1998 VW Jetta GLX
If you've ever owned or driven a Volkswagen in the last 15 years, you must be familiar with the 2.8 liter VR6 12v engine. Introduced in '92 with the Corrado and Passat, it was the first six-cylinder engine for FWD VWs thanks to its transverse arrangement.
The sound of the 172hp, 177 lb-ft staggered-six was music to the ears, especially with theaddition of a performance exhaust. Fast-forward to '94 and the motor was offered across the VW roster, including the Golf and Jetta. As its popularity grew, tuners dissected the narrow-angled motor to create a diverse range of upgrades, enabling more than 300whp to be obtained using either a supercharger or turbocharger.
Over a decade-and-a-half later, the 12v motor is still prevalent among enthusiasts. Gentlemen like Jeff Whittington have built multiple examples, blown and boosted, but he favors a turbo in his hardcore Euro-styled '98 Jetta.
The 25-year old from central Pennsylvania makes a living as an inventory coordinator for an online automotive reseller. But when he's not plugging away on the computer, he's wrenching on Volkswagens. In fact, he had VW in his veins since before he could drive.
"I got into the whole scene when I was 15," Jeff began. "My grandpa had a VW pickup and had always been into air-cooleds. My dad was also into Veedubs and took me to get my first car, a '89 Jetta Coupe."
Most teenagers might make time after school to tinker with their cars, but Jeff was so in love that he amalgamated his Jetta into the school curriculum. "In Central PA, in order to graduate high school, you have to work on a project from freshman until you're a senior. So what I did was rebuild everything on my Mk2. Stripped it down, painted it, rebuilt the motor and put Euro bumpers on it, then documented everything with photos for my class project." Not bad for a homework assignment.
Once Jeff finished his school project, the VW addiction worsened. Ten years later, he's owned 15 of them. This Mk3 Jetta being his most recent and extravagant.
"The Mk3 has taken more time than any other project," Jeff continued. "My last car was a supercharged Mk3 GTI VR6. I did a fair amount of work and it was super clean. But it was kinda you're typical Mk3 GTI with Keskin wheels, coilovers, boser hood, etc."
Unfulfilled, Jeff searched for his next specimen. He wasn't about to give up on the VR6 engine, and located a slightly modified Jetta. "The car needed a lot of work. It was like some guy had a lot of money but went about it all wrong. To me, it's about fit 'n finish."
The battered VR6 had a Kinetic stage 3 turbo but the kit apparently looked like a seventh grader had installed it. So Jeff tore through the motor and re-did everything.
Starting with the plumbing, he ran braided oil lines, wiring, intercooler piping, silicone hoses and electrics. While he was at it, he ported 'n polished the head, changed to C2 Motorsport software and installed a T3/T4 80-trim turbo with Tial 42mm wastegate. ARP head studs and bolts along with a C2 head gasket spacer ensured the motor would survive the additional boost.
Matched with the factory five-speed manual, Jeff also added a Peloquin limited-slip to help with traction.
"When I drove my supercharged GTI VR6, the power was linear," he explained. "But with the Jetta turbo, power was more abrupt. The power didn't come on until 4500rpm, but it pulls until 7000rpm. In my opinion, the drivability is better with the turbo. And since I re-did everything, it's never let me down and idles perfectly. My goal was to have a car that makes big power but drives like an everyday car."
Jeff's quest was validated by a trip to the dyno, which measured 410whp and 358 lb-ft.
Once the need for speed was buckled down, he proceeded to improve the appearance, starting with the wheels. And yes, you guessed it; the wheels are the ever-so-popular BBS RS - a set he purchased secondhand from Melissa Welsh (et 9/08).
"I admit, they're played, but these are RS301 wheels where the lips are stepped rather than slanted," he explained. "It's a little different but most people would never know. These were my first choice and I liked the color. It's not a gold nor bronze, but almost orange."
The 16x7" front and 16x8" rear rims fit under the stock wells like a tailored suit. Mildly stretched Toyo Proxes tires provide the grip.
With such a unique color combination with the orange and Porcelain blue paint, Jeff wanted to keep a theme going so he tried to integrate the color within the engine bay. "We went through a couple of color books to match the paint before finally choosing a Chevy HHR color that's almost spot-on." Popping open the hood, Jeff repainted the intercooler pipes to match.
Continuing with the exterior styling, Cory Sterling at Euro Auto Source and Jeff came up with the idea to exit the exhaust out of the side of the rear bumper. This allowed the rear profile to appear seamless, but with a motorsport style.
The previous owner had installed a Golf front-end but it didn't fit correctly. So Jeff restored the original front-end with a Euro bumper. He also wanted a deeper chin spoiler, but not your typical Euro VR lip. So he contacted TM Tuning and sourced an OEM Seat lip.
"TM Tuning imports the Seat lips and haven't sold any besides this one. None of the tabs lined up, so it took a load of modifying to make it fit. It was 3" too wide and 2" too long on both sides," he explained.
Final touches included Zimmerman drilled rotors. And although more stopping power would help, Jeff couldn't squeeze larger brakes inside the wheels. H&R coilovers supplied a slammed stance.
The interior was kept discreet with a suede headliner and color-matched interior accents. The two most significant highlights include the gauges, custom-fitted into the center console cup holders, plus a polished Weicher's rollcage.
It's been 18 months since Jeff started his VR6 turbo overhaul and he admitted it's not finished yet. Since the photo shoot, he painted the cage orange and added blue carpet. Some Audi handles and mildly pulled fenders are also scheduled. "For everything on this Jetta, I tried to imagine what Volkswagen would do. I don't overdo cars, but try to keep them as clean as possible," Jeff said.
1998 VW Jetta GLX Owner: Jeff Whittington
Location: Camphill, PA
Occupation: internet inventory Coordinator
Engine: 2.8 liter VR6 12v with ARP head studs and mains bolts, C2 Motorsport head gasket, mass airflow sensor, ported and polished head, T3/T4 80-trim turbo, Tial 42mm external wastegate, Forge Motorsport diverter valve, custom intercooler pipes, side-exit exhaust, Bosch Motorsports fuel pump
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with Peloquin limited-slip differential
Brakes: Zimmerman drilled rotors
Suspension: H&R coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 16x7" front, 16x8" rear BBS RS wheels with 195/40 front and 205/40-16 rear Toyo Proxes 4 tires
Exterior: Euro front bumper and plate tub with OE Seat chin spoiler, Hella smoked E-code headlights and turn signals, Votex long foglights, shaved hood and trunk, 8000K HID bulbs
Interior: suede headliner, Weicher polished rollcage, color-matched interior accents, custom cupholder gauge pod with Pro Sport gauges, polished climate control knobs
Audio/Visual: Jensen touchscreen DVD head unit, 10" JL Audio W10 subwoofer, Sony amp
Thanks: dad, girlfriend, Cory Sterling at Euro Auto Source, Matt "Dr" Zinn, Vu Nguyen, Katja at TM Tuning, M&C Foreign Auto Parts, C2 Motorsport, Kinetic Motorsport