There's a school of thought that everything in Australia wants to kill you. On the land roam venomous snakes and spiders. In the sea are sharks and jellyfish. The football game known as "Aussie Rules" is tough and fast and doesn't really seem to have many rules at all. Through this landscape of chaos and peril drives Cameron Jones. Perhaps we should call him "Sane Max."
For a start, owning a '10 Golf R is an eminently sensible life decision. He has a proper job: partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia (a company that started out as an accounting firm). And as a man in his early fifties, he's old enough to know the difference between brave and stupid.
Jones lives just on the outskirts of the most isolated city in the world, Perth, on the west coast of Australia. At the time of writing this, it's experiencing a heat wave where temperatures have exceeded 107 degrees F for four days in a row. Which is fine weather for driving a turbocharged machine. And don't think Jones only pulls this car out on high days and holidays. This is his daily driver, handling the round-trip commute of 56 miles and even more when he's visiting clients.
After "a succession of large Australian cars," Jones says this is his first Volkswagen, actually his first European car at all. He describes himself as a "late starter when it comes to modding cars." He has tweaked a couple of sport-utes, "but not to the same extent as the Golf."
It was a younger brother who sent our man jonesing for a VW. "He has a beautiful Manx buggy that he built and a couple of other VWs ready for his next projects. What I like most about the Golf is that I have been able to do quite a bit of the modification myself. Although, some of the more technical aspects I've left to those with more experience."
Jones bought this Alpine White R just before Christmas 2010. Remember, that's when the southern hemisphere has its summer. "It was a dealer demonstrator, so I had to take it as it was spec'd. Otherwise it would have been a seven-month wait to get all the options I wanted.
"My initial plan was to only do mods that were bolt-ons. No opening up the engine. Things like dump pipe, cold air intake, tune, etc. If I was able to get in the 12s for the quarter-mile, then I was going to be happy and leave it at that. However, once I got there—and it was fairly easy to achieve—I wanted more. Big turbo, WMI, tuned DSG. Now I have a vehicle that's happy to do the daily duties as well as run 11 seconds on the strip."
The car is currently making 353 hp and 328 lb-ft of torque, measured at the wheels. "This is a little lower than we are aiming for," Jones says, "but we have some more boost to wind up—and then we can look to see if we can dial in some more timing. Our aim is for 400 hp, or as close as we can get."
Reaching this point was, naturally, not all sweetness and light. The hardest aspect was "not having a single point to refer to for all the issues I had to deal with," he says. "And having to do the engine build twice. I bought all the bits and pieces for the build with the Garret GTX3071 turbocharger before we actually pulled it apart.
"I was hoping the rebuild would be completed while I was away on a family vacation. We found the bores were a little sloppy from the factory and, as a result, the clearances were at their max. I was going through about half a liter of oil a week. This was always going to mean that I would need to pull it down again and attend to the issue at some point."
This wasn't the only hiccup. "The seizing of the balance shafts in the oil pump was unexpected—I found a few references to it once I started researching—and that hastened the second build. Which ended up taking a good six to seven months as we slowly worked our way through everything.
"Although the solutions are usually out there, there is no single place to find all the bits and pieces you need to fix. Like the OEM low-pressure fuel pump not being able to feed the demands of the bigger turbo, the balance shafts on the oil pump not liking to go over 7,000 rpm, cooling systems for the engine and DSG oil, larger diameter intake pipes and MAF scaling, fuel injectors that can flow enough, and so on.
"It was a case of trial and error to see what worked. For example, plenty of places will say the R's OEM injectors are good to flow 500 hp. We tried RS4 injectors, but I didn't like the amount of soot from the exhaust. I went back to the R injectors, but could not get boost above 25 psi without leaning out, well short of 500 hp. Fuel pressure at the rail was fine at 2,161 psi (149 bar), so the injectors were the limiting factor. I ultimately went with HPG, a German company that pulls apart new R injectors and customizes them. They flow more than enough and are so tunable. And in the 2,300 miles since completing the second engine rebuild, it hasn't lost a drop of oil."
Look at the engine shot and you'll see something in the air filter box that looks vaguely like sand. It's foam. Jones can explain: "As I said, I like to do the mods myself where I can. This also includes making my own parts from time to time. I tried a variety of different airboxes and intake pipes but was never happy with them, particularly in regard to shielding from the heat that builds up in the engine bay. So I decided to make my own airbox out of carbon fiber. I started with a foam block, which I shaped to fit and to allow airflow through from the grille. Unfortunately, when I laid up the carbon matting, a few areas did not have enough release agent, so the foam stuck to the carbon fiber."
As well as the engine work, Jones has fettled the suspension. "The car sits on KW Clubsport coilovers and the ride height is a good inch or more lower than stock. I had the front guards rolled, but when running my 19-inch rims [the ones in the photos], I do get some minor rubbing if there is a load in the rear."
But even with a full interior, a spare wheel, and jack in the trunk, plus half a tank of gas, a recent dragstrip session resulted in an 11.99-second pass on 98 RON fuel. "Besides being quite warm [according to the slip Jones supplied, track temperature was 103.1 degrees F], I was also running with an error code that limited my boost and was retarding timing," Jones says. "Turns out the fuel system's low-pressure regulator was starting to fail. With the replacement regulator, we should be able to achieve around 11.6."
Those hood vents originate from the Ford Focus RS. "I got these carbon ones from Streamline in the U.K. I fitted them myself. Definitely a case of measure twice, cut once. I was holding my breath while I did it."
The build has taken "the better part of three years," and even though Jones says this car is "pretty much done," there are still things he could focus attention on. "I could do some work on the head—bigger valves, bigger cams, perhaps more tuning to run on race fuel and see if we can get close to 10s. I may also change out the instrument cluster for a color MFD version, as mine has had an error for quite some time that we just can't identify."
Being the more mature type with gainful employment means Jones hasn't really had to scrimp and save for parts and labor, but he still reckons he's spent close to $40,000 Australian. In real money, that's around $28,500 U.S. at the current exchange rate. And that's not including the initial purchase price. "I hope my wife doesn't read this," Jones says.
But that does mean we can all benefit from our man's experience. "I'm a firm believer in sharing so others can get some ideas and avoid the mistakes I've made or the things that don't work. Don't buy your parts before you have pulled down the engine, so you can get the correct pieces. Because of the clearance issue, I ended up boring out the cylinders to get them back to round. That's an extra set of forged pistons I bought that were unnecessary, besides new sets of bearings, gaskets, etc."
Such wisdom looks like it's being passed from father to son. Well, two sons. "Both of them are interested in cars in different ways. The eldest will be driving in about four years and has already said he wants an Impala lowrider. The youngest is more likely to stay on the Euro path."
And there's more evidence that here is one cool dad. "In late 2014, I also acquired a 2008 911 GT2. However, at this stage I intend to keep it original due to its exclusivity. That doesn't mean it doesn't get driven, but there's something about the purity of the original form in some cars.
"The most satisfaction I get is when I line up against a supercharged V-8 or a turbocharged six-cylinder at the strip, and at the end of the run the other driver is coming over to ask about the car and what has been done to it. It continues to surprise people how quick it is for a daily driver."