UNDER DOGGING / Words: Louise Woodhams / Photos: Sam Dobbins / #VAG
From cruising the back roads of Miami to the very top of the show circuit Larry Harrison has been on one heck of a journey with his S5.
When Larry Harrison – otherwise known as ‘The Underdog’ on Instagram (the_undrdg) – was testing out the show scene, he used to get told to park at the back or on the grass when he arrived at car shows. He felt like he wasn’t being counted, so as soon as he started to get deeper into modifying his Audi S5, he decided to make a proper impact; this is his underdog story…
Larry’s love of cars began long before he shook up the US VAG community: “Having grown up watching my father work on his prized 1981 Corvette I have always had a special place in my heart for cars. Then when he purchased a 1987 Porsche 944 I realised there was something about German engineering that I connected with. From watching my dad drive the Porsche at the age of 13, I taught myself how to drive a manual transmission car. Without any instruction, I was able to drive it around the corner and park without stalling or any issues. That was a proud moment in my life,” reminisces Larry.
In addition to the 944, Larry fondly recalls the 928 from the film Risky Business as being one of his favourite cars growing up, together with the 930 Slantnose that Ice-T owned and was on the front of a promotional poster for his 1987 album Rhyme Pays. Whilst he’s never owned a Porsche, the Stuttgart brand is now part of the Volkswagen Group family, so it’s rather apt that the impression left from the 944 was so strong it stayed with him for a lifetime. Aged 37, he was finally in a financial position to buy what he wanted and found his way back to a brand that’s now part of the same family that captured his heart so many years ago, after girlfriend Ana suggested they buy an Audi.
His criteria for a base car was simple – a twodoor with a naturally aspirated V8 and red interior. It was obvious – it had to be a B8 S5. After searching online, Larry decided to visit Texas Direct Auto’s main store in his hometown of Houston, Texas. “They didn’t have what I wanted at that time, but as I was about to travel to California on business, I got a call to say that a black 2009 Audi S5 with red interior had come in and that if I was unable to look at it I should put a deposit down. Thinking he was being a pushy salesman I declined. The car was sold the next day… lesson learnt,” laughs Larry.
Fortunately, three weeks later, they got in another model, the only difference was that it was Dakota grey but that really didn’t matter to Larry as he had always intended on changing it. This time he was in Florida for business, but having learnt from his previous mistake, he decided to buy it there and then. “The first time I saw the car and test drove it was the day I took it home. Fortunately I had no regrets! It was in incredible condition, three years old and with just 17,000 miles on the clock. The first thing I did was show it to my son Dylan. I normally don’t make a move without his blessing, but this time I did not have the opportunity,” recalls Larry.
In fact, it was after the father and son team saw a 2015 Audi RS7 in Nardo grey at a car show in Houston that they decided this would be the colour change required to kick start the build. The car was taken to Auto Magician Paint and Body shop in Webster, Texas. Owner Miguel had never done a paint job, instead specialising in collision repair, but he was up for the challenge and Larry trusted him. Four weeks later, the car was ready and absolutely flawless: “You could see the nervousness in Miguel’s eyes when I came to pick the car up and when I told him how much I loved it; he breathed a huge sigh of relief and smiled.”
The car was then immediately taken to a good friend of Larry’s, Mike Nguyen, owner of CVT Designs, to get some suspension work done. “Mike told me there is nothing like an Audi slammed to the ground on airbags so needless to say that’s what happened!” Larry laughs. Mike designed a custom system and completed the installation within just three weeks including a bespoke boot build. “I wanted the trunk setup to be clean, but also to have all the hardware on show – like a nice Rolex you can see the mechanicals and how it works,” he says. “That’s why the copper hardlines are on show. Copper tubing is also a tribute to the hot rod scene that’s so popular where I’m from.”
By this point the body kit had arrived from Autohaus 24 in California. Rieger Tuning offered the only styling that matched his vision for the car in the form of an RS5 conversion body kit, including front bumper and rear bumper extensions, vented side skits and carbon front splitter. The eagle-eyed among you will spot that the car is actually sporting a JMS front lip splitter; this is because his original plan was to preserve the S5 look without going completely RS5, but immediately after the photoshoot it was swapped out for the Rieger part, together with an LED light bar in the lower front grille.
Back to the story, the car was left in Miguel’s hands once again, and was ready to collect three days later: “When I first saw the new body aired out and laying on the ground, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The bagged suspension makes the stance on the Audi look amazing and beautifully tucks all four wheels in. This time I was the one smiling, and somewhat thankful that the combination worked so perfectly,” he confesses. Now it was time to upgrade the rolling stock: “I had a set of rims that didn’t stand up to tough use on our roads,” Larry explains, “so I went to Rollo’s Solutions in Houston that I frequent for wheels and tyres and my guy, Luis, recommended Vossen. Apparently they could handle the punishment of the potholes that plague Austin’s streets.
“I think as a car grows, it becomes more and more of what I perceive perfection to be. For example, I started with the Vossen CV3 before swapping them out for the VFS-1 and finally settling on the VPS 304 – the world’s first fully polished examples with a diamond cut face nonetheless. The wheels are absolutely stunning in every way. They dance with the sunlight while I drive and at car shows they play with the fluorescent lighting. Having visited the Vossen factory, I met the people that built my wheels, and that really means something special to me.” Since he likes small side wall tyres with a nice tread pattern, he opted for Toyo T-1 Sports, which at 255/30 find themselves moderately stretched around the 10.5x20” rims. As well as offering a comfortable and quiet ride, they work in perfect harmony with the car’s AWD system.
Last, but by all means not least was the audio. Being a retail regional manager for Sony, Larry was in the fortunate position of being able to network with companies that otherwise might not have been on his radar. Larry took the car to see Dia and Muhammed at Houston Car Stereo where they tasked their master installer Victor to do something very special indeed. First the boot was trimmed in black and grey leather with black suede accents and LED accent lighting throughout. JL Audio speakers were then mounted in the bootlid to complement the Sony Vaio touch-screen PC, whilst the centre armrest was used to house the two JL Audio subwoofers. Finally, Mike from CVT dropped by to complete the copper hardline integration.
It’s taken Larry just one year to go from stock to spectacle, so how he is perceived at car shows now? “The first show I attended was Import Face-Off in Texas. People loved it; they took so many photos of my Audi and asked me questions about the build. The colour and the wheels were the main topics of discussion. I took home two awards too; First Place and Best Euro. The response has been amazing online, too. Before the build I had about 350 followers, and less than seven months into it that number grew to 7000!
It’s not unusual to have people take pictures or videos of the car when it’s on the road. It’s awkward, but I really appreciate the attention and love the car receives,” proudly answers Larry. Like a true underdog, Larry was a participant on the scene who was never expected to win. Things have changed now, and the stakes are a little higher but he’s played the game well with so many of the aspects of the car that are yet to be improved upon. “I’ve got my eyes on Wekfest Florida car show in December, which has a great car scene, so I’ll be continuing to build what I perceive as a faultless car. I’m considering a colour change, a new set of Vossen wheels, a big brake kit, a few performance mods perhaps…” Larry hints. Watch this space…
Dub Details #Audi-S5
ENGINE: 4.2-litre V8 with #K&N
intake filter, custom intake box with Plexi top and LED lighting, hydro-dipped intake hose and radiator cover (carbon fibre), #Magnaflow
CHASSIS: 10.5x20” #Vossen
VPS 304 forged wheels fully polished with a diamond cut face shod in 255/30 Toyo T-1 Sport Tyres; Viair air suspension.
EXTERIOR: Full respray in Audi Nardo grey, RS5 conversion Rieger Tuning body kit including front bumper and rear bumper extension (for dual exhaust exit), vented side skirts and carbon front splitter, RS5 black honeycomb grille conversion, Hüper Optik ceramic window tint, smoked taillights, custom light bar in lower front grille.
twin subwoofers integrated into rear arm rest, JL Audio speakers and Sony Vaio touchscreen PC mounted in bootlid, custom boot build trimmed in black and grey leather with black suede accents and LED accent lighting throughout with twin Viair air compressors and copper hardlines.
SHOUT: Jav and Mike at Vossen Wheels, Mike at CVT Designs Houston, Luis at Rollo’s Solutions Houston, Miguel at The Auto Magician in Webster Texas, Victor, Dia and Muhammed at Houston Car Stereo, Nate at Nate D’s Customs and Andy at Autohaus 24.
Boot install might not be subtle but when it comes to impressing show ’n’ shine judges it’s got all the tricks. “It’s not unusual to have people take pictures or videos of the car when it’s on the road. I really appreciate the attention and love it receives” Shooting anything in Miami is always going to result in awesome looking photos isn’t it? We’re not jealous… “like a nice Rolex you can see the mechanicals and how it works”