In 2004, Leron Wright endured a dreadful accident driving his '98 VW GTI VR6. "My car was rear-ended really bad. It was the size of a Mini Cooper afterwards and wasn't recognizable anymore," he told us.
Luckily, the Long Island resident escaped the incident without severe injury. "The day after the accident, I was on my way home from the hospital and all my friends were asking what type of car I wanted to get next. I told them I wanted another coupe.'"
Like the car featured here, Leron's first love was a '91 Jetta Coupe. Instead of building his dream car, he regrettably sold it to experiment in the Japanese import scene. A short stint in an Acura Integra left him unfulfilled, and he inevitably returned to the Dub family.
Although the accident left his GTI totaled, he recovered the undamaged parts from the wreckage, including the engine, suspension and interior. In fact, he had the ingredients for the perfect Jetta Coupe project car.
The 29 year-old electrician then began his research at car shows. Becoming a regular at local gatherings, Leron expanded his horizons to events like Waterfest and H2O International. "The more shows I attended, the more I started modifying my car," he continued.
"The Jetta coupe is probably one of the hardest VWs to find parts for. Every part is virtually obsolete now. I had to call at least four dealerships and scrapyards just to locate a molding or foglight bracket."
While gathering parts was difficult, the concept was crystal clear. Leron stuck with a proven formula, applying classic BBS RS wheels, a VR6 swap and Mk3 interior. A few contemporary Euro trends were added to the mix, such as a supercharger, shaved engine bay and retrimmed interior, to make this Mk2 hater-proof.
In his backyard, Leron embarked on stripping out the original motor and tranny. Prior to the VR6 swap, the 12v motor was disassembled and fitted with new pistons, rods and crank. The head was replaced with a big-valve counterpart from WRD with 262° race cams. Once the internals were done, ARP bolts secured the staggered-six guaranteeing a near-bulletproof motor
With the motor naturally-aspirated at the time, Brospeed headers and a Techtonics 2.5'' exhaust with a custom test pipe raised power across the rev range and increased the roar of the VR6.
Transferring power to the front wheels was the Mk3's five-speed manual, to which Leron added a new clutch disc, Autotech flywheel, a 3.94:1 ring gear to improve acceleration and a Peloquin LSD to improve traction.
As the motor and tranny were coming together, Leron's brain continued scheming. "I started looking for more speed," he admitted. Having an all-motor VR6 was fast but not fast enough, so more power was extracted with a VF-Engineering supercharger kit. Taking into account all the engine modifications, GIAC tuned the car to around 300hp.
Performance was finally up to Leron's expectations, but the engine bay needed to look the part. So before all the components were refitted, the air conditioning was removed while the power steering and coolant reservoirs were relocated behind the frame. The battery was moved to the trunk, and the frame rails received welded plates to smooth them.
Re-routing the wiring also took several days to hide it from plain sight. Like most shaved bays, exposed welds and holes were smoothed and filled.
The icing on the cake was the color combination - almost every engine part was powdercoated grey, including the pulleys, transmission and intake manifold, to contrast the black paint in the bay.
Chassis upgrades came next, and again Leron recycled as many of his Mk3 parts as possible, including the Bilstein coilovers. The body was stiffened with strut and sway bars before all the bushings were upgraded.
For stopping power, the front brakes were taken from a Driver's Edition Mk3 GTI. The front rotors jumped to 11'' diameter, while the rear drums were converted to rotors.
The brakes nestle behind timeless BBS RS wheels. After messing around with Audi and Porsche rims, Leron finally succumbed to the commanding presence the RS design bestows.
Purchased online, the rollers had black centers, polished lips and gold bolts - as if it were destiny. The staggered 16x8'' fronts and 16x10'' rears had stretched Falken tires all round and were mounted with H&R adapters.
Preserving the classic Mk2 styling, the coupe's exterior remained unmolested for the most part. The big bumpers remained, joined by a 16v front lip and textured moldings. However, the door moldings, emblems and parking lights were shaved.
And adding a modern twist is a carbon fiber hood and fuel door. A rare carbon badgeless grille from NGP Racing was also incorporated.
One of the subtle exterior enhancements was the Audi A4 door handles, to which he fitted Audi 90 latches so the handles operate like normal. The final piece of the puzzle came together when the body was repainted black with a pearl clearcoat.
Moving to the interior, the owner wanted it to be OEM+ as well. So the dash was borrowed from a '00 Mk3.5 Golf Cabrio, trimmed to fit the confines of a Mk2. The center console was from the Mk3, while the Recaro Trophy seats were from a Mk2 Jetta Carat edition.
Before installing the seats, A&B Upholstery trimmed them in black leather with grey ostrich inserts. They also matched the rear bench and door cards. "Sometimes you see ostrich leather on Nike sneakers or a woman's handbag. It has small dots on it, giving the hide a polka-dot appearance," he elaborated.
The rear deck, shift knob and e-brake handle were also reupholstered to give the interior a cleaner look.
Very modest about his accomplishment, Mr Wright has certainly redeemed himself after selling his first Jetta coupe and losing his Mk3 GTI in an accident. This Mk2 definitely embodies the essence of what old-school VW tuning is about.
Engine: 2.8 liter VR6 12v with new pistons, rods and crank, Mk4 head gasket, ARP head, rod and crank bolts, ported and polished big-valve WRD head, three-angle valve job, 262° cams with titanium valve springs, VF-Engineering stage 2 supercharger, GIAC software, Brospeed headers with heat wrap, Techtonics exhaust with Borla muffler, Mk3 fuel tank, aluminum coolant crack pipe, Gruven Parts bypass valve, Moroso coolant reservoir, battery in trunk, shaved engine bay
Drivetrain: five-speed manual VR6 transmission powdercoated gunmetal grey with polished accents, Peloquin limited-slip differential, Autotech lightweight flywheel, 3.94:1 ring and pinion, six-puck race clutch
Brakes: 11'' Driver's Edition brakes, drilled rotors, stainless lines and powdercoated red calipers, 2.0 brake booster with ABS deleted
Suspension: Bilstein PSS9 coilovers with polyurethane bumpstops, Neuspeed front and rear sway bars, polyurethane control arm bushings, RSD Design front and rear strut bars
Wheels & Tires: 16x8'' front, 16x10'' rear BBS RS187 wheels powdercoated black with polished lips, 25mm H&R adapters, 205/40 R16 front and 225/40 R16 rear Falken ZIEX-ZE512 tires
Exterior: stock big bumpers, G60 textured flares and side skirts, chrome Audi door handles, Dynamic Motorsport carbon hood, carbon NGP Racing badgeless grille, carbon fuel door, shaved door moldings, emblems and parking lights, clear crosshair headlights, in.pro turn signals, Chinese-spec tail lights and rear plate tray, Lexus GS400 HID headlight retrofit, black pearl paint respray
Interior: '00 Cabrio dash, Recaro Trophy seats, rear bench, door panels and rear deck lid upholstered in black leather and ostrich hide, black suede headliner, A-, B- and C- pillars, black leather carpet, Momo steering wheel, Auto Meter boost gauge, AEM air/fuel gauge, Mk3 center console, Driver's Edition shift knob, silver gauge cluster
Audio/Visual: Pioneer DEC4800MP head unit, Rockford Fosgate 5.25'' speakers front and rear, Pioneer 2.5'' dash speakers, 10'' Kicker sub, Cobalt 600.1 amp
Thanks: S&L Metals, NGP Racing, A&B upholstry, Color Life Powder Coating, John from Metal Works, GEO (Custom Bay), Stevie "The Brain", Heavy, Matty (DI), Southside Dubbs, mom, my family, girlfriend Kim, RIP Nana & Gramps and the Bat Cave, my Badd Neuz Crew "Always Doing it for Bunnz"