Shortly after we named Tom MacLachlan's '01 VW Jetta 1.8T our top pick from Waterfest 13 (et 10/07), he made a couple of notable changes to differentiate his car from the rest of the Mk4 community; most notably, the newly-released BBS LM-R wheels, a first in the VW community. So we caught up with Tom again to get the scoop on his mission to build his exceptional Euro-style Jetta.
Our first conversation left us with the impression that he's very kindhearted, thanks to his ultra-friendly personality. We discovered he's a PGA golf pro. "I played golf in school as a kid," he told us. "I never went to college but got to the point where I could make a living out of golf by teaching it. I'm an easy person to talk to and one thing led to another..."
Our next question was predictable enough. "So when are you going to take out Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson?" He responded, "I made a little money playing in tournaments but at my age I'm not in shape to go on tour. It's tough being a teacher and I work 70 hours a week, but it's even tougher being a tour pro."
Tournament player or not, there's no doubt that Tom has the lowest golf handicap of any et reader (or staff).
Similar to golf, his passion for cars started when he was a kid. "My parents have always been into old school cars. My dad has a '54 Chevy Bel-Air on air bags and my mom has a '47 Ford F100 pickup with fat fenders, black pearl paint and a Corvette motor. So I used to go to a lot of shows with them," he said.
During his early show visits, Tom discovered Volkswagen and never looked back. "I remember seeing an old VW Notchback and just loved it. So when I turned 16, my first car was a '77 Rabbit. It was a brown, five-speed, four-door beater. But it was awesome and got me through the early years. Since then, I've owned a couple of Mk2s and Mk3s. I only did minor exterior stuff, nothing to the extent of this car."
Tom purchased his '01 Jetta with only 13 miles on the odometer. It was totally different than his previous projects but he knew it had potential. "I loved how red it was and that it didn't have a sunroof," he reminisced.
After owning it two weeks he went to work, but we should note Tom was also into the mini-truck scene. "I've seen tackiness cars in many areas of the industry and have acquired a taste for something clean and smooth."
He acquired a Votex body kit, updated GLI trunk lid and badgeless Kamei grille to give the car a more confident appearance. He then dropped the car at Steve's Autobody in Islip, NY where his mother got her car to painted.
In addition to fitting the parts, Steve Polis shaved the rub strips from the doors and bumpers, removing the rear emblem and side markers as he went.
Once the custom bodywork was complete, Tom could have stuck with the original Tornado red but he wanted to be different. "One day I saw a red Audi RS6," he remembered. "I was thinking of painting my car Porsche red but the RS6 was mind-blowing. It was so bright and vibrant. The Audi Laser Vibrant III red is more blood-colored than Tornado, which seems to be more orange in comparison."
Following the color change, Tom finished the exterior with European tail lights and HID headlights to complete his European makeover.
The next order of business was wheels. Since buying the car, he'd been through sizes 17-19" but maintained a motorsport mesh theme. His last set was Champion Motorsport's Porsche wheel more commonly seen on a 997 Turbo than a Jetta. However, even these were becoming more common in the VW community, so Tom jumped at the chance to fit the new BBS LM-R wheels that were unveiled at SEMA '06.
The 19x8.5" wheels are 2-3 lbs lighter than the original LMs, and Tom reused the H&R adapters from his Champion wheels to again adapt the Porsche bolt pattern. Wrapped in Nitto NT-555 tires, the wheels were dead solid perfect.
With looks that could kill, the next plan was to raise the 1.8T's power. The stock 150hp, 155 lb-ft wasn't going to cut it, so Tom sought the aid of brother-in law Ivan Torres. "He's a VW mechanic and did lots of diesel work back in the day," Tom told us. "I basically left my car with him for five months. He did 90% of the work, but I helped when I could, installing the Revo software, K04 turbo, Aquamist injection, cams and injectors."
Although the car hasn't been dynoed, the software alone bumped factory figures over 200hp and 230 lb-ft. The addition of a K04 turbo, Techtonics turbo-back exhaust and larger injectors should take power over 250hp.
We were surprised to see the Schrick 268 cams and Aquamist system. "I wanted to see what these did," he explained. "And the car feels a lot more peppy now. The pick up is much better."
To complement the cams, Tom also fitted an ABD intake manifold (not pictured) to move more air into the cylinders. The Aquamist system also helped by allowing more ignition advance. It works by injecting mists of cold water/methanol into the intake manifold on boost to cool the air, making it denser.
Other tuning parts included a Neuspeed front-mount intercooler and underdrive pulleys, Forge turbo inlet pipe and boost hoses, plus a Carbonio cold-air intake.
To improve the handling, Tom installed Koni coilovers with Neuspeed sway bars. However, braking power had also become a factor, so Tom swapped to the larger brakes from the 20th Anniversary GTI, while the rear rotors are drilled and slotted Brembos.
The clean OEM+ theme continues inside with an almost complete R32 swap. "I pieced most of it together except the door pulls," he informed us. "A buddy who lived in Germany got most of the parts. The front door cards are from a four-door Euro R32, as is the dash - it's perforated instead of being smooth."
The list of Euro goodies continues with the cluster, brushed aluminum door trim, pedals, steering wheel, headlight switch and all four seats. He also mounted a a Stewart-Warner boost gauge on the A-pillar with a 42DD pod.
All these OEM+ accents flow smoothly but what about the patches of plaid? Is that Burberry? "Five years ago my wife wanted a Burberry pocketbook, so every holiday, birthday or anniversary, she gets something Burberry now. I also used to live in Scotland in the early '90s and everybody there wore Burberry. It's a cool pattern. The red, khaki and black colors blend together nicely and brought a splash of color to the interior."
You'll notice Burberry influences on the headliner, armrest, steering column and climate controls. Black suede has also been added to the pillars and rear deck to complete the makeover.
Tom couldn't leave the trunk untouched, so a friend helped fabricate a sub enclosure. "Typically most people leave the sub exposed but since I don't daily drive the car any more, I don't have to worry about a spare tire. So I was able to utilize the whole trunk for the audio," Tom explained. "It now has a false floor with the amps and capacitor exposed."
For improved sound quality, there are two sets of JL Audio components inside the car and an Alpine DVD head unit with disc changer complete the audio upgrades.
We were somewhat baffled at the shape of Tom's trunk design. "My buddy and I tried to make it a little different. Some people say it looks like a toilet bowl but I prefer to think it looks like Kenny from South Park."
Tom has come a long way, but his journey is far from over. He plans to continue the exterior with Audi A8 handles, a Euro trunk and pulled fenders. A big turbo is also underway with the help of Revo Technik, so we'll hear more from Tom in years to come. "This car will never be sold," he concluded. "I couldn't put a number on the amount I've put into it, but I know my son is going to inherit it one day!"
2001 VW Jetta 1.8T
Owner: Tom MacLachlan
Location: East Islip, NY
Occupation: Golf Professional
Engine: 1.8 liter four cylinder 20v with KO4-20 turbo, Revo software, Schrick 268 cams, 440 lb injectors, 4-bar fuel pressure regulator, ECS Tuning H-valve, ABD polished intake manifold, Neuspeed front-mount intercooler and pulleys, Forge Motorsport silicone hoses, turbo inlet pipe, diverter valve, oil cap and coolant cap, Carbonio cold-air intake, Techtonics Tuning downpipe, catalytic converter and Borla muffler, Aquamist race kit, VF-Engineering motor mounts, polished manifold and cam cover
Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission with Neuspeed short shifter
Suspension: Koni coilovers, Forge Motorsport strut tower caps, Neuspeed front and rear sway bars
Brakes: OE 20AE front brakes, Brembo cross-drilled and slotted rear rotors
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" BBS LM-R wheels with H&R adapters, 235/35-19 Nitto NT-555 tires
Exterior: Votex body kit,GLI trunk lid, Kamei grille, shaved rub strips, emblems and side markers, European HID headlights, tail lights and rear fog, Audi Laser Red Vibrant III paint
Interior: OE European R32 front and rear seats, dashboard, instrument cluster, pedals, steering wheel, brushed door handles and headlight switch, OE Audi A4 rearview mirror, LED interior lighting, 42DD A-pillar gauge pod with Stewart-Warner boost gauge, Burberry headliner, armrest and interior accents, black suede pillars and rear deck
Audio/Visual: Alpine CVA-1005 head unit, CHA-S634 six-disc/MP3 changer and DVA-5200 DVD player, Stinger two-farad capacitor, JL Audio 13W7 subwoofer, mono and four-channel amplifiers, two component loudspeaker sets, custom trunk enclosure with Burberry upholstery
Thanks: wife Abigail, son Eoghan, Mom and Dad, Steve Polis at Steve's Autobody, Ivan Torres, George Osmun at Revo