One of the beautiful aspects of car enthusiasm is how many different ways there are to express your interest and passion. More specifically, how your interests are neither expected to change nor remain the same, but purely be your interest. That is, as long as you can justify it to some degree. With Keith, the owner of a pristine B5 S4 for the past fifteen years, that interest has been to keep an aging example relevant in the age of rapid automotive advancement.

When we think of builds, show cars, or other exercises in the owner’s ego, it is usually a similar style we all picture. We imagine a wildly in-your-face and offensively low car covered in name-brand accessories and sporting wheels that cost more than they spend annually for rent. That’s just where the ‘scene’ these days has taken us. What draws in the most Insta likes is a set formula. It may have always been a set formula, at least an evolving one, over the years, but Instagram in the last decade has created a rut of unoriginality.

That unoriginality has, ironically, been what made cars like Keith’s stand out to me. It isn’t wild, it isn’t kissing the pavement, and it doesn’t have a video online to some lo-fi beats filmed on an expensive camera by someone called ‘fuzzy’ or some other moniker. It is a testament to the original design of the car supplemented by Keith’s creativity through subtle additions that make this B5 distinctively his. 

To clarify, it isn’t to say that Keith’s car wouldn’t stand out were the scene not so blandly monochromatic. It’s that he has worked so diligently to preserve and tweak something he loves to keep it turning heads more than a decade later. While that might not seem like much, it is the unseen, the intangible, that sets his car apart to be noticed by those who can appreciate the amount of work retention of the original spirit requires.

This attitude is one through which Keith and I immediately connected, as it is where my interest has taken me in recent years. Seeing a reflection of extreme care and loving dedication is what makes me appreciate a build, especially when it is comprised of such understated pieces. Keith has done well to maintain the car and Audi’s original intentions for the B5 S4 but done so with the mindset that it needs to compete with modern generations as they experience the results of our exponential technology growth. 

In the early 2000s when this car was new, 400hp was an absolutely monstrous figure. Today, bolt-ons slapped to a MK7 MQB platform can do the same with an afternoon of work. To keep this S4 turning heads, Keith has spent fifteen years perfecting and preserving his idea of perfect balance.

That balance is between Audi’s original engineering and his own need to drive something representative of his interest. It isn’t just an immaculately preserved example, nor is it some irreversible hodgepodge of aftermarket parts that make it definitively not an Audi B5 S4. His execution is one that fits somewhere in the middle: a true OEM-Plus build that celebrates all the original engineers’ and designers’ intentions yet stands out as an updated example here in the tail end of the second decade of the new millennium. 

Keith has built something unique in its understated celebration of what he loves about the B5. To those with keen eyes, the differences and bits of his personality shine through in his additions. Those not in the know, so to speak, can enjoy the originality of Audi’s design that has long since changed as cars become bigger, more aggressively styled, and full of absurd technology. Either viewer, however, can perceive the commanding theme that ties it all together, which is the owner’s lack of need for attention. His build speaks for itself in a soft-spoken voice to those with the ears to hear it but demands no reverence. It, like the omniscient cloud in Futurama, has discovered the secret to true achievement: if you have done something well enough, people won’t be able to tell you’ve done anything at all.