words: Troy Sicotte, photos: Brian Henderson/Rotiform
Editor note: This article was originally published in quattro Magazine Q2_2019. You may also see this RS 4 as one of our previous Find of the Day.
When did you first notice a fast Audi? Depending on your age, I’d wager that it was unlikely of you to notice one on an American road unless you’re a Millennial (Gen-Y) or Gen-Z. The simple fact is Audi did not really proliferate in North America as a known and sought-after brand until the arrival of the B5 A4. The B5 generation A4 was the first Audi that actually pulled consumers out of competing brands’ showrooms. One could say that yes, prior to this, Audi was a niche brand that only fanatics coveted…many of whom were the founding members of the club that publishes this very magazine.
In later years, Audi blessed enthusiasts with the B5 S4 with its sonorous 2.7-liter bi-turbo V6 and what was then a whopping 250hp. Then, as now, there was some forbidden fruit in the form of the quattro GmbH engineered RS 4 Avant. That car featured a bigger turbo (K04) version of that lovely 2.7T engine, developed and manufactured in the UK by Cosworth Technology, not to mention some alluring wide bodywork that the Audi brand had not seen since the Ur-quattro coupes of the 1980s. Power was upped to 375 bhp.
Some two decades later, it’s rare to find clean B5 S4s. For most mere mortals, the never-sold-here B5 RS 4 is downright impossible to find in the USA. Fortunately, Brian Henderson isn’t just any mere mortal when it comes to the Audi enthusiast game.
Henderson is a co-founder of now well-known Rotiform, a California based design, engineering and manufacture of motorsport influenced, design-leading cast, forged, and multi-piece alloy wheels. Henderson along with co-founder Jason Whipple, sold the company to MHT back in 2014. MHT saw the value not only in the company but the founders. They are both still involved, and Henderson is in charge of marketing for Rotiform and the other five brands under the MHT umbrella.
Henderson’s Audi addiction started because he grew up with them. His mom had a 200 Avant and his father always had something donned with four rings. He’s a self-described “snowboarder from the mountains that likes fast cars.”
Since Henderson uses cars as marketing content subjects for Rotiform, he’s had the pleasure of owning some gems; a right-hand-drive RS 2, the infamous R8 “Boss Livery” V8, a B7 S4 with the first VF engineering supercharger kit ever, a B8 S4 sedan with killer center lock wheels, all sorts of Porsches and most recently, a new R8 RWS that’s getting some tasty mods (watch these pages soon). His family continues the tradition with his wife driving a Q8, Q7, and Q5 TDI over the last few years. Surely, they are all rolling on prototype wheel designs at one time or another.
Henderson reminisces that growing up, the B5 RS 4 was always touted as the car to have, especially for those living near the mountains, who savor quattro weather and love to go fast. Recently, Henderson got wind that AZ Euros out of Phoenix, Arizona had purchased several overseas market RS 4s. He made a deal with AZ Euros, who later commissioned GMK Automotive to do the federalizing to make sure that it would be legal and legit. As a result, the Avus Silver beauty has a title that simply states “Audi Station Wagon.” You have to love that!
This OEM+ example was originally imported into Japan by Audi Japan. In fact, many RS 4s that Audi Japan imported were oddly low spec, lightweight versions with no navigation, self-dimming mirrors, and cloth seats.
Once in Brian’s possession, the car was looked over with a fine-tooth comb by AZ Euros, who runs a repair shop and importing business, along with EuroCode Tuning in Southern California. A baseline list of repairs brought it up to snuff and then the modifying began to bring it to as-new condition in a classic OEM+ fashion.
The initial upgrades focused on the engine, as that high-revving Cosworth 2.7T was the first thing that needed attention and received a rebuilt top end to address some leaky valve covers. At the same time, it got new cam tensioners from JHM, intercoolers from Wagner Tuning, then later downpipes and high-flow catalytic converters in order to help it pass emissions. A JHM short shift kit was also added in order to help the throws.
The chassis was also completely refreshed including new OEM control arms. Shocks and springs were replaced with H&R RSS coilovers for improved handling and appearance.
For braking improvement, Brian turned to an impressively OEM+ approach, dipping into the vast Audi parts bin for the ultimate factory stoppers. He began by sourcing an OEM carbon ceramic brake kit from a first-generation Lamborghini Gallardo. These are the same units offered on the first-generation R8 in Europe but the Lamborghini units are more plentiful on the American used market. Even better, they fit smaller 18-inch wheels and are basically bolt-on… at least at the front.
This first-generation kit is basically a Brembo 8-piston caliper at the front and 5-piston at the rear. These were sent to Boden Autohaus to be rebuilt and refinished in yellow with factory-looking “Audi Carbon Ceramic” logos. And given the rear e-brake configuration is notably different, Brian sourced a spacer conversion kit from RS Tuning out of Hungary.
The interior also received its share of freshening. Henderson sourced new old stock B5 RS 4 kit from EuroPrice. This included RS 4 Clubsport Alcantara steering wheel and shift knob. To further the Clubsport appearance, he’s also sourced a set of OEM Audi spec Recaro Pole Position sport seats, though he’s waiting to try to find some matching fabric to that Japanese cloth interior before he installs these.
On the outside, the restoration theme continues. Again, Europrice came through with more new old stock components. The fading headlights and taillights were swapped for factory fresh units, while a new OEM RS 4 grille replaces the worn original.
Finally, when it came to rolling stock, you know one of the partners at Rotiform is going to run one of his own wheel designs. In this case, the RS 4 has received a set of 19×10 (et15) versions of Rotiform’s upcoming OZR design. While these are modular prototypes, Henderson shares that more configurations will be offered including forged monoblock. In this case, they’re also fitted with Toyo Proxes 4 Plus Ultra-High-Performance all-season tires in 255 30 19 sizing.
As mentioned, Henderson often purchases and builds his cars as marketing content platforms for Rotiform. This one though…this one is different. Brian admits he’s building this car all for himself. In as much, it is the embodiment of self-indulgence from an admitted Audi enthusiast with a track record for building some of the most high-profile Audi show cars in the USA.