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1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Tomfoolery

500whp In A Mk2 VW GTI Seems Ludicrous, Yet Tom Lausch Didn’t Think So

May 2, 2011
Photographer: Derek Baker

What do you get when you put a 519whp turbocharged four-cylinder into a 2200 lb car? stained underwear! Tom Lausch has built one of the most exhilarating Mk2 VWs in the States and is already recording low-11s on the dragstrip in his ’90 GTI.

Eurp 1105 01 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+euro bumper Photo 2/11   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Tomfoolery

The Pennsylvania resident’s Volkswagen affliction began with his first car a five-door Mk2 Golf GL. I’ve always had a VW since then, he told us. In fact, he owned a Mk3 Jetta and Mk4 GTI before returning to the classic Mk2 platform.

Luckily for Tom, his new car already had a highly-tunable 1.8T 20v swapped by APTuning but it wasn’t in the best condition. With no intention of going crazy, Tom put the engine and chassis in good running order. Then adversity struck: It was a year after I had the car; the day before Waterfest, I crashed it leaving a gas station. The right fender and door were gone. It also pulled the right axle out of the tranny. The damage was enough to total it but I decided to restore the car, he explained.

Eurp 1105 02 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+20v four cylinder engine Photo 3/11   |   VW would have shit their pants if they knew a ’90 GTI would one day have 519whp

The motor and tranny were removed until a bare shell was delivered to Dale Lee’s Auto Body Repair in Ephrata, PA. I was going to do a quick fixer-upper but we noticed some rust so we stripped everything down and replaced several panels, he told us. This included a quarter-panel, two fenders and new Euro bumpers. To keep things fresh, the window and body moldings were replaced as well.

Not wanting a show car, custom work was kept minimal. Tom had the fenders cut and reshaped to look stock, while the existing shaved hatch was repaired and refreshed.

Eurp 1105 03 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+rh zw1 wheels Photo 4/11   |   Classic 17" RH five-spoke wheels

With a ready-to-paint body, Tom took the opportunity for a color change. I saw an Estoril blue Toyota Supra in a magazine and after I looked at the BMW M3 the color came from, I decided to do it,’ he explained.

While this was going on, the motor returned to APTuning in Lebanon, PA. The stock K03 turbo was ample for the lightweight hatchback, but after a year of driving, Tom craved more. He didn’t originally plan to break 500whp, but that’s how the cookie crumbled

With the engine disassembled, the block was bored to accommodate larger JE pistons. Retaining the stock crank, APT installed Crower rods to prepare the motor for more boost. The new internals also bumped the displacement up to 1.9 liters.

Eurp 1105 04 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+g60 flares Photo 5/11   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Tomfoolery

Equipped with a high-flow AEB head, Tom improved the valvetrain with Supertech valve springs and retainers. Bigger Eurospec cams offered a longer powerband and the motor would never go thirsty thanks to 1000cc injectors. AP finished the setup with a custom 3" downpipe and exhaust.

The five-speed transmission also required attention, so a new tranny case was machined and strengthened. APT installed stronger gears with better gear ratios for a big-turbo application. A lower girdle supporting the pinion bearing was also fitted. The final upgrades included a Spec twin-disc clutch and Driveshaftshop stage 3 axles to ensure the power got to the ground.

Eurp 1105 05 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+driver side profile Photo 6/11   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Tomfoolery

With the engine and drivetrain ready for combat, Tom selected a GT3071R turbo to give plenty of peak power with a usable power curve. Operating on APR software, the car dynoed at around 350whp but the power delivery wasn’t to the owner’s liking. Switching to Eurodyne software, the rejuvenated GTI posted a healthy 425whp to the front wheels.

Eurp 1105 06 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+sparco steering wheel Photo 7/11   |   Dash remains stock except for Sparco steering wheel and Auto Meter gauges

Wanting to create one of the most powerful Mk2s in the scene, a larger GT3584 turbo found its way into Tom’s engine bay. Apparently, it didn’t require any hardware or software changes and spun the dyno rollers to 519whp on 93-octane. However, a custom tune should produce a more efficient setup in the future.

V-Maxx coilovers lowered the car and 17x8" RH wheels provided the desired Euro look. A rollcage was installed so Tom could pass safety inspections at the track and the interior was stripped to reduce weight.

Eurp 1105 07 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+driver side rear quarter panel Photo 8/11   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Tomfoolery

This car isn’t for cruising and going to shows, Tom concluded. When I bought it I thought a Mk2 with a 1.8T was cool but it went off from there!

The GTI is now capable of either enduring consecutive launches at the dragstrip or driving across the country. And while some might say a 519whp front-wheel drive car is tomfoolery, this is the real deal. The Mk2 isn’t about stance or shaved bodywork; it’s a pure performance hatchback that Tom isn’t afraid to take anywhere.

Eurp 1105 07 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+recaro seats Photo 9/11   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Tomfoolery

et Tech Spec
1990 VW Golf GTI

Owner: Tom Lausch
Location: Ephrata, PA
Occupation: RE Michel logistics

Engine: 1.8-liter 20v four-cylinder with 40mm JE pistons, Crower rods, machined crank, Eurospec billet main caps and girdle, AEB cylinder head with Supertech springs and retainers, Eurospec 268/260 cams, Garrett GT3584 turbo, 3" downpipe and exhaust, 1000cc injectors, APR intake manifold, Eurodyne software

Eurp 1105 08 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+roll cage Photo 10/11   |   Rollcage allows Tom to safely make 11sec passes

Drivetrain: 02A five-speed manual transmission with machined casing, APTuning gears, Mk4 shift box, Spec Mini Twin clutch, Driveshaftshop stage 3 axles

Brakes: G60 front brakes, rear disc conversion, stainless lines

Suspension: V-Maxx coilovers, Prothane bushings

Wheels & Tires: 17x8" RH ZW1 wheels with 205/35 R17 Continental ContiSportContact 2 tires

Eurp 1105 09 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+passenger side Photo 11/11   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Tomfoolery

Exterior: G60 flares, widened fenders, Euro bumpers, single round headlights, rear wing, BMW Estoril blue paint

Interior: 16v Recaro seats, Corbeau Racing harnesses, Sparco steering wheel, Auto Meter boost and oil pressure gauges, rollcage, stripped interior

Thanks: Jason Diem, 4 Ever Kustoms, APTuning

Sam Du
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