Thirty-six years ago, several movements started shaping the Euro scene into what it is today. The combined launch of the sport compact, hatchback and watercooled Volkswagen scenes were initiated when the Mk1 VW Rabbit was born. From bolt-on engine parts to software, suspension tuning and more, our lives and passion changed forever.
Six generations later, we're proud to witness the introduction of the sixth-gen VW GTI. Equipped with a 2.0 liter TSI turbo, the hatch is a near-perfect mixture of sporty styling and performance in one compact and affordable package.
Like the previous generations, the Mk6 is expected to be another favorite among enthusiasts and tuners. With its official US release only a couple of months ago, we'd like to introduce one of the first modified examples in North America by Futrell Autowerks.
Long-time readers will recognize the Futrell name from its '76 Rabbit cover car in et 3/04 issue. The 1.8T-transformed Bunny was perhaps the only Mk1 to grace our front page. It represented the essence of VW tuning, retaining a near-factory body yet implementing sophisticated customization such as a repaint, motor swap, polished OE wheels and a re-trimmed interior.
Futrell's '10 VW GTI is no different. It preserves the same philosophy and demonstrates that simplicity never gets old. It takes an experienced eye to construct a car like this in such a short time, considering this Mk6 was built in a weekend!
"Around June '09, VW released photos of the Mk6 GTI in white," explained Dean Futrell, founder of Futrell Autowerks. "The moment I saw the car, the wheels literally started turning."
The Mk6 GTI had a sexy facelift over the Mk5, plus new technology making it more fun. This is thanks to an XDS electronic differential lock that restores traction during hard cornering and reduces understeer. It also has the latest 2.0T TSI engine, which is similar to the previous FSI and both versions were found in the Mk5 GTI; however the TSI had a list of updates including new fuel management, drive chain, lower compression, balanced cams, new downpipe and intake.
"We wanted to go through the car top to bottom," Dean told us. "I wanted to show people what could be done with the Mk6 because I was disappointed when the Mk5s were first sold in the US and there wasn't crap available - no sway bars, high-pressure fuel pumps, etc."
Dean had attempted a Mk5 project after the car's introduction in '06 but ran into roadblocks when locating parts. In fact, the car was eventually sold before its completion. But the Mk6 would be a different story. "Every vendor stepped up to make this project possible," he told us. "H&R overnighted us suspension from Italy while Peloquin worked late nights to finish the diff."
For his weekend build, Friday was teardown, Saturday involved the engine and tranny build, while Sunday saw the chassis and exterior tightened up. "Everything was done with only 77 miles on the car," he laughed.
Like a true gearhead, Dean strived to squeeze as much as power from the stock motor and, being an APR distributor, he was the first to receive its stage 3 kit for the Mk6.
"The build quality is OE standard. I wouldn't think twice about putting my overnight bag in the car and driving it to Waterfest. Nothing was compromised in the usual way a significant upgrade like this tends to be," he explained.
For the TSI, the factory fuel injectors and pumps were able to cope with APR's kit, so the major components included a modified Garrett GT28 turbo, inconnel cast exhaust manifold and 3" downpipe. For good measure, Dean also installed APR's front-mount intercooler.
"The front-mount for the Mk5 required the core support to be trimmed slightly, but the Mk6 is totally bolt-on. It's completely concealed in the stock location," he revealed.
Dean followed with a Carbonio intake, for which he claimed a nice increase in torque. "Plus it sounds awesome," he smiled. "The fit and look of the carbon complements the engine bay. I'm really picky about intakes, but I like this one."
To handle the extra boost, South Bend shipped a stronger clutch disc to Futrell since the pressure plate was strong enough already. And to ensure traction, Peloquin supplied the aforementioned limited-slip diff.
With the motor and tranny buckled up, Dean ran the GTI on the dyno and achieved a consistent 315whp on 92-octane fuel. The torque was about 20 lb-ft lower than expected, but this was likely due to the factory exhaust.
"The car's really smooth to drive," Dean told us. "You have to put your foot into it to wake it up, but the torque curve isn't quite as flat. With the stage 3, it's very progressive but the car wants to be pushed hard to make maximum power."
Dean and his staff continued their insanity install with a short shifter and rear sway bar from Neuspeed. H&R provided its Ultra-low coilover kit, which was first seen on its Mk6 TDI in our SEMA show report (et 2/10).
The four brakes were retrofitted from the Mk5 R32, which coincidently resemble those on the Mk6 Golf R in Europe, according to Dean. The front rotors were upgraded from the GTI's 12.3" to the R32's 13.5", while the rears received 12.1" rotors. The Futrell team then painted the calipers red to match the grille stripe.
For wheels, Dean sought an OE-style design and chose BBS CKs because they resembled the Porsche GT2 or GT3 RS wheel. Sourced from Tire Rack, he painted the 18x8" rollers gloss black for contrast.
The body and interior presented slimmer tuning options. So Dean eventually imported a European front bumper skin through OEMPlus. The only difference was the deleted side markers, but it's certainly cleaner. The mirror caps were also painted gloss black, and the turn signals smoked to continue the black 'n white theme.
A couple of minor changes remained, including a 20AE GTI badge to add a splash of red to the hatch. And Dean opted to switch out the factory stereo for the optional navigation unit with HD radio and 30GB hard drive to play MP3s.
If you're curious to learn more about the Futrell Mk6, there's videos on their YouTube channel documenting the installations and dyno runs. Build photos are also online. As we write, Dean had yet to install an exhaust, so check back to see which one he picked.
2010 VW GTI
Owner: Futrell Autowerks
Location: Beaverton, OR
Occupation: VW/Audi tuning, service and repair
Engine: two-liter 16v four-cylinder with APR stage 3 turbo kit, FMIC, Carbonio intake
Drivetrain: six-speed manual with Neuspeed short shifter, Autotech mount inserts, South Bend stage 3 clutch, Peloquin limited-slip differential
Brakes: OE VW R32 front and rear brake conversion
Suspension: H&R Ultra-low coilovers, Neuspeed rear sway bar
Exterior: OE Euro front bumper, mirrors painted gloss black, smoked mirror lights, tint, 20AE GTI rear badge
Interior: 20AE shift knob, OE navigation
Thanks: the staff at Futrell, H&R, APR, Carbonio, Peloquin, Neuspeed
The Dean's Office
For more than ten years, Futrell Autowerks has been servicing the VW/Audi community in Oregon. "I've owned nothing but Volkswagens and Audis since I was 16," Dean told us. "I didn't have money to pay somebody to work on my cars so I started wrenching on my own air-cooleds."
Dean's enthusiasm accelerated in '01 when he decided to open the business. He specialized in mail order parts, becoming known for European Mk2 parts and badgeless grilles. From there, he got into engine swaps. This kept him busy as he performed monthly swaps until he eventually moved into a 1350sqft shop in '02.
The company has evolved into an APR distributor in '03 which helped build a late-model clientele. Finally in '05, Futrell moved to a shop nearly nine times bigger with five lifts, full showroom, multiple offices, an alignment rack, wheel and tire balancer and more.
Now a regular name on the West Coast scene, they continue to work on everything VAG from maintenance to wild project cars. The online business has evolved as well with full a retail shop, plus YouTube and flickr channels for its installs and project cars. (futrellautowerks.com, 503/629-5999)