There are clean cars, and there are clean cars; Shawn Oen's '92 GTI happens to fall into the latter category. While many rides are spotless on the surface, a close inspection reveals tainted wiring, cheap replacement parts and general untidiness.
And just like cars, there are owners and then there are owners; and again Shawn falls into the latter. He's one of the meticulous few who replace an entire harness when one wire goes bad, the rare breed who spend their lives and income on extinct Euro bits mere mortals simply read about. And it's because Shawn falls into this elite fanatical group of gearheads that he's created a spotless car both inside and out.
Unaware of the European car scene 12 years ago, Shawn was in the market for an import when a friend suggested he check out VW as a unique alternative. After a brief search he found the perfect one-owner Mk2 through a local VW shop and promptly fell in love with the Euro flavor.
Full of enthusiasm, Shawn decided his righteous path to VW supremacy would be OEM-plus. And set on the road to perfection, he wanted to add OEM Euro parts wherever possible. "I didn't really have a plan like some guys. Instead I'd replace parts when they wore out with aftermarket and OEM Euro-spec ones," Shawn said.
Old in form but not in function, Shawn capitalized on the scalpel handling characteristics of his Mk2 by throwing great suspenders under the arches. And after trying several combinations, the perfect combo ended up as a set of FK coilovers with VR6 spring rates, plus 25mm front and 28mm rear Autotech sway bars.
Furthering its back-road ability, a set of Autotech strut bars, polyurethane mounts and various Mk3 pieces were also used to aid suspension prowess. To keep his car between the lines he fitted Mk3 brakes to all four corners, including 10.1" fronts pushed by an 22mm ATE master cylinder.
Taking double duty as both weekend warrior and daily commuter car, the 16v quickly ate up its OEM rubber. In place of the factory hoops, Shawn initially threw a set of then-unheard-of BBS RMs with stainless lips, sourced from the UK. "Back in '96 nobody was rockin' wide lips from the UK. I found them in a small ad and ended up paying around $800 for them," Shawn said.
What started as a nice set of underpinnings and some rare shoes eventually turned into a 12-year voyage to create a Mk2 chock full of rare Euro bits.
This was no easy task, as various exterior pieces went to the dogs; Shawn addressed each worn part with some Eurolicious attire, including lightweight Euro bumpers, fenders and tail lights, along with a now-virtually-unobtainable set of G60 fenders and liners.
Holding true to Shawn's nature, the beauty is in the details. The exterior also sports shaved extremities, a Euro-spec passenger mirror, hand-made dual flat wipers using various Mk1/2 Scirocco parts and a manual Scirocco sunroof. "It was a pain to make the sunroof fit and took many trips to the junkyard, but I eventually got the Scirocco sunroof and Quantum crank arm to work together," Shawn said.
As the exterior began to age, so did the cockpit. In keeping with his factory-style approach, Shawn sprinkled more unique parts. "I spent a lot of time on German eBay and whenever a buddy traveled to the UK he'd bring back something," Shawn said.
And with each treasure hunt, Shawn's stack of unique parts grew. Like his OEM Votex center console and switch panel that plays home to the German-spec GLI power window and cruise control switches. A set of powered and heated mirrors, MFA, under-dash trays and even a rare non-A/C glovebox were sourced from a German GLI. "These cars were perfect for parts because they had all the nice electronic stuff we didn't get," Shawn said.
Making the driving experience more enjoyable is a host of 16v interior parts along with a Euro-spec mirror mounted in the headliner. There's also a Votex steering wheel and factory DIN-mounted gauges. And to ensure your hair looks right, Shawn installed a passenger-side illuminated vanity mirror from a GLI 16v. "It took ages to get the hard-to-find interior pieces, with many phone calls and me trying to understand German to get the nice things like the glovebox and center console," Shawn said.
No stone was left unturned as the original 1800 8v went under the knife before it was eventually jettisoned for the present motor. Defined more by their plateau of torque than their power, the 8-valver was fitted with the typical intake, chip and exhaust combo, along with a Schrick cam and ported head. When that wasn't enough, the stock block was traded for a junkyard 3A 2.0 bottom end. This was good for a respectable 125whp and low 15s at the strip.
Content with his creation, the GTI was driven to different watercooled events across the country and in the process racked up over 180k miles. But as every enthusiast knows, happiness is short-lived once winter boredom sets in. "My friends had been telling me for years to swap the motor, but I liked being different with the 8v," Shawn said. "Then one winter while I was bored, I decided to do a 16v swap because I knew it was a reliable conversion."
He sold his built 8v and put together a ported 1800 16v head and a rebuilt 9A 2.0 bottom end. To help the high-revver breathe he fitted a 50mm intake manifold, Euro intake cam, Techtonics exhaust and GIAC chip.
At the same time Shawn noticed he was plagued with Minnesota rust - the 200k-mile shell was in need of bodywork, but instead of resurrecting the existing shell he located a '92 Montana green GTI in San Diego. In a matter of days the car was home and stripped bare.
When spring rolled around, every piece was swapped into the new body, including the 16v motor and AWY diesel transmission with a Euro wiring harness and factory mounts. At this point, Shawn deleted the A/C to bring it to proper European spec.
After its rebirth, the car was sent for a blanket of Montana green, and with a set of rare 16" BBS RS003 wheels, it finally made its debut.
Though a '05 GLI has taken its place as his daily driver, the GTI still sees several thousand miles a year on sunny weekends. And more than a decade into the project, who can blame Shawn for wanting to keep it clean? "It's been an ongoing process, so it's nice to be able to enjoy the car exactly when I want to," he said.
Tech SpecName: Shawn Oen
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Occupation: Pharmaceutical technician
'92 VW GTI 16vEngine: 2.0L 16v 9A Motronic engine swap, ARP fasteners, ported and polished 1.8L 16v head, 50mm Euro intake manifold and intake camshaft, Techtonics adjustable cam gear, ceramic-coated race downpipe and stainless steel exhaust with Borla muffler, GIAC chip, ceramic-coated exhaust manifold, K&N filter in modified airbox, A/C delete using Euro alternator tensioner and bracket, 36mm oil pump, VW metal windage tray, 10-row Mocal oil cooler with nickel-plated Aeroquip fittings, deleted heat exchanger, OE Norma hose clamps and polished hatch shocks fitted to hood, polished hood striker and latch, early Mk2 HD rubber motor mounts, HD charging system wiring with Mk3 terminals, Optima Red Top battery
Drivetrain: AWY diesel transmission with factory 3.94:1 ring gear, Tim Stiles Racing solid shifter linkage, Techtonics short shift kit
Suspension: FK Highsport Plus coilovers with 300 lb front, 350 lb rear spring rates, VR6 front strut bearings, polyurethane rear shock tower bushings, Mk3 front strut bolts and suspension uprights, Autotech 25mm front and 28mm rear hollow sway bars, polished front and rear strut braces
Brakes: Mk3 conversion with 10.1" cross-drilled front rotors, Mintex pads, 22mm ATE master cylinder, Autotech stainless steel brake lines
Wheels & Tires: 16x7" BBS RS003 et25 4x100 wheels with chrome-plated BBS bolts and polished half-height center caps, H&R 8mm rear wheel spacers, 195/45-16 Continental ContiSport2 tires
Exterior: shaved side markers, rear wiper hole and squirter, factory Euro fenders, lightweight big bumpers with factory wiring and clear markers, tail lights, passenger door mirror and badges, OEM G60 front and rear flares with front liners, dual round headlight red stripe grille, Hella H4 headlights with city lights, '85 Golf CL hatch glass, Audi 100 Fuba Betaflex-D antenna, dual flat wiper arms, Scirocco manual tilt-n-slide sunroof with Quantum crank arm, chrome VW emblems, Mk1 chrome door handles
Interior: '91 GTI 16v interior panels, split-folding rear seat and power front Recaros, black headliner with Euro rearview mirror, Euro under-dash trays, non-A/C glovebox, heater box/switches, foglight switch, Votex 16v steering wheel, center console with original switch panel and golfball shift knob, German GLI power windows, cruise control, power/heated mirrors and MFA, factory Pleather e-brake and shift boot, late-model Scirocco 16v speedo, VDO Night Design gauges in DIN panel, early 16v seatbelts, deleted rear seatbelts with C-pillar trim and rear speaker pods, passenger-side GLI 16v sunvisor with lit vanity mirror and tinted dome light, polished door/hatch latches and strikers, Mk3 programmable wiper relay
Audio/Visual: Blaupunkt head unit and component speakers in factory locations
Thanks: wife Joan, friends Jasin, Steve, Jack, Ben, Paul, Chad Erickson at SCI Performance and Aaron Hatz at Flat 6