Super Street Network

Due to the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation, our website is currently unavailable to visitors from most European countries. We apologize for this inconvenience and encourage you to visit for the latest on new cars, car reviews and news, concept cars and auto show coverage, awards and much more.MOTORTREND.COM
 |   |  2003 Volkswagen GTI 20AE - Air Force One
Subscribe to the Free

2003 Volkswagen GTI 20AE - Air Force One

When Rob Camp isn't building engines for F-16 fighter jets he's modifying his 1.8T-powered VW GTI

Apr 1, 2009
Eurp_0904_04_z+2003_volkswagen_gti_20ae+front_view Photo 1/8   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI 20AE - Air Force One

For more than ten years, Rob Camp has been serving as a mechanic for the United States Air Force. Stationed at Luke AFB in Avondale, AZ, he wrenches on the nation's F-16 Fighting Falcons, with engines capable of 915mph at sea level and 1500mph at altitude. While not on the same scale as an $18 million jet, Rob also shares an enthusiasm for driving and modifying compact cars, like his Jazz blue '03 VW GTI 20th Anniversary Edition.

Raised in Riverside County, CA, Rob fell in love with cars in his youth but joined the dark side. A '95 Honda Civic Coupe was his baby and he admitted it was "all riced out."

Eurp_0904_02_z+2003_volkswagen_gti_20ae+rear_view Photo 2/8   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI 20AE - Air Force One

With so many cheesy add-on parts, the Civic screamed for attention and became a prime target for thieves. One night it was stolen and police found the car stripped to its frame in the middle of a street hundreds of miles from his residence. Hurt by the loss, Rob took charge of the situation and was determined to replace his Civic with a car that would be classier, faster and less of a target. After debating between a Neon, RSX and GTI, he wisely decided to choose German engineering.

"My 20AE started life as a daily driver back in 8/03," Rob explained. "I drove it for about 10k miles before I got the mod bug." Since leaving the Japanese scene, Rob had plenty of reading to do in order to understand what parts were suitable for his GTI. He quickly realized parts weren't as affordable as the eBay import stores for the Honda market - European quality and value would come at a price.

Eurp_0904_10_z+2003_volkswagen_gti_20ae+engine Photo 3/8   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI 20AE - Air Force One

Rob began his quest by uncorking the performance of his 20AE's 1.8 liter turbo engine and nimble chassis. An evoms cold-air intake and diverter valve were the first to increase airflow into the motor while ensuring stable boost pressure to handle future upgrades.

Driving regularly around the Arizona desert didn't help with the heat soak, so the stock intercooler was ditched for a larger Eurojet Racing front-mount. At the same time, Revo stage 2 software was uploaded to achieve maximum gains from the stock K03 turbo. To complete the catalog of upgrades, Rob fitted a GHL turbo-back exhaust, ECS pulleys and Samco turbo inlet pipe. He then added Auto Meter gauges to monitor boost and air/fuel ratios from the driver's seat.

Chassis upgrades followed with Zimmerman drilled rotors and Neuspeed lines for a stronger stopping force. The car was lowered 60mm using a Weitec Cup kit, while Neuspeed sway bars and a lower tie bar improved stiffness.

Rob admitted his upgrades weren't enough to outrun the average Porsche 911 or BMW M3, but he concentrated on making his 20AE a well-rounded daily driver that could compete at car shows.

Prior to moving to Arizona, Rob was impressed by a close friend's mildly-modified Mk4 Golf TDI. It became a role model for Rob with its simple R32 body kit and staggered Brock wheels. "The factory bumpers didn't appeal to me and I wanted to fill out the car. My whole goal was OEM+ with a little bit of Euro swirled in the mix," he told us.

Eurp_0904_11_z+2003_volkswagen_gti_20ae+rear_bumper Photo 4/8   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI 20AE - Air Force One

Body and paint expert, Jeff Campbell (who's white R32 turbo was featured in et 7/06) sprayed and installed an R32 front bumper and side skirts, along with an R-line rear bumper and Cupra R front lip. He also took time to shave the bumper notches, rear hatch and side markers before a badgeless grille was added.

Not overdoing the R32 look, Rob then applied his own flavor with Bora R foglights imported from Germany within the bumper grilles. Next, FK projector headlights were matched to the fogs.

Eurp_0904_07_z+2003_volkswagen_gti_20ae+axis_supersmash_wheel Photo 5/8   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI 20AE - Air Force One

The wheels had to fit the theme, so Rob tried out a set of Stern ST-1 wheels in black before coming across classically styled 19" Axis Supermesh wheels ordered from B&B Auto & Tires. Going with a staggered fitment, the fronts were 8.5" wide while the rears measured a generous 9.5" wide, wrapped in General UHP Exclaim tires. "I'm not big on poke and the wheels required 15mm spacers in order to clear the stock brakes," he explained. So in order to fit the wide rims out back, the calipers were shaved 8mm and repainted, while custom 7mm spacers fabricated by DNJ Wheels were mounted on all four corners to align the wheels flush with the fenders.

Although not like the cockpit of an F-16 Rob was familiar with at work, he paid special attention to the comfort and looks. "I always had a thing for the Audi S4 interior and wanted to add a little color," Rob stated. So he covered the door-cards in blue suede. A pair of Eurojet Racing Forte leather reclining seats would follow, with matching blue suede inserts and carbon fiber backs. Unable to stop himself, the cloth rear seats were ditched for leather versions, which appropriately got suede centers as well.

Eurp_0904_05_z+2003_volkswagen_gti_20ae+front_interior Photo 6/8   |   20AE interior remains essentially stock but for Auto Meter gauges

After Louie's Auto Interiors completed the suede transformation, some carbon fiber decoration adorned the GTI cockpit with composite door sill and seat rail covers. HMS Motorsport finally supplied a pair of Schroth four-point harnesses for the motorsport look.

There wasn't much left on Rob's plate, but he sprinkled more flair around the GTI to woo show judges. Within the engine bay, JCaps aluminum caps were fitted. Jeff Campbell then color-matched the engine covers and painted the B-pillars flat black.

Rob's 20AE possessed a modest attitude but he plans to be back at West Coast car shows this year with more upgrades including a GT3071R turbo, coilovers and full stereo system. It hasn't been an easy road for Rob, and his wife Jen has been his biggest critic. "She's been ready to divorce me numerous times because of my modding habits," he said. And while he's thankful for his wife patience, we're thankful for him aiding the air force and contributing to the growing OEM+ scene in America.

Eurp_0904_08_z+2003_volkswagen_gti_20ae+rob_camp Photo 7/8   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI 20AE - Air Force One

Tech Spec
2003 VW GTI 20AE
Owner: Rob Camp
Location: Avondale, AZ
Occupation: Air Force mechanic

Engine: 1.8 liter four cylinder 20v with Revo software, evoms diverter valve and cold-air intake, ECS Tuning pulleys, Samco Sport induction pipe, Eurojet Racing front-mount intercooler, GHL 3" turbo-back exhaust system, JCaps CNC aluminum engine caps, color-matched engine covers

Drivetrain: six-speed manual

Brakes: Zimmermann drilled rotors, Metal Master pads, Neuspeed stainless lines, Tyrol Sport caliper bushings, shaved rear calipers

Suspension: Weitec 60/60 Cup kit, Neuspeed lower tie bar, 25mm front and 28mm rear sway bars

Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" front, 19x9.5" rear Axis Supermesh wheels on 7mm spacers with 215/35-19 front, 235/35-19 rear General UHP Exclaim tires

Eurp_0904_06_z+2003_volkswagen_gti_20ae+eurojet_seats Photo 8/8   |   Rob went blue suede crazy on the Eurojet seats, rear seats and door cards

Exterior: R32 front bumper with Cupra R lip, R32 side skirts and R-line rear bumper, shaved bumper notch, side markers and side line, FK badgeless grille and projector headlights, Hella tail lights, Bora R foglights, flat black B-pillars

Interior: Eurojet Racing black leather seats with blue suede inserts and carbon backs, matching rear seats, blue suede door cards, OE armrest, door sills and seat rail covers, Auto Meter Cobalt boost, pyrometer and air/fuel gauges, Schroth four-point harnesses

Thanks: wife Jen, father, evoms, Eurojet Racing, Carbon Dynamics, HMS Motorsports, DNJ Wheels, Jeff Campbell, B&B Auto & Tire, Louie's Auto Interiors

Sam Du
838 Articles



Buyer at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction nabs Supra VIN 20201 - signed by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda - for $2.1 million, the entire bid benefiting the American Heart Association and the Bob Woodruff Foundation
Rory JurneckaJan 21, 2019
You've just purchased the new NSX but you have too much money left over and you need to spend it on something (we've all been there, right...). That's where AIMGAIN comes in.
RodrezJan 18, 2019
Preview the March 2019 issue of Super Street, with the GReddy x Pandem FC RX-7; a DSM 600HP Talon TSI; an AWD DC2; Shutter Space photo contest roundup; and more!
Bob HernandezJan 18, 2019
In Japan, Toyota is offering a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder in two different states of tune on the Supra
Kelly PleskotJan 18, 2019
The Lego McLaren Senna kit has 219 pieces and, yes, incorporates the transparent in-door panels of the actual hypercar
Conner GoldenJan 18, 2019
Sponsored Links