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1998 VW GTI VR6 - Hooptie

Miguel Vargas has transformed a hooptie into this immaculate 400whp VW GTI VR6 turbo.

Alex Rogan
Jul 13, 2011
Photographer: Josh Brown

It’s funny how a nickname can stick with you long after it ceases to be relevant. We all change over the years, but those early terms of endearment can be tough to shake. Sometimes it’s good to remember your roots, however, especially when you’ve come a long way.

Eurp 1107 01+1998 vw gti vr6+cover Photo 2/11   |   1998 VW GTI VR6 - Hooptie

You will notice, for example, the Euro plate in the front of Miguel Vargas’ drop-dead gorgeous GTI VR6 is ‘Hooptie’. Yet it doesn’t matter where you look, the car is brilliantly finished. But, as you can guess from the nickname, it wasn’t always such a looker.

“When I bought the car it looked really hooptie,” the Iselin, NJ, resident told us. “It was stock and several different yellow colors, so I got it repainted and gradually started building it from there. But when I originally bought it, it was my hooptie!”

Miguel was a convert from the hardcore NJ Honda scene, who came around to the idea of owning a VW through his brother, who has a stunning Jazz blue Mk4 GTI (et 1/11). “I got a lot of help from my brother Angel,” Miguel explained. “We just started building the car together.”

Eurp 1107 02+1998 vw gti vr6+front view Photo 3/11   |   Despite Hooptie tag, FMIC suggests there’s more to this GTI than meets the eye

The first step to eliminate the hooptie status was to address the paint situation. European bumpers replaced the bulkier North American parts, while the front-end was treated to a Jetta conversion with smoked E-code headlights, badgeless grille, eyebrow spoiler and smoked lights. A European VR6 chin spoiler then gave the car a lower, more aggressive look.

The European theme continued to the tailgate, with its wider plate recess plus deleted rear spoiler and wiper.

In turn, the side skirts were deleted and antenna shaved, while Polo door handles gave a different, but factory look.

A fresh coat of the rare Ginster yellow paint looks so good you wonder why VW doesn’t offer any fun hues on its current offerings.

With the project coming together, Miguel’s GTI was dropped closer to the asphalt with a set of Weitec SX coilovers. He then chose classic, do-no-wrong, staggered BBS RS wheels – measuring 16x8" front and 16x9" rear, with H&R adapters converting the wheels’ 5x114.3 bolt pattern to the 5x100 used by the Mk3 VR6. Fitted with Falken ZE-512 tires, Ginster yellow bolts provided a ’90s feel.

Eurp 1107 03+1998 vw gti vr6+turbo Photo 6/11   |   GT40R is truly an enormous turbo for a street-driven GTI

When asked about his theme for the car, Miguel simply said: “Clean with nothing too crazy; I just like going fast.” Yet “crazy” might be an appropriate term for the turbo motor, which was built by Azevedo Motorsports in Linden, NJ. Regular readers are undoubtedly familiar with Azevedo’s work, since we’ve featured their builds a number of times.

The stock-block VR6 had the compression dropped with a C2 Motorsports head gasket spacer in preparation for the huge GT40R turbo hung off the back of the head. A Lugtronic standalone plug-n-play ECU handles the fuel supplied by a Walbro pump through an Aeromotive pressure regulator to a Schimmel rail and 600cc C2 injectors.

Eurp 1107 04+1998 vw gti vr6+engine Photo 5/11   |   Polished head, Schimmel intake and intercooler pipes shouldn’t distract you from 400whp potential of this Azevedo-built turbo motor

Once the GT40R has increased the intake pressure to 10psi, the boosted air passes through a front-mount intercooler and Schimmel short-runner intake manifold, before exiting from a 3" downpipe and exhaust that terminates in a side-pipe in front of the rear wheel.

As it stands, the car makes around 400whp on pump fuel. “The sound is amazing, I love the noise a VR6 makes,” Miguel added. In reference to the side-pipe he told us: “It was for the look, but it sounds great, too!”

Miguel’s old Honda buddies had been critical of his switch to VW, but the turbo power put an end to that. “They ragged on me a little bit,” he told us. “They said I’ll never be able to build a VW as fast as a Honda, but I think I pretty much did…”

The stock five-speed transmission was beefed-up with a Peloquin LSD and a Clutch Masters stage 5 clutch, both of which help put the power down.

Eurp 1107 05+1998 vw gti vr6+interior Photo 6/11   |   1998 VW GTI VR6 - Hooptie

Finally, engine and transmission parts were painted, while other items were polished or chromed to finish the underhood changes.

Despite being a self-professed horsepower junky, Miguel claimed one of his favorite parts of the build was the interior, and after peeking inside it’s not hard to see why…

The yellow and black exterior theme has been carried inside, with a color-matched, bolt-in Auto Power roll-bar. It surrounds Recaro-style seats covered in black leather with suede centers and red stitching. Red Schroth harnesses keep Miguel held tight, while a Momo Race steering wheel, shift knob and pedals complete the look.

Eurp 1107 06+1998 vw gti vr6+buvket seats Photo 8/11   |   1998 VW GTI VR6 - Hooptie

A quartet of Auto Meter gauges were installed in the dash, ensuring the boosted VR6 is closely monitored. Oil and water temp, plus boost and an AEM wideband gauge ensure everything is covered.

Suede also covers the A-, B- and C-pillars, plus the headliner. It was fitted by Emir Ramos at Hy-Tuned in Linden, NJ, who also did the audio system. Pioneer was the company of choice for the equipment, including an AVH-P5100 DVD touchscreen head unit, amps, components and the 12" Premier sub in the trunk. The amps were flushed into the side panels and a chromed extinguisher sits alongside the sub.

The transformation from bone-stock ‘hooptie’ to high-power show car took about a year, and as you’d expect, Miguel is thrilled with the results. “I drive it all the time,” he enthused.

Keep it in the Family
Earlier this year (et 1/11) we featured a Mk4 GTI belonging to Angel Vargas, Miguel’s brother. The ’03 GTI 1.8T was chosen as one of our “Best of H20” because the quality really stands out.

From its böser hood to the smoothed tailgate, it oozes class. The car sits on 18" CCW wheels and D2 air suspension. With a slick interior, polished roll-bar and tidy audio system, Angel has created one of the best 20AE cars in the country. Although you won’t see it in this photo, which was taken last year, Angel was busy over the winter. In fact, he’s gone widebody over 18x9/11" Rotiform BLQ Concave wheels and finished shaving the bay. He then resprayed the car, painting the block and trans in the process. With Sparco seats inside and two more video screens, the only thing he didn’t get around to was a right-hand drive conversion because the parts weren’t available!

et Tech Spec

1998 VW GTI VR6
Owner: Miguel Vargas
Location: Iselin, NJ
Occupation: truck driver
Engine: 2.8L VR6 12v with custom GT40R turbo conversion, C2 Motorsport head gasket spacer and 600cc injectors, polished Schimmel short-runner intake manifold and fuel rail, Lugtronic standalone engine management, polished front-mount intercooler and piping, polished throttle-body and blow-off valve, chromed valve cover, Walbro fuel pump, Aeromotive fuel gauge, custom 3" downpipe and side-exit exhaust, painted block, polished oil cap and radiator header cap, relocated battery
Drivetrain: five-speed manual transmission, painted casing, stage 5 Clutch Masters clutch, Peloquin limited-slip differential
Brakes: cross-drilled Brembo rotors and pads, factory calipers painted red
Suspension: adjustable Weitec SX coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 16x8" front, 16x9" rear BBS RS wheels with polished lips, powdercoated silver centers, Ginster yellow bolts, H&R PCD adapters, 205/40 R16 front and 215/40R16 rear Falken Ziex ZE-512 tires
Exterior: Jetta front-end conversion, European front and rear bumpers, Polo handles, European hatch, shaved antenna, badgeless grille, Mattig eyebrow spoiler, smoked E-code headlights, foglights and Hella tail lights, HID bulbs
Interior: black leather sports seats with suede inserts, suede headliner and pillars, Schroth harnesses, bolt-in Auto Power roll-bar, Momo Race steering wheel, leather shift knob and pedals, NRG quick-release hub, Auto Meter oil and water temp, boost gauges, AEM wideband air/fuel gauge
Audio/Visual: Pioneer AVH-P5100 DVD touchscreen head unit, 6.5" component speakers, GM-6400F and GM-5400T amps, 12" Premier Champion Series sub in false floor
Thanks: Angel Vargas, Emir Ramos, Dom at Azevedo Motorsport

Eurp 1107 07+1998 vw gti vr6+miguel vargas Photo 11/11   |   1998 VW GTI VR6 - Hooptie
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