2003 VW Jetta GLI
Jose A Soto Cora is a full-time chemist and US Navy officer. Although he currently resides in Virginia, he spent most of his life in Puerto Rico - the island in the Caribbean roughly the size of Connecticut. Its people are American citizens since it became a US territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American war. It is more densely populated than any of the 50 US states. And with so many people living on the island, we were worried when Jose told us he had no friends.
Confused at first, we realized he wasn't a loner, but when it comes to his car, he doesn't show any camaraderie. Strongly competitive by nature as a former professional body boarder, he won't settle until he beats every car that challenges him on the dragstrip or freeway. This is the reason he chose to turbo this '03 VW Jetta GLI VR6 and nicknamed it the "No Friends" project.
Making his start in the Volkswagen community, Jose's first project was a Mk4 GTI VR6. Outfitted with an R32 body kit and painted in Tropic orange, the 174hp 12v didn't have the gusto to beat more modern machines. "I had everything you could imagine in an all-motor car. But I got upset seeing my friends with Evos and STIs going faster on the street, so I decided to go for more with another VW," explained Jose.
New and more powerful engines came to light and the opportunity arose to upgrade to a more nimble 180hp 1.8T or the newer 201hp VR6 24v. The 1.8T had plenty of potential with proven 300+whp turbo upgrades, but Jose felt there were better prospects for power with a six-cylinder. He'd also fallen in love with the sweet sound of VW's staggered-six, so chose the latter and picked up the Platinum grey GLI seen here.
Absolute power was the only goal for the 24v VR. With defeat not an option, Jose put a call out to mechanics in Puerto Rico to fabricate a solution incorporating forced induction. Unfortunately, nobody stepped forward at short notice, so he started the work and research himself.
"Responsible mechanics can be a rare commodity, so I decided to make my own combination of parts. I ordered all the parts and stored them until everything was good to go," he said.
Jose ensured all his needs were covered, importing parts to rebuild the 2.8 liter block with forged JE pistons and Pauter rods. ARP head and rod bolts would eventually secure the motor.
After weighing the advantages of a supercharger or turbo, Jose knew he needed gargantuan power, so a turbo became the weapon of choice - one that wouldn't need to give its power at low RPM, but would have neck-snapping power towards the top-end.
Within weeks, a massive Precision GT40R turbo found itself on Jose's doorstep, along with a Tial wastegate and blow-off valve, 850cc RC injectors, Walbro fuel pumps and an Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator to handle the motor's thirst.
A Precision front-mount intercooler and HPA Motorsport short-runner intake manifold were then drafted-in to ensure the turbocharged motor would work efficiently with better airflow and cooler intake temps.
As the parts bin began to stack up, the time came to again track down a reliable technician for the installation and fabrication required by a VR6 turbo. "So I contacted Rolando `Roly' Resto. He's a VW enthusiast with a 10.9sec GTI on stock internals," Jose told us. "I also contacted Papote at Eurohouse Tuning, who's one of the most dedicated mechanics on the main island. I got hold of him and he agreed to help with the No Friends project!"
The head was worked to maximize airflow, then all the parts were assembled along with a Creative Performance manifold and A'PEXi exhaust. Final tuning for the ECU was accomplished by a Microtech LT12 engine management system, which would allow the most aggressive air/fuel maps for the dragstrip as well as the street.
Not overlooking the drivetrain, the factory six-speed received a Fidanza flywheel, Bully clutch kit and Peloquin limit-slip differential, but Jose mentioned more upgrades were planned to give more bite and aid the Jetta's unnerving traction issues.
After the performance goodies were installed, Jose took the GLI to his friend Gaby Skern who runs a dyno on the island. Although the injectors were maxed out, the car pulled an impressive 550whp at 24psi. The next week, the Jetta made its first quarter-mile pass and ran 11.6sec at 120mph. "The car didn't have good traction so we're going to make improvements," Jose proclaimed.
As for the rest of the car, the chassis and appearance remain sleek for the street. The suspension employed KW Variant 3 coilovers, with adjustment for ride height plus compression and rebound damping. The brakes used Brembo rotors and the wheels were none other than the classic 19x8.5" BBS LMs with 225/35 Toyo tires.
For a more aggressive exterior and to allow more air to the front-mount intercooler, Jose swapped in an R-line front bumper. A Kamei badgeless grille gave a cleaner look, while a subtle M-type lip spoiler added definition to the trunk.
Still preserving the car for daily driving, the interior remains stock except for certain electronic items to monitor and adjust the engine. A MicroTech hand controller, for example, can toggle between four different programs for the turbocharged VR6, while a GReddy controller allows the boost to be changed. And auxiliary gauges for air/fuel and boost, let Jose know if there's an immediate danger.
Although the car's already quick off the line and pleasing to the eyes, Jose has more parts in his closet including Recaros, an Auto Power rollbar, Innovative boost controller and, most importantly, Raxles axles to reinforce the chassis for the drag strip.
"I'm looking forward to eventually making 10sec passes after the next stage of tuning is complete," he concluded. "There are no friends when you want to win. On the dragstrip it doesn't matter who's against you whether VW, Audi or Mitsubishi... The goal is to win!"
'03 VW Jetta GLI
Owner: Jose A Soto Cora
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Occupation: chemist, US Navy officer
Engine: 2.8 liter 24v VR6 with forged JE pistons, Pauter rods, ARP head and rod bolts, Precision GT40R turbo, Tial wastegate and blow-off valve, re-worked head, 850cc RC Engineering injectors, HPA Motorsports short-runner intake manifold, Creative Performance exhaust manifold, A'PEXi exhaust, Microtech LT12 ECU, Bosch individual coil-packs, two Walbro in-tank fuel pumps, Aeromotive fuel regulator, 70mm throttle body, Precision front-mount intercooler, battery relocated to the trunk
Drivetrain: six-speed manual with Fidanza flywheel, Bully custom clutch kit, Peloquin limited-slip differential
Brakes: front and rear Brembo rotors
Suspension: KW Variant 3 coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" BBS LM wheels with 225/35-19 Toyo Proxes tires
Exterior: R-Line front bumper, Kamei badgeless grille and eyelids, M-type trunk lip
Interior: AEM UEGO wideband air/fuel gauge, Auto Meter Cobalt 35psi boost gauge, R-Line mats, GReddy Profec B type S boost controller and turbo timer, Microtech handset
Thanks: Bully Clutch, Eurohouse Tuning, Roly Tuning, Gaby Skern Tuning, www.eurocrewpr.com