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403 Horsepower

HPA Builds an insanely fast VW VR6

Philip Royle
Aug 1, 2001
Photographer: Wes Allison

My description will hardly do this car justice. How can anyone accurately convey the essence of a car that started its life as a Mk 4 Volkswagen GTI VR6 and ended up as a twin-turbocharged, all-wheel-drive monster? It’s not just the power that’s so striking—this GTI wears stupidly wide tires, brakes too large to think about, and body mods that border on taboo. Then again, when the car launched from the line, the only thought in my mind was trying not to swallow my tongue.

Inspiration for this project originally hit when HPA Motorsports heard of a German company that manufactured a twin-turbo system for the 12v VR6. HGP Turbo, the producer of the twin- turbo system, invited HPA to visit the company and feel how effective the kit was. Without hesitation, a lucky representative of HPA jetted to Germany and before long was cruising the autobahn in excess of 180 mph in a twin-turbocharged VR6 Golf. Needless to say, the power source for the asthmatic VR6 had been found.

Controlling the power was another issue. The kit, once installed on the GTI, produces 403 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque to the wheels—running a mere 16 psi on 92-octane fuel—so traction was definitely an issue. Wider tires was one way to go, so HPA installed Bridgestone Pole Position S02 tires, staggered wider in the rear, and hid them under a Konigseder wide-body kit from 1552 Design. Although the immense 255mm rear and 225mm front tires wrapped around HRE 540 wheels supplied increased levels of traction, everyone at HPA knew it wouldn’t be enough.

What would offer enough traction is if both the front and rear tires powered the vehicle. With that thought, HPA started digging. Through contacts at VW Germany, HPA managed to acquire the sought-after Euro-exclusive 4-motion Golf drivetrain, complete with rear suspension components. Unfortunately, dropping in an all-wheel-drive system didn’t turn out to be a simple cut-and-paste application. In order to house the 4-motion drivetrain under the GTI’s skin, R&N Boyd body engineer, Joe Andrews, spent countless hours spot-welding the 4-motion floor pan onto the GTI, as well as piecing together the new rear suspension arms. Once the 4-motion drive system, complete with its Haldex unit, was installed, the underbody appearance was almost factory.

The turbo upgrade itself was that of ingenuity and determination. The engine pieces used to assemble this kit were a combination of HGP parts and HPA custom fabrication. To power the motor, everything from twin fuel pumps, cast intake and exhaust manifolds, twin intercoolers, and even dropping the compression ratio to 7.0:1 and using a muffler that expands outward during heat-soak were used. Unfortunately, all the additional components upped the weight of the GTI. The dry weight of the vehicle jumped more than 400 pounds, bringing the curb weight to nearly 3,400 pounds. That’s pretty hefty, but considering the power to weight ratio was cut in half, the extra weight is easy to overlook. With the increased weight, however, came increased stopping distance. With all that power on hand, momentum was an obvious nemesis. To counter the problem, brakes from a Porsche 993 twin-turbo were installed in the front, the rear was converted to fit the Euro 4-motion rotors, and KW Variant 2 coilovers for a 4-motion Golf were installed. Those upgrades put the GTI in an elite class of vehicles that only take 115 feet to stop from 60 mph. But that wasn’t all HPA wanted to do.

Visually, the car was lacking. Having a weakness for the Jetta 4, HPA purchased a Jetta 4 front end and attached it to the GTI. The theme continued with the addition of an Oettinger front bumper and grille, Hagus M3-style mirrors, and a JE Design rear wing. Inside, Derek Freisen of Custom Creations re-stitched the factory leather seats with suede inserts from an S4, and installed a full Raid Concepts interior package.

The car looks mean, there’s no doubt about it. But the car looks even meaner when it squats as all wheels search for traction. Once the traction is there, however, the performance is surreal. The GTI flies to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and watches the quarter-mile shoot past in 11.84 seconds. Continuing its acceleration, the reprogrammed Bosch motronic system works in harmony with the six-speed tranny and the 400-plus horsepower to pull the car well past the 190-mph mark. Knowing the numbers the VW is capable of proved we were going fast, but putting that sensation into words is impossible for this automotive journalist.

By Philip Royle
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