BEHIND CLOSED DOORS #Audi-SQ5-Stance
3.0 BiTDI SQ5 killing it on 22” rims with lashings of carbon and 570lb ft of torque #Carbon-Clad #Audi
SQ5. Built away from the social media limelight and unveiled without warning, Ian Kelly’s impossibly stanced SQ5 is a daily driver with details to die for. Words: Alex Grant. Photos: Si Gray.
As a global melting pot of ideas, a live feed of projects and a route to finding obscure parts, you’d struggle to argue that the scene would be a better place without the internet. But for all the good it’s done, there’s one thing that the rise of forums, social media, and updates on every detail has robbed us of: surprises.
That’s not to say we don’t enjoy a good build thread or finally getting to see the end result in the metal when it rolls into its first event. But those show-stopping projects, patiently and quietly put together out of the digital limelight and unveiled without warning, are becoming a real rarity. Which makes them all the more remarkable when they do happen.
When we first met Ian Kelly back at Ultimate Dubs in #2014
we’d got no idea how he’d managed to keep this one quiet. In six months, he’d turned a box-fresh SQ5 into the talk of the show without even hinting at what he was up to: an impossibly low static drop over 22-inch wheels on a car nobody else had modified to this level in the UK. Impressive not only because the work needed to get it there was more than worthy of a project thread but also because it’s his daily drive.
“I’d only told a handful of people that I’d bought the car,” Ian recalls. “The plan was always to keep it under wraps until it was ready for its first show. That was quite a challenge given I used it daily – especially once it was lowered. It was spotted a few times but nobody knew who the owner was.”
Just under three years later and it’s lost none of its impact, the studio lighting picking out every crease of the carbon-accented, Zaino’d bodywork and two-tone Rotiform DUS wheels. But it’s more than just a one-trick car; the result of 15 years of developing ideas, this might just be the ultimate nu-wave build. Ironically, for someone who’s never gone for project threads, that’s something you don’t fully appreciate without understanding the work that’s got into it.
Even Ian admits it almost never happened. Having moved out of an S3, he’d got far enough down the road of planning a Tiguan build that he’d even bought a Golf R bumper to graft onto it. But the performance, economy and rarity of the e big Audi was too good to pass up. “The key thing about the SQ5 for me was the engine,” he explains. “I wanted big power and torque but without having the fuel bills of a petrol car as my daily commute is 100 miles. Plus the fact the car was so fresh. Apart from the odd Q5 in Japan and the US no one was really modifying them.”
Plans had started coming together before this car had numberplates. Ian is good mates with Paul Brown at C6 Carbon, having worked together on his previous cars, and they’re used to bouncing ideas off each other. For the SQ5 the route ahead was pretty obvious: the biggest drop, with the largest wheels that would fit, and enough carbon fibre to make a Formula One car feel inadequate. But getting there without the backup of other Q5 owners’ shared solutions to problems was never going to be simple.
Even the car itself was a leap of faith. “I’d never even driven a Q5, let alone an SQ5,” Ian says. “Some would say that was pretty risky on such an expensive car but I knew I’d love it. It came from Bath Audi, which is a long way from my home in Newcastle, but the drive back home was fantastic. The exhaust note on the 3.0 #V6 #BiTDI
in Dynamic mode is like a screaming petrol V8. I was hooked.”
Ian didn’t make things easy, starting out with a static drop and a need for custom parts to get it as low as the picture in his head. Si Sweetland at StillStatic put him onto Alois Hankover at AH Exclusive parts in Germany to build a 150mm H&R Race Kit for the Audi; the first of its kind, it took two attempts to bring the back end low enough, and caused problems he didn’t notice at first. For example, taking several inches out of the ride height gave it excessive negative camber, lunching a set of tyres in a couple of thousand miles (the same also happens with the A4 and A5). “Everything was very much experimental at that point because nobody else was modifying the SQ5 or Q5,” he says. “I imported a set of 034Motorsport front upper control arms in the hope this would resolve the issue… it didn’t. The kit simply isn’t designed to run on cars as low as mine was, so we had to redesign them and C6 machined a new set to work with our specifications.”
Even this didn’t fix all the problems. Filling the arches with 10.5x22-inch Vossen CV-T wheels highlighted a total lack of clearance, with suspension components hitting the frame on bigger bumps. Getting the ride height where he wanted eventually meant ditching the rear anti- roll bar and making some ‘adjustments’ to free up extra space.
“The front and rear chassis modifications mean we can run the biggest drop of any Q5 or SQ5 to date, and it can drive this low static. The trouble was, having got the ride height how I wanted, it was too low to run daily. I was scuffing the fuel tank, so I had to change to air. People thought I was anti-air as I’d resisted it for so long; I wasn’t, I just hadn’t needed it until that point.” The end result of that two-year trial and error is a setup which Ian reckons is pretty much perfect. Paul at C6 Carbon modified a set of airbags to fit the shortened H&R dampers Alois had built for the car, and the kit is controlled via Air Lift 3P management. He drives it as low as it was when it was static but lifts it over tank- scraping obstacles when needed. Not that it’s finished yet. “We’ve got plans for some more front chassis development,” Ian laughs.
“It just depends when we can fit it all in.” There was, at least, plenty of room to be greedy with wheel sizes. It’s still remembered on the Vossens it was wearing when it broke cover, but they spent only a year on the car before Ian moved on to the set he’d wanted from the start. “I had been a fan of Rotiform from day one and had been chatting to Brian for a while about changing to a set of three-piece wheels,” he says. “They were going to be the main change for the car in 2015 and they were fitted just before MIVW. It totally changed the look of the car, adding more class to it. The centres are painted the same dark black bronze as the Vossens.”
As easy as it is to get wrapped up in that hard-earned stance, it’s only part of this car’s talents. Ian and Paul’s collective eye for detail is woven through every part of the SQ5. For example, they deleted the chrome before Audi offered that as an option and replaced the seat belts and all the stitching with yellow matched to the brake calipers – one of the few bits of colour left on the outside. Both bits you can miss at a glance.
Harder to miss, though, is the acres of carbon fibre. Ian had started working with C6 Carbon when he was building his old S3 but the SQ5 took that carbon skinning obsession to an all-new level. We’re even talking boot hinges, the inside of the armrest, even the end caps of the dashboard – parts that are usually out of sight. Everything got treated the same way, with Paul using a larger weave than usual and rotating the roll 45 degrees which means the weave follows the line of the car instead of being diagonal.
Actually, Paul’s had such a big hand in the project that he’s the only other person who gets to drive it. When it made the trip to MIVW last year with its new RS6-style front bumper, it was Paul who’d fitted it while Ian was on holiday in Ibiza. It had also meant a week of frustration when the new bumper’s paint didn’t match, and a last-minute rush before heading for Valkenburg.
But it seems Paul likes a challenge; so when Ian opted for seamless air tanks for the boot install, there were no corners cut with the layer you can actually see. Paul skinned the tank in a single sheet of carbon fibre – a job which would usually take three pieces. As we said, it’s as much about what you don’t notice at first, as what grabs you at a glance.
Ian’s had his hand in where possible, though, as he explains: “The air install was my first attempt at air and hardlines. It didn’t go to plan first time and after a set of PTC cartridges later and numerous lengths of tube, the air install was finally in. Then the management just wouldn’t fire up. Paul eventually found the issue after chatting to Phil James at the Install Company. Somehow the loom was wired incorrectly from the factory. It’s never easy.”
With 313bhp and 480lb ft of torque, and 62mph out of the way in around five seconds, big performance upgrades were never really on the shopping list. Ian’s swapped to an APR intake and custom DTUK map which takes power up to 370bhp and 570lb ft of torque without denting economy for commuting. He then treated the bay to plenty of matte carbon fibre to bring it in line with the rest of the car.
Which means – even with a two-year-old daughter and a wedding to pay for this year – life shouldn’t get in the way of SQ5 ownership any time soon. Just as well, really, as it almost happened the other way around. Ian’s fiancée Karen went into labour while he was at Edition 38, leaving him frantically shuffling of the showfield before sprinting back to Newcastle to get there in time. Having poured so much effort into the Audi, 2017 is all about the final details rather than big changes – the priorities, for now, are elsewhere.
“It’s great taking it all in when it’s parked-up at shows – I love how complete it is yet how simple. There are so many details that most people miss and that is how I wanted it, and how it should have left the factory.” So it’s part of the family now then? “Karen, my fiancée doesn’t mind it although she does say it’s ‘daddy’s silly car’ to our daughter… read into that what you will,” Ian laughs.
Of course, that’s not stopping him planning further ahead. So, what’s next? “I have a plan for a new car. However, I’m not going to say too much… all will be revealed once the car is ready to show, just like the SQ5,” Ian smiles.
We love this new-wave Audi, not just for what Ian has done to it but because it’s right out of the old-skool – built the way projects used to be before the internet made every nut, bolt and late night public. For that, Ian, we salute you. Now close those garage doors and get building!
“Everything was very much experimental because nobody else was modifying the SQ5 or Q5”
“There are so many details that most people miss and that is how I wanted it”
Dub Details #ARP
ENGINE: 3.0 BiTdi diesel, #C6-Carbon
(370bhp, 774Nm), one-off C6 Carbon strut brace, C6 Carbon slam panel and scuttle panel, one-off C6 Carbon R8 washer bottle cap, R8 coolant cap and oil cap
CHASSIS: 10.5x22” forged #Rotiform-DUS
, 265/30 Nankang NS2 tyres, #H&R
coilovers modified to run airbags on C6 Carbon CNC hardware, Air Lift Performance 3P management, C6 Carbon front upper control arms, C6 Carbon chassis development, rear anti-roll bar deleted
RSQ5 front bumper conversion, C6 Carbon grill surround, C6 Carbon crash bar, C6 Carbon side blades, C6 Carbon rear diffuser, exterior trim painted black
INTERIOR: Yellow seat belts and stitching, C6 Carbon dash/door trim, sill trims, seat backs and seat sides, RTA Fabrications #Air-Lift-3P
controller holder modified to fit into the ashtray, C6 Carbon air install with Speciality Suspension one-piece seamless tanks, C6 Carbon acrylic/carbon illuminated #Air-Lift
manifold plate, C6 Carbon fire extinguisher #Air-Lift-Performance-3P
SHOUT: My fiancée Karen and daughter Grace, my family, my friends, Paul at C6 Carbon, Simon at StillStatic, Alois at AH Exclusive Parts, Brian at Rotiform, Steve and Rod at RA Bodyshop, Simon at Syco Graphix, Matt at Only Charged Dubs, Parm at Car Audio Security, John at Bespoke Leathering, Richard for CAD work, RTA Fabrications, Zeeshan at Xenonz UK Ltd, John at Zaino Europe
The perfect daily? We’re struggling to think of many cars on the road today we would rather have for the daily drive!
There’s just something so badass about slammed SUVs isn’t there? Imagine seeing this in your rear view… GET OUT OF MY WAY!