John Boycheck, owner of this '03 VW GTI 1.8T, described his car best: "If you didn't know about VWs, you could walk past my car and not think anything of it. But people in the community would know. And that's why I like my car - a person can sit there and see all the fine points in it."
This Mk4 has something for all tastes. On the extreme side, the bser hood is in yer face and the bold wheels draw your attention immediately. But on the subtle side, the door handles are shaved and the front bumper has gone through hours of bodywork.
For being his first project car, John did a phenomenal job. He didn't build it gaudy or over-the-top, but designed a VW to complement the North American tuning community.
John's story began when he attended local VW GTGs in his hometown of Baltimore, MD. "I loved the people and everything about the scene," he told us. "The VW community was really cool and I got deeper into it and went from there."
John's interest in the Wolfsburg brand grew even though he still drove a dying Ford Probe. Eventually, he began searching for his first real car and while he originally wanted a Mk3 VR6, he couldn't refuse a new Mk4 after visiting a dealership.
It was quickly dismembered of its OE parts. "I was all over the place," he remembered. "Then I started to see things I liked and decided to go for a smoother look. I wanted the car to stand out, yet look clean."
Progress accelerated after he was involved in a minor traffic accident. Since his car was going to be repaired, he decided to "go all out on the car and have everything done at once."
He took the GTI to Arbutus Autobody in Baltimore, where the exterior was transformed. First, the Golf front-end was ditched for the Jetta nose. John also sourced an R32-look front bumper for the Jetta and modified it. "I had the brake vents filled and the lines shaved so it just has the center vent now." The front was completed with the pissed-off bser hood extension that gives the JTI its scowl.
Making his way to the sides of the car, John added Dubtechnik side skirts. He also deleted the door handles, moldings, side markers and rain rails. This made the sides seamless and glossy, and he continued to the rear, where the Dubtechnik Euro bumper allows for a European license plate. A Mattig hatch blend was then molded to the hatch and flows into the bumper.
More clean-up entailed the rear wiper, emblem and handle deleted from the hatch.
Finally, he shaved the antenna, tinted the windows, added Hella smoked tail lights and retrofitted HID headlights from an Acura TSX.
Our biggest surprise was the door handles. Can he drive it regularly? "It's my daily driver," he replied. "With the shaved handles, I use a KVC door and window controller - the windows roll down so I can open the car. It took some time getting used to and the police don't bother me but I can't take it on the track, unfortunately."
To complement the new body, John needed the right set of wheels. "This is my third set," he noted. "I didn't want a spoke design, but was looking for something I hadn't seen on very many cars."
He opted for 18x8.5" front and 18x9.5" rear MAM MT1 wheels. They have machined faces and polished lips, plus stretched BFG tires. "There are perhaps three cars in the US with these wheels. They match the smoothness of the car, flat and full, like the smooth sides."
To lower the car, John fitted B&G coilovers, then reduced body roll with 22mm front and 28mm rear H&R sway bars.
With his aggressive stance, John needed more grunt under the bser hood so installed nearly every bolt-on available for the 1.8T. He was also concerned about how his engine bay looks, so most of the parts are polished.
The first mod was the APR software. Eurojet then supplied a front-mount intercooler and a Samco Sport turbo inlet pipe improves airflow from the Injen intake. ECS Tuning underdrive pulleys reduce load on the accessories while a GHL exhaust with downpipe lowers back pressure and liberates more power.
However, it's the USRT intake manifold that dominates the engine bay. The hand-built piece improves top-end power and should be put to good use when John goes big-turbo. The remainder of the bay was cleaned and polished for an ultra-shine.
Putting power to the ground is a five-speed manual transmission with a Spec stage two clutch and G60 lightened flywheel. We were surprised to find Raxle driveshafts on the car, especially since John's still running the stock K03 turbo. "I took it to the track once and there was a lot of wheel hop," he explained. "I shattered an axle so put something in there that wouldn't break again. Raxles are guaranteed forever and since I was running 13.9sec quarters with street tires I didn't want to take any chances. That was without pulleys and USRT intake manifold, so the car's capable of getting lower..."
The interior might be the tamest looking part of John's car. He first removed the original beige headliner for the black 20AE version to match his leather. Monitoring the turbo is an Omari boost gauge mounted above the steering column.
The most noticeable addition is the Mini-ITX Carputer above the heater controls. "I found somebody to do the molding. It's basically a radio cage with a screen molded into it," he said. With an OE look, the computer is functional and complements the feel of the car.
With the Carputer up front, John upgraded the rest of the sound system with Eclipse, Infinity and Rockford equipment. A new aluminum subwoofer sits in the trunk, along with two amps that power the sub and the Infinity components up front. A capacitor adds more bass to the overall sound package and complete the system.
Mr Boycheck continues to drive the car daily and is preparing it for a bigger turbo. While not working at UPS or attending school, he's a regular in the VW community whether online or at local GTGs. "I organize the Wawa rally from Baltimore to H2O International," he mentioned. "I've been doing it for three years and last year 140 cars showed up!" We look forward to more of John's service to the VW scene and next year's rally.
2003 VW GTI 1.8T
Owner: John Boycheck
Location: Baltimore, MD
Occupation: UPS supervisor and student
Engine: 1.8 liter 20v four cylinder turbo with APR software, Eurojet front-mount intercooler and silicone throttle body hose, Samco turbo inlet pipe, Overboost manual boost controller, USRT intake manifold, Injen cold-air intake, Forge Motorsport 007 diverter valve, N75J valve, ECS Tuning pulleys, GHL 2.5" turbo-back exhaust, polished throttle body, valve cover, hood strut, oil cap, coolant cap and power steering cap
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with Spec stage two clutch, lightened G60 flywheel, Raxle driveshafts and ECS Tuning polyurethane mounts
Suspension: B&G RS Line coilovers, 22mm front and 28mm rear H&R sway bars
Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" front and 18x9.5" rear MAM MT1 wheels, 225/30-18 front and 235/35-18 rear BFGoodrich g-Force KDW tires
Exterior: Jetta front-end conversion, modified and shaved R32-look front bumper, Dubtechnik side skirts and rear Euro bumper, bser hood, retrofitted Acura TSX HID headlights, Hella smoked tail lights, molded Mattig hatch blend, shaved door handles, hatch, rear wiper, side markers, moldings, drip rails, antenna, window tint, AutoLoc door popper kit, KVC-100 door and window controller
Interior: Omari boost gauge and steering column pod, 20AE black headliner, OE cubby holder, Euro headlight switch
Audio/Visual: Mini-ITX Carputer with touchscreen, Eclipse amplifier and 12" DVC aluminum subwoofer, front and rear Infinity components speakers powered by Rockford Fosgate amplifier, one farad capacitor, dual Euro air horns
Thanks: friends, dad, Arbutus Autobody