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1985 Golf GTI

A2 Screamer

Philip Royle
Aug 1, 2000
Photographer: Yvonne Liu

If you get out what you put in, then Tom Nesheiwat must have put the world into his 1985 VW Golf GTI. Originally purchased three years ago as a $150 junker, the project quickly turned into possibly the best example of ingenuity we’ve seen in years. Considering the car started as an 8v that didn’t run and now sports a 16v power plant capable of brutalizing all but the best on canyon roads, this A2 truly is an inspiration to all those with mere pocket change and a dream.

The tricky part of building a project on a budget is how to acquire the parts. Money is one way, but Tom decided to go another route—luck. Well, one man’s folly is another man’s fortune, but once the chips had fallen where they may, and Tom’s brother had wrecked a 16v A2 in an unfortunate canyon mishap, Tom went to work transplanting all he could from the wrecked 16v to his 8v. Before long, the 8v had been transformed into a 16v and badged to match. Soon after, the engine was cracked open once more and Autotech asymmetric cams were seated inside. A K&N filter took care of the air supply to the engine, while a set of custom- tailored 8mm spark-plug wires ensured minimal voltage drop before the signal reached the plugs. Escorting the exhaust out of the engine is an S&S 4-into-1 header, followed by a Brospeed 2.25-inch after-cat system wearing Borla dual tips. Protecting the bumper from exhaust burn is Folia Tech’s bumper exhaust film. To aid in safety and weight distribution, Tom finished the engine compartment by relocating the battery to the trunk while utilizing an Optima Red Top battery for power.

What needed the power was the stereo system. Knowing he was building a venomous performer, Tom wanted to make sure he didn’t get too carried away and end up neglecting the audio portion of his ride. For that, Tom connected an Alpine 7863 head unit to an F353-V12 five-channel amp and an R-Type 12-inch woofer. For a little more clarity, MB Quart PSC-216 midrange and tweeters were added to the doors via custom enclosures, and Blaupunkt PXS462 4x6 rear deck speakers added to the noise. With that done, Tom set back to the work at hand and proceeded to bang out one of the slickest performing 8v…err, 16v A2s.

Pumping the power from the engine to the wheels is a Velocity lightened flywheel and Sachs’ sport disc clutch and pressure plate. Adding to the shifting bliss of the now free-revving 1.8L is a Neuspeed short-shift kit. But what good are power and a quick shift if the gearing is wrong? To solve that, Tom cracked open the transmission and massaged the gears with shorter and closer gear ratios, finishing the package with a much-needed Velocity Stage 2 limited-slip differential.

Now that the A2 was hauling ass faster than its German manufacturer intended, the realization that suspension and brake mods were a necessity became all too obvious. To remedy this, H&R lowering springs were wrapped around Weitec adjustable front struts and rear shocks. Autotech was used for its adjustable front-and-rear upper stress bars, and Neuspeed’s name was the only one considered when it came to connecting the suspension arms with 28mm sway bars. To tighten the feel of the chassis and create the ultimate in handling accuracy, Tom replaced the rubber suspension bushings with polyurethane ones. And under the ADR Inter-Crew 17x7 wheels and Toyo FZ4 205/40-17 tires sit Mintex brake pads gripping Zimmerman cross-drilled and vented 10.1-inch front rotors.

Tom next went to work on the interior for safety and style. A MOMO shift knob and Race steering wheel were used for tactile pleasures. Adding to the look, a MOMO leather shift boot and seatbelt pads were added. To finish off the improved look, a Mk 3 e-brake boot was used, then the e-brake handle was customized with carbon fiber and aluminum. A Votex center console was bolted in, and the rear seats were replaced with custom floorboards. Sparco aluminum pedals grip the feet, while Cobra Sidewinder adjustable seats grip the driver and passenger. Holding everyone to the seats are Schroth four-point racing harnesses. To make sure everything is visible while firmly strapped into the A2 rocket, a Broadway wide- angle rear-view mirror was used and VDO gauges were added. For the finishing touch, billet aluminum door-lock knobs were added to seal the doors.

On the outside, Tom knew he needed to give his $150 A2 some more style. But this part got tricky, as Tom chose the A2 due to its harsh lines and racy looks. Anything added to the body must complement the already harsh lines or add to the aggressive stance of the car. With this hefty goal in mind, Tom went to work. First, everything barring the door handles was shaved—this includes the badges, fender parking lights, hood vents, and even the windshield-wiper holes. Which wiper holes? Fronts, of course. After tinkering with the front wipers, Tom ended up with a single front wiper that brings forth images of exotic touring cars. After that, a Kamei front lip spoiler was added, along with a Nothelle rear mid-hatch wing, a 300ZX hood scoop to cool the engine, and front-fender flares from a 2.0L Pocket Rocket. The body was finished off with all the moldings color-matched to the custom Arctic Silver body color—a factory BMW color. After that, Hella dual round H4/H3 headlights were attached. Along with Hella smoked front bumper turn signals, half-smoked and half-red rear taillights were added. On the street, PIAA 85/100-watt Super White bulbs light the road, but for shows, French yellow H4 bulbs reside in the light housings.

After three years, the project was completed…err, sort of. While we were photographing Tom’s A2, a turbo kit and a new engine sat in his garage. As you read this, his car is probably boosting around canyons—no longer being beaten by the best, as Tom’s goal is to turn his $150 A2 into the best. That’s a hefty goal, but if anyone can do it, Tom can. Tom has already proved he can take a rag of a car and turn it into a hatchback of riches, so we believe it when he says his A2 will someday rule the world—or at least the streets.

By Philip Royle
70 Articles

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