2001 VW GTI
The VW Golf isn't perhaps the sexiest car on the planet. In particular, the Mk4 chassis can leave you cold. Introduced in 1997, it was the best selling car in Europe at one point. Intended for the mass market, how could it possibly be sexy if everybody and their grandma had one?
While the Mk4 might not have the cute charm of a Beetle or the sex appeal of a Ferrari, that's where all of us come in. Our minds are filled with so many ideas of how to make our VW faster, more functional and perhaps even sexy.
In fact, Josh Mather from Yorba Linda, CA doesn't drive a Porsche everyday, but his '03 GTI VR6 with hardcore Euro looks and heavenly interior surely has enough swagger for the next Jenna Jameson film.
An entrepreneur by trade, Josh spends three hours a day in the office. He runs a dance convention that tours North America, so most weekends are spent traveling. He's also a father of two, so it's truly amazing he found time to create this GTI in just three months. But his experience as a former Porsche technician and long-time VW gearhead definitely played a major role in its construction.
"I've been into VWs since I was 12," Josh began. "My first car was a Beetle I bought for $400. I've probably owned over 20 Beetles since then, 13 Buses and a few Karmann Ghias."
With a distinguished portfolio of air-cooled VWs, it was a big surprise to discover this is Josh's first GTI. And the story behind it is just as unexpected...
"The car came from New York. It had been stolen. The guy who owned it apparently had it stolen," Josh told us. "His friend took it but got involved in a high-speed chase, which ended with minor front-end damage and a busted tie rod. However, the title was salvaged and the car auctioned off."
The damage was easily remedied and eventually Josh's friend Tony Lazaro bought the car in California. Flip back to Readers' Ride of the Month in et 3/06 and you'll see how the car looked before -- Matchstick red, 19" Rial Daytona wheels and an Oettinger body kit. Tony had built a sweet daily driver but a turn of events saw the car change ownership as Josh attempted his first GTI project. But he wasn't going to keep the same style of big wheels and aggressive body kit commonly found in Southern California. "I'm originally from Boston and the East Coast style is much different. I don't mean to bag on Cali, but East Coast cars kill! I wanted to keep it clean and not clutter it up. When Tony owned it, he had all these trinkets on the car like carbon door handles. It just wasn't for me, so the night I picked up the car I ripped them off in his garage!"
Josh's goal became clear - keep the GTI clean, smooth 'n Euro. There wouldn't be any spoilers or unnecessary accessories, as he needed everything to flow. Starting with the exterior, he made a point not to use cheap parts, preferring original equipment from Europe.
Straight from Germany, Josh imported bumpers along with 25th Anniversary valances and side skirts for that OEM+ look. A Bonrath badgeless grille, Euro stubby mirrors and HID headlamps would add to the theme.
It wasn't a lot of new parts, but it was enough to give the exterior some maturity. He decided a shaven haven would improve the GTI even more, so he deleted and smoothed the hatch emblem and handle, the rear wiper and antenna.
The fenders were subtly pulled before it was time to pick a fresh color. The existing red wasn't going to cut it, so Josh looked to his other hobbies for inspiration. "I have mad love for BMX, especially the old ones. I'm a collector. So the color scheme was built around my PK Ripper bike. In fact, the GTI was designed so the bike would look good on top, since I have two bikes that perfectly match the car," he explained.
Josh delivered the car to Diamond Coats in Huntington Beach, CA where layers of PPG Cloud Blue Haze were sprayed throughout the car, including the engine bay and door jambs.
To match his bike, Josh discovered a set of Kinesis K28 wheels online. The 18x9" front and 18x10" rear wheels were disassembled and finished in ceramic titanium. Then the bolts were dipped in 24k gold, while the lips were polished to perfection. In true Euro fashion, a set of Toyo T1R tires was stretched across the rims.
H&R coilovers had been installed by the previous owner, so Josh didn't have to worry about stance. However, he added H&R sway bars and strut bars for good measure. He still wanted to drive the car everyday, but the suspension setup would surely suffice.
Josh knew the stock rotors wouldn't do, so he picked up some big brakes from ECS Tuning. On the front he used 13.1" two-piece floating rotors. They were supplied with Porsche Boxster S calipers but the red finish wouldn't do. So he had Mag Masters in Santa Ana, CA strip and polish the calipers.
Perhaps the most glorious feature of Josh's ride is the interior, which he summed up best as "straight-up sexy." That's not leather or suede you're seeing. The rare hide in Josh's car is actually lambskin. "It's different, cleans really easy and nobody has it," he said. "I like to do stuff that's out there. You either love it or hate it. People think I'm crazy because I have two kids and they're always in the car, but stains come off easy and the material is durable. It also feels really warm."
Wahls Auto Upholstery in Los Alamitos, CA used seven yards of hide on the dash, door panels, headliner and trunk. Even the C-pillar bar and Wiechers Sport rollcage were lamb-wrapped. Still not impressed? Friend Tony encouraged Josh to implement diamond stitching as well, so the armrest, sunroof, parcel shelf, trunk floor and sub box received the elegant treatment.
Other subtle improvements include matching R32 floor mats, an Anniversary gauge cluster and European air vents, plus Audi TT pedals and shift knob. Not to overwhelm the interior with too much white, Josh fitted a pair of black Recaro Trend seats up front, while the rears remain stock.
Filling the double-DIN pocket in the dash is an Alpine touchscreen deck, running JL Audio mids and tweeters in the doors. In the trunk, the lambskin sub box houses two 10" JL Audio W3 subs, while two amps power the entire system.
We haven't really mentioned the engine as yet, and that's because Josh has kept it close to stock for reliability. The 2.8 VR6 has Euro Sport Accessories cams, intake, exhaust and pulleys for a few more ponies and a distinguished sound. However, Josh reiterated he wasn't out to build a high-speed racer. "I was always bagged-on by GTI guys because I had three New Beetles," he confessed. "So when I built this GTI, I wanted it to be unique but the real work was actually done on my 425whp Turbo S. I wanted to make the GTI look cool and keep it as a daily driver because my Beetle can't be driven because I can't smog it. It's stupid fast..."
For a virgin GTI builder, Josh definitely did things right the first time. It can easily be described as a sex machine. And if you're wondering about his Beetle, rest assured we'll have that feature soon.
His GTI is like Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On". But his Turbo S, is more like a hardcore rendition of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". Stay tuned...
2001 VW GTI
Owner: Josh Mather
Location: Yorba Linda, CA
2.8 liter VR6 12v with Euro Sport Accessories cold-air intake, pulleys, 264 cams, 2.5" cat-back exhaust, GIAC software, VF motor mounts, Forge billet and strut caps
five-speed manual with Sachs stage 2 clutch and 14 lb flywheel
13.1" ECS Tuning two-piece floating rotors with polished Porsche Boxster S calipers, braided lines
H&R coilovers, 26mm front and 25mm rear H&R sway bars, VF front drop end-links, polished front and rear strut bars, C-pillar bar
Wheels & Tires:
18x9" front, 18x10" rear Kinesis K28 wheels with ceramic titanium coating and 24k gold bolts, 225/35-18 front, 255/40-18 rear Toyo T1R tires
OE Euro bumpers, HID headlights and stubby mirrors, Bonrath badgeless grille, 25AE valances, pulled fenders, shaved hatch, rear wiper and antenna, painted PPG Cloud Blue Haze
lambskin upholstery with gold diamond double-stitch, Recaro Trend front seats, Audi TT pedals and shift knob, custom R32 floor mats, 20AE gauge cluster, Wiechers Sport rollcage wrapped in lambskin, 25AE vents
Alpine double-DIN touchscreen head unit, JL Audio door mids and tweeters, 1000w/1 and 300w/4 amps, two 10" W3 subs in matching box, Dynomat
Tony Lazaro, Wahls Auto Upholstery, Craig at Image Imports, Diamond Coats, wife Shannon and kids Ethan and Emma, Nick Riley