quattro Magazine q3_2019: S is for Safari

words: Bradley Brownell, photos: Gil Folk for Folk Photography

Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the q3_2019 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, join Audi Club here.

This 1995 Audi S6 has led an interesting life. Based on the copious records, that came with the car, it has lived in Connecticut, California, Alaska, and Ohio. I purchased the car from a co-worker in 2012 in Ohio and have since moved it back across the country to northern Nevada. Like most of these so-called ur S-cars, this S6 has been pressed into duty as a daily commuter for my wife and I; racking up another 50,000 miles of largely trouble-free driving. It now has over 200,000 miles on the clock and shows no sign of slowing down. 

Also, like most ur S-cars, this S6 wasn’t exactly stock. By the time it came into my possession, it had already received a 2Bennett exhaust, a StopTech big brake kit, H&R lowering springs, and a chip tune of unknown origin. Horsepower was up a smidge over stock and it never failed to put a smile on my face. After years of competent large-chassis Audi motoring, I started dreaming of testing the quattro all-wheel drive on unpaved surfaces. Living in Nevada, where most of the state is public lands, I grew jealous of the well-built overlanding rigs dotting the automotive landscape. The twisty mountain roads grew familiar and I longed for the unknown. The thought of an off-road Audi kept creeping into my dreams. 

 The only problem was that this car was so clean that I didn’t want to hack it up in order to build the rough and tumble overland of my dreams. That all changed one morning when someone reversed into the car’s front bumper in a parking lot. With C4 S6 bumpers a bit thin on the ground to begin with, and the fact that my car’s pearl white paint would be nigh impossible to match, the originality bubble had burst. I suddenly didn’t feel so bad about cutting it up. What had once been a pipe dream was now a possibility.  

I worked directly with my friends at SendCutSend to help me design some laser-cut pieces to lift the suspension up over stock. We fabricated a 1-inch thick strut top mount up front, and welded longer bolts to the strut hat to sandwich it in. A set of 2Bennett camber/caster plates helped correct some of the weird alignment that happened with the lift. In the rear, we built a shackle to lift the bottom of the shock absorber up 1.5-inches. This fabrication work was, surprisingly, the easy part. 

While the car was up on a lift, I replaced the H&R sport springs with a set of stock height V6 A6 springs for another couple of inches of ride height. That extra couple inches would have made the car quite competent as a rally machine, but I was aiming even higher. The search was on for the right wheel and tire package that would further aid in getting some real height under the car.  

A quick discussion with a friend at Tire Rack netted exactly what I needed. I convinced them to believe in my half-cocked plan and they dug out a set of 17″ BFG All Terrain T/A K02s. Even better, they shipped them pre-mounted on a set of O.Z. Rally wheels to my house. Centering rings and extended wheel bolts were included as a kit. For as hard as I made this project on myself, Tire Rack made it super easy.  

Because of the StopTech brake kit, I was forced to stay with a 17-inch wheel for this build. By adding all that extra rotating mass, I didn’t want to downgrade back to stock Audi pieces. That did limit my ability to find a tire that would fit inside the stock wheel housings. With an overall diameter of 28.5-inches, I needed to find another couple of inches to get them to fit. To that end, the ends of both the front and rear bumpers were cut down about 1-inch.A nice strong metal cutting wheel made quick work of the front fender and rear quarter panel. By extending the angle of the wheel well opening back as far as the chassis would allow, I was able to keep the stock wheel arch intact, while cutting as little as possible. With some light massaging inside the fenders, using a mallet-shaped persuasion device, everything fitted up and worked well enough to get rugged and off-road.  

What can I say? It’s a pet project… a work in progress. Yes, the suspension squeaks, the tires rub a bit at full steering lock, and some of the detail work leaves a bit to be desired, but this car will literally go across any terrain you can throw at it this side of the Rubicon trail. Speaking of the Rubicon, a showroom Jeep Wrangler can be bought with up to 10-inches of ground clearance. Measured at its lowest point, this Audi S6 Safari now has a ground clearance of 13.1-inch, which is more than enough to jam over the top of most things. Almost two feet of water fording is a nice plus, too, but is rarely an issue in the Nevada desert.  

The driving experience has certainly been given a change up to go along with this new look. The S6 isn’t quite as responsive and can’t corner as quickly as it once did but highway cruising fuel economy and road noise are quite surprisingly hardly changed. Ultimately, I still have a comfortable and sporty Audi with a manual transmission and lots of turbo to get my blood pumping. And, I’m positive you’ll never see another one like it.