Andrew Kahrimanian of Vallejo, CA began his enthusiasm for European cars on the BMW platform. "My first Euro was a BMW," he stated. "From that point on, European cars have become my passion. I started with an E36 325i, then an E30 325is. From there I bought an E46, which I thought would be my last project. It had 19" iForged wheels, Rieger kit, some engine bolt-ons, StopTech brakes, Sparco seats and a fiberglass trunk setup."
Andrew's E46 was an eye-opener in his NorCal hometown. He was satisfied with the results and ready to scale down his tuning addiction, but his friends persuaded him otherwise. "I started liking VW styling because most of my friends drove Volkswagens," he admitted. "So I bought a GTI as a birthday gift to myself. I purchased it as a commuter, since I already had the BMW but things changed fast. To my surprise, the BMW became my commuter and the mod bug bit me hard on the GTI."
The knowledge and patience learned from working on BMWs carried over to his newfound love for VWs. Shortly after purchasing the '03 GTI 1.8T, Andrew established his style and objectives. "I wanted the project to be creative and not something you see everyday," he explained. "I wanted to keep it clean, simple and well-rounded."
The exterior was first to receive a redefined look. The front bumper is an original design by Andrew. "When I bought the car it was bone-stock," he said. "So I went ahead and added an OE 20AE front spoiler. I knew I eventually wanted to mold it and do something more custom, but never had the time or resources to do it. However, I finally decided to mold both bumpers. So we secured the front lip to the bumper with a super-strong Fusor bonding material. We wanted to test its strength once it dried, so we had people hold each end and twist the bumper. The thing didn't crack at all!
"Once the mold was finished, we did a cutout of the center section, including where the bumper and lip attach. Then we reinforced it to prevent it from sagging or separating. I just wish I could stop scraping it down the freeway!
"Once that was finished, the emblem notch was filled to accommodate a badgeless grille and the side markers were shaved. This process took about two months but we also shaved the hatch emblem and handle at the same time."
To finalize the exterior, Votex side skirts were fitted for a deeper appearance and the hood received a SpeedTech metal bser extension. The rear wiper was eliminated to compliment the shaved hatch, and the antenna was shaved to simplify the roofline.
Final additions included a Freedom Designs upper hatch spoiler and some hard-to-find OE European parts like the stubby mirrors, tail lights and HID headlamps.
The modifications under the hood needed to complement the reborn exterior. So Andrew flashed his ECU with Revo programming and swapped in a 4bar fuel pressure regulator to handle the added boost. ABD Racing provided an intake manifold, air intake and silicone intake hose. A Samco turbo inlet pipe releases even more airflow to the turbo.
To liberate exhaust pressure, Andrew utilized a Wicked Tuning system with a 3" stainless steel downpipe, muffler and piping.
The factory side-mount intercooler wasn't efficient enough, so Andrew fitted a GReddy front-mount. From our interview we discovered this was one of the hardest components to install. "It seems the simplest projects turn out to be the most difficult! It was an all day and night project where three of us worked on it from start to finish. We even got our friend to let us use his bodyshop at 3am so we could cut the rebar." Once the intercooler was in, Andrew was pleased with the performance even though his goals didn't require a big turbo or crazy motor.
The suspension was next and KW Variant 2 coilovers lowered the car appropriately. ABD Racing supplied sway bars and a front upper strut bar to stiffen the chassis. Andrew also added a rear bar to further strengthen the body. Prothane control arm bushings were finally installed to improve steering control.
For stopping, Andrew originally fitted Audi TT brakes but later upgraded to ECS Tuning big brakes with four-piston Porsche Boxster calipers and 13.1" slotted and drilled rotors. He enlarged the rear brakes as well with an ECS 12.1" kit.
We asked Andrew why he changed brakes. "Don't get me wrong, the TT setup was great but I always wanted the Porsche brakes. What I like about them is they don't fade when hot. I can stop on a dime, even though I tend to baby them," he replied.
Framing the new brakes is a set of 18" Brock B4 two-piece wheels. The fronts measure 8.5" wide and the rears are a massive 10" wide, although Andrew fitted H&R spacers to fill the fenders perfectly.
The interior originally came with cloth upholstery. "I was able to get my hands on black leather door cards from another GTI after I bought the car," he mentioned, "But I still had the cloth seats. I finally purchased a black leather rear seat from a friend with a Jetta and installed Recaro Speed seats up front. The Recaros were actually cloth and it really bothered me, so I saved up for the Recaro Sport Toplines in black leather. They have more bolster in the shoulders and have power tilt, lumbar and air-vent features."
After the seats and doors were updated, Andrew only had to find some personal touches. In OEM+ fashion, the rear headrests were swapped for New Beetle units, the GTI air vents were replaced with Jetta vents and the boots on the shifter and e-brake were updated with 20AE parts.
Other upgrades included Audi TT shifter surround and pedals, plus a Momo steering wheel and shift knob. To monitor his engine's vitals, Andrew installed a triple gauge panel in the center console and a single gauge above the steering wheel. Auto Meter Sport Comp gauges watch boost pressure, voltage, air/fuel ratio and oil pressure.
To complete the transformation, Andrew updated the factory stereo. He started with an Alpine in-dash 7" DVD monitor. For more listening options he added an XM tuner and antenna, while additional bass was provided by JL Audio subs and amp in the trunk. This filled the only void in the GTI's overall package.
It's no joke Andrew has upgraded every element. He's been meticulous on each modification and considered how it would affect the car's overall theme. "Everything from the wheels to the shift knob are exactly the way I envisioned them, and I wouldn't want it any other way," he explained. "I feel as if my mods flow together and give the car an aggressive look while maintaining VW's original lines."
Today, Andrew stays close to his friends known as NFJ (Nofuknjoke) who turned him onto the VW scene. "NFJ is a big group of friends who share the same interests and like to hang out," he noted. "We started meeting through mutual friends in the Euro scene and never intended to become a "team." Eventually, we started showing our cars, having barbecues, and became closer friends. We don't usually refer to NFJ as a team but as "the Fam."
LOCATION: Vallejo, CA
OCCUPATION: Financial Services Manager
2001 VW GTI 1.8T
ENGINE: 1.8 liter, 20v i4 with Revo 4bar software upgrade, ABD Racing polished intake manifold, silicone intake hose, cold air intake and 4bar fuel pressure regulator, Neuspeed lightweight pulleys, ECS Tuning N75 frequency valve, Samco turbo inlet pipe, HKS SSQ blow-off valve, ATP weld-on BOV flange, GReddy 15mm oil catch can and front-mount intercooler, polished intercooler piping, Wicked Tuning 3" stainless steel downpipe, piping and muffler, MagnaFlow tailpipe, RPM reinforced exhaust hangers, brushed aluminum catch can bracket, polished and engraved strut caps, ABD carbon engine cover, Optima Yellow Top battery, 4Grounding grounding kit, custom billet battery box, Prothane dogbone mount, paint-matched lower engine and fuse covers, Neuspeed polished dipstick cover, washer and coolant reservoir caps
DRIVELINE: Sachs VR6 PowerClutch conversion, G60 lightened flywheel, DSS Level 1 upgraded axles, Audi TT short shifter
SUSPENSION: KW Variant 2 coilovers, ABD Racing 25mm front and 28mm rear sway bars and upper strut bar, Prothane control arm bushings, polished rear bar
WHEELS & TIRES: 18x8.5" front, 18x10" rear two-piece Brock B4 wheels, 8mm front, 10mm rear H&R spacers, 225/35-18 front, 225/40-18 rear Falken FK452 tires
BRAKES: 13.1" ECS Tuning stage 2 big brake system with slotted and cross-drilled two-piece front rotors, Porsche Boxster four-piston monobloc calipers, ECS Tuning stage 1 rear 12.1" big brake system with slotted and cross-drilled rotors, Hawk HPS pads (front), Axxis Deluxe pads (rear), ECS Tuning stainless steel brake lines
EXTERIOR: OE VW 20AE front spoiler molded to front bumper, 20AE rear apron molded to European rear bumper, custom front bumper design, 20AE side skirts, filled front bumper notch, SpeedTech metal hood extension, shaved front rub strip side markers, hatch emblem, hatch handle, rear wiper and antenna, OE European stubby mirrors, Bonrath badgeless grille, Freedom Design upper hatch spoiler, MHW smoked side markers, OE European HID headlamps, Hella European tail lights
INTERIOR: Recaro Sport Topline leather seats, Schroth Racing harnesses, ABD Racing silver gauge faces, brushed aluminum door sills, floor mats, OEM Jetta rear seat, leather door cards, New Beetle leather headrests and Jetta air vents, Momo Millennium 350mm steering wheel, hub adapter and Race Air shift knob, shortened shifter shaft, 20AE shift boot and e-brake cover, OE Audi TT pedals and shifter surround, MHW chrome gauge rings, OE brushed aluminum trim and door handles, OE European headlight switch, triple gauge panel, single steering wheel gauge pod, Auto Meter Sport Comp boost, voltmeter, air/fuel and oil pressure gauges, GReddy turbo timer
AUDIO/VISUAL: Alpine IVA-D310 in-dash 7" DVD monitor, XM tuner and antenna, JL Audio dual enclosed W6v2 subwoofers, 1000/1 amplifier and ProWedge box, Stinger HPM 1farad capacitors, distribution blocks, power wires, ANL fuse holder and platinum battery terminals, Monster Audio RCA cables
THANKS: Jon and Kevin at A-1 Collision, Meguiar's, Falken Tire, ABD Racing, 969 Motorsports, EmotionGarage, Terry at Griffin Motorwerke, God, parents, Michael and Macy, Camille, NoFuknJoke, Aaron, Angelo, Anthony, Arlo, Boogie, Casey, Carlo, Claude, Glow, Ivan, James, Jobert, John, Joe Mama, Lawrence, Lisa, Mike, Marlon, Matt, Nader, Nick, Ryan, Sam, Tim G, Tim H, Wendell and Yih