2007 VW Rabbit
Since December 2007, the US has been in an economic meltdown, with the unemployment rate hitting its highest point in more than 16 years. The stock market plunged as the Dow Jones and S&P 500 fell to their lowest levels since '07. The ripples of this have affected every industry, including the one we care about most - automotive tuning. From muscle cars to Japanese imports and even the European scene, people have cut their spending habits.
Times are tough and Angel Cano was feeling the pain like the rest of us in his job handling mortgages in Riverside, CA - a market hit even worse than the automotive industry. But today he will show us how, with careful planning and the right parts, to build an attractive VW pretty enough to show but dependable enough to drive daily.
Having built a portfolio of VW project cars in the past, including a Mk4 GTI, Angel wanted progression. Once the Mk5 chassis hit our shores, it was clear he needed to be rolling the latest metal but he didn't have the funds when the GTI touched down. And then a little bunny came into the picture.
The Rabbit was introduced to North American below $15k with a five-speed manual and 170hp 2.5 liter inline-five. With its attractive price tag, charming looks and VW heritage, the Rabbit was the perfect match for Angel's low-buck project.
It was clear from the get-go, neck-breaking power and a racecar chassis weren't going to be on the agenda. Styling came first, along with dependability and a dash of performance. here.
It wasn't easy finding and installing the parts because it was a fairly new car. So he visited ABD Racingwerks in Riverside, CA because they'd helped with previous cars. "This wasn't going to be a super-custom build or anything," Dave Anderson from ABD told us. "It was a project we worked on together to build a daily driver in-line with Angel's goals."
Coincidently, he had in mind something similar to an ABD project from et 1/08. Its B7 Passat shared a street-driven theme and was equipped with TSW wheels, simple bolt-on upgrades and Caractere styling.
Consequently, the Mk5 Rabbit's uncomplicated exterior was ideal for the partial body kit ABD imported from Caractere in Germany. It included more aggressive side skirts with integrated vents, a rear valance, roof spoiler and a slick hatch blend. The front received an OE Votex front spoiler from the dealer, while a JOM badgeless grille and Hella smoked headlights completed the transformation.
For the wheels, Angel wanted a design to match the attitude of the aggressive body. So he specified the offsets and widths to ABD and iForged built a custom set of 12-spoke Retro wheels powdercoated black with polished lips. The black faces would match the textured moldings left untouched on the Rabbit. The 19x8.5" wheels were wrapped in 235/35-series BFGoodrich tires for a quiet yet sporty ride.
Some creature comforts would follow inside, including GTI seats and steering wheel. To spice it further, ABD added its line of aluminum accessories including door sills, mats, climate control rings and pedals.
The stock motor wouldn't be sufficient, either. This wasn't his weekend track car, but he still wanted more pep. So ABD installed its 3" Big Bore cold-air intake. A Techtonics Tuning cat-back exhaust would reduce back pressure, while GIAC software reprogrammed the 2.5 for maximum power and torque. These simple bolt-ons should give the five-cylinder an extra 15hp and 25 lb-ft to maintain the entertainment level.
To cure the Rabbit's ride height, H&R coilovers lowered the car while Eibach sway bars reduced body roll.
With all the ingredients added to create the perfect daily driver, Angel's Rabbit looks stunning on the road. And with the economy still uncertain, more enthusiasts are certain to follow this trend of building their Jetta, GTI, 3-Series, A4 or Bunny on a budget.
2007 VW Rabbit
Owner: Angel Cano
Location: Riverside, CA
Occupation: Mortgage Manager, Part-time DJ
Engine: 2.5 liter five-cylinder with ABD LAN pipe intake system and carbon engine cover, Techtonics Tuning cat-back exhaust, GIAC software
Driveline: five-speed manual
Brakes: ABD stainless braided lines
Suspension: H&R coilovers, Eibach 26mm front and 23mm rear sway bars, ABD front strut bar
Wheels & Tires: 19x8.5" iForged Retro wheels with Eibach 8mm spacers, 235/35-19 BFGoodrich KDW tires
Exterior: Votex front spoiler, Caractere side skirts, rear valance, roof spoiler and hatch blend, JOM badgeless grille, Hella smoked headlights and side bumper lights
Interior: OE GTI cloth seats and steering wheel, ABD stainless door sills, mats, cargo mat, aluminum pedal set and aluminum climate control rings
Contact: ABD Racingwerks (www.abdracingwerks.com), Techtonics (www.techtonicstuning.com), H&R Springs (www.hrsprings.com)