Not everybody likes convertibles for various reasons. Some people think they're a chick's car, for example. While on the performance side, drop-tops are typically heavier and more "wobbly" for track use.
So why would anyone want to own one? A common reason is scarcity. They account for a fraction of the market and aren't a common sight among tuning enthusiasts. This is precisely why Danny Ballester chose to build a '95 Golf Cabrio.
It's taken him six years to finish this Cabby and we simply couldn't ignore Danny's ride at H2O International. The red shaved bay with matching leather interior, plus BBS wheels and a supercharged VR6, produced a drop-dead gorgeous drop-top. In fact, the vehicle's awesome execution was acknowledged at H2Oi with a first place award in the Wild Convertible class.
We caught up with Danny after the show and found out he wasn't always fond of cabrios either; however, VWs had been in his blood since he was 12. "One of my cousins lived with us and her boyfriend had a '82 GTI 16v. I used to ride with him and the car turned me onto VWs. Five years later I was eligible to get my own car and picked up a '82 Jetta," he said.
For the next five years, Danny increased his Veedub IQ by moving on to three more Jetta projects. He also became friends with the German Squad, who've built countless quality Euros in the past. "When I was doing the cars myself, I didn't know about shows. Everything I did was bolt-on. Then German Squad let me hang around. They've been like a family to me and introduced me to a better vision of the VW scene," he explained.
Danny drove a Mk4 Jetta for about a 18 months until a fateful crash put him in a slump. "I didn't have a VW for about two years," he said. "And when it was time to get something new, I looked at the Mk3 scene. However, it was tough to be different, so that's when I decided to jump into a Cabrio - there weren't many out there and I found one on eBay for $1200."
The black Mk3 with beige interior and soft-top became Danny's daily commuter. After a few months, he stripped the car to bare metal and, gradually, the parts began to flow.
Starting with the motor, the stock 2.slow motor wasn't going to cut the mustard. So he located a '92 Passat VR6 12v in a junkyard. The car was totaled from the rear, but the motor, trans and harness were mint. The following winter was spent fitting the parts.
At the same time, Danny deleted many components such as the washer fluid reservoir and battery from under the hood.
The same junkyard turned up a black leather interior including the seats, carpet, dash and door cards. And after installing an H&R Cup kit, five-lug conversion and Audi wheels, Danny drove the Cabrio like this for the next two summers.
With another winter around the corner, a plan was mapped to revamp the interior. "Black on black was getting old... I wanted to go red because I only saw it in M3s," Danny told us. So he visited a local fabric warehouse where he found deep red leather hides. "My uncle has an upholstery shop - it's a family business where my cousins and I worked when I was 13 years old. Once I had enough money for my interior, I went to my uncle and discussed the idea of diamond stitching. I then measured, stenciled and cut everything before he stitched it together."
Danny brought the leather home and wrapped the seats, door cards, armrest, shift boot and e-brake handle.
With the interior taking most of the winter, there was just enough time for some subtle body work. So a Jetta front-end was retrofitted while Danny also shaved the bumpers and trunk before adding a metal böser hood extension. The entire body was resprayed factory black to look like new.
In the summer of '09, Danny enjoyed the fruits of his labor until October rolled around. At that point, the car was delivered to good friend Tucker Harding from Maine. He kept it until 5/10, during which time he removed the front-end to pull the entire motor.
With the engine out, Danny sent the alternator, Schrick intake manifold, control arms and motor mounts for powdercoat and chrome. "Every time I visited Tucker, I had a box of goodies. It was always unexpected. He had no idea I had the supercharger or headers," he said with a laugh.
Smoothing the engine bay was incredibly involved. Tucker added sheetmetal to places that needed filling and fabricated new piping for the supercharger.
Danny also made performance upgrades, converting the VR6 from OBD1 to OBD2 with a new ECU, wiring and manifold. The tranny also received a stage two clutch from ACT for the 270whp Danny estimates the supercharged motor puts out.
With the shaved bay perfectly executed, Danny had to decide on the paint. "We chose red at the last moment," he remembered. "The original plan was to leave it black, painting the motor and trans red."
It took hours to match a paint code to the interior but eventually Verona red was located in the VW palette.
"The hardest part of the project was this past winter. Not having the car in my garage for more than six months was hard. But it was in good hands. Every time I made the 600-mile drive to Maine, it was phenomenal," he reminisced.
With the Cabrio almost finished, the choice of wheels was the final order of business. Danny imported 17x8" front and 17x9" rear BBS LMs from Japan, having them re-drilled to fit the car. He also inverted the faces to gain more lip, and polished the lips for more bling.
"I've turned every nut and bolt. It's a well-built car that I'm fully in love with. It looks better with the top down, so I only insure it from May to October!" he explained. And having seen that luxurious red leather and deep red paint shining in the summer sunshine, we are sure that even convertible haters will stop, look and admire Danny Ballester's supercharged Cabrio VR6.
1995 VW Golf Cabrio
Owner: Danny Ballester
Location: Newark, NJ
Occupation: train dispatcher
Engine: 2.8-liter VR6 12v converted to OBD2, Vortech V2 supercharger with 10 lb pulley, C2 software, uprated injectors, 4" MAF, Schrick intake manifold powdercoated black, ceramic-coated Bosal headers, 2.5" Magnaflow cat-back exhaust with turn-down tip, chrome intake and coolant pipes, shaved bay painted Verona red, Black Forest Industries mounts
Suspension: B&G coilovers, polyurethane control arm bushings
Brakes: 11.3" Eurospec drilled front rotors, drilled rears
Wheels & Tires: 17x8" front, 17x9" rear BBS LM wheels with 15mm wheel adapters, five-lug conversion, 205/40 R17 front, 215/40 R17 rear Falken FK-512 tires
Exterior: OE Euro textured bumpers and rub strips, shaved bumper lights, Jetta front-end, metal böser hood extension, OE Euro trunk lid, Bonrath single wiper, E-code headlights with 6000K HIDs, FK tail lights
Interior: diamond-stitched red leather front and rear seats, door cards, shift boot and e-brake handle, Momo Monte Carlo steering wheel with quick-release adapter, Momo shift knob
Audio/Visual: Alpine DVD/nav flip head unit, Pioneer 6" components and amp, Memphis Audio amp, two 10" Kicker L7 subs
Thanks: Six Star Auto Body, Ramon Period, Tucker Harding, German Squad, Audio Clinic, The Upholstery Shop, Perfect Metal Polishing, my family