If you're easily scared, turn the page. This '02 VW GTI shows neither compassion nor respect. The builder of this evil assassin is Michael Houck, but his intent was never to build an intimidating monster. Yet that's just how this 320whp GTI turned out when it was released from its cage.
You may remember the GTI from Garage Projects. We followed its construction since et 12/09 and it progressed in leaps and bounds. The simple mission was to build a performance-oriented car, starting with wide fenders. But that snowballed into a turbo build, race-inspired interior and the sinister matte black exterior.
In the process, the finer details weren't neglected either as Michael tucked the engine bay, smoothed the bodywork and fabricated some parts. Now, after eight years owning the car, the first stage of the build is complete and it's like nothing we've seen before in the VW Mk4 community.
The South Carolina native wasn't your typical Dubber; he was addicted to all types of vehicles. "I've been a gearhead for as long as I can remember. In high school I built a lowrider truck and raced four-wheelers," Michael began. "I was looking to buy a new car when I was graduating college and some buddies in the Dub scene encouraged me to buy the Mk4 brand-new in '02." Starting with 13 miles on the odometer, the virgin GTI was daily driven until '05. "When I paid it off, I decided it was going to be my project car," he continued. "So I got into the widebody."
Without extensive bodywork experience, Michael attempted pulling the fenders himself. "I bought a fender roller plus a hammer and dolly set. I followed the styling of the E46 BMW M3, so the lines of the fenders rise up," he explained. The front fenders were curved and widened 1.5'' each side, while the rears were 2.5'' wider per corner.
"The car was in the garage for two years. I didn't dedicate much time to it because I was waterskiing competitively for a couple of years," he admitted.
Michael moved on to the bumpers, which were widened as well. While he was at it, the R32 front bumper had its side markers shaved and notch filled to accommodate a two-bar badgeless grille. A Seat Cupra R lip and carbon böser hood were then installed to instill its evil glare.
Work continued down the sides and roof with the moldings, fender markers, fuel door and antenna being ditched and filled. A Euro rear bumper was sourced before an Oettinger valance was molded on. Lastly, a carbon rear hatch from VIS matched the hood.
Michael roughed the bodywork himself then dropped off the car at his local bodyshop, Astonishing Creations, for the final touches. The molested body remained in a silver primer for much of its life, but was finished in a satin black epoxy primer. According to the owner, the color is only temporary but it gives the GTI a smooth surface and its equally wicked personality.
Power & Poise
Michael returned to driving the GTI on a daily basis. But a month later he pulled it off the road again. "I always keep an eye on eBay and Craigslist for good deals," he revealed. One of those deals was a big-turbo kit...
The stock K03 turbo on the 1.8 liter 20v motor was swapped for a larger Garrett GT2871R. The thirstier motor then received 630cc injectors and a Walbro 255 lph fuel pump. Exhaust gases would exit via a 3'' downpipe and Magnaflow muffler. A devious exhaust tip veers in front of the driver's side rear wheel.
With the block and head still factory, the four-cylinder was conservatively tuned by Unitronic to push 320+whp on pump gas.
Remember Garage Projects where Michael was also working on an all-wheel drive conversion? While not complete, he fitted the 02M six-speed manual tranny from an Audi TT donor car. The new transmission was matched with a Peloquin limited-slip differential and Southbend clutch to ensure the front wheels found traction. But, of course, more traction will come once the AWD setup is finished later this year.
While power was important, Michael didn't want to pull up at a car show with a filthy engine bay, so he polished it. Several wire passages and drain plugs were filled, while wires were tucked under the rain tray and frame rails. Michael even deleted some auxiliary parts such as the secondary air injection and emission controls, along with the coolant ball and unnecessary brackets. The power steering reservoir was relocated as well.
Michael replaced the factory heat shield with a custom aluminum piece featuring a machine-turned finish. The finish was achieved with a 90° grinder and also applied to the intake manifold, valve cover and interior. "I worked for a company that built fire trucks," he told us. "We used to do that finish on areas of the truck because it won't show scratches like a polished finish."
With plenty of power on tap, Michael upgraded the chassis so it could stop and handle appropriately. Addressing the suspension first, H&R coilovers lowered the car while sway bars ensured minimal body roll. H2Sport spindles improved the suspension geometry and Raxles ensured safer launches.
Stopping power came from a Wilwood big-brake front kit, which used 12.2'' drilled and slotted rotors with four-piston calipers for stronger clamping forces and better heat dissipation. The rear brakes were upgraded to slightly bigger rotors and calipers from a late-model Jetta GLI.
Having the widened fenders increased the wheel options. "All I had was a set of 16'' widened steelies at the time. With the widebody it looked like a Nascar," he laughed.
Since custom forged wheels were out of his price range, Michael had to figure out something else. "I started measuring and looked at M3 wheels," he told us.
He decided on limited Black Edition classic BBS CH wheels, which came in the M3's staggered 18x8.5'' front and 18x10'' rear sizes that required machined adapters to fit.
The M3 fitment meant the wider rears had more concave spokes to emphasize the width. The wheels also had a polished stripe around the edge, but it didn't match Michael's intentions, so a red stripe was powdercoated in its place.
Gutted For Glory
Built for power and dressed to kill, you can probably guess the interior wouldn't have fancy suede or a heavy stereo. Instead, it was kept minimal.
In fact, it was gutted, from the seats to the trim panels. In their place, the front seats were replaced by a pair of Corbeaus with four-point harnesses. The door cards featured custom aluminum plates with the same machine-turned finish. And for good measure, Michael removed the carpet to scrape off the sound deadening material. This left some wires visible, so he tucked them inside the rocker panels, creating a truly minimalist feel.
As mentioned before, Michael shaved the factory fuel door and a 12-gallon fuel cell now occupies the trunk, fed via a Sparco gas door in the hatch. Michael admitted the cell's main purpose was to relocate the factory tank for the AWD setup, but it also enhanced the car's persona as a speed-demon. The new tank was also machine-turned for consistency.
Before Michael was done, an Auto Power rollcage was bolted in and both the headliner and seat centers were upholstered in cloth with a skull pattern he located on eBay.
Michael finished the GTI just before H2Oi last year, but this is only the first stage. "The car will be more low-n-go," he said in regards to this year's plans. So while the AWD setup is exciting, air-ride suspension is also on the way. Additionally, the motor will be pulled for built internals and possibly a larger turbo.
"I originally wanted to build a show car, but now I just build the car I want," he concluded. "I don't get into the race or show thing any more - it's what I want it to be."
Engine: 1.8 liter 20v four-cylinder with Garrett GT2871R ball-bearing turbo, Unitronic software, Siemens 630cc injectors, Walbro 255 lph fuel pump, ATP front-mount intercooler, BPI 3'' flow-stack intake, VF-Engineering motor mounts, Moroso catch can, 034Motorsports block breather adapter, 3'' ATP stainless downpipe, Magnaflow muffler, side-exit exhaust, shaved bay and wire tuck, fuel cell, deleted emissions equipment
Drivetrain: 02M six-speed manual swap with Dieselgeek Sigma short shifter, Peloquin limited-slip differential, South Bend OFE SS stage 4 clutch, single mass flywheel, Raxles axles
Brakes: Wilwood four-piston front calipers and 12.2'' slotted/drilled rotors, OE GLI rear brakes, stainless lines
Suspension: H&R coilovers, front and rear sway bars, front upper stress bar, lower subframe brace, H2Sport spindles, Mason-Tech Great Plates
Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" front, 18x10" rear BBS CH Black Edition wheels on Adapt-it-USA adapters, 215/40 front, 255/35 R18 rear BFGoodrich g-Force Sport tires
Exterior: custom widened fenders, OE R32 front bumper with Seat Cupra R front lip, R32 side skirts, shaved Euro rear bumper with molded Oettinger rear valance, mono wiper, DTM Autohaüs carbon böser hood, two-bar badgeless grille, VIS carbon hatch, AeroCatch latches, Sparco fuel door, shaved side moldings and antenna, smoked headlights with HIDs, flat black primer
Interior: Corbeau TRS seats with reupholstered centers and matching headliner, four-point harnesses, Auto Power four-point rollcage, metal door cards and mats, VDO gauges, OE 337 polished shift knob, deleted rear seats
Thanks: Bill and Frank Gerwig at Protech Motorsports, Chris and Todd Jackson at Astonishing Creations, Scott at Mason-Tech, 864 Syndicate, Ride-Tech, Andrew at Open Road Tuning, mom and dad