When you think of General Motors, brands like Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Pontiac come to mind. GM is undoubtedly one of the top American car manufacturers; hence we were unexpectedly surprised when Todd Sollar, owner of this '04 Jetta GLI, informed us he was a factory worker for GM in Ohio. "I get a lot of crap for driving a German car because of where I work," he said. "Everyone drives a Corvette, GTO or Camaro. They still respect me though. They are surprised when I smoke them on the open highway."
To be able to beat a Corvette takes not only guts but also a lot of power, especially from a four cylinder motor like the 1.8T. Todd admits he has some experience building cars but his background is mostly with Japanese imports; he started wrenching on Honda Del Sols and Preludes but eventually lost interest. Since he works on American muscle all day, German engineering was the obvious alternative to surprise his coworkers. The GLI became Todd's first VW project car. "I chose the Jetta because I started to admire German cars and I was tired of the Honda scene," he said. "I began liking the stretched tired look of modified VWs. Eventually, I had to choose between a Jetta and a Golf. I picked the Jetta because at the time, it seemed like more people were modifying Golfs. I bought my GLI in June of 2004. It remained stock for two weeks and since then, it's always been in and out of the shop having work done to it."
Because this was Todd's first VW, he didn't have much experience about how to tune and style the car. He looked toward different channels for ideas. "The GLI was a learning experience," he confessed. "Almost every idea I got for the car was from reading magazines. Anytime I saw a car in a magazine, I took what I liked from it and put it into my own car. I wanted to make my car my own thing."
Todd also credits the annual Waterfest event in Englishtown, NJ for helping the evolution of his project. "Anytime I'm at Waterfest, I always have a lot of questions. It's because most of the tuners are from California or the East Coast so at Waterfest all the people I need to talk with are in one spot. I learn so much there."
Once Todd gathered his thoughts together, he began reworking the motor. First, he flashed the factory ECU with Revo software to provide considerable power gains. He chose Revo because the software was easily upgradeable for future big turbo plans. Knowing this, it didn't take him long before he installed an ATP turbo eliminator kit. "The ATP kit uses a GT28RS turbo," Todd explained. "So I'm confident the car is capable of power over 400hp. I just recently dyno'd the car running a DEI cryogenic intercooler sprayer and an ABD intake manifold. With a broken mass air flow sensor and only using about 40% throttle, the car put out 289whp with 290 lb/ft of torque. This was also at 20psi of boost. I have safely run the car to 30psi without problems."
To upgrade his fueling needs, Todd upgraded the fuel rail, fuel pump, injectors and fuel pressure regulator with high performance units. Airflow was improved thanks to an ABD Racing intake manifold and custom 3" air intake system. The factory exhaust system was simultaneously upgraded to match the big turbo system. A VES exhaust system consisting of a 3" downpipe and race pipe was fitted to expel spent gases. To cool the hot air exiting the turbo, a front-mount intercooler replaced the factory side-mount unit. Finally, to aid the turbo system, GReddy provided a boost controller to permit pressure adjustments.
For the factory transmission to handle the added power, the clutch was upgraded with a Spec stage 3 unit. The factory flywheel was also replaced with a Clutch-Net aluminum piece for improved engine response and acceleration. Helping Todd power out of corners with maximum traction was a Quaife differential. A Neuspeed short shifter completed the driveline upgrades by improving Todd's driving feel.
Suspension was next for Todd's improvements. Koni coilovers allowed him to lower the car's ride height and stiffen the suspension for better handling. To decrease body roll, he fitted Neuspeed front and rear sway bars. Reinforcing the chassis were upper and lower tie bars also supplied by Neuspeed.
With the extra power and speed it was inevitable Todd would upgrade his braking. He decided to go with brake manufacturer Brembo for a 12.9" front big brake kit.
Surrounding the brakes sit massive 19" Forgeline SP3P three-piece wheels. Todd decided to color-match them to stand out in his hometown. "Most cars came with polished wheels like the factory Corvettes," he said. "Polish looks good but I was going for a different style. Back when I was growing up, the old Porsche racecars always had the color-matched wheels. The wheels I got were silver and already good-looking so color-matching them made the car pop out that much more."
Once the wheels were painted, they rested with Todd until the widebody was complete. "The wheels were 10" wide in the front and 11.5" wide in the rear," he explained. "They wouldn't fit within the factory fenders so I decided to make the car wide. Custom Gallery in Ohio built the widebody. The front and rear arches are made from OE VW front fenders. Custom Gallery kept cutting and molding the fenders until they were wide enough. Eventually, it took three factory fenders on each side to widen the front fenders while four fenders for each side widened the rears.
"Because the new fender flares still looked factory, I kept the front and rear stock bumpers. Custom Gallery stretched the polyurethane bumpers to extend them out to the flares.
"For the side skirts, I took the GLI to a racecar fabricator. We took a metal brick, formed the design and molded the skirts to where the arches would match. They are true DTM-style side skirts made of stainless steel. I picked stainless steel because I wanted to be able to drive the car without worrying about damaging them. With fiberglass, I would have worried about damaging them. Besides, all real racecars use metal."
Once the widebody was complete, Todd added a few more subtle touches to the exterior. "There was chrome trim around the car," he mentioned. "It didn't look right to me, especially with the blue metallic paint. I put a European front rub strip on the front and replaced the sides and rear with '02 factory rub stripes." An Oettinger front grille and FK DTM-style mirrors were painted and fitted to finish the new look of the car.
The Jetta was near completion but Todd strived to personalize every element of the car. The interior was next on his list and he received significant help from his sponsor Momo. "I have Momo's Speed 1 seats. To match the exterior of the car, I put some color into it with the door panels and reupholstered seats in blue suede. Momo also gave me a steering wheel, shift knob and e-brake handle." For more functionality from his interior, Todd installed a set of Auto Meter gauges to monitor the motor. For a more unique appearance, he fitted a carbon fiber dash kit.
The audio and video system was the last item on Todd's game plan. After showing us his stereo, it's undeniable that he is a more enthusiastic audio lover than the average VW owner. "The stereo was redone twice. I wanted the stereo to be loud. I had three 10" subwoofers but didn't like how it sounded; I wanted more bass. When I redid the stereo, I took out the back seats and cut out the rear deck. Fiberglass was molded to house the DEI cryogenic bottles and two 15" subwoofers in the trunk. I had to reinforce the subwoofers with wood and metal sheets because they were so heavy. Once the system was done, it was wrapped in vinyl for a more durable and grown-up look." An Alpine DVD and TV head unit replaced the factory deck. To enhance the mid- and high-range sound quality, 6.5" components were also installed. A 3Sixty sound processor helped Todd fine-tune the overall sound experience. He finally mounted a Sony PS2 in the glovebox for entertainment.
Today, Todd drives the car as much as possible. He admits he can't bring it everywhere because of all the money invested in it, but he still enjoys taking it out to car shows and spanking his coworkers' Corvettes. "I don't want this car to be trailered. What's the fun in having a caryou can't drive? This is the reason my widebody is metal and why the stereo is vinyl. Everything is built to last. Not only does my car look fast but it is fast and drivable."
Tech SpecTodd Sollar
Location: Centerville, OH
Occupation: General Motors factory worker
2004 Vw Jetta GliEngine: 1.8 liter, 20v turbo with ATP GT28RS turbo kit, 3" downpipe, race pipe, front-mount intercooler, high-flow polished fuel rail, 440cc injectors, AEM fuel pressure regulator, Walbro 255 LPH in-tank fuel pump, Revo big turbo software, Ves exhaust system, blow-off valve, 3" MAF housing, ABD Racing intake manifold, Neuspeed power pulleys, 3" race air intake and polished caps, DEI cryogenic system and thermal wrap, GReddy boost controller and turbo timer, polished valve cover and throttle body
Driveline: six-speed manual transmission, Spec stage 3 clutch and pressure plate, Clutch-Net aluminum flywheel, Quaife differential, Neuspeed short shifter
Suspension: Koni coilovers, Neuspeed 25mm front sway bar, 28mm rear sway bar, upper strut bar and lower tie bar
Wheels & Tires: 19x10" front, 19x11.5" rear Forgeline SP3P three-piece wheels, 235/35-19 front, 275/35-19 rear Toyo T1R tires
Brakes: Brembo 12.9" front big brake kit
Exterior: custom metal widebody, modified front and rear bumpers, OE VW European front rub strip, OE VW '02 side and rear rub strips, Oettinger front grille, Fk Dtm mirrors and angel-eye headlamps
Interior: Momo Speed 1 seats with blue suede inserts, Momo Air-Metal steering wheel, shifter, e-brake handle, shifter boot and e-brake boot, ABD Racing pedals, door sills and floor mats, Auto Meter gauges, carbon fiber dash kit, blue suede door cards
Audio/Visual:Alpine IVA-D300 head unit, Alpine iPod adapter, Rockford Fosgate T2 15" subwoofers, 6.5" components, T3001 and T1400 amplifiers, capacitor, 3Sixty sound processor, Optima Yellow Top battery, Boom mat, Sony PS2
Thanks:Dave at Forgeline, Toyo, Momo, Mark at DEI, Dave at Rockford Fosgate, Darrel and Mark at Custom Gallery, Todd and Frank at Audio Advantage, Nathan at Meguiar's, Danny at P3 Automotive, Jason at ABD Racing