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N39° 5’ 30” W122° 35’ 28”

My first vehicle was the 2nd Gen 1995 Toyota 4Runner when I was 17 years old. I didn’t know anything about cars and nothing about the off-road culture at the time. After high school, I left my hometown of Staten Island, New York, to attend the Academy of Art in California. It was here that I learned about the off-road community. I sold my 1995 4Runner to get a newer 3rd Gen 2001 4Runner, and then two years later, I bought the 4th Gen 2003 4Runner with the V8 motor. It was when I got the 4th Gen 4Runner that I gained interest in modifying my truck. I was still learning about the off-road community and didn’t want to go too crazy with it, so I just slapped on some Mickey Thompson tires and bought some miscellaneous aesthetic parts from Jaos. I was totally into the Jaos aesthetic at the time, and I think it was the look back then for a bit.

A few years later, I decided to let go of my 4Runner and wanted a fuel-efficient vehicle. I never owned a car before and was looking into something more sporty. So I started looking at Audi for an entry-level sports vehicle. It was a different world for me being lower to the ground than I was used to, but I instantly fell in love with the Audi A4, and so I bought one. I think I’ve gotten more speeding tickets in the Audi than any other vehicle I’ve owned. I fell in love with the Audi brand, then eight years later, I bought their Allroad model.

FORM THEN FUNCTION

After I bought my Allroad, I had no plans to do anything to it. I wanted it to be my daily driver and carry my dogs on road trips. I forgot about the off-road community and I was pretty naive with the street modding community for Euro vehicles. I decided to join an Audi club in the Bay Area to learn what people were doing with their Audis. I joined the Audi Gruppe of Silicon Valley, which I helped grow into what it is today. At that time, I met many helpful people who gave me ideas on what I should do with my Allroad. It was all about tuning the engine, lowering it, and exhaust. I was conflicted if I wanted to do that. Then it hit me; I’ll lift it!

I started my research by looking at what aftermarket parts were being put on popular builds and what social media influencers were promoting on their pages. I usually decide based on design and then function. Coming from a design and photography background, I am heavily in favor of aesthetics and design. I then looked at the utilitarian aspects of the product and decided from there. I can love a product’s function and capabilities, but if the looks don’t work for me, then it’s a no-go. There has to be a middle ground between function and aesthetic design to decide to go with a particular product.

NO TURNING BACK

After deciding on a product, I always look up how difficult it is to install. If I have the tools and patience to do it, I will work on it in my garage. Sometimes I recruit friends to help me or teach me how to do the install since they have the tools to do so. If it is a little more technical and short on time, I will have a shop do it. For example, my suspension is custom because there are no off-the-shelf parts to lift an Audi Allroad. It had to be made by an experienced mechanic and fabricator. I initially asked the people I knew in the Overlanding community for referrals but the majority of the off-road shops didn’t want to touch an Audi with its delicate and complicated systems. Luckily, I found one shop that took a stab at it as a fun project. From CAtuned Motorsports in Sacramento, Max took on the task of building me a one-off suspension lift. He initially installed fabricated spacers that gave me close to 13” of clearance, but it was too much for the Allroad’s suspension. From there, it was trial and error to see what worked and what didn’t. It was unknown territory. But there was no turning back.

ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER

After getting the suspension all sorted out, I started hitting trails to test it. Doing so pushed me to photograph more and get into off-road vehicle photography. It also allowed me to be out in nature more and on the road. It started an obsession to obtain camping gear and outfit the Allroad for longer outdoor adventures. I also plan to fabricate some camera rigs for the Allroad for some production work I’d like to do on the side. I have so many ideas to expand my creativity and the Allroad helps build a platform for it.

I learned light painting vehicles and that added to my love of night photography. With 13 Rigid Industries LEDs on my rig, it is a joy photographing my Allroad with all the lights on. It also became a challenge getting every element possible with all the intricate details from my Front Runner rack, Rotiform wheels, and my Tundra stealth matte wrap by SS Customs. So far, these are my favorite modifications to my build that are most noticeable.

DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

“I want this’’ and “I want that.” Modding the Allroad is a never-ending process. The next major mod is a taller lift and increasing suspension travel. I get the most hate because of the Allroad’s suspension limitations, and it’s not an official “off-road or Overland” vehicle. Although, a great majority of the community is enjoying the build and loves seeing me push it to its limits. I am inspired to continue to push my ride’s capabilities and it has been inspiring others to figure out how to do it with theirs. People ask me, “why don’t you just get a Jeep?” Because everyone has one and I wanted a Dffrent build. I wanted a challenge to outfit a rig with only allocating my resources to traveling and marketing its capabilities. I am aware of the Allroad’s limitations and I want to take it to the edge, but not to a point where I want to rock crawl with it. If I wanted to do that, then I’d buy something used.

HAPPY TRAILS TO ME

One of my most memorable trips was the Signal Peak to Rubicon trail. I made it up 85% of the way until a “giant” boulder stood in my way that I couldn’t clear. The Allroad was clearly out of its league. I must say that I still did pretty well on the trail, considering that the terrain pushed my rig into the deep end that day. I did lose a tire going down. I rolled over a rock and it split in half, creating a sharp edge that sliced my tire’s sidewall. I was fortunate to have well-equipped and prepared friends on the trails with me. If I have to run solo, I have to do a fair amount of research and e-scouting on a trail before hitting the dirt, fully cognisant of my Audi’s limitations. Alternatively, I could go with friends who know the trail well enough to make me feel confident I can traverse safely. Luckily I haven’t been stuck.

The most enjoyable trails I’ve been to are far from the Bay Area where I live. There aren’t any local trails I can hit when I hear the call of the wild, but I’m currently still exploring different spots along Highway 395 in California. So far, I have visited the Alabama Hills area. It’s one of America’s most scenic locations that also offer endless trails to explore. It has become my favorite Golden State location to visit.

On the opposite side of scenic California, off- road destinations are the gnarly mountain trails that will test one’s rig and driving skills. I have recently traversed an unnamed trail here in my state. It was very challenging for my Allroad, but I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly with my friends, who escorted me with their oversized rigs. I’ve been careful enough not to suffer any significant damage, but there is the occasional trail carnage, such as the one on the front lip of my bumper. My approach clearance isn’t that great, so I’ve gotten a few battle scars under my bumper. My under panels are still factory, but I’m not too worried about scratching them as I am not senselessly “sending it” on the trails.

I’m looking forward to going on more road trips and hitting the trails this year. Invitations from friends to join them on trips they’ve already planned always make their way into my cell phone. I have to be very selective and careful when I venture out on a solo trip because the Allroad will likely get stuck or badly damaged on very technical trails. So, I mostly enjoy the company of my friends when I go on Overlanding adventures. As I go on more trails and gain experience, I’d like to explore new areas out there by myself, such as the trails in and around the Mighty 5 (national parks) in Utah, Death Valley, and the Old Mojave Road. Although friends have warned me, I might not make it to some areas along the Old Mojave Road, but we’ll see.

2015 Audi A4 Allroad B8.5

LIGHTING:
Rigid Industries dual SR Pro for sidelighs, Rigid Industries dual SAE Midnight Edition lights for high beams in grill, Rigid Industries single 30” bottom SAE light bar, Rigid Industries single 40” ADAPT light bar, Rigid Industries dual Chase lights, Rigid Industries dual rear DSS lights, Rigid Industries dual 360 Series pillar lights

UNDER THE HOOD PERFORMANCE :
2.0 TFSI flex-fuel turbo

EXTERIOR MODS:
Agency 6 rear accessory molle, Three Five Customs hatch rack, Front Runner Slim Line 1 roof rack, KPMF Stealth, Tundra wrap

RECOVERY GEAR:
Husky Recovery Strap, Maxtrax recovery tracks

GEAR STORAGE, ORGANIZATION, RACKS:
Front Runner Wolf Packs storage, Pelican 1535 Air Case for camera gear

SUSPENSION, BRAKES:
Custom suspension by CAtuned, Akebono ceramic brake pads, Akebono slotted brake rotors

WHEELS/TIRES:
Rotiform CCV-OR 17X9 wheels, Toyo AT3 235/65R17 tires

ELECTRONICS, COMMUNICATION, IN-CABIN ACCESSORY MOUNTS:
Midland USA MXT400 micromobile Samsung Tablet

CAMPING GEAR:
Columbia sleeping bags Kamp Rite tent cot