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1990 Volkswagen GTI - StarrPower

When a racecar turns show car

Justin Fivella
Oct 23, 2013
Photographer: Ed Fox
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Nope, it's not Nimbus Gray, nor is it the ultra-exclusive Suzuka Gray. Since you'll never guess, and are likely dying to know, we'll save you the trouble of searching: it's called Sport Classic Gray and is from the rare Porsche 911 Sport Classic - only 250 examples were built and tracking down the color was anything but easy.

"I called Porsche dealer after dealer, without luck. They wouldn't give me the paint code without a VIN number, and months of internet searching and phoning shops all over the country produced similar results," explained Webb Starr, owner of this 1990 VW GTI.

"After months of searching, pretty much everybody online knew I was looking for the color and I caught a break when I got the screen name of a guy in Norway who'd apparently cracked the code; thankfully he was nice enough to share it with me. Finally, after nine months of searching, I found what I was looking for!"

1990 volkswagen GTI 86 golf hatch 02 Photo 2/13   |   1990 Volkswagen GTI - StarrPower

Funny thing is, that wasn't the only paint-related story in this Mk2's tale. "The first time I decided to paint the car I wanted it Jazz Blue, and thought I'd start with the engine bay and interior. So I paid a visit to a local dealer for the paint code," Starr began. "Well, the parts guy gave me a legitimate code, but it was the wrong one!" he laughed.

That's right, after giving the paint code to the body shop, a return trip a few days later produced jaw-dropping results. "It was the wrong color and was far too purple. I verified the paint code was a legitimate VW Indigo Blue. It just wasn't the color I wanted."

Not easily deterred, Starr took the car out of paint and decided he'd work on other aspects before returning to the booth. By "other aspects" we mean everything. You see, to understand the magnitude of this Mk2, we have to step back to ground zero.

"A buddy of mine bought the GTI many years ago as a clean stocker and intended to daily drive it, but life got in the way and he parked it until enough bugging on my part prompted him to sell it to my wife as a Father's Day present for me," he explained.

The unmolested GTI 8v proved the perfect candidate for a Time Attack car and over a two-year span, Starr drove the hatch up and down the West Coast to the different track events, having a blast in the process. "It was a street-legal racecar I drove to every event, raced the heck out of and drove home," he said.

When basic engine, chassis and suspension mods weren't enough for the up-and-coming racer, he decided the path to greatness was paved with 12 valves of fury. "I knew it would make it nose-heavy, but I didn't care. To me, the AAA VR6 motor is simply awesome, so I found an OBDI example and proceeded to swap it with the help of Dynamic Racing Solutions in La Habra, CA," he said.

This wasn't any old swap, though. Webb lives in the smog-state of California, so he transferred the entire engine, harness and all the associated emissions equipment to get the car road-legal. And for those who don't know, it's a serious undertaking.

Returning to the beginning of our story, this was the time at which Starr grew tired of the factory red paint and decided it was time for a change. While the engine was out and interior stripped, he decided to add what he thought was Jazz Blue... Despite the major flub, Webb wasn't about to redo the freshly painted interior and engine bay with the proper color, so instead he left the exterior red and completed the swap. More track time was in order!

The good ol' VR6 12v was stout in factory trim, but Starr couldn't leave it alone, so a Techtonics chip, 2.75" mandrel-bent custom exhaust with a Magnaflow muffler, Unorthodox pulleys and a K&N open-element helped boost power.

With the new motor in place, Starr was able to hit a few more track days before reality set in. "Although the VR6 made it heavy up front, it was still a blast to drive and lots faster, but when my wife had our first baby it struggled to handle the duties of life and attend track days, so I decided to retire it from the track," he said.

Thankfully, Starr didn't retire the car altogether. Instead he morphed it into a show car for the many SoCal events he could attend. However, a few years slipped by without much progress until Webb decided on a new plan of attack. "The hiatus gave me time to arrive at the racecar/show car theme. And during that time I discovered the Sport Classic paint, which really makes the car stand out," he added.

Underneath the gray paint lies a shaved big bumper with deleted turn signals, fogs, plate recess, hood vents, side markers and roof antenna along with the exhaust cutout and tow hook. The rear seams were shaved, and other classic touches include an ABD Racing grille spoiler and Aero lower grille insert over the badgeless grille, plus an '86 Golf hatch sans the third brake light. There's also a Jetta windshield without the factory rearview mirror mount but with a Scirocco single-wiper conversion.

1990 volkswagen GTI custom six point rollcage 11 Photo 6/13   |   Custom rollcage is another indication of the car’s recent past

The five-lug swap with G60 front calipers and rear disc conversion was anchored by FK Silverline coilovers, but it's the 16" BBS E50 wheels wrapped in Falken rubber that steal the show. "I looked for rare BBS wheels for a long time and bumped into these E50s with magnesium centers and genuine race barrels that were from a legitimate Porsche racecar, so I had to have them," Webb explained.

The 16x9" front and 16x10" rear wheels with 2" lips are beyond rare and packed with heritage, so Starr wanted to preserve some patina. So while fifteen52 re-finished the faces, Botelho Custom Trucks polished the barrels without removing the deep nicks and scrapes from their racing past.

The interior retains its racecar roots, built around a custom six-point rollcage Starr designed, along with motorsport items like Crow Racing five-point harnesses slung over the Cobra seats. There's also a Momo steering wheel and plenty of gauges to keep an eye on the VR6's vitals.

Starr went one step further, adding splashes of carbon fiber throughout, along with plenty of tributes to the ALMS cars he adores, thanks to items like home-made door cards with simple pulls and small latches.

Details like the teal grille stripe pay homage to VW Motorsport, and the gold engine and interior accents tie the wheels to the VR6. And although Starr is happy with his creation, it's far from complete. Since he logs thousands of miles each year traveling to shows, he's planning some Techtonics cams and other motor mods. He might even get the Jazz Blue bay and interior he's always wanted. "It's been many years since I first tried for Jazz Blue and I think it's time I see it through," Webb laughed.

Who would have thought a miscommunication over paint could have led to such a one-off build? Maybe it's proof there's always a silver lining, or in this case, Sport Classic Gray lining.

1990 volkswagen GTI webb starr 13 Photo 7/13   |   1990 Volkswagen GTI - StarrPower

1990 VW GTI

Webb Starr
Riverside, CA

Engine 2.8L VR6 12v OBD1 with Techtonics Tuning chip, custom 2.75" exhaust, Magnaflow muffler, 3" stainless steel turn-down tip, Unorthodox pulleys

Drivetrain 02A five-speed transmission

1990 volkswagen GTI OBD1 VR6 12v motor swap 07 Photo 8/13   |   OBD1 VR6 12v swap included all the emissions gear and wiring to make it California legal

Brakes five-lug swap with gold G60 front calipers, rear disc conversion, 11" f, 8.9" r ABD Racing drilled rotors, braided lines

Suspension FK Silverline coilovers, Neuspeed rear sway bar, custom rear tie-bar

Wheels & Tires 16x9" f, 16x10" r BBS E50 wheels, magnesium centers, polished 2" lips, 205/40 R16 Falken ZE512 f, 215/40 R16 Falken FK452 r tires

Exterior shaved front bumper, turn signals, foglights, plate recess, hood vents, side markers, roof antenna, hatch wiper, washer nozzle, keyhole, exhaust cut-out, tow door, rear seams, badgeless grille, ABD Racing grille spoiler, Aero lower grille insert, '86 Golf hatch, Jetta windshield, painted Porsche 911 Sport Classic gray with VW Indigo Blue interior and engine bay

1990 volkswagen GTI cobra seats 04 Photo 9/13   |   Cobra seats and five-point harnesses left over from the GTI's Time Attack years

Interior Cobra Monaco seats, Crow Racing five-point harnesses, Momo steering wheel, custom six-point rollcage, Auto Meter Pro Comp speedo, tacho, water temp, oil pressure, fuel pressure and volt gauges

Audio/visual JVC head unit, Sony 5.5" mids, 2" tweeters, 6x9" speakers, amp

Thanks My family, dubNation, Tina and Dave Elledge, Matt and Brad at fifteen52, Ron at Falken Tires, Dave Meister at Meister Werks, Loren at WhanAB.com

1990 volkswagen GTI BBS E50 wheel 05 Photo 13/13   |   16" BBS E50 wheels from Porsche racecar have magnesium centers and polished 2" lips
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By Justin Fivella
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