Void of large fenders, huge wings and general excess, this Mk3 Jetta could easily be overlooked at first glance. And that was exactly the owner's intent. "What I love most about the car is that even enthusiasts don't realize it's a Coupe at first. It's only after a double-take that they really appreciate the car," said owner Matt Pitre.
Admiring the subtle lines of this elegant Mk3 Jetta Coupe, one can't help casting back to '97, with the equally understated Volkswagen Design Study CJ concept car. Based on the Mk4 platform, it was a gorgeous glimpse into the future, and a concept Coupe that really should have been built. Whether it was the threat of stealing Golf sales or simply cost prohibitive, the classy Coupe never came to be. And we haven't seen a factory Jetta Coupe since the Mk2.
"My first car was a Mk3 Golf, but I decided I wanted to swap the 2.0 8v for a 1.8T," Matt said. With aspirations of some high-pressure power, the Golf was taken to Chico Zetino at Auto Nu Design in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, where the iron ABA was ditched in favor of an '03 AWP 1.8T.
In addition to the transplant, Matt purchased skirts, bumpers and other pieces that have since found their way onto his Jetta. Unfortunately, he discovered the Golf's bodyshell had suffered significant damage from a previous owner's unmentioned accidents. A closer inspection revealed the Golf to be a total loss.
While Matt was down and out, Chico suggested that if he wanted to be different, they should transplant a 1.8T into a Mk3 Jetta and use salvageable parts from the Golf to create a Jetta Coupe.
Since the conversion had already been done a handful of times in the States, both agreed the swap would be unique in Eastern Canada.
As if a 1.8T swap into a Mk3 wasn't enough, under the shiny coat of paint is an exotic blend of Golf and Jetta. Locating a '97 Jetta as the donor car, the stock 2.0 and auto transmission were replaced with the 1.8T and cryogenically-treated 020 transmission from the cancerous Golf. Not just a simple plug 'n play swap, the drive-by-wire motor needed a bit of magic to make it work. "We removed the immobilizer so we could use the Mk3 cluster, and then paired the Mk4 engine harness to the Mk3 fuse box and interior harness," Chico said.
After the labyrinth of wires was mated, the Mk4 pedal box was installed, along with the remaining accessories needed to make the new motor work like factory stock.
Once the Jetta could move under its own steam, the engine bay was painted and Coupe surgery began. The Golf doors were simply bolted to the Jetta hinges, but everything aft of that (including the Jetta's door jambs, B-pillars, side windows, rear doors and quarter panels) was cut away and replaced with two-door Golf parts. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the project, the entire side of the car was replaced from the hinges back to the middle of the rear fenders!
After the copious welding smoke cleared, the Jetta was left with two fewer doors and Golf flanks. Any other project would've been completed at this point; instead, Chico decided to modify the bumpers, skirts and hood.
The Dietrich RS front bumper needed help to clear the new intercooler, but it was the 20AE skirts and R32 rear bumper that needed the most crafting. "The skirts needed a few inches added, but the rear bumper was modified so heavily to fit the hybrid body, that it took us a month to get right," Chico said.
The next step was to shave the trunk and fill the plate recess. Completing the exterior were a bser hood extension and host of FK goodies. Once fitted, the car was blanketed in Jaguar Charcoal paint.
Sporting two doors and a slew of exterior mods, Matt felt the new motor wouldn't keep up the pace. So following Chico's lead, a hefty GT30-71R turbocharger was fitted, along with the custom front-mount and Chico's own intake manifold.
To pass spent gases, Chico fab'ed a 3" turbo-back exhaust. To ensure the ingested air was handled correctly, an extra inline fuel pump, 630cc injectors and Unitronic chip were also used. "We built the kit on the big side, with the intention of eventually switching to forged internals for big power." Chico said. "We wanted room to grow!"
Before the car rolled out of the shop, Matt added FK coilovers and Brembo rotors.
Inside, he installed front and rear 20AE Recaros, along with a Momo wheel, shifter and Auto Meter gauges. Capping off the package was an Alpine head unit, Blaupunkt mids and a Bassworks sub.
When the snow finally melted and the Jetta could be wheeled out to inhale its first breath of fresh air, Matt had a new car. While many people would stop there, Matt and Chico whispered top secret plans that should literally blow the hats off our heads...
1997 VW Jetta
Owner: Matt Pitre
Location: St-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada
Engine: 1.8 liter 20v with GT30-71R turbo, ATP exhaust manifold, custom intercooler, charge- and intake pipes, K&N cone filter, Auto Nu Design intake manifold, custom 3" turbo-back exhaust with Vibrant muffler, Unitronic chip, 630cc injectors, MSD inline fuel pump, TurboSmart Supersonic blow-off valve
Drivetrain: Peloquin LSD, cryogenically-treated 020 transmission, G60 flywheel, ACT six-puck springless clutch
Brakes: cross-drilled Brembo rotors, red painted calipers
Suspension: FK Silverline Plus coilovers, Auto Nu Design polyurethane motor mounts
Wheels and tires: 17x7.5" Ikon 16 Spike wheels, 215/40-17 Nitto NT450 tires
Exterior: Coupe conversion using Mk3 Golf doors, jambs, B-pillars, windows and partial rear quarter panels, modified Dietrich Mk3 RS4 front bumper, Mk4 R32 rear bumper and 20AE side skirts, shaved trunk with filled plate recess, Mattig bser hood extension, FK mesh grille, cup mirrors, angel-eye headlights and M3-style red/clear tail lights, Jaguar charcoal paint, Mk3 Golf rubbing strips
Interior: 20AE Recaro front and rear seats, '98 GTI silver-faced instrument cluster, Momo Commando R carbon steering wheel and Sphere shift knob, OEM electric windows, Auto Meter Phantom boost, air/fuel ratio and oil pressure gauges, Mk4 pedal box
Audio/Visual: Alpine CDA-7893 MP3/CD head unit, Blaupunkt THc-542 front and THx-662 rear speakers, GT480 amplifier, 12" Bassworks sub in custom enclosure
Thanks: Chico Zetino and the Auto Nu Design crew, friends, family and everybody who helped