'You're doing it wrong' read the trophy given to Ben Toskey at last year's Eurowerks car show in Minneapolis, MN - the sales engineer from St Paul had acquired the '95 GTI ten years ago and finished it in '05. Once completed, it was nowhere to be found.
"I didn't take it out for a long, long time," Ben admitted. "I got the award because I never took the car anywhere. Eurowerks was the first time I brought it to a show finished."
The mint Mk3 had been locked up at Ben's parents' house in an extra garage space. Since he lived in downtown St Paul, this option was cheaper and safer than anywhere else.
As a result of the GTI being stored for so long, its condition was nothing short of perfection. The sparkle in the paint, mirror finish on the wheels, freshness of the interior and cleanliness of the bay was basically like a brand new car. Yet surprisingly, its dated style still looked as awesome as it did five years ago.
Of course, the Mk3 wasn't always so majestic. Like a high-school sweetheart, he fell in love with Volkswagens when he turned 17. "I was driving a '91 Mercury Sable at the time," he explained. "One of my father's friends was selling the car and my father knew I hated the Sable so bought it for me. I didn't know much about it, but was happy it was faster than the Sable!"
Ben drove the GTI regularly but kept it stowed away during the harsh winters. In fact, the Mk3 remained stock for several years until things spiraled out of control when Ben discovered VWVortex. "Seeing the cars online led me to go for that classic German look," he told us.
At the time, Toskey worked at a body repair shop and started the project with a simple intake and exhaust setup for the 2.8 VR6. To address handling, H&R Ultra-low coilovers were fitted. The GTI was so low a skidplate was required to protect the oil pan. "I drove it like that for a long time," he confessed. "My dad wouldn't let me do much else to it, but when he finally loosened up I went crazy."
The list of tuning options for the VR6 12v is endless, so Ben jumped in head first... For the money, there wasn't anything as reliable or cost-effective as a supercharger since the turbo applications weren't perfected at the time. Ben went for a joyride with a local VW owner who was selling his Vortech supercharger. The outing sealed the deal and a month later, Ben had saved enough to buy it.
Chad Erickson from SCI Performance installed the kit. "I burnt the clutch in 500 miles. It just wouldn't hold," he laughed. So a couple of months later, the five-speed manual received a stronger ACT six-puck clutch along with a lightened flywheel. For more traction, a Peloquin limited-slip diff was added at the same time.
"It's an all-round quick car, and it sounds pretty nasty because there's no cats or resonators. Even non-VW people comment on how my car sounds," he explained.
After the engine and drivetrain were completed, Ben attacked the rest of the GTI in one go. A call went out to Tuning Zubehor and weeks later a crate of parts arrived on Ben's doorstep, including wheels, a rollcage, bumpers and seats.
For wheels, it came down to two designs. "The most important thing for me was a three-piece design with the proper size and offset to get the best stance," he told us. "I really liked the Schmidt TH-Lines but they didn't come in 16'' then. So the next best things were Modern-Lines."
The thick five spokes had 215/40 Toyo T1S tires stretched over them. Ben also toyed with the idea of brake upgrades but nothing would fit under the Schmidts since a larger caliper would rub.
The stock fenders wouldn't accommodate the 9" wide wheels either, so they were modified. Ben was working at Bergin Autobody and, with the help of his coworkers, the four arches were pulled and smoothed.
Then the Euro bumpers had to be modified to flow with the flares. And while the fenders were under construction, the hatch was shaved and Audi door handles retrofitted.
When the moment came to decide on a color, Ben could have stuck with the original paint but black doesn't stand out. "I was in Switzerland and saw this Mystic blue color," he explained "It came on the special-edition Corrado Storm and only 250 Corrados were made in the color. I liked it so much in person that I wanted it for my car." Ben found the paint code online and weeks later the GTI was finished.
Not overlooking the details, the interior came next. "I wanted a subtle race-look, so tried to keep everything black," he noted. The best products were sourced, including König K5000 race seats, a chrome Weichers rollcage and Sparco steering wheel.
Then the GTI was taken to John Bryan. Unfortunately, John passed away recently but his work lives on in several project cars like Ben's...
For a touch of contrast and luxury, John had the door cards, pillars and headliner reupholstered in black suede. He was also responsible for the tidy stereo install, which included custom speaker enclosures in the doors. A false floor in the rear housed a 12" Memphis Audio sub and two amps, providing plenty of thump.
Even though Mr Toskey's GTI has aged, it hasn't lost its way. This classic Mk3 represents where the VW tuning scene was several years ago and its refined Euro styling has stood the test of time. It's not too low, too wide or too loud - it's just right and will never get old.
1995 VW GTI
Owner: Ben Toskey
Location: St. Paul, MN
Occupation: sales engineer
Engine: 2.8 liter VR6 12v with Vortech SQ supercharger, 2.5" straight-thru exhaust with Scorpion muffler, Unorthodox Racing pulleys, Optima Red Top battery
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with ACT six-puck clutch, aluminum flywheel, short shift kit, Peloquin limited-slip differential
Suspension: H&R coilovers, Neuspeed rear sway bar and front strut tower bar, Weichers rollcage, skid plate
Wheels & Tires: 16x9" Schmidt Modern-Line wheels with 215/40 R16 Toyo T1S tires
Exterior: pulled fenders, Audi door handles, badgeless grille, OE Euro bumpers and VR6 front lip, shaved hatch, Hella smoked E-code head- and foglights, red tail lights, Mystic blue pearl paint
Interior: König seats, Sparco steering wheel, suede door cards, pillars and headliner, Moon Eyes shift knob
Audio/Visual: Eclipse CD8053 head unit, Memphis Audio MCSQ5.5 component speakers, 16-MC-300 and 16-MC-100D amps, 12" MTS TR75 sub, custom sub, speaker and crossover enclosures
Thanks: parents, Chad and Ben at SCI Performance, Bergin Autobody, Tuning Zubehor, John Bryan (RIP)