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2003 Volkswagen GTI - Angel Dust

Angel Vargas Shows Us His Prime Example Of A Modified VW.

Dec 3, 2010
Photographer: Josh Brown

Who said it was hard to build a show car? Angel Vargas from New Jersey makes it look like a walk in the park with his '03 VW GTI: air-ride, smoothed bay, polished engine components and wheels, plus a race-inspired interior, this 20th Anniversary GTI has flawless execution.

Eurp_1101_01_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+passenger_side_front Photo 2/11   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Angel Dust

We first encountered Angel's ride at Waterfest '10 - the first outing for the project. A couple of months later, he'd finished the interior and took home third place Top Dawg at H2O International. Not bad for a guy who recently left the Japanese import scene.

Angel's passion for Dubs started in high school. "One of my first cars was a Mk3 GTI VR6," he began. "I put some money into it with a Projektzwo kit, Abt wheels and Momo interior. Then I got rid of it and tried the Honda scene for a little bit. But where I live, Hondas often get stolen. So after a while I left the scene alone."

Eurp_1101_02_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+front_end Photo 3/11   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Angel Dust

Angel returned to Veedubs a few years later and hopped behind the wheel of another Mk3, but the project never got off the ground. In 2/10, Angel purchased this GTI and his enthusiasm resurfaced. "When I got it, the car was bone stock. My friends Emir Ramos, owner of Hy-Tuned Audio & Security, and Rui Azevedo from Azevedo Motorsports gave me a reason to take the car to this level. In fact, Emir had a 20AE GTI too, so he enjoyed helping me out," he explained.

The direction of the car was simple - build a showstopper that was low and would blow away other show cars with expert craftsmanship. Angel worked closely with Emir to accomplish every modification, while Rui took care of the body- and paintwork.

Eurp_1101_03_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+new_image Photo 4/11   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Angel Dust

Angel started by updating the exterior in OEM+ fashion. He retained the 20AE styling but added a European rear bumper and tail lights, plus shaved the hatch to eliminate the emblem and handle. A sleek hatch blend was molded for good measure.

The front received a mean böser hood extension while the original grille and emblem were swapped for a two-bar badgeless item. To continue the theme, the wipers and side markers were deleted, then Euro stubby mirrors installed.

Eurp_1101_04_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+driver_side Photo 5/11   |   2003 Volkswagen GTI - Angel Dust

The sexy stance came next. Angel did hours of research before determining the perfect combination of polished wheels and air-ride. He used D2 Racing for the suspension, because their kit included the air lines as well as solenoids that raised and lowered the vehicle slowly.

As for the rollers, Angel was always a fan of the CCW Classic and LM20 designs. He opted for the latter, which allowed larger lips. The wheels measured 18x8.5'' front and 18x10'' rear, with Falken tires stretched around them.

Eurp_1101_05_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+sparco_steering_wheel Photo 6/11   |   20AE dash features Sparco steering wheel

Behind the mesh, Angel outfitted drilled rotors to improve the overall look. He also smoothed the rear calipers and painted them to match the Jazz blue car.

With the exterior bits out of the way, Angel revisited Azevedo to go for glory under the hood. "Rui shaved the bay in just three days. We didn't even pull the motor, which saved a lot of time. Everything that wasn't needed was ditched, such as the air conditioning, coolant bottle, washer pump, fluid and battery. The only thing left was the power steering," he explained.

While Azevedo was busy smoothing all the bumps and filling the holes, Angel sent most of the bolt-on parts to be polished. This consisted of the VF-Engineering motor mounts, intake manifold, Euro valve cover, alternator, throttle-body, intercooler piping, fuel rail and intake pipe.

Eurp_1101_06_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+chrome_rollcage Photo 7/11   |   Chromed rollcage and polished air tank look superb

Angel wasn't about to make the GTI a street racer, so performance mods were kept to a minimum. He did the usual updates to the 1.8T such as software, a downpipe and exhaust, intake and front-mount intercooler.

It was clear that Angel's focus was to wow onlookers, which brings us to the breathtaking interior. The stock seats were ditched for Corbeaus, which were wrapped in perforated leather to match the Sparco steering wheel. The door cards, headliner and false trunk floor were upholstered in suede, with even the plastic pieces in the hatch sueded-out.

Eurp_1101_07_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+shaved_engine_bay Photo 8/11   |   Polished 1.8T in shaved bay looks immaculate

You also can't miss the blingin' Auto Power rollcage Angel sent to get chromed. A polished air tank appropriately complements the cage.

A simple audio setup finished the project, with two Kicker L7 subs mounted below the air tank. For power, a single amp powers the sub and Kicker components up front.

Eurp_1101_08_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+ccw_lm20_wheels Photo 9/11   |   CCW LM20 wheels have massive lips

The first stage of the car is basically done, but Angel plans more this winter, entertaining the idea of a widebody and right-hand drive conversion. But whatever it is, we can expect quality work and superior show appeal.

Tech Spec
2003 VW GTI

Owner: Angel Vargas
Location: Woodbridge, NJ
Occupation: machine operator

Engine: 1.8 liter 20v four-cylinder turbo with polished VF-Engineering motor mounts, intake manifold, valve cover, alternator and throttle body, Eurojet Racing intercooler with polished piping, Eurojet intake manifold pipe, deleted secondary air injection and air conditioning, Samco turbo inlet pipe, STI coil packs, APR software, 3'' downpipe and exhaust with Magnaflow muffler, steel braided fuel lines, polished 034Motorsport fuel rail, K&N cone filter, polished Forge diverter valve, Moroso coolant pipe and cap, Grüven Parts polished hood latch, polished hood shock, shaved bay

Eurp_1101_09_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+d2_racing_air_ride Photo 10/11   |   D2 Racing air-ride lets the front-end sit almost on the floor

Drivetrain: six-speed manual

Brakes: drilled front and rear rotors, shaved rear calipers, color-matched calipers

Eurp_1101_10_o+2003_volkswagen_gti+corbeau_a4_seats Photo 11/11   |   Re-wrapped Corbeau A4 seats in perforated leather

Suspension: D2 air suspension, Mason-Tech Great Plates, Yarrowsport chrome rear strut bar

Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5'' front, 18x10''rear CCW LM20 wheels with 215/40 R18 front, 245/40 R18 rear Falken Ziex-ZE512 tires

Exterior: böser hood extension, OE Euro rear bumper and tail lights, shaved hatch with molded hatch blend, E-code headlights with HID bulbs, two-bar badgeless grille, 25AE stubby mirrors, shaved bumper rub strips, smoked side markers, deleted wipers, Euro Image wiper delete caps, stubby antenna

Interior: Sparco steering wheel and shift knob, Corbeau A4 seats with Sparco 3'' four-point harnesses, NRG quick-release wheel hub, black suede door cards with blue stitching, suede headliner and pillars, Auto Power four-point chromed rollcage, Auto Meter gauges, deleted rear seats, polished air tank

Audio/Visual: Kenwood DVD/nav head unit, Kicker components, two 10'' L7 subs and amp, relocated battery

Thanks: wife Silvia, Hy-Tuned, New Image Motorsports, Grafx, Azevedo Motorsports, family and friends

Sam Du
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