Rolling out of the garage and onto the empty driveway, the first beams of daylight drip onto the midnight paint. So rarely does the car see the light of day, it's as if it's unsure of what comes next.
Like a pilot walking the underbelly of his fighter, Kirit Patel makes certain all is well before takeoff. Closing the hood, he nods that everything is ready for flight.
Not wishing to break the silence, I quietly slide into the cockpit. Then the early morning tranquility is abruptly torn by the bark of the narrow-angle six.
Without the typical pre-ride conversation we have with an owner before going for a ride, I'm able to make first impressions of this rare specimen. The vibration of the rigidly-mounted VR6 tingled through the body as the big-cam idle hunted for a steady pattern. Quickly underway, I notice the suspension is taut and the racecar-like whine of the Quaife 'box is intoxicating.
Moving through the gears, an uneasy feeling passes through me. I know this isn't simply another VR6; this car is unlike anything I've ever ridden in. Up ahead, I see the freeway entrance and as we head for the open road the silence is finally broken, "it's on low boost right now, but you should still enjoy the ride," Kirit said quietly.
Looping around the on-ramp, Kirit leaves the car in second gear. As the ramp unwinds and the empty highway unfolds before us I hear the car transition to WOT.
In an instant, the wail of the boosted VR6 is deafening, but the acceleration is unearthly. Screaming toward triple digits, second, third and fourth gears are nothing but wheelspin; at 130mph, the car finally begins to hook up and I'm shoved into the Recaro bucket seats much harder than before.
There are fast cars and there are FAST cars. It just so happens, Kirit Patel's '98 GTI VR6 belongs to an exclusive group that can easily shame Ferraris, Lambos and Porsches.
For Kirit, senseless speed came early, raised around go-fast gearheads including an uncle who owned several boosted Bimmers and a childhood friend who was into road racing.
Although Kirit has owned the car since it was new, he hasn't always been a Dubhead. "My first car was an Integra with a built motor and nitrous. It was a lot of fun but it got out of hand and would no longer pass smog so my father made me sell it," he said.
In exchange, Kirit's father agreed to buy him the car of his choice along with a small chunk of change to modify anything but the engine. "At that point I was traveling to Europe a lot and fell in love with the GTI. Friends were buying Camaros and Mustangs but I wanted something different," he said.
After driving the black '98 VR6 he had already ordered parts before the deal was sealed. So when he took delivery of his midnight Dub he fitted OG Eibach sleeved coilovers (give him a break, he came from the import crowd and hadn't learned yet...) along with Neuspeed sway bars, TSW wheels and genuine Abt outerwear including a grille, skirts, wing and Strictly Foreign diffuser.
As Kirit began to mod his GTI he knew it would be different. "I didn't care how long I had to save or what it cost, I was willing to wait for the best parts," he said.
Inevitably, Kirit ignored his father's advice against modding the motor and some Schrick 268s, springs with Ti retainers found their way into a big-valve Denon head.
To fortify the top end, he swiss-cheesed the air box, added a Brospeed header along with a Techtonics chip and exhaust. "The combo belted out nearly 190whp despite its rich mixture," Kirit said.
In 2000, Kirit approached a Bay Area shop to have an ATP bolt-on turbo kit fitted. He'd opted for the T04E ball-bearing snail along with a head spacer and boost-friendly DSR 256 cams. On a 50/50 mix of race and pump gas, the kit was good for 325whp on 9.5psi with a less-than-ideal AFR.
The car was decidedly fast and Kirit enjoyed extending his kill list. Sadly though, the fun didn't last as it spun a rod bearing as a result of a faulty oil-cooler line.
Undeterred by the costly setback, Kirit had Esserini fill the block with forged Cunningham rods and JE slugs for a boost-friendly 8.5:1 compression. Feeling that the stock ECU was holding the car back, Kirit also sprang for the revolutionary (in its time) TEC2 stand-alone engine management system.
Midway through the build, tragedy struck. After years of battling cancer, his grandfather passed away two months before Kirit was married. Overwhelmed by the great loss, the GTI sat at the shop for nearly two years until he eventually found the drive to finish it.
"I almost gave up on it many times but I had to see it through," Kirit said. So with friends by his side, the project was dragged to a second Bay Area shop where they would tune the TEC2, fit the Stage Five axles and get the car to idle. Over the next few months they discovered several problems until Kirit stepped up and added the new TEC3 stand-alone to make things easier.
While under construction for months, Kirit was turned on to Bill Schimmel at Schimmel Performance (SP). After many conversations, Kirit decided on the second shop to install a GT35R, Quaife six-speed 'box with LSD, air-to-water intercooler and DTA stand-alone management, all purchased through Schimmel.
Several more months went by and the car was still reluctant to run properly. So eventually, Kirit flew Bill out to California to tune the car. And since Kirit was friends with Dick Chiang at Dynospot Racing, they used his Dynojet for the job.
After a day of tuning the car made an impressive 532whp but was sputtering up top.
Having been at shop #2 almost two years, he took the car home. "I couldn't just give up, it was a battle I had to win," Kirit said. "I'd had enough of the BS and just wanted it done right so I called Bill and asked him to send me a motor with whatever parts I would need to do it right," Kirit said.
In return, he got a Schimmel Performance 3.0L stage 2 block with 83mm JE Pistons, Manley rods and ARP bolts. He also had their big-valve ported head, Ferrea valvetrain and SP 263 turbo cams.
Continuing his mantra of doing things right, Kirit added an SP short-runner intake manifold along with a GT4088R turbo, Tial wastegate and BOV plus DTA Pro 8 engine management and water/methanol injection.
Since he was in it to win, Kirit again fetched Schimmel and his co-workers out to help build the GTI. "There was no other option," Kirit said.
To make the story even more insane, Kirit had True Image install a 12-gallon Fuel Safe Pro Cell along with an SX fuel pump/regulator and Aeromotive filters. When Russell lines just weren't good enough, he added Aeroquip.
With the fuel cell in place, the SP crew arrived for a four-day stint but ran into problem after problem. Eventually, Bill suggested they rewire the entire car to start with a clean slate.
By now, you know what Kirit decided to do; and several days later the guys had the engine installed, fitted the new parts and installed the DTA 8 Pro ECU.
Finally the battle was won. The car ran like never before and, with the right fuel, was good for over 700whp!
While the powerplant had been the focus, along the way the car had received H&R coilovers, Autotech sway bar, 11" brakes and dope 17" BBS LMs in the ultra-rare gold finish.
On the outside it now wears an Abt grille and lip, Projektzwo mirrors, carbon hood and hatch along with Euro bumpers and Mk4 headlights.
Inside, the car was fortified with Recaros, a Momo wheel, GReddy boost controller and a host of gauges.
Kirit's GTI is like nothing I've experienced before. It has to be the ultimate street sleeper - no front-mount, cage or widebody; just plain, unadulterated speed.
After years of hard work and loss, the car has become more than transport: "Although I'm not able to drive it as much as I'd like, when flicking on the garage lights or taking it for a freeway blast, I remember the years that went into making this car," he said. "It's become more than just a car. It's a hobby, a drug, a gateway to something greater."
1998 VW GTI VR6
Owner: Kirit Patel
Location: Bay Area, CA
Occupation: Hotel owner
2.8 liter VR6 enlarged to 3.0 with SP stage 2 motor using 83mm JE pistons, Manley rods, ARP bolts, big-valve ported head with Ferrea valvetrain, SP 263 turbo cams, SP short-runner intake, ATP turbo manifold, GT4088R turbo, Tial wastegate and BOV, SP A/W intercooler, DTA Pro 8 engine management, water/meth injection, Innovate wideband, FuelSafe Pro Cell, SX fuel pump and pressure regulator, Aeromotive filters, Aeroquip -8 feed line and -6 return line
Quaife six-speed transmission with LSD, SP clutch, DSS axles
Wilwood front calipers with 11" Brembo rotors
H&R coilovers, Autotech front sway bar
Wheels & Tires:
17x7.5" BBS LM wheels with gold centers, 205/40-17 Yokahama ES100 tires
Abt grille and front lip, Projektzwo mirrors, carbon hood and hatch, Euro bumpers, Mk4-style headlights
Recaro seats, Momo wheel, Abt mats, boost and oil pressure gauges, GReddy Profec boost controller
Seema, mom, dad, family, Bill Schimmel and Brian "Bones" Berwind at www.schimmelperformance.com, Ajay Patel at Tru Image Auto, Ken Montes, LJ, Dick Chiang at Dyno Spot Racing, Decal Doctor, United Auto Collision, Derick Mesner, Roach, Mash, Andy, Jim and Tony, RIP Vipul Patel, Punit Patel, Anthony Brown, Brett Nichols