A handful of cars really stood out in last month's Waterfest issue, and Mike Olson's '03 VW GTI 1.8T was one of them. It would intimidate anybody with its silver and black color scheme, large FMIC, yellow headlights and cage.
When we first saw the car creeping towards us on the South Leg of Kreuzerfest, we noticed a familiar face and recognized elements from one of our previous feature cars. We recognized the Minnesota license plate with the lettering "VTECTHS" - it could only be the 4/06 feature car we dubbed "Midwest Special".
Bewildered by the new upgrades, we were obliged to showcase this Mk4 once it became embedded in our minds after Waterfest.
After reacquainting with Mike, we learned he originally wanted his car to have a matte finish, but nobody was capable of doing it. "I've been trying to find somebody for three years, but nobody had any ideas," he told us. "Then Autoworks Collision in Rockford, MN started experimenting with matte paint and did a great job. So I dropped off the car in February and picked it up mid-April."
The foundation is a satin silver base coat. Other accents on the body were painted satin black. The next stage included spraying a flex and flat clearcoat, which is what ultimately produces the satin surface.
Prior to painting, there were various body mods to carry out. A Bonrath badgeless grille was already installed, but Mike trimmed and molded it to look OE. He completed the job by filling the bumper notch left by the emblem.
For the R32 front bumper, Mike deleted the coachline that runs across the top of the lower grilles. The markers in the bumper and fenders were also shaved for good measure.
However, there were still distractions in the body lines, so Mike shaved the rub strips, rear emblem and hatch handle. He also molded the rear valance to achieve the smooth appearance.
Having successfully smoothed the shell and covered it in matte silver paint, it screamed out for contrast. So he added a carbon hood. "I bought it from one of my buddies who blew his motor drag racing," he said. "It was painted Reflex silver on the sides so I decided to keep that theme, but painted the center satin black."
The VIS carbon hood required a kevlar filler for the hood notch. Once that was done, it was painted to match the black grille and roof.
To add more depth up front, an OE Seat Cupra R chin spoiler was fitted. The existing Votex hatch spoiler was then painted flat black.
One of the most complicated tasks was the fuel door. "Pro Fit made the billet aluminum fuel door," he noted. "Depending on the design, you could personalize them and since my company was a Pro Fit dealer, I used one for a GMC Denali that was never sold. I messed around with it for a month and ended up cutting out the fuel door from a Denali quarter-panel I'd bought. It took a lot of molding and plastic welding to finally graft it to my GTI." Once the door was properly mounted, it was finished in satin black.
The tail lights are also modified to match the new flavor; Mike sanded and finished them in matte so they wouldn't outshine the paint.
A new set of wheels would represent another obstacle in the transformation. Regarded as an emphatic "wheel whore",Mike has gone through 14 different wheels; 15 if you count these AutoArt Type VY wheels.
As a custom wheel salesman, it's not very surprising, but we were sad to see the BBS LMs, which were in the previous feature, disappear. "I wanted something one-off," he responded. "I've always wanted to try flat black with black lips. I've seen it on the West Coast, where people have red or blue anodized lips. But I've not seen the flat black with black chrome lips to match the paint on the car."
The 18" rims measured 8.5" front and 10" rear, and wear Dunlop tires. Mike also obtained OE BMW 7-Series lug bolts because they're satin black and matched the wheel centers.
Overhauling the interior was a logical step for Mike's makeover. So he stripped out the Sparco seats, steering wheel, Weicher rollcage and Yarrowsport rear strut bar. With the help of a friend, he fabricated a six-point chromoly cage, which he welded to the floor. It was then prepped and painted in epoxy sealant.
His makeover continued with an OMP Monte Carlo steering wheel on a Momo adapter. Lightweight Recaros were also fitted, with the seat brackets painted satin black.
Old Skool Kustoms reupholstered the headliner, A-, B- and C-pillars in black suede for a classy feel. They also deleted the OE grab handles and seatbelt mounts.
As for the engine, the 1.8T has advanced thanks to a Revo software update and 550cc injectors. "The last time I was on the dyno, I put down 313whp and 284 lb/ft of torque. But that was before the latest update. The car now feels stronger at 20psi than it did at 24psi with the old injectors and software."
Another update saw the FMIC pipes powdercoated matte black.
The transmission remains strong with the Quaife differential, Spec clutch and Autotech flywheel combination, but to improve gas mileage, Mike fitted a Euro TDI fifth gear."The taller gear allows me to cruise at 90mph with barely 3000rpm," he said.With all the updates accounted for, Mike promises there are more on the way. "I've had the car five years," he said.
With all the updates accounted for, Mike promises there are more on the way. "I've had the car five years," he said. "I bought it brand new in '02, but it's a never-ending work-in-progress. I always find something new and I'm not done with it yet!"
Matte PaintWith the growing trend of matte paint on cars such as Mike Olson's GTI, and last month's '00 Golf built by Michael Katashev, we decided to find out more about the paint, how it works and its advantages and disadvantages.
The first stage is the base coat. It can be any OE or aftermarket color, so the choices are infinte.
The second stage of painting is typically a clearcoat, but to achieve a matte finish, a special mix is used at this stage. According the Mike Olson and his paint shop, Autoworks Collision, the mixture requires a flex additive and a flat element, a catalyst plus a temperature-dependent reducer. The mix is then laid down really thick on the base and allowed to settle on its own.
Booth preparation is probably the most critical process in painting with matte. Unlike normal paint, this finish cannot be sanded or mistakes buffed out. Any imperfections will be visible, so it's essential to take your time, or you may need to start the whole process again.
The cost of materials and labor is virtually the same as a regular gloss paint job. Although the biggest cost will depend on the amount of detail required as well as the preparation to get the body perfect.
As far as maintenance, you can wash matte paint like regular paint, but it's best to avoid car-cleaning products that contain wax; in fact, wax of any kind can damage the paint. Even some quick detailing products will leave spots. For quick cleaning, a glass cleaner should remove dirt.
Matte paint will suffer chips and scuffs in the same way regular paint does, so don't expect it to be invulnerable.
Tech Spec2003 VW GTI 1.8TOwner: Mike OlsonLocation: Minneapolis, MNOccupation: Custom Wheel Sales
Engine: 1.8 liter four cylinder 20v with Garrett T3/T4 turbo, Revo software, 550cc injectors, Walbro 255lph fuel pump, ATP front-mount intercooler, turbo inlet pipe, cast manifold and 3" downpipe, GHL 3" turbo-back exhaust, VF-Engineering mounts, AEM cold-air intake, Osofast Racing manual boost controller, Boosteddubs.com braided oil lines, OE VR6 mass air housing with 1.8T internals, Forge DV, Tial 38mm wastegate, Samco hoses, disabled N75 and N249 valves
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with Euro TDI fifth gear, Quaife limited-slip differential, Spec stage 3 clutch, Autotech flywheel, VF-Engineering mount
Suspension: FK Hyper Sport X coilovers, Autotech rear sway bar and front strut brace, Energy Suspension front control arm bushings
Brakes: 11" Performance Caf rear upgrade with vented rotors, 13.1" ECS Tuning stage 2 front brakes with two-piece rotors and Porsche four-piston calipers
Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" front, 18x10" rear AutoArt Type VY wheels, 225/40-18 front, 245/35-18 rear Dunlop Sport Maxx tires, BMW 7-Series lug bolts
Exterior: satin silver base paint with satin black roof, B-pillars, Votex hatch spoiler, Pro Fit billet fuel door and grille surround, OE R32 front bumper and wiper, Bonrath badgeless grille, Seat Cupra R chin spoiler, VIS carbon hood with Sparco hood pins, filled emblem notch, shaved side markers, bumper swage lines, rub strips, rear emblem and handle, molded rear valance, molded fuel door panel and inner splash guard, Laminex, paint-matched tail lights, yellow headlight film
Interior: Recaro SPG fiberglass seats, color-matched seat brackets, OMP Corsica steering wheel, Momo hub adapter and four-point harnesses, New South Engineering gauge pod, Auto Meter Phantom boost gauge, OE Turbo S pedal set, GLI shift knob and boot, 337 center console with deleted armrest, R32 sunroof controls and interior lights, Old Skool Kustoms suede headliner, A-, B- and C-pillars with deleted seatbelt mounting, six-point chromoly rollcage, deleted parcel shelf points with Toy Machine Team rider wheels with Powell bearings, deleted rear seats, grab handles, carpet, padding, airbags and belts
Thanks: Autoworks Collsion, SCI Performance, AutoArt Wheels, Craig Ohlstein, Dunlop Tires, Scott at USRT, Nick Karels, Suicide Girls