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1998 Volkswagen Jetta TDI - James Hutto

Daycare show car

Ezekiel Wheeler
Jun 11, 2013
Photographer: Kevin Choi

When James Hutto purchased his 1998 VW Jetta TDI a few years ago it was with the sole purpose of driving to and from work and to shuttle the kids around. But after he rebuilt the motor and decided to add some power adders, the slippery slope to a full custom build was shortly underway.

01 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI shaved bumper Photo 2/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI

His plan for adequate power was fulfilled with a K03/04 hybrid turbo upgrade from Kerma TDI, which was complimented by an HKS FMIC and other essential big-turbo parts.

James soon had his 300,000-mile road warrior ready for anything the highway could throw at him.

Once performance was under control, James quickly turned to making the car look as good as it does today. While many hunt for rare parts on eBay, forums or craigslist, James turned to a local fabricating genius to dream up ideas from scratch. Take, for example, the front-end of this '98. If you're a true VAG enthusiasts you'll notice something slightly off about the Mk3. That's because the fascia is from a Mk2. The same goes for the headlights and JOM badge-less three-bar grille.

03 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI dakine surf rack Photo 3/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI

If you really know your VW stuff, you might have asked yourself, "How did they get the grille to look crowned rather than flat?". That's where James' friend comes in, Jeremiah Watts. He managed to modify the single-light grille to create the crown to match the contours of the Mk3 front-end.

The job took time and diligence, because after seeing other attempts on the show scene James knew if he was going to commit to the mod, he had to commit all the way. After all, he wouldn't dare be seen at the daycare drop-off with a hacked front-end. His son had a reputation to keep...

05 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI fifteen52 tarmac wheels Photo 4/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI

Finishing the exterior with shaved bumpers covered in Camo Tan matte finish, which should be noted was being "finished" two weeks before SoWo.

Stance was provided by Air Lift suspension and its V2 management system. Tucking a set of 17x8" fifteen52 polished Tarmac wheels isn't as easy as most would think. So James had the rear fenders flared slightly.

Up front, he notched the frame to get it as low as you see today. Nankang Ultra Sport tires (185/35) ensure there's separation between the road and his special wheels.

When it comes to outfitting an interior, many go with new seats and a good steam-cleaning. Sure, you can add extra gauges, a set of shiny pedals and a new shift knob, but that's child's play compared to James' vision.

After swapping in a set of Mk4 GTI seats and Mk3 GTI dash, he had the entire, and we mean entire, interior covered in basketball orange leather with white top-stitching.

06 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI mk3 GTI dash Photo 5/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI

The precision that Love's Trim Shop (Locust Grove, GA) executed on James' Jetta is remarkable, to say the least. It's as if the hands of trained Rolls-Royce craftsman had been mentoring these guys for decades.

The unique quilted seat inserts, 45° angled headrests and even the false floor in the trunk all received the same level of attention. In fact, it earned James the much-deserved Best Interior award at SoWo 2013.

When faced with mundane daily tasks, it's a wonder more people don't travel the road James went with his Jetta TDI. Sure, tuned cars can become less practical, but wouldn't everybody enjoy the day more when dropping your four year-old off at daycare and hear him say, "Daddy, I want to hit the button!"

10 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI shaved side markers Photo 6/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI

When you hear the release of air from the suspension lines, and your kid light up before running off to school, we're sure everybody's day just got a little better. And if James' son is any indication, the hobby is alive and well.

Tech Spec

1998 VW Jetta TDI

12 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI dakine surf rack Photo 10/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI

James Hutto
owner, JK Automotive Performance
Summerville, SC

1.9L four-cylinder turbo-diesel with Kerma TDI K03/04 big-turbo upgrade, HKS front-mount intercooler, Malone stage 4 tune

five-speed manual


Wheels & Tires
17x8" fifteen52 Tarmac wheels, 185/35 R17 Nankang Ultra Sport tires

Air Lift front struts and rear bags, V2 management, polished five-gallon tank

04 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI euro smoke tail lights Photo 11/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI

shaved bumpers, side markers and hood, rolled rear fenders, modified Mk2 de-badged, three-bar, single-headlight grille, Euro smoke tail lights, Dakine surf rack

Mk4 GTI seats, Mk3 GTI dash, Wolfsburg shift knob, Royal wood steering wheel, Love's Trim Shop leather interior, Cobalt boost gauge

Kenwood head unit, Addictive Audio 8" Excruci8 subwoofers, Elite Series amplifiers

My wife and wonderful kids, Love's Trim Shop, Jeremiah Watts, Kevin Beckham

02 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI fifteen52 tarmac wheel Photo 15/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI
11 1998 volkswagen jetta TDI fifteen52 tarmac wheel Photo 19/22   |   1998 VW Jetta TDI
By Ezekiel Wheeler
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