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2003 Volkswagen Jetta - The Importance Of Being Ernest

When Ernest Cook Isn't Serving The Community As A Paramedic, He's Causing Panic On The Roads With This 400WHP VW Jetta.

Feb 26, 2010
Photographer: Josh Brown

VW Jetta
Being a paramedic is one of the toughest jobs imaginable. You have to be quick on your feet and safe behind the wheel, ready to provide medical and trauma care at a moment's notice. Ernest Cook does this for a living in Long Island, NY and he's good at what he does. But when he's not saving lives, maneuvering an ambulance through traffic, he's lighting up the tires of his turbocharged '03 Jetta VR6.

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Ernest's story began in high school when +he bought his first VW, a '69 Beetle. But at 6'3'', it wasn't practical for him and every other week something was breaking. So after two years he parted with it and ended up in a Mitsubishi Gallant. "But VWs were always in the back of my mind," he claimed.

Five years passed and Ernest was still Dub-less. But the wheels in his head started turning when he heard the Mk4 was receiving the 200hp, 195 lb-ft VR6 24v with six-speed gearbox. With variable timing plus a variable-length intake manifold, it was a considerable jump over the original 172hp 12v, meaning Ernest would have more fun driving one.

After finally finding the right car, Ernest didn't exactly know what parts he wanted or what style to go for. But he made new friends and attended local meets... "The first show I visited was Waterfest '04," he told us. "I was blown away. I'd never seen that caliber of cars and it was a real inspiration."

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After carefully sourcing new parts, the Jetta received Koni coilovers from WRD, an exhaust and some Sport Max wheels. Then Waterfest '05 rolled around and it motivated Ernest to go for broke. However, an unfortunate incident broke an axle. So Ernest appointed TyrolSport to repair it. "I somehow made it to their shop with a broken axle," he recounted. "They ordered me a new one but I got a minute from my house when it snapped again, so I ended up buying Raxles." With stronger axles, Ernest wouldn't have to worry about hard launches; especially when more torque was introduced...

More torque came in the form of a VF-Engineering stage 1 supercharger kit. Installed by TyrolSport, 280hp at the flywheel allowed Ernest to thoroughly enjoy the Jetta, but you know where this story goes next...

Rather than quench his thirst for speed, it simply fed it. After a year he upgraded to the stage 2 blower kit, which increased the boost, added bigger fuel injectors and a front-mount intercooler. With 7.5psi boost, the Jetta was now a tad over 300hp.

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To handle the extra power, Ernest picked up a suitable Clutchmasters kevlar clutch, engineered to cope with 400 lb-ft, while traction issues were addressed with a Peloquin limited-slip differential.

Forced induction demanded greater stopping force, so Ernest obtained a Wilwood big brake kit with 12.2'' drilled and slotted rotors plus four-piston calipers.

His thirst for power momentarily sated, Ernest shifted focus to the exterior with a subtle OEM+ style. "I wanted something clean and a little different," he mentioned.

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So with the help of Hassell Brothers Auto Body in Queens, NY, the front-end sported a Rieger 4Motion-style valance, which was later molded to the bumper. A badgeless grille from Siedl was fitted, removing the emblem in the process. The hood and bumper notches were also filled accordingly.

Along the sides, updated GLI skirts and stubby mirrors were added, while the rear featured a debadged Euro trunk with blended hatch and lip spoiler. For an ultra-clean look, the exhaust cut-out was also filled.

At this time, Ernest recognized he needed sexier wheels to set off the sedan. "I've always liked DPEs, especially after seeing them on JJ Larson's Jetta (et 9/05)," he told us. Shortly after, an identical set of DPE R10 wheels arrived at Ernest's house, measuring 18x8'' front and 18x9'' rear. Toyo provided the rubber with its T1R tires.

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The Jetta was nearing completion but something wasn't right. So in '07, Ernest revisited the motor. "Don't get me wrong, the 'charger was nice," he remarked. "It had instant power and pulled, pulled, pulled. But I started running into big-turbo 1.8Ts and my car wasn't getting the job done."

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He remembered one particular instance, which left him scarred. "In '07, I did the Dagball Rally to H2Oi," he remembered. "We were at our first stop and joining the second leg of the cruise. A couple of S4s took off and I was trying to play catch-up with them." Unfortunately, his self-esteem dropped as the more powerful Audis pulled away. So once he touched down at H2Oi, he met with Chris Collier and Jeff Atwood from C2 Motorsports. They'd recently developed a turbo kit for the VR6 24v, offering three different stages. "I went straight to stage three! I didn't even want to bother with one or two," he laughed.

Stage three used an enormous Precision T61 turbo on a tubular exhaust manifold and 3.5'' downpipe. C2 also included its short-runner intake manifold to shift the powerband higher to maximize the turbo's potency.

The compression ratio was lowered by a stainless stee head spacer, and Raceware head studs gave Ernest more peace of mind. Larger injectors, a TiAL 38mm wastegate and front-mount intercooler rounded out the parts list for the newly-boosted 24v.

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According to Ernest, the Jetta should be pushing 400+whp, although he's yet to verify it on the dyno - enough power to embarrass almost every car on the street.

"Once it spools up, it's no joke," he said. "At 3800rpm, the boost kicks in and holds until the redline at 7200rpm. It was a night and day difference between the VF stage 2 supercharger and the turbocharger."

With the project virtually complete, Ernest decided to overhaul the audio. Formerly a big audiophile, he had started with JL and Kicker components but rebuilt the system to gain more volume, clarity and show appeal.

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GoMobile in Long Island fabricated the trunk using Boston Acoustic subs and three JL Audio amps. Up front, Boston components improved the highs and a Premier head unit provided the playback. "It definitely sounds better than my old setup; before it was just a big box in the trunk," he laughed.

Boasting sleek and sophisticated styling, Ernest's Jetta has power that is almost frightening for a front-wheel drive car. He won't have a problem pouncing on an unsuspecting Audi S4 or BMW M3, as long as he can find traction. But whether Ernest is driving his boosted Jetta or an ambulance, you can be sure he gets where he needs to be in a hurry.

Tech Spec

2003 VW Jetta

Owner: Ernest Cook
Location: Long Island, NY
Occupation: paramedic

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Engine: 2.8 liter VR6 24v with Precision Turbo T61 turbo, C2 Motorsport exhaust manifold, 3.5'' downpipe, FMIC, piping kit, quick-flow SRI, head spacer, intake with integrated MAF and software, Turbonetics Godzilla BOV, TiAL 38mm wastegate, VF-Engineering mounts, 3'' 034Motorsport stainless exhaust, JCaps billet caps, Diesel Geek skid plate

Drivetrain: six-speed manual with Clutchmasters FX200 kevlar clutch, Peloquin limited-slip differential, Raxles axles, Diesel Geek short shifter

Brakes: 12.2'' Wilwood big brake kit with four piston calipers and drilled/slotted rotors

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Suspension: Koni coilovers, H&R 26mm front, 28mm rear sway bars

Wheels & Tires: 18x8'' front, 18x9'' rear DPE R10 wheels with 225/40 front, 235/40 R18 rear Toyo T1R tires, 8mm H&R front spacers

Exterior: OE Euro stubby mirrors, '04.5 GLI side skirts and rear valance with filled exhaust cutout, Rieger 4Motion front valance molded to bumper, Seidl grille, filled hood notch, Helix HID replica headlights, debadged OE Euro trunk with blended hatch and lip, M3-style tail lights

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Interior: OE New Beetle headrests, carbon dash trim, AWE pedals, 42 Draft Design A-pillar pod with Stewart Warner boost gauge, GReddy boost controller

Audio/Visual: Premier DEH-P800PRS head unit with CD-IB100 iPod adapter, Boston Acoustic Pro 60SE components and two G5-1004 subs, JL Audio 300/4 and two 500/1 amps, Optima Yellow Top battery

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Thanks: Mike Pancheri at TyrolSport, C2 Motorpsorts, Hassell Brothers Auto Body, Greg at GoMobile, Mikey Large, Mike Passat, Donna Marie, Paulito and Piff, The Taltys and all my 24v brothers

Sam Du
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