words: Ray Reyes, photos: George Achorn
Few players in the U.S. Audi aftermarket have gained institution status like 2Bennett Audimotive, specializing in service, restoration, and performance tuning on Audi models exclusively. A fixture in the space, the firm was founded in 1990 by brothers Ken and Andrew Bennett.
2Bennett’s home is a sprawling former Ford dealership in the Sacramento suburb of Davis, California. Stroll into the place and you’ll find a truly eclectic mix of Audi offerings, some new but mostly varied vintage models. It’s at the shop that we caught up with Andrew Bennett recently in order to take a deep dive and learn more about his work.
The 2Bennett story starts further back and thousands of miles away. The brothers grew up on a farmstead in western Pennsylvania just outside of Pittsburgh. Their grandparents lived in Sewickley Heights, Pennsylvania, an area where Audi was a popular automotive choice. The pair went to church camp in Sewickley and spent most of their summers there. Like many kids in the 80s, they got their start with BMX bikes which soon progressed to motorcycles. Their dad had an old Honda 90 but he didn’t have the mechanical abilities to keep it running. Instead, he was a very supportive mentor for the boys. He encouraged them to try and figure out how to fix things like the Honda. The boys embraced the opportunity, beginning to build upon their own mechanical abilities and, “making something out of almost nothing,” as Andrew puts it.
The brothers’ father, Al Bennett, had been an adventurous guy his whole life and wanting a change of scenery and pace, he landed a job with the state of California working for the public library. The entire family relocated Davis, California in 1984. The Bennetts embraced Al’s decision to relocate the family to California at such a time when the state was booming with infrastructure development and growing businesses. California was the perfect environment that Ken and Andrew needed for working on a car business. California provided plenty of cars in need of attention that were rust free due to the warm climate. Soon, their attention turned to Audi.
“Just out of high school, it turned out as we were looking for a car, the Audi quattro was the most car you can buy for the money.”
This wasn’t long after the unintended acceleration piece on 60 Minutes and as a result, the market was incredibly soft on even the highest performance Audi models at the time. There appeared to be no better value for the amount of car you would get from an Audi versus other competitors. Andrew and Ken decided to buy these older Audi models, specifically ones with even further depreciated values, that needed repair work.
Were performance upgrades always part of the plan? As it turned out, Audi Club may have had a hand in helping push them in that direction. Andrew shares, “In 1990, Ken attended the Virginia City Hill Climb event and saw the Audi quattros run by Audi Club founder Frank Beddor. About that same time, Andrew and his brother began developing Audi quattros to make more horsepower. At their first event at Lime Rock Park, Andrew and Ken both raced an Audi 4000 quattro. They had plans to perform a turbo conversion but at this time, it still had the stock engine. They also did some R&D work to improve the suspension, with coilovers and brake improvements. It made a huge difference in the way it drove. The car was underpowered but the brothers were excited to drive the car during an Audi Club North America sanctioned track event.
As Andrew explained the history of the business, we strolled past a modified quattro… an iconic box-flared “ur quattro”, but one that had been decidedly augmented. The white coupé exemplified some of their most well-known builds. It’s a 1983 U.S. market car, though just about every part of the car has been upgraded through a host of tricks and a portfolio of parts that 2Bennett has learned, adopted, or designed over the years. It’s got carbon/Kevlar body panels, designed similarly to the short-body Sport quattro. This car is a long wheelbase coupé though, fitted with bodywork designed in-house at 2Bennett.
Andrew mentioned that they turned to the rally cars for inspiration. From a design standpoint, they are near replicas, though he pointed out they made some improvements. Original race panels weren’t intended for production quality alignment and finish since they were intended to be used and abused on WRC rally cars. The Bennett’s design was produced with more of a street quality finish in mind. The front end looks like a roadgoing Sport quattro, while the rear side panels were modeled from a race version of the long wheelbase ur quattro race car.
2Bennett produces these unique pieces on a customer-by-customer basis today. “We build these panels to order,” says Andrew, “and we wait until an order is placed into assembly before producing the parts in-house.”
Though the point wasn’t to build racecars, the design was based on the quattro rally cars with the materials made of carbon / Kevlar,. “For the most part,” says Andrew, “what we are focused on in our restoration are cars that one can enjoy every day and remain street legal – something that can be in your garage and trusted to run and do everything it is supposed to do.”
Through the driver’s door we spied Recaro seats and a race cage built by 2Bennett in-house. They’ve been building the latter since 2002.
Peering under the hood, it’s clear that the motor is not what came fitted to an ’83 ur quattro. It’s an original ADU code engine from an RS2 and the ur quattro also has the RS2’s 6-speed manual transmission. The engine’s internals are stock, but the supporting peripherals are enhanced – bigger oil cooler, larger radiator, improved software with an upgraded Thrust Series turbo. “It also has a special shifting system that make it more accurate and feels like no other,” Andrew said.
All of this is complimented by an RS2 intake and exhaust manifolds, RS2 injectors and MAF providing the fueling with a 2Bennett 3-inch stainless turbo back exhaust system. They’ve also designed a modified cooling system to make it work with the factory spec AC and heating system. Their four-row aluminum radiator accepts the original condenser plus a clean looking 2Bennett shroud with 500w fan kit. According to Andrew, this particular car is built more for track use.
Suspension is something 2Bennett has earned hands-on experience from, something attributed directly to their racing pedigree. Look to hardcore vintage Audi groups like the Small Chassis Audi Group on Facebook, and you’ll find a high level of familiarity with 2Bennett’s coilover suspension kits for classics. 2Bennett designs their suspension depending on customer needs. Whether the owner uses it for street or track, preload design is important during these phases of the build.
Strolling past the bolstered quattro, we spot another oddity. It’s an early D2 S8 much like the one from Ronin, except it’s a long-wheelbase… and Audi never built a long-wheelbase D2 S8. As it turns out, the original owner once had an S8 and wanted to revisit that experience. He found another car he thought might satiate his needs but it was an A8L. The client asked 2Bennett to restore it like-new condition, yet also integrate components from the S8 so as to make something Audi never actually built.
In building this “S8L”, 2Bennett added new 18-inch Avus wheels, wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 245 45 tires. The car’s 2Bennett front brakes feature 8-piston Brembo calipers from an Audi RS, two-piece 365 mm rotors, and their Stage 2 rear brake kit equipped with vented 311 mm rotors. The front Bilstein shocks are adjustable and lowering springs have also been installed. Downpipes from an Audi S8 are linked to a Remus rear exhaust. Inside are partially reupholstered front seats from the S8, while a black suede headliner has been installed. A Pioneer display screen with navigation was also fitted. Given the age of the A8L chassis, other restoration was also required. A new A/C compressor, receiver/drier, and condenser were installed. Topping that off, the car received a full paint respray at a cost over $14,000.
“The D2 in my opinion is one of the most reliable, well-built Audi that has ever been built. They are extraordinarily engineered.” He personally has a D2 A8L as a daily that he uses to commute to work.
“Eighty percent of the parts used to build this car are no longer available. They are gone,” Andrew adds. Parts are no longer built or found on Audi Tradition’s website.
We asked if 2Bennett works with Audi Tradition. “We are probably as successful as anyone at gleaning some of the parts from Audi Tradition through persistence.”
We move to the next car in the showroom and, at first glance, it appears to be a B5 RS 4. Upon closer inspection, it is a sedan and based on a Nogaro Blue S4. As it turns out, it’s had a partial RS 4 bodywork conversion, including front fascia, fenders,and rocker panels. At the rear, the stock S4 sedan fenders remain but cleanly integrated with pieces designed by 2Bennett to blend up from the wider RS 4 spec side sills.
Andrew shares that a customer purchased this car new in 2000 and brought it to 2Bennett around 2002 to install an APR Stage 3 tune. This car has logged well over 100 track events, so it’s a solid build. All of the body parts used for this conversion are no longer available through Audi. Looking down at the car, Andrew admits, “At this point, the only way to get these obsolete parts are from crashed cars and even that is going to be a growing challenge.”
We wander past an Audi S2 Coupé on the far side of their showroom. Over the past few years, S2 models have aged enough so as to be a relatively easy import into the USA. Prior to that, if you wanted an S2, you had to build your own. Constructing these sorts of S2 clones from B3 and B4 donors is another way 2Bennett cemented its reputation.
The spec of this particular coupé is impressive. Here again, an RS2 engine and 6-speed gearbox have been utilized. Work began on the car in 2006 by adding an RS2 front bumper, lights, updated hood, 2Bennett Stage2 brakes, 2Bennett coilovers adjustable shocks, 5-lug conversion, and 18×8.5 wheels. The car also has front sport seats, RS2 steering wheel,and a 2Bennett turbo-back exhaust.
Audi only brought the Coupe quattro with the normally aspirated 20-valve engine to the US market while European market got the turbocharged S2 Turbo. Andrew felt that if Audi had brought the S2 version, “(they) would have sold the heck out of them.”
Right away, Andrew knew that the lack of a North American S2 presented an incredible opportunity, so they purchased many parts for the S2 and brought them to the US on their own. In Europe, the S2 market has risen and appreciated well in value, while you can still buy a Coupé quattro in the USA for a reasonable price.
“These are definitely behind the quattro curve, unlike the B2 coupes, particularly the ones that have been converted to an S2 or RS2 motors and have been done responsibly, using the right parts. They are still a pretty good value and they haven’t rocketed up in price yet.”
One might assume that with S2s now old enough to import, there’s less demand for conversion builds these days. “This is a big part of what we do. This isn’t past history. This is now.”
Is it hard to find engines? “It’s never been easy, but we love to hear from people that part with cars that have the engine we want. We try to recycle the parts we want and restore the components we need and use them to build out another car. This applies to ur quattros or ur S4/S6 AAN engines.”
He expands on that. “We don’t do a lot of part shipping for S2 conversion parts but we do service and maintain converted cars.”
They also repair S2 conversions that may not have been done quite right with proper parts. Andrew said, “We also have a pretty good Rolodex full of owners of these cars and where they are, and track some of these conversions that we’ve done. If someone has an interest in buying one, really the best way is to reach out to us via [email protected] Our customer database started in 1996 so we still have all of these people in our contact list. We maintain good relationships with everyone and let them know we appreciate their car and their business.”
If someone is interested in a particular car, 2Bennett tries to help facilitate a sale, and they also bridge the connection between buyer and seller so the cars can stay in the hands of Audi enthusiasts.
Andrew’s primary responsibility is general operations oversight as well as special projects coordination with interest in Audi restorations. He has unrivaled knowledge of most of these projects, so that made for an incredible guide for a tour of their shop.
2Bennett has about half a million dollars’ worth of stock parts both new and refurbished. Quiz Andrew on just the sorts of things in that warehouse and you can practically see the gears turning in his head before he quickly answers. Classic parts range from, “expensive ur quattro OEM body panels and bumpers to Colgan Bras from the 80’s which you don’t even see those anymore at car shows.”
We move past the showroom into their main shop and it’s not so hard to imagine where all of these incredible builds came from. At the forefront is an ur quattro that is in for restoration and, while doing that, they will work to improve the reliability of the car. They are rebuilding the engine and uprading the engine management to the Motronic 1.3 used in the AAN 20-valve 5-cylinder engine. Suspension and brake restoration are also a must when working with these classics.
Wander past that ur quattro and you’ll see a range: there’s an ur S6 in for repairs, while more “modern” and less exotic cars like a Mk1 TT and an early A3 Sportback are simply in for scheduled maintenance. A few steps past those is an assembly room where another ur quattro is stripped to the frame.
This quattro chassis had been previously painted yellow. Andrew smiles and states, “It was painted very well because it made our jobs even harder to get the yellow paint off, so we had to gut the car.”
This coupe is in for more of a performance build than restoration. Andrew shares that it will get a fully built engine with RS2 manifolds, 2Bennett water pipe installed with new sensors, new vacuum booster for brakes, intercooler, intake plumbing, and 3-inch turbo-back exhaust. The entire hydraulic power steering and brake booster system is being replaced by a more reliable 2Bennett vacuum boost system. It will also get updated alternator, power steering pump, and cooling fan. The bodywork plan will also open up the 2Bennett catalogue wide open, including replica rear spoiler and their Sport quattro derived carbon / Kevlar bodywork, all painted classic Sport quattro green.
While we’re again fixated on that bodywork, he also drops less visually sexy but still functionally important details in the form of yet another component 2Bennett has developed over the years working on older Audi models in sunny California. It’ll get an updated rotary style air conditioning compressor. It utilizes accessories driven by serpentine belts that does away with the original belt system used in the old ur quattros. Beyond the efficiency gains, it also rids the car of noisy belts, which makes for an even more pronounced I-5 soundtrack.
Such modifications are perhaps the best example of what makes 2Bennett…well…2Bennett. The portfolio is broad, from carbon / Kevlar bodywork to obscure upgraded components. The size and scope of the work performed at 2Bennett is hard to put into words, because just when you think you have a handle on it, Andrew thinks of another component you may have never even known existed. His expertise is hard to ignore.
In an era when Audi themselves have a hard time supporting parts availability on these older and now somewhat obscure cars, having companies like 2Bennett in the space is critical. That they can be called upon by owners of these old cars is a resource well worth taking note of. For all you owners of classic models looking to perform some sort of restoration or upgrades, emailing 2Bennett will get the right people engaged in your project. You can also find their parts on eBay under 2Bennett seller name listing classic or reproduction of OEM parts.
Editor’s Note: This conversation with Andrew Bennett is all part of a longer interview conducted during our tour. Listen to it on the Audi Club’s own Unfair Advantage Podcast available on ShoutEngine.com and on iTunes.
Editor’s Note 2: You can listen to the interview HERE.