sight. He knew he needed to paint the modified Audi RS4 and he knew it had to be that colour. He set to work immediately stripping the whole car back to bare metal. There was only one problem, the paint code was under lock and key. Even Lamborghini dealers weren’t allowed to know it. Wounded, Kim left the RS in bits for months.

Finally, good news, Lamborghini were going to release the colour to their Ad Personam colour range. Renamed Viola Bast, it was finally available. Excitement kicked in, only to be immediately dashed again. The paint code still wasn’t available. Kim literally had to wait for someone to buy a car in his chosen hue, then crash it, so that the paint code could be released to the network for repair work. After months of waiting, it happened. Kim wasted no time in getting the car booked in for paint.

Like many of us, Kim hasn’t always had a good relationship with bodyshops and this wasn’t improved by his desire to paint in a new, premium colour that would cost a fortune to resolve if they screwed it up. Thankfully, a friend put him in touch with Mitch Lloyd. After speaking with the talented painter, Kim knew that they were on the same wavelength. A few weeks later and the RS was looking mighty in the Lambo hue and perfectly complemented by the stunning Verdi Mantis calipers. Mitch also took care of dechroming the trim, painted the wheel centres and refreshed all of the carbon.

Lamborghini brakes

Chassis upgrades

Speaking of calipers, despite the colour and rear spoiler, Kim considers them to be the craziest mod, and the one he is most proud of. Sourced from Germany, they are Lamborghini Urus 10-pots mated to 420mm RS6 carbon ceramic discs up front and a full Gallardo set-up, including separate handbrake calipers, out back. So massive are the front brakes that you can’t see all of the caliper through the wheel, they’re hidden behind the curve of the wheel face.

Naturally, they weren’t an off the shelf fitment. In steps engineering guru Sam Tait. Kim simply handed over a couple of boxes of bits and Sam came back with bespoke carriers, spacers, and even dust guards, to make everything fit like factory. The workmanship is outstanding. The combination of those wheels, calipers, and perfect aired stance is an absolute winner.

rear 3/4 shot of modified Audi RS4

Rebuilding the modified Audi RS4

With all the parts back in his garage, time came to build the car back up. Kim took three weeks of, long overdue, annual leave and set to work with Ultimate Dubs 2023 as his target. Rebuilding a car is always a trial. Making sure that everything is being done in the right order, ensuring that all the parts are available at the right time, taking your time so you don’t scratch or damage the parts you’ve spunked all of your money on, but Kim nailed it.

The modified Audi RS4 looks breathtaking in the metal. Kim’s long hours, plus a trip back to Mitch for a final polish and ceramic coat, paid off big time. An offer of an indoor space, swiftly followed by Best in Show and Best Wheels gongs vindicated everything that Kim has done and proved that he was home. Finally, in a scene that didn’t just accept him but valued him. Proof that our heroes come in all shapes sizes… and shades of purple.

Words: Tony Taylor. Photos: Mike Anderson.