2004 VW GTI 1.8TThere's something wrong with this picture. The '04 VW GTI 1.8T you see here is styled seriously Euro, incorporating several parts direct from Germany. It also sits extremely low on wide wheels with stretched tires, and boasts a big turbo under the hood. But let's take a look at the surroundings. Notice the mountains: snow in the distance; dark, gloomy clouds. This US-built GTI isn't from your typical West or East Coast location. Instead it hails from its "no-coast" home of Colorado.
We were surprised to learn this GTI belonged to Eric Skousen from Colorado Springs, CO, a city known for Coors Light and some of America's best ski resorts. At one time, the only automotive legend in Colorado was the Pikes Peak hillclimb, but now Eric has put the Rocky Mountains on the VW map.
Eric has lived in Colorado most of his life and joined the VW community after getting his driver's license. While his friends were putting mud tires on their lifted F150s, Eric picked up the keys to his first Dub, a Mk3 Jetta 2.0.
The young enthusiast moved onto a Mk2 shortly after and then dipped into the tuner market by taking on a job at a performance parts shop which, in due course, led to his own business. "The owner disappeared one day," he told us. "He took the money and ran, leaving me with 200 pending orders. Even though I didn't get paid, I stayed around and helped everybody get what they paid for. Eventually I decided to do it for myself and started Serious Euro Tuning, my own online store. It started four years ago while I was in college and now we offer high-end products for VW, Audi, BMW and other Euros."
At the time of opening his business, Eric ditched the Mk2 for this Silverstone grey GTI. "It worked out that I've been able to use my car as a project to promote many of the products I sell."
Determined to build a clean yet fast Golf, the 1.8T motor was addressed first. In Colorado Springs, altitude is against you since the air is thinner at the city's 5000ft elevation. As a result, Eric knew he needed more than the typical bolt-on upgrades to rival setups on either coast. "I originally did all the bolt-ons like chip, intake, exhaust, etc," he said. "But got bored with the power so decided to piece together my own turbo kit. I did research by riding in other people's cars and going to lots of dyno days. I figured the GT2871R was the turbo to use. I like it because it's cheap yet makes good power."
After acquiring the Garrett ball-bearing turbo, Eric sourced an ATP exhaust manifold and 3" downpipe to fit to the new hardware. More airflow warranted additional fueling, so 440cc injectors, a Walbro inline pump and a 4-bar pressure regulator were added. The stock side-mount intercooler was ditched for a larger Eurojet front-mount, which sits behind the bumper. For cooler air temps, Eric installed a Cry02 intercooler sprayer. A Forge Motorsport diverter valve and boost hoses, along with GHL's exhaust and intake, give the car its peppy sound, quick throttle response and reliability.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a custom turbo kit is the software. It was tackled by Revo Technik and the stage 3 program allows Eric to switch between different programs through a serial port switch. Eric's best numbers on the dyno come from a mixture of race and pump fuel spinning the rollers to 345whp.
Transferring the power to the wheels is the stock five-speed manual, upgraded with a Spec stage 3+ clutch and aluminum flywheel.
Once Eric was happy with the power, he turned his attention to stance and handling. Unlike many US enthusiasts, he shares the European mentality that ultra-low is better. "I had a cup kit before, then coilovers, now air ride," he revealed. "I made the progression and might never go back to coilovers again. With air ride, I can drop the car on the ground and raise it for speed bumps, and the handling is comparable to coilovers."
Using an Easy Street system, Eric can adjust the damping nine different ways. Like an old school lowrider, he can even raise individual corners or set the height to different levels on the ignition. An air compressor and five-gallon tank ensure the system works properly.
To stiffen the chassis and reduce body roll, Eric fitted sway bars from Autotech as well as stress bars from both Black Forest Industries and Yarrowsport.
Next on the list were wheels, but he admits they never stay the same for long. Because SE Tuning offers several designs, he cycled through nine sets to promote different lines. The gorgeous rims seen here are rare and discontinued Kinesis K58s. The centers feature a brushed, anodized ball-peen finish which closely resemble the OE color. The three-piece forged rollers measure 18x8.5" front and 18x9.5" rear. Respectively, 2.5" and 3.5" wide lips give the wheels an aggressive appearance. And so Eric can go low without rubbing, Toyo T1R tires are handsomely stretched around the wheels. For emergencies, Eric also has a full-size spare in the trunk.
A flashy set of wheels only goes so far, so the rest of the car took a dramatic change. Prefering an ultra-clean, OEM+ style, Eric swapped out the bumpers for Euro-spec. This gave a stubbier look and also adopted the European plate recesses. To give the front more aggression, a Euro 25th Anniversary Edition front valance was sourced from Germany, while the stock grille was replaced with a badgeless Bonrath piece. However, the front bumper and hood had to be filled to eliminate the notches left by the VW emblem.
The remainder of the updates included a Euro rear spoiler, R32 tail lights, smoked HID headlights and 20AE side skirts.
The interior was kept tame but take a look at the head unit. "VW never offered navigation for North American Mk4s, so I got a European one. It comes with an adapter and bolts in."
A PS2 is connected to allow DVDs to appear on the system. And surrounding the LCD nav screen is a brushed aluminum trim kit Eric found on a wrecked 20AE GTI. The headliner was then reupholstered in black suede to give the interior more class.
Keeping Eric and his passenger secure are carbon seats with Schroth three-point harnesses. A Weichers half-cage commands the rear, along with a carbon deck lid. If you're wondering where the air ride components are, they sit under a false floor that's under the spare wheel.
Make no mistake: this GTI is not a show queen. It's daily driven and has the rock chips to prove it. "I even change to the stock wheels in the winter time and drive it in the snow. It's not like California where I can drive it like this all the time!"
Tech Spec2004 VW GTI 1.8TOwner: Eric SkousenLocation: Colorado Springs, COOccupation: owner of SE Tuning
Engine: 1.8 liter four cylinder 20v with Garrett GT2871R polished turbo, Revo stage 3 software, Eurojet front-mount intercooler, ATP exhaust manifold and 3" downpipe, GHL 3" stainless cat-back exhaust and cold-air intake, 440cc injectors, Walbro inline fuel pump, 4-bar fuel pressure regulator, Cry02 intercooler sprayer, Forge Motorsport diverter valve, silicone boost hose kit and carbon engine cover, carbon coolant cover, polished intake manifold, Osir Design carbon and aluminum strut tower caps, Audi S3 side engine cover
Driveline: Five-speed manual with Spec stage 3+ clutch kit, 8 lb aluminum flywheel
Suspension: Easy Street air ride system with five gallon tank, five hookups and quick connect fittings, Autotech front and rear sway bars, Black Forest Industries rear upper strut bar, Yarrowsport stress bar
Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" front, 18x9.5" rear Kinesis K58 wheels with 225/40-18 front and 245/35-18 rear Toyo Proxes T1R tires
Brakes: Brembo cross-drilled rotors, Mintex pads
Exterior: European 25AE front valance, rear spoiler and blue mirrors, European front bumper with shaved emblem, rear bumper, R32 tail lights and smoked HID headlights, 20AE side skirts, OE polished hood strut, Phaeton antenna, black rear badge and extra front rub strip, smoked side markers, Bonrath badgeless grille, tinted windows, shaved wipers
Interior: R32 door pins, door pulls, 20AE brushed aluminum trim, Euro headlight switch, handbrake, rheostat, R-Line shift knob and floor mats, Audi TT pedals, Jetta vents, bucket seats trimmed in black cloth with carbon shells, Schroth three-point harnesses, black suede headliner, 42DD A-pillar gauge pod with boost gauge, Zeitronix multi-function wideband unit, Weichers half-cage painted flat black, false floor, carbon deck lid
Audio/Visual: OE European version G navigation head unit, Sony PS2
Thanks:setuning.com, Dane, Mom and Dad, Justin, Jeriell, Brett, Oyster, Buttero, Ian, autounion1609.com, Mike at forgemotorsport.com, Jeff at ghlmotorsports.com, csucarclub.com, edition719.com