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2001 Volkswagen Beetle TDI - Slings And Arrows

The Slings And Arrows Of Automotive Misfortune Nearly Derail This VW Beetle Tdi Project Car.

Ben Oh
Sep 1, 2009
Photographer: Eric Simpson
Eurp_0909_01_z+2001_volkswagen_beetle_tdi+front_passenger_side Photo 1/13   |   2001 Volkswagen Beetle TDI - Slings And Arrows

2001 VW Beetle TDI
According to chaos theory, small changes within a given system can lead to unexpected, radical results. The famous example is the butterfly in one part of the world flapping its wings, causing weather aberrations on the other side of the world. You get the idea...

That's sort of what happened to Chris Fierek. If the trans hadn't gone kaput on his '01 Beetle TDI 1.9, he may never have suffered the turmoil of getting his car ready for last year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

Most people would simply fix the problem and move on. However, Chris had other ideas. With SEMA only four months away, and good friends from motormusicmag partnering a booth with MERA, he was assured of space in the event. So he convinced himself it would make sense to gut the car and build something to display!

Now for the fun part, deciding what to do. Fierek had a Caractere kit on the car for years but fellow Dubber, Sean Cahill, made a simple suggestion: how about acquiring a Beetle RSi body kit.

Eurp_0909_02_z+2001_volkswagen_beetle_tdi+interior Photo 2/13   |   Roadwire covered Mk5 GTI seats in two-tone leather

It's the simple suggestions you have to be wary of, as Fierek later learned. Or as he says, "I discovered that Mr Cahill was part of an evil conspiracy to kill me through lack of sleep and an unparalleled level of stress." That's one way to say that getting the RSi kit was a major pain in the arse!

The search began with VW Motorsport in Germany. They had the 12-piece widebody kits available, but it was absurdly expensive. So Fierek dug further and found an importer on the East Coast with a kit from Europe, but they were looking for a cool $5K.

With a limited build budget and having started on his arduous journey, our hero kept searching. Ultimately he triumphed, finding an individual who managed the Beetle Cup series in Europe in 2000-01. Talk about digging!

Eurp_0909_03_z+2001_volkswagen_beetle_tdi+speakers Photo 3/13   |   Morel mids mounted in front doors

The new source had about half-a-dozen complete kits in a storage unit in England. Of course, the reason it was possible to buy this kit was because Fierek had a contact in the UK who could inspect everything for him. But even then it was difficult, what with the kit being in England and the seller being in Ireland taking care of his Dad. But that's another story... After some rather hasty deal-making, commitments made for SEMA and time ticking, the kit was finally en route to the States... where it was promptly held up in customs!

By the time it was released, there were only two weeks to the big show. And it still had to travel by rail to the West Coast. Eventually arriving only days before the event with a broken spoiler.

Fierek and his build team took advantage of the additional downtime and redefined the use of Dynamat in the vehicle, using Xtreme, Dynaliner and Dynapad to cover every square inch. Since the engine and transmission were out, it was an opportune time to do the suspension as well. So Eibach coilovers were installed, plus sway bars.

After spending three weeks researching trans options, Fierek kept running into the same answer: IPT is your go-to source for a performance transmission that will keep up with all the motor mods. So he went over to RLH Industries and pulled the transmission, shipping it to IPT and called his friends at KermaTDI for the turbo, injectors, custom software and intake that would unleash more torque from his 1.9 liter TDI motor.

Eurp_0909_04x_z+2001_volkswagen_beetle_tdi+alpine_nav Photo 4/13   |   With space a premium, Alpine's DVD-driven navigation interface is mounted under passenger seat

Thanks to the efforts of Fox Marketing and BASF, the stars aligned. The Saturday prior to the show, Fox arranged for a BASF shop in LA to supply the Audi Nimbus grey pearl paint. Fierek drove 150 miles to the custom shop to deliver it and with less than a week to go, the car went from stock Cyber green to the luxurious Nimbus grey that you see here.

The following day the team installed the KermaTDI stage 3 parts and IPT trans. Everything but the intercooler piping fitted. "Not even close!" Fierek said, as calmly as he could muster.

With four days left, no sleep, working his regular gig during the day and cranking on the car at night, Fierek needed a quick solution for the intercooler. He was talking to his father-in-law when suddenly they had an idea. "How about 2'' copper pipe?" It would be pricey, but who cared at that point! It was Wednesday, three days left to the show and copper would do fine.

With the body kit in their possession, the team at Slivnik Machine pulled an all-nighter dry-fitting the parts. Then, as he was standing in a shop with performance and styling parts puked everywhere, all the people who had offered to help flaked on Fierek, except Chad Utt from Epic Motorsports and his father-in-law. So for the next few days they got no sleep.

Eurp_0909_05_z+2001_volkswagen_beetle_tdi+tweeters Photo 5/13   |   Morel tweeters custom-mounted in pillars

On the last day, they started with a grey shell, no glass and needing to fabricate brackets to align the kit. The mesh for the front and the rear valances had been delayed in shipping and wouldn't be there until Monday. Yet the guys from RLH arrived at midnight, and Utt with friend Charlie Quong spent the day slamming things together.

The audio system, consisting of an Alpine source unit connected to the Imprint processor for fine-tuning of the sound, plus Morel speakers and subwoofer with Genesis amps, looked spectacular. Utt made beautiful tweeter pods for the A-pillars to match the gauge pods. They also mounted the 6.5'' Morel mids in the doors and a 10'' sub in the spare wheel well - although the spare was retained after they raised the trunk floor 3''. Genesis Dual Mono amps are mounted on either side of the car in the rear quarter panels, replacing the factory rear speakers. One powers the left channel, the other powers the right, while a third in the trunk is for the sub. But the audio wasn't working, no time!

The plan was to leave at 8:00am for Vegas. That's when the brakes locked up and they couldn't get the car on the trailer. Of course, that wasn't the only thing not working. The engine wasn't running either. They had to press on, and were finally able to connect everything on the audio system properly.

By 10:00pm, they were finally on their way to the SEMA show in Vegas with a complete interior, audio working, car not running and paint that - well, it still needed to be worked on for the show.

On Monday, friend Mike Gelb from Matworks, started working on the paint while Thom Voisinet followed behind applying sponsor decals. Fierek decided to test the audio since the car would be used to demo the new Alpine Imprint. But there was a huge power draw on the system, killing the battery.

By this point, the tape he pulled off the mirrors to find one completely broken was the least of his concerns!

Eurp_0909_06x_z+2001_volkswagen_beetle_tdi+alpine_head_unit Photo 6/13   |   Alpine head unit with nav and Imprint Tuning add-ons is perfect traveling companion

The night before the show, unable to do anything about the audio system, Gelb and Fierek ingeniously used tile mesh from Home Depot to cover the front fascia. They then snuck back into the Convention Center around 2am to finish the detailing and prepare for the show the next day.

The battery problems put a damper on showcasing the audio system, but the vehicle itself drew a nice crowd. And as you can see from the photos, the car is now running like a champ, serving Fierek as a daily driver. While the process was hell, he couldn't be happier with the end result. For now, anyway.

Beetle RSi
In case you didn't know, the RSi was developed back in '00 and was limited to just 250 cars when production began the next year. It was distinguished by 80mm wider fenders, as well as deep valances and a large rear wing. It also wore 18x9'' magnesium wheels.

The RSi was powered by a 225hp 3.2 liter VR6 24v. This gave it a 0-60mph time of 6.4sec and top speed of 134mph, thanks in part to its 4Motion AWD system and a close-ratio manual six-speed transmission.

Eurp_0909_08_z+2001_volkswagen_beetle_tdi+rsi Photo 7/13   |   2001 Volkswagen Beetle TDI - Slings And Arrows

The interior featured Recaro seats, while the trim materials included carbon, aluminum and orange leather. There was also a panel in the center console for oil temperature, oil pressure and amperage gauges.

The RSi was the basis for the New Beetle Cup racing series in Germany, which created some dramatic racing but was short-lived. However, the car's reputation continues thanks to the large number of RSi Cup replicas that have been built around the world, such as this one.

Tech Spec
2001 VW Beetle TDI
Owner: Chris Fierek
Location: Murietta, CA
Occupation: marketing manager

Engine: 1.9 liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel with KermaTDI hybrid turbo, Powerplus 764 injectors, R520 nozzles, downpipe, intake manifold, 3-bar map sensor, KermaWare Q Loader flash programmer and custom tuning by Alligator/KermaTDI, front-mount intercooler, 2" copper intercooler piping, Magnaflow exhaust and high-flow cat, 034 Motorsport motor mounts, VAG-COM diagnostic software, Kinetik HC1800 battery

Drivetrain: IPT-built 01M automatic transmission

Brakes: ABD cross-drilled rotors and stainless lines

Suspension: Eibach coilovers, front and rear sway bars

Wheels & Tires: 19x8'' PIAA Super Rosa wheels painted in '09 Corvette Atomic orange matte, 235/35-19 Toyo Proxes 4 tires

Exterior: VW Motorsport RSi body kit comprising front spoiler, four fenders, side skirts, rear valance, rear wing, roof spoiler and mirrors, Visual Garage shark-fin antenna, PIAA lighting throughout, painted BASF/Audi Nimbus grey, custom badge by Billet Badges

Interior: Mk5 GTI "Autobahn package" seats trimmed in Roadwire two-tone leather, custom gauge pod with GReddy boost, oil pressure and exhaust temp gauges, ABD stainless door sills and billet vase, Matworks floor and cargo mat

Audio/Visual: Alpine IVA-D106 head unit, NVE-872N nav and KCE-900E nav interface, PXA-H100 Imprint Tuning, Directed Electronics SIR-ALP10T (Sirius with nav traffic), 6.5'' Morel three-way component speakers, 10'' Morel Ultimo sub, Genesis Dual Mono amps for left and right channels on custom amp rack plus sub, Scosche EFX cable, PAC audio interface, Viper Responder LC3 security and remote start

Thanks: Chad Utt, Epic Motorsports, Ron Hembd, RLH Industries, Slivnik Machine, Eddie Duran, KermaTDI (kermatdi.com), IPT, PIAA, Performance Transmissions, Magnaflow, BASF, Alpine, Morel, Genesis, Billet Badges

By Ben Oh
12 Articles

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