VW Lupo Continuing our series looking at some Frankenstein creations from Europe, we recently came across this wide-fendered VW Lupo in Sweden. It's the work of Henrik Olofsson from Träslövsläge who transformed his 60hp VW Lupo SDI 1.2 with a 394hp 1.8T conversion.
The 32 year-old warehouse logistics specialist previously painted cars so wasn't afraid to have a go. In fact, he cut his tuning teeth on one of three Mk3 Golf VR6s he owned, building a turbo system with JE pistons, Pauter rods and a DTA S80 engine management system.
After selling the Golf he soon missed it: "It didn't take long before I got the urge to start another project," Henrik told us. "The idea of rebuilding a small, light car with lots of power really appealed to me. Shortly after, my half-brother was selling his Lupo SDI because it had a cracked head. It was either good timing or destiny," he laughed.
Weighing only 2145 lb, VW's European family gets no smaller than the Lupo, so it was the ideal candidate for a 1.8T swap. He bought an engine online, only to discover it also had a cracked head but he persevered; stripping and rebuilding the car in a garage he rents on a local farm.
Since we started doing the "Europe's Finest" series, it seems that every Swedish project car is built in such a facility. "There's space to work on two cars, plus we have most of the tools we need and a welder. If I need more specialized tools or machines, I try to borrow them or hire somebody to do the work," Henrik explained.
Choosing a Passat AEB motor for its big-port head, he rebuilt the bottom end with low-compression JE pistons and H-profile Scat rods secured by ARP hardware. Henrik then fabricated his own exhaust manifold from 42.2mm black steel tubing to mount the Bullseye S256 extended-tip turbo.
"I assembled the engine myself but the block and head work was done at Axelsson's Engineering in Varberg - a really talented guy!" Henrik said. "The replacement head was renovated with new valve guides and stem seals, while the valves and seats were MIRA-machined."
He then mounted a self-built inlet manifold to the engine. "It was a real bitch to build because I wanted it to clear the hood yet work efficiently. But I'm very proud of how it turned out. I must have done the math correctly because it works great," he explained.
Once the motor was assembled, a Link G4 Storm stand-alone management system would control the 630cc injectors, Walbro fuel pump and VAG 115R coil packs. "Initially I had an ignition problem that caused a misfire," he told us, "but it turned out the crank sensor wasn't installed correctly," he laughed. "I then mapped the ECU myself on the street and I'm really happy with the Link system."
He should be very happy; the engine puts out a dyno-proven 394hp at 6700rpm and 324 lb-ft at 5900rpm. "Traction can be a hard to find with so much power in a lightweight car," he told us, "but I'm confident that with some boost adjustments in first and second gear I can make improvements. But I'm really pleased with the level of traction in third gear and beyond."
In an effort to put the power down, the Lupo has a Passat 02A transmission with gears and the final drive from a '93 Golf VR6 to lengthen the ratios. He also added a Peloquin limited-slip and increased the track as much as possible.
The Lupo's miniature dimensions limit tire width, so Henrik pulled the front fenders to gain an additional inch either side, while the rear fenders had to be cut and spaced with new metal to get them to cover the 215/40 Marangoni tires fitted to the distinctive 16x9" Azev A wheels.
Further exterior mods were made to the front bumper in order to clear the huge front-mount intercooler. The owner also shaved the side moldings and tailgate handle before he prepped the white car for paint.
"I couldn't decide on a color, and I chickened-out in the end by using the color I had on my previous project - Windsor blue metallic. The paint job took a lot of time because I used lots of clearcoat and then wet-sanded the entire car. I did it myself in the garage." he told us. "The paint is far from perfect, but I hope you can't tell it was done on a farm next to the cows!"
The chassis uses a mix of KW Variant 1 components that have lowered it about 1". It also has Golf VR6 front brakes, while the wheels were chosen more for their dimensions than style. So Henrik hopes to swap them at a later date to create more of a sleeper look.
Inside, almost everything was stripped to lighten the Lupo further. The carpets and seats were sacrificed, replaced up front by lightweight Cobra buckets. The Lupo's distinctive body-color interior panels were painted black to create a no-nonsense ambience, while the dash was filled with auxiliary gauges to monitor the beating 1.8T heart.
Interestingly, Henrik is very familiar with the US tuning scene. He belongs to several online communities and bought most of the engine components from USRT in Haddon Heights, NJ. It appears that no matter where you live, waiting for parts is integral to a project build, so ordering from the US made no difference to his schedule.
As for a completion date, the owner was philosophical: "It's finished, and yet it will never be completely finished; there's always something that can be improved or replaced.
It took about two years to build without really pushing myself, but I was in the garage every chance I had thanks to an understanding wife and kids," he said.
So while we don't get the Lupo in the US, we can gaze at Henrik's creation and imagine what we'd do if these superminis were available. Undoubtedly, we'd commonly hear the bark of a VR6 and whistle of a 1.8T. And we'd like to think they'd give us as much fun as Henrik is obviously having in his.
2000 VW Lupo SDI
Owner: Henrik Olofsson
Location: Träslövsläge, Sweden
Occupation: warehouse logistics
Engine: '98 AEB 1.8T four-cylinder 20v with 8.5:1 JE pistons, Scat rods, '88 GTI 16v oil pan, AGN 1.8T valve cover, aluminum plenum with 50mm velocity stacks, custom 1.7" headers, 3" downpipe and exhaust, Magnaflow 300-cell cat, Bullseye Borg Warner 56mm S256 turbo 0.55 A/R, 44mm TiAL wastegate and 50mm dump valve, VR6 throttle body, Link G4 Storm stand-alone management, Link iboost valve, Siemens Deka 630cc injectors, Walbro 255 lph fuel pump, VAG 115R coils, 4" K&N filter, 2.5" stainless steel pressure pipe, 13-row Mocal oil cooler, '90 Volvo 940 radiator, front-mount intercooler, custom Delrin motor mounts
Drivetrain: '02 VW Passat 02A five-speed manual with '93 Golf VR6 gears, Peloquin LSD, lightened '89 G60 flywheel, ACT pressure plate and six-puck unsprung disc, '93 Golf VR6 hubs, spindles and CV joints, custom steel axles
Brakes: '93 VW Golf VR6 front calipers and grooved 280mm Brembo rotors, Pagid pads, Goodridge lines
Suspension: KW Variant 1 front coilovers, modified KW V1 dampers with Millway springs in the rear, Bonrath polyurethane link-arm bushings all round
Wheels & Tires: 16x9" Azev A wheels with 215/40 R16 Marangoni Zeta tires
Exterior: Pulled front fenders, widened rears, modified front bumper, Cup mirrors, in.pro tail lights, shaved moldings and trunk handle, painted '94 VW Windsor blue
Interior: Cobra Monaco seats, Momo steering wheel, '93 Golf VR6 pedal assembly, Auto Meter Sport-Comp oil pressure gauge and Innovate LC1 broadband lambda on left side of dash, four Auto Meter Sport-Comp gauges for exhaust temp, boost, oil temp and water temp in dash panel, battery relocated to trunk, aluminum plate over fuel system in spare wheel well, interior metal trim painted black
Thanks: usrallyteam.com, Streetpower, Do88, Svetskonsult AB Varberg, VW Corrado Nisse, Kristoffer Kandevik and friends