There's something about an engine swap that demands recognition. Depending on the conversion, the obstacles and time involved can be enough to drive a mechanic insane. Fabricating new motor mounts, for example, or replacing the subframe, adapting the electronics; these aren't simple bolt-on tasks you and your buddies can knock-out one night. They require hours of precision labor, which is why we have the utmost respect for the two Volkswagens here.
Judging by the impressive spec lists of the Mk3 Jetta and Golf, you'd think these Canadian boys from British Columbia are long-time VW enthusiasts with past projects on their resumes. Yet Mark Montgommery and Peter Szigeti are newbies, and each popped his tuning cherry with these rides. Did they get it right the first time? You be the judge. But bear in mind, that even if the styling and choice of parts may not be to your taste, it takes true dedication to go the extra mile and transplant an engine in your first project car.
Mark's Jetta 1.8T
1995 VW Jetta GL
After Mark Montgommery won Best of Show at last year's Pacific Waterland (et 2/09) with his '95 Jetta GL, our sources told us to dig deeper and find the inside story on this far-from-subtle Volkswagen.
Mark's Jetta is different from many in the VW scene. Its aggressive Rieger styling with a very visible front-mount stirs fear on the road. It also has a coordinated Sparco interior to back up its hardcore exterior. Not your typical European flavor, but the soul of this car can be found in its engine bay.
Never intended for the Mk3, Mark's shaved engine bay features a 1.8 liter 20v turbo from the Mk4. And we're not talking about a puny stock turbocharger either.
The 27 year-old never modified a car before but he admitted this wasn't his first VW. He started driving in an '84 Rabbit GTI. "But I swore I would never own another VW after all its electrical problems," he ranted. "I only bought the Jetta off a friend's mother because it was cheap. It was bone-stock but in bad shape. I didn't think I would do anything..."
For the next five years, Mark slowly built his Jetta 2.0 from scratch. But the 115hp sedan wasn't going to cut it, so he researched his options: "I wanted more power and did everything I could to the stock engine except internal work. I contemplated a supercharger but stage 3 would be roughly the same price as a VR6 swap," he told us.
Then he had a revelation. While doing car deliveries for a local VW dealer, Mark often drove Mk4 1.8Ts. "I thought, damn, I'd like to do a 1.8T swap. So I found a brand-new swap for $3500 CDN with tranny and engine harness," he said.
From start to finish, the swap took four months with the generous help of friend Paul at PCM Power in Coquitlam, BC. The fabricator used Mk4 mounts to fit the motor in the Mk3. The challenge was that one mount was higher than the other, so they built one side higher and cut down the other to finesse the 1.8T inside. An additional mount at the rear was constructed for a stronger foundation.
Before the motor was finalized, Mark and Paul switched out the peanut-sized K03 turbo.
"Paul was into big turbos and told me to get one because it would be more work to swap it later, so I went to Kinetic Motorsport and they hooked me up with everything I needed - fuel pump, injectors, wastegate, blow-off valve and Garrett GT3071R."
A custom exhaust manifold along with a 3" exhaust and a Vems Genboard stand-alone ECU allowed the motor to boost at 3000rpm with a peak of 18psi for daily driving.
Transferring power to the front wheels was a five-speed Mk4 transmission, upgraded with a stage 4 Competition Clutch and lightened flywheel. Although the software needs some tweaks, he puts the power near 330whp.
After the swap, Mark decided the engine bay should be addressed, so he smoothed as much as possible.
With plenty of power to terrorize the streets, the styling needed to fit the bill. The rare wheels were Carline CM6s direct from Germany. The wide 16x8.5" front and 16x9" rears gave the Jetta an incredible stance with stretched Falken tires.
The Euro bumpers got a Rieger GTX front valance, while pronounced Rieger skirts follow down the sides. Mark then resprayed the car in OE Flash red paint.
Meticulous in every detail, the interior wasn't spared. A pair of Sparco Torino seats were accompanied by matching three-point harnesses, steering wheel and pedals.
Mark added an exclamation point by reupholstering the rear seats, door cards and trunk with the same fabric as the Sparcos, thanks to Pro Leather in Vancouver, BC.
Almost every inch of Mark's Jetta has been touched, but the project is far from over.
1995 VW Jetta GL
Owner: Mark Montgomery
Location: Coquitlam, BC
Occupation: Machine operator
Engine: 1.8 liter 20v four cylinder with Garrett GT3071R turbocharger, Tial 38mm wastegate and blow-off valve, Siemens 60 lb fuel injectors, Walbro 255 lph fuel pump, ceramic-coated exhaust manifold, 3" exhaust system with Magnaflow rear muffler, custom front-mount intercooler with revised ducting, Vems Genboard stand-alone management, Forge Motorsport carbon fiber engine cover, partialy smoothed and resprayed engine bay
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with Competition Clutch stage 4, six-puck clutch, lightened flywheel
Brakes: 11" front and 8.9" rear Brembo slotted and drilled rotors, Wilwood four-piston front calipers, Mk4 GTI rear calipers, Wilwood brake pads
Suspension: H&R Ultra-low coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 16x8.5" front and 16x9" rear Carline CM6 wheels with 205/40-16 front and 215/40-16 rear Falken tires
Exterior: front and rear Euro bumpers, Rieger GTX front valance and side skirts, Mattig badgeless grille, boser eyelids and trunk spoiler, FK angel-eye headlights with HID upgrade, Hella M3-style tail lights and clear turn signals, JOM M3-style mirrors, Euro plate recess, VW Flash red paint
Interior: Sparco Torino front seats and Sparco three-point harnesses, steering wheel, quick-release hub adapter and pedals, reupholstered rear seats, door cards, headliner and trunk in mathing Sparco fabric, custom instrument cluster with Auto Meter Phantom gauges, Cabrio sunvisors, Passat handles
Audio/Visual: JVC DVD head unit, JBL front speakers, two 12" subwoofers and a single amplifier
Thanks: Andrew Holliday, family and friends, Paul at PCM Power, Warren at RPI Equipped
Peter's Golf VR6
1996 VW Golf CL
You'd truly feel sorry for Peter Szigeti when he bought his VW. He'd entered the scene after friend Bryan Jay took him for a ride in a Mk3 GTI VR6.
"A couple of days later I looked for my own. I couldn't afford a VR but found a '96 Golf CL. It looked like a VR6 but was bone-stock with no power options or sunroof," Peter explained.
Imagine this, a Mk3 Golf with the look of a 172hp, 177 lb-ft six-cylinder GTI, but in actuality it summoned a gloomy 90hp from its 1.8 liter 8v.
Change was inevitable, and Peter finally stepped up to a VR6 engine swap several years later. So the Catalina-blue Golf went into Blitzkrieg Autowerks in Vancouver, Canada, for its overhaul.
Peter thought he sourced a reliable VR6, but the guys at Blitzkrieg discovered that the compression was shot and the head damaged. "I was planning to do a straight swap but had bad luck with the bottom end. So I bored it to 3.0 liters, increased compression to 11.5:1 and got a new head. As a result, everything was blueprinted and balanced," he told us.
Cheyne Iclef and Bob Viglione at Blitzkrieg began by decking and resurfacing the block to 0.0001". The crank was polished and balanced, as were the rods. Autotech 262 cams went in at the same time as a ported throttle body, custom headers and a short-runner intake manifold matched to the head. The exhaust was also ported to the head, and used equal- length piping, venting into twin side-exit exhausts in front of the rear tires. "It's 2" diameter from the head all the way back on either side. Essentially it works as one, similar to a 2.5" exhaust."
Peter has yet to dyno the car and still has some bugs to fix but he plans to go for either a turbo or individual throttle bodies. Full engine management will also be installed to help tune the higher displacement 3.0 liter.
The VR6 suspension, drivetrain and brakes were also switched over, with an updated Sachs clutch and H&R Ultra-low coilovers added to the mix.
The exterior and interior followed the philosophy of, "cleaner is better," according to Peter. Unlike Mark and his extrovert Jetta, Peter stayed OEM+ with Euro parts such as the textured bumpers, moldings and skirts. He cleaned the rear by shaving the emblem, wiper and hatch spoiler, while the antenna was removed from the fender.
Square Mk2 mirrors gave the car a classic look, while a badgeless grille and smoked lights finished the conservative styling.
We should note at the time of the shoot, a Rieger GTX chin spoiler was fitted but Peter has since changed to a Jetta front-end.
But the real magic on this Golf was its shoes: 16" Porsche Gotti J55A wheels, to be exact. Peter jumped through hoops to get them to work after he bought two separate sets in different widths to build a working set.
This entailed drilling all four wheels to match the correct centers and lips, using BBS hardware for assembly, as well as polishing the lips, color-matching the centers and machining the faces.
The center caps were once chrome, but were stripped and polished. And to mount the wheels on the 5x100 hubs (swapped from the VR6), custom adapters were made 22mm in the front and 50mm driver-side rear, 46mm passenger-side rear. This compensated for the uneven balance often found on the Mk3's rear beam.
With all four wheels flush in the fenders, Peter had Green's Automotive to thank for the work.
Peter didn't spare the interior and even continued the OEM+ theme with leather seats from an '02 Porsche Carrera. Clever cutting and welding meant the Porsche seats could use the CL seat sliders.
The remainder of the interior was then upgraded with either OE or Driver's Edition accessories. Essentially, everything became black and silver, with a suede headliner to ice the cake.
We have to admit to some confusion when we first saw Peter's car because it was set up for boost with the built 3.0L motor. But after hearing his story, it'll be exciting to see whether he follows the road less traveled by going all-motor, or whether he surrenders to boost.
18x9.5" Rial Daytona rear wheels with stretched 225/40 Falken tires
1996 VW Golf CL
Owner: Peter Szigeti
Location: Coquitlam, BC
Occupation: Refrigeration Technician student
Engine: 3.0 liter VR6 with 2mm overbored and decked block, 83mm JE forged pistons, 11.5:1 compression, polished and balanced crankshaft and connecting rods, bored throttle body, port-matched and venturied short-runner intake manifold, Autotech software and 262 cams, K&N filter, equal-length custom exhaust with X-pipe and 3-into-1 304-stainless headers, Magnaflow high-flow cats and mufflers, custom VW oil cap, engine cover, blow-by catch-can, battery relocated to trunk
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with Sachs power clutch
Brakes: VR6 brake conversion
Suspension: H&R Ultra-low coilovers, VR6 front sway bar, front and rear strut bars
Wheels & Tires: 16x8" front and 16x9" rear Gotti J55A wheels with refinished centers, polished lips, BBS chrome assembly hardware, color-matched pockets, polished Porsche center caps, five-lug conversion, 22mm front and 50mm/46mm rear adapters, 205/40-16 front and 215/40-16 BFGoodrich G-Force Sport tires
Exterior: European textured-top bumpers, radiator support and front bumper rebar, OE textured door trim and side skirts, shaved antenna, rear emblem, rear wiper and spoiler, Mk2 mirrors, Rieger GTX chin spoiler, smoked E-code headlights, Euro foglights, turn signals and dummy lenses, Bonrath 3-bar badgeless Golf grille, OE GTI tail lights
Interior: Porsche Carrera leather seats mounted on factory sliders, Mk4 Jetta leather rear seats with Passat headrests, Cabrio sunvisors, B3 Passat handles and dome light, suede black headliner, New Beetle shift knob, Driver's Edition silver-face gauge cluster and e-brake handle, Auto Meter Pro Comp oil temp and pressure gauges, Mk3 Jetta GLX center console, aluminum door sills and door pins, Momo steering wheel and hub adapter
Thanks: my parents, Cheyne Iclef and Bob Viglione at Blitzkrieg Autowerks, Brad at Green's Automotive, Mike Schwengers, Brian Yip, Andrew, Mark, and the NGP crew, Chubak, Bryan Jay, Andrew Holliday