The beautiful GTI 337 you're currently gazing upon here was never supposed to happen. At least, if you listen to owner Marcus Pino, it was never supposed to happen. The story starts at a chance encounter with a magazine article, and ends as one of the best Mk4s we've seen to date.
Believe it or not, this is Marcus's first VW as his previous car (a Mustang Cobra) wasn't cutting it. "You got the V8 power...I liked it... it was a fun car to drive. I always wanted something with a turbo on it though, and the Mustang wasn't really me," Marcus said."I first saw the 337 in a magazine and knew I had to get it. So I basically worked my ass off to buy it."
All was not easy in his quest for the bahn-stormer, as most were gone off dealer lots by this point. "When I found out about the 337 there weren't many left," he mentioned. "And when I started calling around, a lot of the dealerships were already sold out. I finally found a place that had two coming in. So I just hurried up and got it."
In a story that's all too familiar to so many, a few small modifications began a seemingly never-ending process of upgrades, changes and improvements. "I really wanted to keep it stock, or at least keep it looking stock. I wasn't really going to mess with the body or anything like that. I basically wanted to put some coils on it and tune the engine," Marcus said. "Then things got out of hand, but it wasn't until the second year [of owning the car], that I really started going overboard," he added.
Marcus had his ideas laid out but financial concerns, followed by a highway mishap, forced a change of plan along the way. "I was originally thinking about going widebody, but when they told me the price... it was out of my budget, so I decided to shave everything. Everything else was stock back then. I didn't mold anything at that time," Marcus said. "My car was in the shop for three months getting the bodywork done, and when I finally picked it up I was cruising home and hit something on the highway that cracked the front bumper!"
The bodywork was carried out by The Speed Shop. It included an all-metal bser hood, shaved door handles, shaved side moldings and a custom rear hatch that had been smoothed and de-badged, plus a Projektzwo rear hatch blend was molded for a seamless finish. A Polo rear wiper replaced the stock GTI item and helped break up the rear a little, keeping things from looking too smooth.
The unfortunate accident meant Marcus was back at The Speed Shop talking about the next round of modifications. After briefly considering going for the R32-look, Marcus decided to stick with the stock front bumper, but couldn't decide what spoiler to use. "Time was running out and I needed to get the car complete, so I ordered the Rieger, had them shave everything, mold everything... and it turned out alright," he enthused.
To complete the look, Marcus chose an OEM VW R-Line rear bumper. "You have the choice of a single tip or having it hidden. Right when I first saw the bumper I knew I wanted a clean look in the back, so I chose the hidden option, cut off the exhaust tip and put on the downturn," he informed us. In the end, the combination of OEM VW parts and customized panels give the car a smooth yet muscular look.
Smoked Hella lights were installed front and rear, nicely complimenting the three-piece DTM Kreuz wheels. Measuring 19x8.5" front and rear, the custom-built wheels are wrapped in Michelin rubber and fit under the stock arches with no rubbing and no spacers. To ensure the car would have the appropriate stance, Eibach Pro-Street coilovers were installed, along with Neuspeed sway bars and a Yarrowsport rear brace.
With such a wild exterior (and being used to the Mustang V8), Marcus wasn't content with the simple chip and exhaust he had at the time. After pondering an APR stage 3 turbo kit, he contacted Rich and Katie over at Dubwerks to see what other options were available.
"Dubwerks were hoping to release a big turbo kit but never got round to bringing it to the public, but they offered it to people in the area. They basically put everything together with custom GIAC software so I went with them," he said.
The Dubwerks kit replaced the stock K03 with a Turbonetics T3 Super-60, and utilized the aforementioned GIAC software to control fuel and timing. A GReddy Profec B boost controller keeps the boost to 22psi on pump gas, while an Evolution Motorsports front-mount ensures a cool intake charge. An NX N-tercooler spray can be used if extra cooling is needed.
Although the car has never been dynoed, Marcus estimates power to be around 300whp. An unfortunate side effect off all the bodywork means quarter-mile times aren't available either. "I can't take it to the track because of my shaved door handles," he mentioned.
Being forward thinking, Marcus had the 337's six-speed beefed up to cope with the extra power before dropping the car off at Dubwerks. "Since I knew I was gonna eventually get a big turbo, I did the clutch and flywheel before I actually went with the big turbo." The clutch is a Southbend stage 3, while a lightweight aluminum Unorthodox Racing flywheel keeps throttle response sharp and ensures minimum power is wasted.
The 02M transmission itself has been improved with a Peloquin limited-slip differential, while a Dieselgeek short shift kit allows Marcus to move through the gears as quickly as possible.
Despite the show-car looks, Marcus isn't afraid to drive the car aggressively. "I love taking it to the limit, pushing it, just getting on it. People roll up next to me and they probably think it doesn't have much, but once I'm ahead of them I get a big smile. It's a lot of fun," he added.
Although he's pleased with the looks and performance, Marcus's favorite upgrade is the stereo system... not that it was planned that way. "That got out of hand because I had no intention of going that far with the stereo. I went to the shop and just wanted one 10" sub back there with an amp, new head unit, and that was it," he explained. Ed over at Music in Motion had other ideas though, and came up with a few options once Marcus had dropped off the car.
"He gave me a call the next day and told me he had this badass idea," Marcus told us. The outline was a system based around a Kenwood DVD head unit, featuring a built-in LCD touchscreen, a PS2 in the glovebox, a custom rear enclosure with two JL subwoofers, custom suede panels and a couple of JL amplifiers. "I was really hesitant, but then told him to go ahead and do it, and it's now the best thing in the car. It turned out really well, and with the covered panels you don't even see it, it's like factory. It's really nice and stealthy. But when I want to show it off it all lights up," he said.
Advanced Auto Interiors incorporated a suede theme into the rest of the interior.A pair of alcantara-covered Sparco Milano race seats replaced the factory Recaro items, while suede trimmed door panels and a suede headliner complete the transformation. An Autopower rollbar was installed for added safety and rounds out the major changes.
All in all, this accidental feature car has Marcus feeling pretty pleased: "I got what I wanted. It did kinda go too far, but I like the way it turned out." Adding, "It feels good when other people like what you built and that you did something right. I didn't build it for other people, so it's cool to get props sometimes."
Props and magazine features aside, there are no real regrets. "I wish I could've done all this stuff myself, I would've saved a whole lot of money," Marcus lamented.
Taking things farther than anticipated hasn't dampened any enthusiasm. When asked what he plans for the future, Marcus confides, "I wouldn't mind moving up to an Audi..." These words suggest we haven't seen the last of Marcus Pino. After all, if this is what happens when he doesn't plan on taking things too far, we'd like to see what happens when he does!
Tech SpecMarcus Pino
Location: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Mortgage Company Account Manager
2002 GTI 337
Engine: 1.8 liter 20v i4 with Turbonetics T3 Super-60 turbo upgrade, GIAC software, Evolution Motorsports front-mount intercooler with NX N-tercooler spray, TurboSmart wastegate, EIP 2.5" downpipe, Techtonics 2.5" exhaust, GReddy Profec B boost controller, AEM cold-air intake, Samco silicone hoses, Newsouth Performance powergasket, Stratmosphere diverter valve
Drivetrain: six-speed manual with Southbend clutch upgrade, Unorthodox lightened flywheel, Peloquin differential, ECS poly mounts, Dieselgeek Ultra short shifter
Suspension: Eibach Pro-Street coilovers, Neuspeed rear sway and front strut bar, Yarrowsport bar, CPP end links
Brakes: Eurospec drilled and slotted rotors, Mintex pads, ABD stainless steel lines
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" DTM Kreuz 10 three-piece wheels, 225/35-19 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires
Exterior: shaved front bumper with Rieger RS molded lip, OEM R-Line rear bumper with hidden exhaust tip, 337 side skirts, Bonrath front grille, OEM stubby mirrors, custom metal bser hood, shaved door handles, side repeaters, rub strips and rear hatch, Projektzwo molded hatch blend, Hella smoked headlights and tail lights, OEM Polo rear wiper
Interior: Sparco Milano alcantara seats, Topspin Harnesses, Momo Millennium wheel wrapped in suede, Auto Meter Cobalt gauges, flush-mounted GReddy turbo timer, headliner and door inserts in black ultrasuede, Autopower rollcage
Audio/Visual: Kenwood DDX-7017 AV/DVD head unit with 6.5" LCD touchscreen, 6.5" Infinity components, one JL Audio 500/1 and 300/2 amps, two JL Audio 10W3D4 subs, custom rear enclosure in black suede with flush-mounted nitrous bottle, PlayStation 2 in glovebox
Thanks: family and girlfriend, Rich and Katie at Dubwerks, Joe at The Speed Shop, Ed at Music In Motion, Rob and Greg Tivadar, Bobby D, Kris Clewell and his wife, Bar Society