2003 VW GOLF GTI 1.8T
It's taken Yih Liang five years to unveil his Cali-style '03 VW GTI 1.8T. But the inspiration and encouragement from his Mk4 forefathers and NoFuknJoke team members proved invaluable.
Do the names Bernie Chacon, Wendell Willkom, Ronny Ng and Albert Lee ring a bell? If your answer is yes, then you're a true Mk4 enthusiast. But if your answer is no, it's time to flip back through your et archives. The fab four have built some of the most memorable Mk4 Golfs and GTIs we've published. Each has a distinguished style shared in the California Mk4 scene, with similarities such as large diameter wheels, aggressive styling and extravagant audio setups.
So Yih Liang is now able to add his name to the Cali-Mk4 hall of fame, but it's taken a lifetime of hardship to get there. He's been involved in two major car accidents and was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, from which he's still recovering today.
Like many California residents, Yih started in the Japanese world with an Acura Integra but, "everything took a downturn, twice," he remembered. "I guess I was young, stupid and full of testosterone."
The first incident involved a freeway exit at excessive speed on wet pavement. The Integra flew over the ramp and bounced like a pinball from tree to tree. "The car landed on its side and I crawled out to find the rear spoiler hanging in the tree," Yih said. He walked away from the accident but flirted with disaster a second time when he was late to school one morning. While speeding on the highway, another driver repeatedly cut him off in an effort to provoke a race. "On the third time, I tried to swerve away but my tires broke loose," Yih continued. "The car fishtailed across the freeway and that's the last thing I remember."
Miraculously, Yih woke up in the hospital with no major injuries while the car was crushed except for the cabin. Although Yih wasn't street racing, he was cited for reckless driving and lost his license for a year.
To make matters worse, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma last summer. "I'm in remission now. I've done radiation and chemo but there's a slight chance I could get it back. It's put my life into perspective, so I wanted to move on with other things in life like buying a house and raising a family." Before Yih's license was officially revoked, he paid a visit to his nearest VW dealership. "I didn't want to deal with Japanese cars any more," he revealed. "I knew the Golf was economical so I bought one without a test drive, knowing it would be safer and a more exciting project."
A suspended license meant Yih couldn't drive his new VW, so it was delivered to the bodyshop. Drawing inspiration from the aforementioned Mk4 owners, NoFuknJoke teammates as well as good friend Jeremie Habib (who's smooth Mk3 GTI VR6T was featured in et 3/04), Yih had a good start on his perfect GTI.
Starting with the aerodynamics, a Rieger RS4 body kit was chosen for its pronounced mouth and deeper styling. Furthermore, "Nobody had the kit at the time," Yih added. However, it required some tidying, so the front plate and gills were shaved. The rest of the body then begged for a similar flowing style, so the side moldings and indicators were shaved as well as the driver's door lock. The rear features an aggressive Rieger bumper. Yih cleaned up the hatch by deleting the emblem and handle before adding a Caractere hatch blend to smooth the contours.
With clothes as suave as an Armani suit, Yih added some wow factor. All four fenders were extended to achieve a fatter track. Although he wasn't over zealous with the widening, the bumpers needed slight alteration to keep the lines of the car.
The last massage included a Vorsteiner carbon bser hood with matching hatch spoiler and a functional Audi TT fuel door grafted to the existing location.
Once the body was complete, the GTI was rejuvenated with several coats of Glasurit Cerulean Midnight paint. Not just any black, it has a blue and purple pearl emitted in certain lights to make the car more striking.
The widened fenders would prove beneficial when the wheel decision-making process arrived. Opting for 19" diameter, he had iForged build five-spoke Aero wheels to fit. The 10" rears feature polished lips a hungry man could feast from, while the fronts have a more subtle profile in order to accommodate the Brembo GT big brakes.
To gain the most performance, Yih began chassis tuning. Running 19" wheels made the car look higher than desired, so he lowered it using KW coilovers. To reduce body roll, Neuspeed sway bars were installed along with a Tomas Sport Tuning rear strut brace, plus APR and WRD front braces to reduce chassis flex.
The turbocharged 1.8 liter motor received minor upgrades. Yih's goal wasn't to attract the police after his painful experiences, so he kept things simple. An APR chip gives the power increase with the addition of a Carbonio cold-air intake, GHL cat-back exhaust and HKS blow-off valve. Of course, performance also contributes to the overall appearance of the car, so an ATP front-mount intercooler was squeezed behind the Rieger bumper and polished plumbing was added. Yih was concerned about the engine bay's appearance for shows, so he added a carbon fiber engine cover from ECS Tuning along with some polished Neuspeed caps and Osir Design carbon strut caps.
The cabin was next to receive nourishment. Yih started by installing budget-friendly mods such as a Momo steering wheel and shift knob, Audi TT pedals and gauges. Friend Jeremie recommended Knig SK5000 seats he once used. The German company is renowned for the factory seats in the Mk4 R32 but sourcing a pair of original Knig's was difficult. "The seats are my pride and joy," he told us. "They're handmade and I was sold on them despite the high price. They're truly the Rolls Royce of seats and the centerpiece of my interior." Yih picked out black leather and blue alcantara centers before selecting Sparco harnesses for added security.
The icing on the cake is Yih's extraordinary audio setup. "The trunk design was mostly my friend Tuan Dang's idea," he explained. "My only requirement was a bridge with TVs, a floating amp section and subs in the lower half of the setup." Not an overnight task, the display was finished in Tuan's garage and was award-winning. Xetec equipment from Tuner Shop was used, with two five-channel amps powering component sets and a pair of JL Audio subs in the trunk. A pair of 7" monitors are used for the video output on the bridge, while a touchscreen head unit controls the system. The side trim pieces and bridge in the trunk were color-matched to the car and the sub box was painted Porsche Cobalt blue for contrast. Then the side panels and sub surround were wrapped in black suede for a luxurious finish.
Although several of Yih's modifications are a flashback from California's Mk4 scene from several years ago, his GTI still manages to look stunning today. Yih concluded, "I admit my taste has evolved toward a Euro aesthetic since I started the project, but I'm very pleased with how it turned out." Long live Cali-style!
2003 VW Golf GTI 1.8T
Owner: Yih Liang
Location: San Jose, CA
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Engine: 1.8 liter four cylinder 20v turbo with Carbonio cold-air intake, ATP front-mount intercooler, GHL 3" cat-back exhaust, APR chip, HKS SSQV blow-off valve, ECS Tuning carbon engine cover, Optima Yellow Top battery, Neuspeed billet aluminum accents
Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission with ACT clutch and flywheel, short shifter
Brakes: Brembo GT front brake kit, Eurospec rear rotors, Mintex Red Box pads, ATE Super Race Blue
Suspension: KW V2 coilovers, 25mm front and 28mm rear Neuspeed sway bars, Tomas Sport Tuning rear strut brace, APR carbon fiber front upper strut bar, Osir carbon strut caps, WRD lower front bar
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" front, 19x10" rear iForged Aero wheels, 225/35-19 front and 245/30-19 rear Dunlop Direzza DZ101 tires, Powertech 5mm front spacers
Exterior: Rieger RS4 body kit and rear rebar support, shaved side moldings, side markers, front plate recess, driver's door lock and hatch, molded Rieger front bumper gills, Audi TT fuel door, Caractere hatch blend, pulled fenders and bumpers, Vorsteiner carbon bser hood and carbon hatch spoiler, Sparco hood pins, Enfig Motorsports antenna, deleted rear wiper, Hella Celis head- and tail lights, car painted Cerulean Midnight
Interior: Knig SK5000G front seats, Sparco Clubman 3 harnesses with R2 pads, Momo Jet steering wheel with quick-release hub, Momo Shot carbon shift knob and alcantara shift boot, OE Audi TT pedals and Beetle Turbo S dead pedal, Auto Meter gauge pod with Cobalt air/fuel gauge and Blitz BLM boost gauge, Polarg interior bulbs, New Dimensions carbon trim pieces, JOM door pins
Audio/Visual: Kenwood double-DIN 7" touchscreen head unit, DVD navigation and Sirius radio controller, Xetec P-5 Evo amplifiers, T-28 tweeters, T-26 tweeters, G-6 subwoofers, G-5 subwoofers, Savv 7" monitors, JL Audio 10" W6 subwoofers, Ungo two-way security system
Thanks: God, my family, Gloria, Bernie Chacon (et 7/06), Carlo, Casey, Claude, Drew Karhrimanian (et 12/06), Ivan, James Park (et 3/08), John, Lawrence, Lisa, Matt Demetria (et 6/07), Nick, Wendell Willkom (et 10/04) and the rest of the NFJ Family, Tuan Dang at KustomWerkz Audio, Tomas Sport Tuning, Steve at Fog City Performance, Darwin and crew at Sonic MS, Jeremie Habib (et 3/04) and Roque at Vitesse Auto Sport, Meguiar's, Tuner Shop, ACT, Exact Motorsports, Shiro's Auto Body, Valan Motorsports