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2003 Volkswagen GTI - Skill Bill

Meet Bill Nagle, A Man With The Skills To DIY-Build This 20AE 2003 Volkswagen GTI.

Alex Rogan
Jan 1, 2007
Photographer: Josh Brown
160_0701_et_01z+2003_volkswagen_gti+rolling_shot Photo 1/10   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Skill Bill

If you want something done right, do it yourself: Good, solid words to live by for the most part, especially if you have the skills to back it up. Nowhere is this adage more appropriate than in the tuning world. DIY can be very rewarding. After all, it's your car and your hobby, so why not get your hands dirty?

Not that every Tom, Dick and Harry should disassemble their engine without a second thought - a few incorrect turns on the torque wrench could be costly and dangerous. In the hands of a capable enthusiast, however, the DIY ethic can really pay off.

Check out Bill Nagle's pristine, 100% homegrown Black Magic pearl 2003 GTI Anniversary Edition, for example. He's part of the Homegrown Motorsports crew, located around our nation's capital, with the motto "because nothin' beats doing it yourself". So there was no way the home theater installation technician was going to subcontract the work planned for his newly-acquired black beauty.

160_0701_et_03z+2003_volkswagen_gti+right_front_view Photo 2/10   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Skill Bill

The story of Bill's GTI starts with a modified Jetta and a fateful trip to Waterfest '03. "I fell in love with Jettas first and didn't really like Golfs that much. In fact, I wanted a Jetta more than anything so bought a 2.0 auto. It looked good but was really slow," Bill remembers. "The first year I went to Waterfest I realized 'man I gotta do something different, cos my car is just not fun.' I literally went out a month later and bought the GTI and within the first week I'd swapped almost everything over."

With a healthy pile of parts taken off the Jetta, Bill had a head start on what was needed for his GTI. He wasted no time getting his hands dirty.

The first thing to do was a Jetta front end. "I had the entire front end swapped, plus suspension and wheels before I'd done 800 miles," he said. "My favorite part of the car has always been the front end."

160_0701_et_07z+2003_volkswagen_gti+side_view Photo 3/10   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Skill Bill

Allergic to used parts, Bill ordered new VW parts through friend, Chris Kusinerek (known as "Kusi" in the Homegrown crew). "I have a buddy who worked at a bodyshop and ordered the front end stuff for me," Bill said. "It was actually pretty cheap, too."

One thing Bill couldn't handle was the body and paintwork, so he enlisted Kusi's help with the process of matching the Black Magic pearl paint. "The first time we painted it was two days before the '03 H2O. We spent 14 hours straight painting it four times to get it close to the original," Bill said. "The problem was, there were two paint codes for Black Magic, and now there's seven!" The front end has since been sprayed for the last time with the perfect blend of metallic and pearl.

The mods didn't stop at the Jetta front end, with Kusi fabricating a bser blick extension onto the brand new hood, adding a solid dose of attitude to the GTI.

The metal extension peeks over the top of an ABD grille and FK projector headlights, which are loaded with a McCulloch HID kit. An Oettinger lip has been molded onto the front bumper, while a European rub strip eliminates the bumper lights.

160_0701_et_10z+2003_volkswagen_gti+rear_view Photo 4/10   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Skill Bill

The rear has received a similar treatment, with a European rear bumper, smoked Hella tail lamps and stubby antenna from Enfig. Smoked markers and dark window tint complete the exterior.

"I've tried to keep a color theme, so everything is either brushed, polished or black in some way," Bill stated.

With the moody bodywork and color scheme, Bill knew just what wheels he wanted. The only problem was, BBS RS-GT wheels weren't made in a 5x100 bolt pattern, nor in the color he wanted. "When I first saw them it was on a black GT3 but when I tried to find them for my GTI, they only made them with a 5x130 stud pattern," he told us. But with help from H&R PCD adapters, the BBS now fit perfectly. To complete the aggressive look, Bill contacted GMP Performance to have the centers painted diamond black.

The wheels are wrapped in sticky BFG KDW tires, sized 225/40 front and 255/35 rear.

Braking upgrades were also inspired by the Stuttgart brand; with bright red four-piston Boxster calipers clamping 12.3" slotted and drilled ECS Tuning discs. Hawk pads have been fitted and are more than capable of slowing the GTI when needed. "I love the brakes. It literally stops on a dime," Bill enthused.

160_0701_et_04z+2003_volkswagen_gti+engine Photo 5/10   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Skill Bill

B&G coilovers provide the car with its super-aggressive stance. "I had them on my Jetta before this and loved them. I've had them for about three years now and don't think I'll change," he said.

Autotech sway bars sit in the front and rear to keep the GTI flat in the corners, while an ECS anti-hop kit helps put down power on hard launches.

Naturally, a car that looks this mean couldn't keep modifications limited to the exterior, so an ATP big-turbo kit resides in the engine bay, with a beefy Garrett GT28RS replacing the puny K03. A Revo stage 3 chip with SPS3 handles the crucial fuel and timing settings, while a Walbro 255 fuel pump and USRT 415cc injectors ensure that the stock-block 1.8T receives a steady, reliable fuel flow.

Bill, again, turned to friends at Homegrown during the installation, with Jason Duerr donating time and space to the project. "When I finally got everything delivered, I took it to Jason's house and we installed everything in his garage over six days after work," Bill said. It wasn't all that simple though, since problems with the hardware slowed the process. "The kit didn't fit exactly right so parts had to be trimmed or customized a little," Bill explained.

160_0701_et_05z+2003_volkswagen_gti+steering_wheel Photo 6/10   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Skill Bill

The headaches didn't stop there, as confusion over the turbo spec lead to incorrect software installation. "When I got it I was under the impression I had the .64 trim on the compressor side, but it was actually an .86. I had the software programmed for the smaller compressor and it didn't run right," Bill said. The mismatched software was discovered at the dyno. "My air/fuel was out of whack since I had the wrong program, so I never got to finish the dyno runs," he continued. "It now runs great. I just haven't had time to go back and dyno it."

With the larger turbo shoving up to 24psi into the engine, Bill knew the stock intercooler wouldn't control the intake temperatures, so he installed a Eurojet front-mount kit. For once, things went smoothly. "I bought the kit because it was advertised as fitting with a Oettinger front bumper," he relayed. "I fitted it in less than one hour. Piece of cake."

Bill estimates he's getting around 300whp on 93-octane, so wisely chose to upgrade the transmission before problems arose. A Peloquin limited slip has been installed into the otherwise stock 02M six-speed, while a Spec stage 3 clutch handles the extra power.

160_0701_et_06z+2003_volkswagen_gti+seats Photo 7/10   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Skill Bill

Since Bill makes a living wiring high-end home theater systems, you'd expect his in-car entertainment to be top notch, and it doesn't disappoint. He installed a Pioneer DVD head unit, which sends signals to a mixture of PPI, MTX and Diamond Audio components, and the results speak for themselves.

Bill flush-mounted the amplifiers where the rear seats would usually be, and the MTX subwoofer now lives where the spare tire formerly resided. "I've been into car stereo for a long time and sound quality is everything to me, especially on a road trip where you spend so much time listening to music," he said.

Most people would be happy with the factory Recaros on long trips, but they were ditched in favor of a set of alcantara Sparco Milanos. An OEM R-line shift knob provides sure shifts, while a variety of AWE Tuning and 42 Draft Design gauges keep Bill informed of the engine's activity.

After all this work, Bill's been rewarded with many first place finishes, including H2O International and Waterfest, plus best in show at Dubs on the Lake.

Having achieved his goal of hitting nearly every East Coast show for two straight years, it's time to sit back and enjoy the car. "I probably won't show it much more and I'm now getting to enjoy the scene for the first time. Ever since I got this car it's been non-stop showing, but it's time to sit back and have fun.

Tech Spec Bill Nagle

Location: Bristow, VA

Occupation: Home theater installer

2003 GTI 20AEEngine: 1.8 liter 20v i-4 with Garrett GT28RS turbo, Revo stage 3 software with SPS3, USRT 415cc injectors, Forge 007 diverter valve, Walbro 255 LPH fuel pump, ATP oil feed and return lines, ATP exhaust manifold and downpipe, GHL 3" cat-back exhaust, Forge UNOS boost controller, AEM cold air intake, Eurojet front-mount intercooler, Samco hose kit, painted battery cover, polished valve cover, intake manifold and fuel rail, carbon fiber lower engine cover, Forge strut caps, EIP billet aluminum caps

Driveline: Spec stage 3 clutch, Peloquin limited-slip differential, HPA short shift kit

Suspension: B+G coilovers, Autotech front and rear sway bars, ECS dog-bone bushings and anti-hop kit

Brakes: Porsche Boxster four-piston calipers and 12.3" ECS Tuning slotted and cross-drilled rotors, Hawk Race pads, ATE Super Blue fluid

Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" front and 18x10" rear BBS RS-GT two-piece wheels with painted centers, 20mm front and 30mm rear H+R 5x130 Porsche PCD adapters, 225/40 front, 255/35 rear BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW tires

Exterior: Jetta front-end conversion, molded Oettinger front bumper extension, Euro front bumper rub strip, Euro rear bumper, molded 20AE rear valance, welded bser blick hood, ABD badgeless grille, Euro stubby mirrors, shaved rear wiper, painted FK projector lights, McCulloch HID kit, smoked Hella tail lights, smoked side markers, Enfig antenna, window tint

Interior: OEM R-Line shift knob, AWE Tuning Omori boost, EGT and oil pressure gauges, 42 Draft Design column pod, New South Performance dual gauge plate, alcantara Sparco Milano seats, custom Anniversary Edition door sills

Audio/Visual: Pioneer DVD head unit, MTX Active three-channel crossover, PPI A404.2 amp running two pairs of Diamond Audio Hex series components, customized Q-Forms kick panels, MTX Thunder 2300 amp, MTX Thunder 9500 sub, custom fiberglass enclosure in rear floor, custom amp and crossover racks

Thanks: wife Leah, Jason Duerr, Chris "Kusi" Kusinerek, Homegrown Moorsports

By Alex Rogan
48 Articles

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