When a man in a van wrote off his original Skoda estate, Andy Cowley was determined not to let it derail his plans for a tuned, BTCC-inspired Skoda Octavia and pulled out all the stops for his super fresh build.
Feature from Fast Car. Words: Dan Sherwood. Photos: Chuff Media.
“People look at the car and presume that I’m some sort of Skoda enthusiast,” laughs 37-year-old Andy Cowley when we meet up with him and his awesome Octavia estate at Birmingham’s Wheels Raceway. “But the truth is, I only originally bought a Skoda because it was a cheaper alternative to the Mk4 Golf that I actually wanted. There was no major passion for the Czech brand, it was just a cheap diesel daily to run around in and carry my work gear.”
But being the true petrolhead he is, Andy couldn’t resist treating his oil-burning workhorse to a few choice modifications, and soon it was looking pretty decent. He also had a garage full of additional mods that he’d acquired that were patiently waiting their turn in the limelight in his increasingly cluttered garage.
“To be honest, I really grew to like my original Octavia; especially when I could see what was possible with it after some tuning and modifications were added,” Andy remembers. “In fact, I was actually proper gutted when a van driver crashed into me on the M42 and wrote it off.”
With the estate a mangled mess and he insurance company ready to dish the dosh, Andy was finally in a position to get the Golf he had always dreamed of, but something was holding him back…
“I just felt like I had unfinished business with the Octavia as I hadn’t fulfilled my vision for it yet,” he says with a steely look in his eye. “So instead of jumping ship, I decided to buy back the crashed Octavia, strip it of all the upgrades that remained intact and, along with the unfitted parts that were piled up in the garage, I would go all out and build a proper 1.8 20v turbo model that had the speed and power to match the look that I had for the car in my head.”
Being the son of a motorsport mad dad meant that Andy grew up with the heady aroma of high octane fuel and vapourised rubber. He would regularly attend a whole host of different race series to spectate the action with his dad, Big Trev. The pair’s main love was originally watching the mud plugging antics of the rallying fraternity, but come the ‘90s and the duo had caught the Touring Car bug and could regularly be found at Donington Park, cheering on the boys of the BTCC.
“Big Trev preferred the more subtle look of the early cars, but for me it was always the Super Touring era that got my juices flowing,” he laughs. “Skimming the ground with huge wheels tucked up inside the arches, slathered in aero parts and with wild liveries. The Volvo 850 estate driven by Rickard Rydell was my favourite. I was obsessed with its long, boxy silhouette – it was just so cool.”
So rather than an Octavia obsession, what we’re really looking at here is an infatuation for estates, mixed up with no small amount of motorsport madness.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I just needed to find a suitable car that could be the basis for my Super Touring homage,” he laughs. “Luckily it didn’t take long and soon a very clean car, with just a few basic engine mods appeared on my driveway ready for the transformation to begin.”
The Octavia sat there patiently waiting for its overhaul until early 2019, when Andy decided the time was right to get stuck in, and the first thing he insisted on doing was a modification that all touring cars need; a side-exit exhaust.
“I didn’t want it to hang too low and look out of place, so took it to my mate John, AKA SumpScuffers, who fabricated a tunnel through the near side sill, to tuck a side-exit system right up into the chassis,” Andy explains. “He also did a chassis notch for my driveshaft whilst it was there, as I knew it would need it if I was to achieve the sill-scraping lows that are essential for achieving an authentic Super Touring look.”
With the car now suitably piped, Andy took advantage of his Dad’s driveway to use as a makeshift workshop, where he wasted no time in getting the car up on axle stands before stripping it to a bare shell, coating the underside and rebuilding or replacing every part of the suspension with either new OEM or uprated parts including all new VW nuts, bolts and fixings.
“I tend to get a bit OCD when it comes to my cars,” Andy chuckles, “so once I started refreshing the underside, I had to go the whole way and get everything sorted, or I just wouldn’t be happy with it.”
Continuing with the driveway build vibes, he then moved on to addressing the Octavia’s bodywork. Obsessed with running 19in rims, but with heavy tuck all round when dropped on AirLift V2 air ride, the estate’s arches were the first port of call. But this wouldn’t be a simple case of slappin on a set of swollen aftermarket flares, as it was crucial to Andy that the car retained the factory arch lines.
Getting the required space for such large rolling stock wasn’t an easy task, so Andy wisely subbed out the task to his mate Daz, who spent many hours cutting, rolling, beating, stretching, pulling and welding the Skoda’s arches to gain around 20mm of additional clearance.
“It was a lot of work for something you don’t even really notice, but the result is that the 19in Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.3 wheels fit perfectly and can tuck nicely up into the arches without any scrubbing, so in my eyes it was well worth it, as the whole theme of the car really centres around the wheels and the low ride height.”
With the stance sorted, Andy was keen to strengthen the Octavia’s aero game, unfortunately, when it comes to body upgrades for the Czech chariot, there really wasn’t much available. So Andy did the only thing he could and built his own.
“For the front bumper I blanked off the fog light grilles to keep the basic silhouette shape, then cut out the centre for the intercooler and added some side vent extensions with sections from a Honda Civic bumper,” Andy highlights.
Obviously, a huge splitter was a BTCC necessity, and this one is a home brew special which Andy made from plywood before skinning in fibreglass for shape. The side skirts are modified items that he found in a scrap pile and the rear bumper has been extended, vented and equipped with an alloy rear diffuser. The custom-made BYC wing finishing off the motorsport look was carried over from his previous wagon. But the one modification we can’t remember seeing doing the rounds of the UK’s top tracks aboard any of the BTCC’s finest is the cut out bonnet…
“The bonnet was fuelled by Covid boredom!” Andy shrugs. “But I hate skeleton style ones that just have the top skin taken off, while other cut outs often leave an obvious gap between the skins, so again my OCD made me smooth the gaps for a cleaner look.”
The messy work complete, Andy had the whole car painted in Porsche Chalk Grey – not Nardo grey as people often presume – before shipping the build off to Sam at Wrapstarzprouk for a BTCC-inspired livery to be applied.
“I wanted a classic touring car livery, but there was nothing in the BTCC that I liked, so Sam and I started looking at the German DTM series for ideas,” Andy recalls. “In the end we settled upon the complex Tic Tac livery from an E30 BMW. We changed the branding on it to reflect the mods on my car, but we generally tried to keep fairly close to the original livery.”
Now looking every inch the Touring Car star, Andy was keen to give the tuned Skoda Octavia the go to match the show, but that cut out bonnet meant that the engine itself also needed to look the part, a job that he entrusted to Andy Pallister of ADP Fabrication.
“Originally I wanted to go fully black on black, but Andy P is a polishing master so got me to add some shine,” he laughs. “We took the front end off, and did it all in one go, including adding the custom air box, tanks and boost pipework that was needed due to my Dahlback WRC-style inlet manifold, which also required the slam panel to be modified in order for the bonnet to shut properly!”
Interior wise, it’s a race car, so a flocked dash was the only sensible choice, and Andy complemented it by having all the other plastic pieces of trim in the cabin treated with the same fibrous coating, a task that was carried out by Flocking Fantastic. A suede Momo steering wheel and half rollcage added yet more race car chic, while a Coolerworx quick shift setup was installed to ensure the cogs could be swapped with suitably lightning pace.
“The seats were a bargain!” enthuses Andy. “I’d seen them go up for sale around six months earlier but couldn’t afford them at the time, but then they popped up again at a price I couldn’t resist! Like everything I buy, they were at the other end of the country though!”
The trip was definitely worth it, as the wraparound Corbeau Revenge full carbon-fibre bucket seats with TRS harnesses are pure race car, just with an added show-worthy twist of custom purple trim.
Another element to Andy’s build that pays no lip-service to motorsport and is all about that old school cruise feel is the full audio build. A set of Alpine 6.5in components sit up front in custom fibreglass door pods, while the deleted rear seat has been replaced with a boot build that features the twin air tanks and a pair of heavy hitting JL Audio 12in subwoofers, all controlled by a Kenwood double din headunit and powered by beefy Vibe amplifiers.
So is Andy satisfied that he has now fulfilled the full Super Touring vision that he always had for the tuned Skoda Octavia?
“Yeah, I think I’ve finally got to a point where I’ve achieved everything I wanted for the first car, I don’t think there’s much more I could do along the BTCC theme,” he reckons. “Although I’ve always fancied doing a WRC build, so maybe you’ll see this jacked up with swollen WRC arches in the future, who knows?”
But whatever the future holds for Andy’s wonder wagon, it’s sure to be doing the business of snapping necks and blowing minds wherever it goes.
Tech Spec: Tuned Skoda Octavia
1.8-litre, 4-cyl, 20v turbo AUQ engine, full black silicone hoses throughout, oversized turbo intake pipe, custom air box housing with large K&N filter, alloy radiator, front mount intercooler, custom alloy coolant, washer fluid, and oil catch tanks, AGN cam cover conversion, BAM boost pipe layout conversion, Dahlback WRC-style inlet manifold, polished charge pipe, throttle body, coil pack cover and fuel rail, cold side DV relocation with polished Forge BOV, injector wiring loom tuck, smooth polished alloy caps throughout, powdercoated parts in crackle black, uprated alternator, DW65 fuel pump, 3in downpipe, custom side-exit 2.5in system with oval tailpipe through sill and sideskirt, 15mm engine raiser blocks
Rebuilt 02J gearbox, Quaiffe ATB diff with ARP bolts, G60 solid flywheel and VR6 clutch conversion
Airlift V2 bags, OCD Performance front struts, IDF rear plates with 3 degrees of camber, Bilstein rear shocks, converted to Cupra R front subframe, cast arms, TT quick rack, TT hubs, Powerflex polybushes throughout, rebuilt rear beam, underside fully stripped, painted body colour, and fully powder coated, stud and nut hub conversion
Brembo 18z front brake calipers with 334mm disc conversion, HEL braided brake hoses
Wheels & Tyres:
8.5x19in Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.3 wheels in light anthracite with Nankang NS-2 tyres
Full respray in Porsche Chalk grey, custom Tic Tac vinyl livery, BYC alloy rear wing mount system, alloy rear diffuser, custom extended rear bumper, smoothed tailgate, custom side skirts, custom fabricated rear arches extended 20mm, front wings rolled and pulled, debadged front grille, custom front bumper, front splitter, DTM mirrors on custom base mounts, cut out vented show bonnet, headlight air duct
Corbeau Revenge carbon bucket seats in custom purple trim, TRS 3inch harnesses in turquoise, dash, doorcards and all interior plastics refinished in grey and purple flock, 4-point bolt-in rear cage with double diagonal and harness bars, Momo 350mm suede steering wheel with NRG short hub and snap-off kit, Coolerworx quick shifter, Race Diagnostics liquid gauge in drivers side vent, V2 controller in centre vent mount
Kenwood double DIN headunit, custom fibreglass front door builds with 6.5in Alpine components, rear seat delete with 2x 12in JL audio subs, and centre build housing 6.5inch alpine components, twin air tanks, boot build housing full sized spare wheel on show frame, 3x Vibe amps, Optima battery relocated to boot