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2001 VW GTI - Shaving Grace

With beauty and boost, Louis-Philippe Leroux’s 400whp VW GTI turbo has thebest of both Worlds.

Jul 5, 2011

When we sat down in the passenger seat of this ’01 VW GTI last summer, we found ourselves screaming ‘Oh shit!’
Louis-Philippe Leroux took us for an exhilarating joyride in his 400whp VR6 turbo through his hometown in Montreal, Quebec. Not only is it stupid-fast, the hatchback also features a clean, OEM+ style – something that worked perfectly for our photo shoot in the city’s downtown district.

After the shoot, we interviewed Louis-Philippe with the help of a translator because French is his main language.

The young enthusiast got his start in ’07 after purchasing the GTI. “It was a coincidence,” he began. “At the time I was looking to replace my SUV and I liked the look of a Mk4 but the sound of the VR6 appealed even more.”

With destiny on his side, a close friend had just finished putting together a Reflex silver GTI VR6 but was already looking to sell it. The car was updated with a 20th Anniversary interior, exterior and wheels with a JOM Cup kit. “As soon as I saw it I had to have it!” the owner continued. “A deal was struck the next day and I became the proud owner. But little did I know this would turn into more than just a car...”

For Louis-Philippe’s first-ever VW, he had ambitious goals. From the get-go, he wanted his VR6 to sound less like a little boy and more like a man!

A buddy advised him to install a 2.5" exhaust to maximize the performance from the naturally-aspirated VR6. Or he could stretch his imagination and go for a 3" if he wanted to step-up to a supercharger or turbo later. “This was the beginning of the chaos. I installed a 3" exhaust in case I ever decided to go turbo. And a short while later I convinced myself I may as well do it. After all, I already had the exhaust!” he smiled.

Our Canadian spent weeks deciphering information about turbo components, kits and tuning. Instead of buying a complete package, he pieced the system together himself and fabricated what parts he could on his own.

The first decision was the turbo selection. The size would dictate how many other components would require attention, such as the bottom-end, tranny and fueling. “There wasn’t much of a price difference between a T3/T4 turbo and a GT35R, so I ordered a GT3582R,” he told us.

The gigantic ball-bearing turbo was mounted on a Kinetic manifold and 3" downpipe. The introduction of boost required a lower compression ratio, so a 9:1 head spacer was fitted. The factory internals were deemed strong enough but ARP head studs and rod bolts gave a little more insurance.

To improve airflow, Louis-Philippe fabricated his own short-runner intake manifold. A custom front-mount intercooler was also created from scratch. More boost also meant the need for more fuel so 440cc injectors, a 255 lph Walbro fuel pump and a 4-bar fuel pressure regulator were thrown in.

Transferring power to the wheels would be equally challenging. The stock five-speed manual required a stronger six-puck ceramic clutch along with a Peloquin limited-slip diff to minimize wheelspin.

With the hardware bolted down, L-PL left the tuning to the professionals at Unitronic Chipped and VAG Motorsports. The ECU was tweaked to safely put down 400whp at 18psi boost pressure.

Louis-Philippe had enough power to dominate almost any car on the street, but he soon realized his Mk4 had to look the part as well. “I was on my way to H2O International for the first time. I spent the 12-hour drive staring at my gauges worried something might happen because it was the car’s shakedown run. Luckily, I made it to the show without any trouble but was overwhelmed by the quality of cars on display. On the drive home my head was spinning with ideas on what to do next. Somewhere between Maryland and Quebec, I decided my next project would be to shave the engine bay,” he explained.

That winter, the GTI went back into the garage and the next episode began. Nearly every wire that could be moved, lengthened or shortened was tucked out of sight. The owner also relocated the battery and power steering tank. From there, the remaining holes and welds were filled and smoothed so the bay looked pristine.

Eurp 1107 07+2001 vw gti+side view Photo 8/11   |   2001 VW GTI - Shaving Grace

At the same time, Leroux also prepped the exterior, which meant shaving the moldings and hatch, plus filling the hood notch.

Without enough time to finish the car after work, he took two weeks vacation to prepare the car for André Bourgon’s bodyshop. With the glass, interior and engine out, the shell was repainted in VW Candy white.

Finishing off the exterior was a set of re-drilled 17" BBS RS. The lips were swapped out for wider ones, creating 1" front and 1.5" rear lips. The owner confessed to initially painting the wheels Candy white and bronze before he powdercoated them black for the best contrast.

The rest of the project fell into place like jelly on toast. Louis-Philippe swapped out the Cup kit for a KW coilover setup. A basic audio setup with 10" subs was also tossed into the trunk.

“The biggest hurdle was tying together form and function,” he concluded. “It had to look and perform great.”

Hopefully we didn’t confuse anything in the story with the language barrier. As our interview wrapped up, he told us about plans for this year’s show season, which includes switching out the stock tranny for a six-speed. He’s also ditching the RS for something fresh. But one thing’s for sure, you don’t need to know French to know the way this car sits, it’s a beauty and a beast.

et Tech Spec

2001 VW GTI
Owner: Louis-Philippe Leroux
Location: Montreal, Canada
Occupation: Caterpillar tech trainer
Engine: 2.8-liter VR6 12v with 9:1 compression head spacer, ARP head studs and rod bolts, Garrett GT3582R turbo, Kinetic manifold, 38mm TiAL wastegate, custom short-runner intake manifold, 440cc Bosch Green Top injectors, 4-bar fuel pressure regulator, 255 lph Walbro in-tank fuel pump, MSC coil and ignition wiring, 3.5" MAF housing, Forge Motorsport 007 diverter valve, 3" cat-less exhaust with Magnaflow muffler, 27x9x3" front-mount intercooler with 2.5" piping, Black Forest Industries dogbone mount, Unitronic software, shaved engine bay with wire tuck, battery and power steering tank relocated
Drivetrain: five-speed manual with six-puck ceramic clutch, Peloquin limited-slip differential, Black Forest Industries tranny mount
Brakes: OE 20AE GTI front brake upgrade with Hawk pads
Suspension: KW V1 coilovers, OE 20AE GTI rear sway bar, Neuspeed front sway bar
Wheels & Tires: 17x8.5" front, 17x9.5" rear BBS RS wheels with 215/45 R17 Falken FK-452 tires
Exterior: OE 20AE GTI valances, side skirts, head- and tail lights, shaved moldings, emblem and trunk, Black Forest Industries two-bar grille, OE Candy white paint
Interior: OE 20AE GTI seats, trim, steering wheel, pedals and headliner, AEM boost and wideband controllers, Auto Meter oil pressure and pyrometer gauges
Audio/Visual: Clarion head unit, JBL Audio GTO7001 amp, two 10" Energy subs
Thanks: Sylvie, family and friends, André and Pascal Bourgon at André Bourgon Bodyshop, Charles and JP at VAG Motorsport, Unitronic Chipped

Sam Du
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