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1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Murphy’s Law

As one of the best cars at H20i 2010, we caught up with Jason Murphy and his shaved VW GTI VR6

Apr 21, 2011
Photographer: Josh Brown

Ask East Coast VW enthusiasts about their favorite show and they’ll often tell you it’s H20 International few other events draw a crowd like it. Add the all-night burnouts, cruising and overflowing get-togethers, and H20i is one of the most exciting shows in the world.

Eurp 1105 01 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+passenger side front view Photo 2/12   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Murphy’s Law

This huge attraction always uncovers some of the best project cars. In fact, we discovered so many last year that we dedicated an entire issue to them (et 1/11). By rights, Jason Murphy’s ’90 VW GTI and Ryan Miller’s Corrado should have made the cut as well, but we were unable to coordinate a photo shoot in time. But with this month’s Mk2 special, his ultra-clean Mk2 GTI VR6 was perfect.

Hailing from Middletown, PA, Jason works close with Ryan Miller, the genius behind the S4-engined Corrado AWD (elsewhere in this issue). I’ve known Ryan since I was a kid. He got into VWs first and opened his shop when he was 18. Then I jumped aboard, Jason began.

Eurp 1105 02 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+driver side profile Photo 3/12   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Murphy’s Law

R Miller Autobody became Jason’s career. It was also a sanctuary for VW/Audi enthusiasts in the Central PA area looking for bodywork, maintenance or mechanical work.

The story behind his Golf started ten years ago. The GTI was actually the first VW that I ever owned, he told us. I was going to daily-drive it, but when I got a garage, I tore it down and couldn’t stop once I started.

Eurp 1105 03 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+door handle Photo 4/12   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Murphy’s Law

Jason found a ’85 Golf as a new daily driver and, like a rotisserie chicken, the GTI was mounted on a rotating beam and stripped to its bare shell. He then removed the seam welds and cleaned the undercarriage.

The project continued with a Corrado dash. I had it in and out about 50 times before it was where I wanted it, he told us. The dash swap featured a new Momo Race steering wheel and shift knob, plus a Euro shifter console and Audi gauge panel with VDO gauges.

Eurp 1105 04 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+exhaust tips Photo 5/12   |   Filled rear bumper required a turn-down exhaust tip

From there, the metalwork commenced. Inside, Jason deleted the rear seats and brackets. At the same time, he shaved and smoothed the rear strut towers.

Like the plague, Jason’s metal mayhem spread into the engine bay. He fabricated a rain tray between the fenders to fill the dead space behind the engine. I made four sets before I liked it, he explained. The rest of the bay was taken to task. All the welds, holes, imperfections and bumps were filled and smoothed until it looked like a bathtub.

Previously a 2.0-liter 8v, Jason had no desire to drive a sluggish car. An OBD1 VR6 kinda fell into my lap. So I did a rebuild to make it brand-new, he revealed.

Eurp 1105 05 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+compomotive ts wheels Photo 6/12   |   15" Compomotive TS wheels were a mission to track down

The only parts that weren’t replaced were the factory crank and rods. The pistons were upgraded to 2.9-liter Corrado, and a big-valve head was built using Schrick valvetrain parts. This included 268 cams for a bump in power.

For cleanliness, Jason deleted the PAS, A/C, EGR and idle stabilization valves. The battery was also cleverly relocated inside the glovebox. I kept it as minimal as possible. It has only what it needs to get down the road, he smiled.

With the bay complete, Jason shifted focus to the body. Rusty fenders had to be repaired on all corners, so he reshaped and extended them 0.75" in metal. The Audi A4 door handles were next. It was a really simple install the plates just needed to be welded in, but I didn’t keep the locks. The car doesn’t lock! he laughed.

The body restoration continued as the badges were discarded, followed by the door moldings, banana lights, foglight holes, pinch welds and rocker covers getting either filled or shaved. On the rear, the tow hook, exhaust recess and wiper were deleted for good measure. Getting creative, Jason even extended the Euro plate recess to create a bser-effect.

By the time the project was ready for paint, Jason had spent three years pondering over a color. Audi Aviator grey was the first one I picked. I loved the pastel, non-glossy, vintage look that wasn’t too common, he reasoned.

Eurp 1105 06 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+driver side rear quarter view Photo 7/12   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Murphy’s Law

Just like the paint, Jason tracked down the wheels he couldn’t get out of his head. I saw them four years ago my steelies were played out and I always liked 15" Compomotives, he said.

The wheels were originally used on Jay Lehrman’s ’97 Jetta (et 1/06). You can’t buy these wheels smaller than 17" wheel any more, so I dug around until I found the guy in Baltimore Jay sold them to, he told us.

Eurp 1105 07 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+vr6 engine Photo 8/12   |   Rebuilt 2.9-liter VR6 in shaved bay can't get any better

The staggered 9" and 9.5" wide Compomotives TS wheels were mounted with stretched 195/45 R15 Toyo T1R tires.

Nearly complete, Jason finished the chassis with H&R Ultra-Low coilovers. The brake setup was borrowed from a Corrado but updated with Zimmerman drilled rotors. The fronts would also get more stopping power thanks to Wilwood calipers.

Piecing the cabin together was the last job once the owner had found a new pleather interior. Nothing inside came from the original car, he explained. For example, the red-striped door panels were from a ’87 GTI. Recaro Trophy seats were from an ’87 Jetta, but not after buying eight different pairs. I kept buying pairs to make a good, clean pair, he laughed. And to allow plenty of adjustment, aftermarket seat frames were fitted.

Eurp 1105 08 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+driver side rear quarter view Photo 9/12   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Murphy’s Law

The final touches included an Autopower four-point roll-bar and carpeted false floor with matching trim panels.

According to Mr Murphy, there are a few imperfections in the paint that bother him, so he might repaint it this year. He’s also planning a turbo kit or air-ride. But regardless of whether the modifications happen, his GTI is undoubtely one of the best Mk2s in the country.

Eurp 1105 09 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+front seats Photo 10/12   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Murphy’s Law

1990 VW Golf GTI

Owner: Jason Murphy

Eurp 1105 11 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+jason murphy Photo 11/12   |   1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Murphy’s Law

Location: Middletown, PA

Occupation: body repair, mechanic

Engine: 2.9-liter rebuilt ODB1 VR6 12v with big-valve head, Schrick 268 cams and valve springs, titanium retainers, Mk4 head gasket, ARP head studs, Euro intake manifold, custom intake, 2.5" Jetex cat-back exhaust, GIAC chip, shaved bay, Unorthodox Racing pulleys, Delrin mounts

Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission

Brakes: 11" Zimmermann drilled rotors with Wilwood Dynalite four-piston front calipers, Corrado rear disc conversion, braided stainless lines

Suspension: H&R Ultra-Low coilovers, Eibach front strut bar, Autotech rear bar, Corrado SLC rear beam

Wheels & Tires: 15x9" front, 15x9.5" rear Compomotive TS wheels, 10mm front, 20mm rear spacers, 195/45 R15 Toyo T1R tires

Eurp 1105 10 o+1990 volkswagen golf gti+roll bar Photo 12/12   |   Rear seat deleted to make room for Autopower cage, rear strut bar and false floor

Exterior: deleted door moldings and flares, Euro front fenders, widened arches, Audi handles, shaved foglight recesses, 16v front lip, shaved rear tow recess, exhaust aperture, rear wiper and washer jets, bser license plate tub, de-badged, Crystal crosshair headlights, Euro smoked side markers and tail lights, smoked turn signals, smoothed rockers and pinch welds, Audi Aviator gray paint

Interior: Recaro Trophy front seats, Autopower four-point roll-bar, Corrado dash, Momo Race wheel and shift knob, Audi gauge panel with VDO gauges, black pleather interior with red-stripe door panels, Wink rearview mirror, small Euro shifter console, custom false floor with matching trim panels, Euro Postal Golf rear speaker delete trays

Thanks: family, Heather Booth, Ryan Miller (, Justin Crater, Rich Switaj, Dan Mahoney, Steve Shearer, Eric Hess and 4 Ever Kustoms

Sam Du
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