All of us know how difficult it can be to pull off a great project car - particularly a Euro because they start out so good that improvements can be hard to make. We've all made our mistakes and had our triumphs but it can take years and several attempts on different cars before we finally perfect the project we're after.
"My friends and I were always into Hondas but the scene changed," Tim admits. As his interests changed he bought this '96 GTI 2.0 as a daily driver two years ago. "I liked it so much I got rid of the BMW I was working on," he told us.
He immediately got a set of wheels and coilovers for the car, then started looking for a turbo to give the four cylinder a little more muscle. Miraculously, he found a cheap stage 2 ATP turbo kit with C2 Motorsports software on eBay.
With help from friends, Tim got to work fitting the comprehensive kit. It included a thicker Bahn Brenner Motorsport head gasket to reduce the compression ratio, as well as ARP head studs to screw it all down. There was also a set of 42 lb injectors and Walbro 255 lph fuel pump as well as a 3" exhaust with Borla X1R muffler.
Running 18psi, thanks to the lower compression and a front-mount, the GTI dynoed at 205whp and 250 lb-ft. However, it's not without its obstacles. "At the height I run the car, this sort of speed is a problem, but the turbo means I can keep pace with a bunch of VRs on the way down to H2Oi," he told us.
"I'm using the stock transmission until it blows," Tim continued, "but it's never left me stranded yet." However, he took the precaution of adding a stage 3 Clutch Master clutch and Eurospec lightened flywheel to give it more chance of surviving.
The driver's chances of surviving are compromised slightly by the stock brakes. However, Tim recognized this problem and fitted a powdercoated four-point roll-bar inside the car.
Undoubtedly, the biggest hurdle when building a project is wheel selection. Get it wrong and people will be sniggering behind your back. Fortunately, Tim got it spot on with his third set of wheels - 16x9" Schmidt Modern Lines with 205/40 Falken tires.
He bought the wheels without any dish and had the fenders pulled to ensure the new rubber had enough clearance. The owner reports it works well and credits RMA in Middletown, PA for a job well done.
The same bodyshop also filled the door handle recesses, smoothed the rocker panels and shaved the bumpers. They even deleted the hood squirters, antenna and rear wiper. The final task was to graft a Mk2 plate recess into the trunk before the car was resprayed its original Candy white.
To provide some contrast, the late-model Vento grille in the Jetta front-end was painted black, along with the door handles. The GTI used to have a Euro chin spoiler as well but with the car running so low, Tim chose to revert to stock.
The Jetta headlights are also Vento, while the tail lights are red and clear Hella parts. The fogs and indicators in the front bumper were shaved to give the car its ridiculously clean visage, and slats were cut from of the main bumper aperture to allow the front-mount to breathe more easily.
And finally, Luke Dawg cut down the stock mirrors to create custom stubby ones.
The interior is dominated by "pin-up girl" cloth that adorns the headliner and pillars. It gives the cabin a really fresh look, far more interesting than the somber stock interior.
Other upgrades are a pair of Recaro C seats on modified Mk2 runners plus a slew of Momo accessories. There's also hardwood flooring in the trunk and Tim has removed the rear seat in anticipation of extending the wood into the car itself.
Other plans include a short-runner intake and to tidy up under the hood.
"I still try to use it everyday," Tim told us, "but it's getting harder now it's so low." Sounds like he'll need a new daily driver soon, and we all know that will morph into another project within a matter of months. Perhaps we should reserve space in the mag two years from now so we can feature that one as well.
1996 VW GTI
Owner: Tim Passaro Jr
Location: Derby, CT
Engine: two liter 8v with stage 2 ATP turbo kit and front-mount intercooler, Bahn Brenner head spacer, ARP head studs, C2 Motorsports software, 42 lb injectors, 3" exhaust piping to Borla X1R muffler with turn-down tip, candy purple pipes and manifold
Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission with Clutch Masters stage 3 clutch and Eurospec lightened flywheel
Suspension: B&G coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 16x9" Schmidt Modern Line wheels, 205/40-16 Falken ZE-512 tires
Exterior: Jetta front-end conversion, shaved bumpers, Vento grille, stubby mirrors, pulled fenders, shaved hood squirters, rear wiper, antenna, exhaust cut-out and tow hook, filled door handle recesses and pinch welds, molded Mk2 plate recess, gloss black grille and handles, de-locked rear, clear e-codes, red/clear tail lights
Interior: Recaro C seats, Momo wheel with quick release plus shift knob and boot, Auto Meter boost gauge, FK roll-bar, pinup girl/chopper cloth on headliner and pillars, Pergo laminate floor in trunk
Audio/Visual: Alpine head unit
Thanks: Jazzy Fizz, J Brown, Davey 2 Lips, Beer, The Pitz, T Bag, my Get Low homies, my mom and pop Dukes, my (203)-(860) team, Stinky, Turbo, Busta, RMA Autobody, Bubengropen, BBQ Motorsports