VW Jetta Take a close look at this '91 VW Jetta Coupe and a few things might catch your eye. The door moldings, headliner and floor are all crafted from bamboo. Another interesting feature is the wheels. The full-faced billet-style might be more appropriate on an old Chevy rather than a Mk2, but there are other elements that epitomize the Euro scene, such as the shaved bay, low 'n wide stance as well as the smoothed exterior.
Mike Pitman's orange-flavor Jetta isn't your typical project car, but it is an extraordinary example of imagination and determination.
Mike's a painter by trade. He's no Picasso, but he'll paint anything from jetskis to motorcycles and cars. "I learned how to paint from making my own mistakes. I didn't have much money but now I'm doing my own thing," Mike told us.
With an eye for perfection and a creative mind, Mike developed a love for Volkswagens from his older sister. "I used to hang out with her when I was in high school. She used to go to a lot of GTGs and shows," he mentioned.
Eventually, Mike started toying with '86 and '89 GTIs before coming across this Jetta Coupe in '05. The Mk2 was relatively rust-free, so he purchased it from a lady who lived out in the desert. It was a steal at $200 but there was a catch - the 1.8 8v motor wouldn't start. "She couldn't get it running so I towed it home, put a new fuel pump relay in and got it running. I ended up driving the car twice; then I let my ex-girlfriend drive it," he explained. "Somehow the car caught fire and it burnt the engine harness and head gasket."
If there was any good news from the incident it was that Mike saw an opportunity to accelerate the project. "We call this car the Junkyard Jewel since most of it was built from the junkyard - the motor, tranny, dash, door panels and center console," he revealed.
Finding a new motor was essential, not only to get the car driving again but for some more power. A trip to the junkyard came up with a complete VR6 motor, harness and five-speed tranny. "It looked good on the outside but when I stuck it in and started it up, I found it was completely destroyed," he confessed. "The head was cracked and a piston was missing!"
Rather than rebuild it, the owner returned to the junkyard and found another VR6 from a Passat. After a proper systems check, he replaced the ECU and the staggered-six ran like clockwork.
Mike enjoyed the VR6-powered Mk2 Jetta for just a couple of days before the modding itch returned. "I decided to get another bodyshell - same year car and everything. So I stripped everything out and worked on the body and engine bay."
The shell was under the knife for several weeks as Mike welded every hole in the firewall that could be plugged. Nearly everything that wasn't needed was deleted, such as the rain tray, coolant reservoir, smog equipment and EVAP canister bracket. He then minimized the coil pack wires, which were tucked under the manifold, while the coil packs were hidden behind the motor.
Continuing the cleaning process, aluminum tubing was used for vacuum lines. It matched polished accents like the Oldsmobile dipstick, Chevy radiator cap and smoothed OBD1 valve cover. The fuel rail utilized black anodized braided lines and was folded inside the frame rails. The throttle body was flipped upside down to look cleaner. The engine harness shrank from 67 to 26 wires, and was hidden from sight. And as a final touch, polished stainless bolts were used on the motor mounts, tranny and valve cover. A total of 30 hours were spent tidying the bay...
Once done, Mike transplanted the VR6 from his first Jetta into the restored shell. Before it was reinstated, he added Schrick 276° cams to wake up the top-end. A 2.5'' Abt exhaust, Unorthodox underdrive pulley and intake completed the performance mods.
Before paint could be applied, Mike tackled the body, smoothing as much as he could to preserve its Euro style. The quarter panels and doors had some damage, so it was repaired first, ditching the door handles for sleeker Audi 5000 parts.
The bumpers were switched from big to small bumpers, with the banana lights shaved in the process. The fenders were pulled and rolled, with Mk3 side skirts modified to fit in between.
The rejuvenated Coupe was then ready for color. Mike always had orange in mind, and with the help of friend Dave Elledge, an ice cream paint job was born using Glasurit products. It consisted of a gold mica base, three pearls and two metallic additives. The color glistens in sunlight and emits a more subtle beige hue at night.
To complement the orange, House of Kolor candy red was applied to the tail lights and the rear décor panel with its 'VR Coupe' insignia.
The car was coming together nicely but the orange needed contrast. So Mike got wood... "I did wood shop in high school and worked at a cabinet-shop making custom furniture," he explained. So he fabricated custom door moldings using bamboo. The lower grille insert under the Bonrath badgeless grille was made the same way, and all the pieces were clearcoated afterwards.
The curvature of the bumper moldings was too severe for the bamboo treatment, so they were airbrushed to match. In fact, the work is so good it's almost impossible to tell it isn't real, even up close.
Finishing the exterior with a set of BBS RS would have effortlessly sealed the deal, but Mike walks a different path. Striving to be unique, he waited for the right set to come along. "I originally wanted BBS but I ran into a buddy selling these Billet Specialties wheels. I figured they'd look cool," he said. The 16x8'' polished rims were wrapped in 205/40 Falken Ziex-512s for a little stretch.
Mike finished up the chassis with H&R Ultra-low coilovers and spacers to create the aggressive stance, along with Neuspeed sway bars for improved handling.
The stock brakes were discarded in favor of 11'' Corrado parts up front, including drilled and slotted rotors. A beefier Wilwood caliper ensured stopping power. The rear drums were upgraded to 8.4'' Corrado equipment and all the calipers were painted black.
The interior was last on the list, but one of the more intensive aspects. It's gone through several transitions, including four different seats, but the last phase is the most distinctive with its bamboo floor and headliner up top. Mike fiberglassed the roof for reinforcement, then cut and stapled bamboo rods into place.
The factory front and rear seats were removed and a bamboo floor runs from the firewall to the trunk. It matches the dash, pillars, door- and rear-quarter panels that were dyed beige. A pair of Momo Street Racer sport seats were then retrimmed beige with double orange stitching.
The dash is from a Corrado and is another junkyard find, as were the GTI door panels and Mk3 center console. The console was reinforced with carbon fiber, and wrapped in beige leather with orange stitching to match the seats.
While modifying the console to fit, Mike deleted the e-brake handle, fabricating a custom line-lock to hold the brakes with a switch.
A new shift boot was fashioned from the same beige leather that was also used to wrap the Billet Specialties steering wheel, giving the interior the same hot rod theme as the wheels.
Just when we thought the Mk2 Jetta was complete, Mike revealed his stereo system. The front kick panels sported 6.5'' MB Quart component speakers, which have orange and candy wood rings to match the dash inserts.
The trunk boasted a Pioneer 10'' sub in a bamboo enclosure on the passenger-side, with two Rockford Fosgate amps and a capacitor concealed behind the seats.
There's still plenty to do on the Jetta. After the shoot, Mike installed a direct-port nitrous system, for example. The trunk also now incorporates a flat-screen TV and Nintendo Wii. He's additionally toying with the idea of rear-wheel drive, "It's a work in progress," he laughed.
With its impressive spec list and unique style, this Coupe could take first place at most car shows. But don't let the 'no hood' and fancy bodywork fool you. "I drive it almost every day... without the hood," he smiled. "It's not a garage or trailer queen; it was built from a junkyard. I drive to the beach, get take-out and go to Vegas. It wasn't built to just sit."
Engine: 2.8 liter VR6 12v with Schrick 276° cams, short-ram intake, Unorthodox underdrive pulley, 2.5'' Abt exhaust with deleted resonator, engine loom tucked, deleted smog equipment and rain tray, hidden coil packs, shaved and polished intake manifold, polished tensioner, billet dipstick, bolt kit, valve cover and ISV, black anodized fuel lines, 8v throttle cable, stage 1.5 poly engine and trans mounts, manual rack and pinion, shaved bay
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with Sachs stage 1 clutch, B&M short shifter
Brakes: Corrado 11'' drilled/slotted front rotors with four-piston Wilwood calipers, 8.4'' drilled/slotted rear rotors, Hawk pads, stainless lines, line-lock
Suspension: H&R Ultra-low coilovers, Neuspeed sway bars, poly control arm bushings, VR6 suspension bushings
Wheels & Tires: 16x8'' Billet Specialties GS47 wheels with H&R spacers, 205/40 R16 Falken Ziex-512 tires
Exterior: pulled fenders, bamboo moldings, Audi 5000 door handles, cup mirrors, Bonrath badgeless grille, Mk3 side skirts, shaved banana lights and windshield wipers, candy orange emblems, candy red tail lights and rear décor panel, LED lights, car painted custom orange, airbrushed center strips on small bumper conversion
Interior: Momo seats wrapped in beige leather with orange stitching, matching Mk3 center console, Billet Specialties steering wheel, shift boot and custom speaker pods, Schroth three-point harnesses, Corrado dash conversion dyed beige along with A-, B- and C-pillars plus door cards and rear-quarter panels, bamboo flooring, pedals and headliner, deleted rear seats, TMTuning chrome door handles, painted Momo shift knob, Empi horn button, orange/candy dash and center console trim, shaved and smoothed rear wheel tubs
Audio/Visual: Pioneer flip-out head unit and 10'' sub in bamboo enclosure, 6.5'' MB Quart components in custom pods, two Rockford Fosgate Punch amps and capacitor, Optima Red Top battery in rear
Thanks: girlfriend, parents, Dave Elledge and family at PHD Customs, Jimmy Z Garage, Brian at Tuning Technik, Augustin, Kevin, John at Moreno Valley PD