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2003 Volkswagen GTI VR6 - Top Gunn

Atlanta's Jeff Gunn And His Evil-Looking GTI VR6 Are Doing What They Can To Clean Up The Mk4's Rep.

Brad Beardow
Nov 15, 2006
Photographer: Josh Brown
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Eurp_0605_01_z+2003_volkswagen_gti+front_view Photo 1/1   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI VR6 - Top Gunn

The Mk4 VWs seem to have a pretty bad rep recently within North American enthusiast circles. This is pretty typical once a new generation of Golfs and Jettas hits the market but for some reason it almost seems cool to rag on Mk4s and their owners. How can this be? If anything is to blame, it's the popularity of the Mk4s themselves - VW sold so many they almost became mainstream, and the tuning scene was inundated by first-time VW owners with their Mk4 Golfs and Jettas. Oh, the horror!

However, the VW universe always seeks balance and the existence of Atlanta, GA resident Jeff Gunn's 2003 GTI VR6 is proof of that. Say what you want about Mk4s, but we challenge you to find a better representation of all that's good and righteous in the VW tuning scene than this Silverstone grey GTI 24v. Jeff's GTI is special on so many levels, and the deeper you look into his spec, the more impressed you become.

One of the biggest slams against the Mk4 scene is that so many owners concentrate on body kits, lowering springs, and big wheels and tires. However, Jeff's a graphic designer by trade, so it should be no surprise that his vision of a Mk4 Golf goes considerably deeper than most. And while Jeff does fit the profile of a typical Mk4 owner (this is his first Dub), he was determined not to have a typical car. He told us, "Although this is my first VW, I'd wanted one for a long, long time. I've been paying attention to the different styles for years, and I believed from the beginning I could build a nice car."

When it comes to modifications, Jeff's appetite is voracious, but simply slapping on a bunch of unrelated parts or telling some bodyshop to go wild just wasn't going to do it. Jeff's a big fan of the OEM+ theme and is very familiar with the tasty treats European Dubbers get that North Americans don't.

The styling of the Mk4 Golf is clean and has little extraneous surface excitement. Subsequently, many owners are tempted to finish the job by removing rub strips, blending valances and incorporating other street rod techniques. The problem is you can go too far and end up with something rather puffy and smooth but Jeff managed to tidy the exterior without falling into this trap.

Although he's done his share of cleaning - shaved drip rails and rub strips, filled door handle recesses, etc - he's avoided the marshmallow look by using more angular OEM Euro R32 bumpers and skirts, and then altering those pieces to suit his purpose. He also combined an unusual bser hood treatment, blacked-out R32 HID headlights (with levelers and washers), smoothed hatch with molded hatch blend and smoked tail lights to create an effect that's both stunning and sinister.

As a matter of fact, the car looks so evil, Jeff used to drive with black "666" decals on the side, but when a strange series of Christine-like quirks afflicted his GTI, he decided to remove them.

Complementing the GTI's dark grey paint is a set of staggered Kinesis K18 three-piece wheels with powdercoated black centers. Sized 18x8" front and 18x9.5" rear, these mega-buck wheels are wrapped in 225/40 and 255/35 Michelin Pilot rubber.

Getting the most from the big footprints is a set of KW V1 Inox coilovers, combined with Autotech sway bars. Brakes were also uprated, using (you guessed it) the VAG parts bin. The rotors are cross-drilled 312mm Audi TT items on the front and 280mm drilled rears.

There aren't a ton of mods available for the 2.8liter VR6 24v, but that didn't stop Jeff from making improvements. Rated at 201hp in stock form, the four-valve six is no slug but a set of Dr Schrick's asymmetrical 268/264 cams, combined with related GIAC software, give a healthy boost in output. The engine bay also looks better thanks to a set of Audi S3 plastic covers.

The stock six-speed tranny did a fair job of getting power to the ground but as you can see Jeff doesn't aspire to "good enough". Quaife's torque-biasing limited slip diff was added to the O2M transmission, and Jeff's been happy ever since. For good measure, a Spec Stage One clutch was also added, as was an Unorthodox Racing aluminum flywheel and EIP R32 short shift kit.

If you really want to see the results of the OEM+ theme gone wild, peek inside Jeff's GTI. Almost every square inch of interior space has been modded, but the aftermarket has only been summoned in a few instances. We're talking pure OEM goodness here.

The impressive list of interior changes begins with OE European black/grey cloth Recaro front and rear seats, with matching door panels plus a black OE R32 headliner. There's a long list of other additions but simply put, each and every proprietary OE R32 interior part is now on display in Jeff's GTI, and you should check the Tech Spec for a rundown of all the parts.

But wait, there's more. Lots more. As mentioned earlier, our man is very aware that European VW owners have access to all kinds of options we can only dream about. We're talking things like OE navigation systems with integrated TV tuners and CD changers, and even headlight switches incorporating headlight level adjusters. And if you suspected Jeff couldn't be denied such goodies, you're right.

Right now the GTI is pretty much done. Jeff may add forced induction to the mix, or he might just turn around and sell it. "As a graphic designer I'm expected to come up with something creative every day but I just don't feel there's much more to do to this car," Jeff says. Ask him and he'll be the first to tell you that modding a Mk4 isn't cheap, and he states, "Next time I'm going to go with an older Dub. You can do way more to it while spending far less."

If some people are a little tough on the Mk4 and their owners, we hope that with Jeff's help we can show them it's time to remove the blinders and realize there are plenty of quality examples mixed among the poseurs. Indeed, Jeff's chosen such a comprehensive approach to modifying his GTI that one really needs to take time to appreciate how thoroughly he's gone about it. From aesthetics to performance and overall functionality, the guy has every base covered. And he's done it in truly original style. Then consider he drives the car daily and doesn't keep it in a garage, and we just have to say, well done, Mr Gunn.

Tech Spec
Jeff Gunn
Location: Atlanta, GA
Occupation: Graphic designer

2003 Vw Gti Vr6
Engine: 2.8 liter 24v VR6 with GIAC chip, Schrick 268/264 cams, 4bar FPR, Euro Sport underdrive pulley, EIP cold air intake, VF-Engineering dogbone mount, Techtonics cat-back exhaust system with Borla muffler and hidden tip, ground wire kit, OEM 5.5 liter water reservoir, Optima Redtop battery, OEM Audi S3 washer fluid/coolant cover, OEM Audi S3 battery cover, Pro Pedder Kustoms strut tower caps, Gruppe Motorsports dipstick, power steering and oil filler cap

Driveline: factory six-speed transmission with Quaife limited slip differential, Spec Stage 1 Clutch, Unorthodox Racing Aluminum Flywheel, EIP R32 short shifter linkage, shifter cut 1.5", Turn2 transmission mounts

Suspension: KW Variant 1 Inox coilovers, Autotech 25mm front and 28mm rear sway bar, adjustable end links, lower front tie bar and front upper strut bar, ECS urethane control arm bushings and urethane rear coil spring isolators, Turn2 quick-release rear strut bar

Brakes: OEM 312mm front and 280mm rear cross-drilled brake kits, Mintex Red Box pads, Goodridge braided brake lines, Ate Super Blue fluid, calipers painted black

Wheels & Tires: 18x8" front and 18x9.5" rear Kinesis K18 forged wheels with powdercoated black centers, 225/40 front and 255/35-18 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires

Exterior: OEM R32 Euro front and rear bumper, side skirts, front undertray, Xenon HIDs (painted) and hood/hatch lifts, OEM Seat Cupra R front lip, OEM Euro front and rear rebar, OEM headlight washer kit, stubby side mirror, aero front wipers, OEM Phaeton antenna, Bonrath badgeless grille with shaved logo, Hella dual air horns and smoked tail lights, rear fogs wired, micro bser hood, hood and bumper emblem notch filled, bumpers and mirrors smoothed, rear exhaust aperture and door handle recesses filled, shaved side moldings, fender turn signals, driver's side door lock, roof drip rails and rear hatch, rear hatch blend fabricated, deleted rear wiper, front fenders rolled, engine, battery and washer fluid/coolant covers color-matched and smoothed

Interior: OEM R32 full-pixel Euro instrument cluster, black headliner, aluminum dash kit, door lock pins and door pulls, pedals, dead pedal, six-speed shift knob, Raintronic rearview mirror and e-brake handle, OEM Euro black/gray cloth, heated Recaro seats front and rear, black sunvisors, rear fog switch and cruise/high beam stalk with parking lights, OEM MFD navigation unit, TV tuner, CD changer, black Sport cloth door cards and armrest, headlight leveling adjuster, OEM Bora illuminated AC vents, OEM W8 switch panel painted black, OEM R-line mats, Gruppe Motorsports aluminum upper dash vents, Alientech window remote

Audio/Visual: MTX amp, two MTX 10" subs, false floor/wheel well fiberglass enclosure

Thanks: Robby at Hughes Paint & Body Works, Erik Skousen at SETuning, Mike and Barry Palmer at Barry Palmer Auto, Chris Hatzo at Heritage Volkswagen, Buddy Dillenburg at Pro Pedder Kustoms, Felix Folster, Ash Evans, Muhammed Alexander, Andy Loscavio, John Unger, Tadd Lee and Dave Chapman

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By Brad Beardow
11 Articles

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