When we saw 20 year-old Ben Jernigan's Jetta at last year's H2Oi (et 1/08), we instantly knew it would be perfect for the Mk2 issue we were planning. We liked it because the car has a great stance, it runs on diesel and the owner did most of the work himself. What more could you want?
When we met Ben last summer, he'd owned the '92 Jetta Turbo-Diesel 14 months but it had already gone through several makeovers. "I was originally into musclecars and had a '73 Duster but all my friends owned VWs and pushed me to get one. After looking around I found a GLI but the owner backed out of the deal. But then this Turbo-Diesel popped up on Autotrader," he explained.
"The next day I fitted some cheap add-on coilovers, a Recaro interior, a friend's Borbet Type Ts and tinted the windows," he continued. "It was all downhill from there!"
A month before H2Oi 2006, Ben decided to strip the Jetta. "I started working on my car a few weeks before H2Oi. Doing things at the last minute makes it more fun," he told us. Happy to work under pressure, Ben shaved the emblems and markers, de-seaming the rear before adding Audi handles. He also cut and rolled the fenders and had it resprayed in its original Calypso green: "It's always been my favorite color," he explained.
When he arrived at H2Oi that year, the car sat on "P" wheels with whitewall tires and scored high enough to capture first place in the mild category.
Following this success, Ben visited the UK eBay site and discovered a set of 15x5.5" Compomotive FH three-piece wheels - just what he'd been looking for. After placing the order, he waited four months for them to arrive from Australia and then decided they weren't wide enough. So he contacted Kodiak Motorsports in Canada for help but for some reason it took nine months to get rims with the wrong bolt pattern and no holes for valve stems. However, they were the right size, being 2.5" and 3" wider, so Ben re-drilled the holes and assembled them with Schmidt bolts. Some friends then polished the rims and color-matched the centers.
It had taken 11 months to build the wheels but he finally had 15x8.5" fronts with skinny 165/45 Federal tires, and 15x9" rear wheels with 195/45s. "The tires didn't stretch as much as I was hoping," Ben told us, explaining that he wanted an extreme stretched Euro-look.
The wheels are only part of the story though. The next chapter was the suspension and Ben used Patec coilovers to get the desired stance. "They're not wound all the way down," he revealed. "There's another 1.5" to go but the car won't let me go that far!
"I don't usually have problems with it being so low, although I do scrape the oil pan occasionally. And it's now leaking after hitting some bumps in the road construction in Ocean City. However, it's my daily driver since I blew the transmission on my Golf Harlequin and I've not had any problems using it," he said.
Brakes mods are restricted to slotted front rotors, but this is a diesel after all... However, the owner has worked on the motor, swapping in a Garrett T3 turbo, which was original equipment on the European GT Diesel model. He bought it from a Canadian shop that was closing down, along with the injectors and manifold. He also got a GT Diesel enrichment pump, which supplies more fuel when it sees increased boost.
Beyond the GTD spec, Ben picked up "el cheapo" front-mount intercooler from eBay, for which he built 2" boost pipes. He also constructed a 2.5" exhaust that comes straight off the turbo without mufflers or a cat.
Although the car's now running 18psi, he's not had it on a dyno to verify the increased horsepower. "I got 55mpg when it was stock but now it's down to about 40mpg. It also billows black smoke when I accelerate, but it stops people tailgating me," Ben reported.
With its extra performance, Ben sought a tachometer since US cars didn't get one. So he bought a Canadian instrument cluster and swapped in his original speedo to replace the Canadian km/h instrument.
While inside the car, the owner added a classic wood-grain BBS steering wheel, along with a wooden shift knob from a Mk4. He also added green suede shift and e-brake boots to match the Recaro door cards, before installing an SWG console to house three VDO gauges.
On the outside, Ben's minimalist approach to his big-bumper Jetta saw him delete the front roundel with a de-badged grille and cut the mirrors from their mounting plates. He than added a grille spoiler, 16v lip, European rear plate tub, Hella E-codes tail lights and smoked front indicators. Yet despite the short list of mods, the overall effect is stunning.
As a car stereo installer by trade, Ben would have missed a trick if he didn't include a sound system. So he created a masterpiece in the trunk using black and green suede, including a box for three 10" JL Audio subs. They're powered by a single JL 500/1 amp in the trunk floor, complete with a green suede stripe. It sits alongside a JL 300/4 amp that drives the remaining dash, door and shelf speakers, with signals coming from a Pioneer head unit.
Having taken first place at H2Oi and a second at BugOut, Ben tries to attend as many shows on the East Coast as possible with his Jetta and Golf Harlequin. But if you see him on the road, don't get too close or he may just lose you in a choking cloud of diesel soot!
Tech Spec1992 JettaTurbo-DieselOwner: Ben JerniganLocation: Gates, NCOccupation: car stereo installer
Engine: 1.6 liter i-4 with Garrett T3 turbo on GTD manifold, GTD injectors and enrichment pump, ITG filter, front-mount intercooler with 2" boost pipes, custom 2.5" exhaust, wiring hidden in frame rails, chrome valve cover
Drivetrain: stock five-speed manual transmission
Suspension: Patec coilovers
Brakes: slotted front rotors
Wheels & Tires: 15x8.5" front, 15x9" rear Compomotive FH three-piece wheels with Schmidt bolts, painted centers, polished rims, 5mm front spacers, 165/45-15 front, 195/45-15 rear Federal tires
Exterior: de-badged grille with grille spoiler, 16v lip, Audi handles, European rear plate tub, Hella E-codes tail lights, smoked front indicators, shaved mirrors, emblems and markers, de-seamed rear, cut and rolled fenders, painted Calypso green
Interior: GLI Recaro seats and door cards, BBS steering wheel, Mk4 shift knob, green suede shift and e-brake boots, SWG console with VDO boost, oil and exhaust gas temp gauges, Euro cluster
Audio/Visual: Pioneer DEH-P6800MP CD/MP3 head unit, JL Audio 500/1 and 300/4 amps in trunk with green suede stripe, JL Audio TR-series 3.5" speakers in dash, 5.25" in doors and 6x9" on the rear shelf, three 10" JL Audio W3 subwoofers mounted in a JL Tri-Plate, trunk trimmed in green and black suede