There is something about a VW Passat that doesn't quite fit the European tuner scene. Unfortunately, it seems to be targeted towards middle-class families with budget and practicality in mind. Its styling wasn't inspiring or sexy, but that was actually one of the reasons why Jordan Hoke from Lebanon, PA took on this '98 1.8T sedan as a project car.
"There aren't many modified Passats out there, but you're going to see a bunch coming up soon on the Passatworld website. It's a totally different crowd from the regular VW crowd. We're a family, and there aren't many of us," he began.
If you consider yourself to be thoroughly versed in Volkswagens, you should know a Passat isn't much different from an Audi A4. In fact, they shared the same chassis codes, Jordan's model being a B5. The engines were practically the same, using a longitudinally mounted 1.8 liter 20v turbo in front-wheel drive configuration.
Unfortunately, the nose-heavy car suffered from oil sludge problems because it used 0.3 quarts less oil than transverse 1.8Ts. So unless Passat owners performed frequent oil changes, sludge couldn't be avoided. This became a common problem and one Jordan experienced first-hand. "A friend at a dealership had a Passat with the sludge problem. It was too much for the owner to repair, so I bought it and sourced the same engine with lower mileage. Within two weeks, the car was running again," he told us.
The Passat earned a bad reputation but as long as you maintain the motor, it will run reliably, as Jordan's did for the next four years of his build. He wanted a reliable daily-driven show car, which was something he couldn't get from his other garage project, a Mk2 VR6 swap. So he eventually sold the Mk2 to fund the Passat's progression. "At first I liked the Audi look. I wanted to make it more like an A4, but then I started getting into European style," he explained. "I started doing Euro stuff and got rare Abt parts."
Starting with the OE European catalog, the exterior received textured side moldings and Hella projector headlights. To eliminate the amber lights, clear Euro corners and side marker lenses arrived.
The OE parts could only make a partial difference, so Jordan took it up a notch. The factory Satin silver paint looked drab, so he made the decision to repaint the shell himself. Thanks to his girlfriend's father, David Daniels, the duo built a paint booth in a two-bay garage to work on different projects like Jordan's Passat.
"The colors I liked the most were Aviator and Nimbus greys," Jordan told us. "Both were from the Audi TT and since I painted my previous car Nimbus, it meant Aviator was an easy choice for the Passat."
Six months passed and then the body received a wet-sand, buff and respray, without overlooking tight areas like the door jambs. The engine bay was left factory silver because the owner plans to modify it, but contrast was provided by satin black on the roof, mirrors, roof rack and badgeless grille. The trunk wasn't spared either, with Jordan filling the rear emblem to look seamless.
The Passat was quickly losing its "family car" charisma, and an aggressive set of wheels would seal the deal. After running on Compomotives, he negotiated online to obtain a set of BBS RS wheels. Bundled with an extra pair of lips, Jordan rebuilt the three-piece 17x7.5" front and 17x9" rear wheels with chrome lips, gold bolts and satin black barrels and centers. Unfortunately, a 5x114 Japanese bolt pattern meant the wheels weren't a direct fit, but 15mm adapters were fabricated for the 5x112 VW hubs.
A comfortable pair of 195/40-17 Continental ContiSportContact 2 tires wrapped the front wheels, while the rears were stretched with 205/40s for that signature Euro look.
Completing the Euro treatment would involve lowering the Passat on D2 coilovers, which provided 3" of height reduction. "The A-arm frame is beat to hell," Jordan chuckled. "The chassis is an inch from the ground!"
The interior was appropriately outfitted in a similar OEM+ theme. The stock front seats were swapped for power alcantara chairs from an Audi S4. Jordan told us they were a direct fit once he'd modified them for the power functions.
More OE goodness was found on the B5.5 Passat center console. The main difference was added cupholders plus larger storage compartment and ashtray.
Rare Abt accessories included the shift knob, floor mats and steering wheel. However, the steering wheel wasn't an easy fit until Jordan made a special hub adapter and welded a bracket in place.
The rear seats and door cards didn't flow with the S4 seats, so he dropped the parts to Gibble Upholstery where they were reupholstered in matching alcantara.
A clean stereo setup would normally occupy the trunk, but Jordan did a quick change that didn't require expensive equipment. "Sorry No System," his wood floor reads, which was designed and executed by the owner. He used a wood burner to apply the lettering and cassette graphic. "I was tired of parking next to cars at shows with systems playing all day. It was sort of an inside joke," he admitted.
Because the Passat wasn't intended to be a high-performance machine, engine upgrades weren't a priority. Jordan confessed most of the engine parts were modified Audi A4 upgrades, with APR providing software for 91- and 100-octane fuel, while a new boost hose and turbo inlet pipe improved airflow. A Carbonio intake and Techtonics turbo-back exhaust were also installed for more gains. He even built his own intercooler using a generic core and fabricated his own tubing to fit behind the stock front bumper.
"It's not like a Mk3 Golf where you can find almost everything online for it," he ranted. "I had to find people who had the parts I wanted. Many parts then needed to be modified to fit, so a Passat definitely needs more work than the average car.
"I was tired of seeing people walk by the Passat section at car shows. There are a lot of well-built Passats but nobody takes the time to look. My car isn't perfect, but I'm proud of what it's become," Jordan concluded.
His Passat has traveled far from its family car roots but more updates will follow. He's already added Abt goodies and new wheels. He's also picked up a Mk3, just in case the Passat needs to be off the road for more rigorous upgrades. But for the most part, he daily drives it and wants people to realize Passat tuning is alive and well.
1998 VW Passat
Owner: Jordan Hoke
Location: Lebanon, PA
Occupation: graphic designer
Engine: 1.8 liter 20v four cylinder turbo with APR software, boost tube and turbo inlet pipe, Carbonio intake and engine cover, Techtonics downpipe and 2.5" exhaust with Borla muffler, evoms diverter valve, New South Performance intake manifold gasket, N75K valve, custom front-mount intercooler, B5.5 battery tray cover, brake fluid bottle, washer and power steering covers
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with B&M short shifter
Brakes: Brembo slotted rotors, Mintex pads front and rear
Suspension: D2 coilovers, Autotech front and rear sway bars
Wheels & Tires: 17x7.5" front, 17x9" rear BBS RS wheels with JustMatz flat caps, 15mm Motorsport Technology adapters, 195/40-17 front, 205/40-17 rear Continental ContiSportContact2 tires
Exterior: painted Audi TT Aviator grey, shaved rear emblem, FK badgeless grille, European textured rub strips, short antenna, Hella projector headlights, clear corners and side markers, rear foglight, satin black roof and mirrors
Interior: Audi S4 powered seats, New Beetle S headrests, reupholstered door cards, B5.5 center console, Audi TT pedals, Audi 4000 door pins, Euro switch, Abt shift knob, steering wheel and floor mats, Mk4 shift boot, A-pillar and steering column gauge pods with Auto Meter gauges, wood trunk floor, Eclipse 6.5" DVD head unit
Thanks: Dave Daniels, girlfriend Angie, parents, Ray, Yellow Hat, grandfather Paul Witmer, S&P Automotive, Stahley's Automotive, Copper and Whitey at Euro Auto Source, CePAVW.org, Passatworld.com