For all the good the internet has brought us, it’s also made us more susceptible to the ‘grass is greener’ effect. There’s so much cool stuff out there, it can be difficult to remain focused. After all, how many of us can count more than one project car in the driveway, or have a few dream builds already finished in our minds? We’ve all been there…
So in this schizophrenic world of ADD-addled car enthusiasts jumping from one build to the next, it’s both rare and refreshing to find a car that’s not only been the owner’s primary focus for many years, but has been in progress since it rolled off the dealer’s floor.
Todd Cope’s GTI may be nearing its tenth anniversary, but he still finds ways to keep it fresh. “It’s my first VW,” Todd began. “It’s something we’ve worked on since ’02 and it changes every year.”
Todd’s a VW technician who came to our world by a roundabout route. Starting with muscle cars, he later worked on Hondas at an import shop before buying his GTI. And it wasn’t long before he was working on them non-stop, both at the dealer and after hours. “The car fell into my lap and all of the sudden I became a Volkswagen tech!” he chuckled.
“I liked the look of the car when I bought it, and didn’t want to stray too far from that,” he said, explaining the exterior changes over the years. “VW body lines always looked pretty good, so I didn’t want to stray too far from it.”
An R32 front bumper with a Seat splitter replaced the stock GTI unit, while the side sills were smoothed and a 4Motion valance was blended into the rear bumper. Hella smoked tail lights were fitted, and a böser hood extension was grafted up front. Yet aside from that, the body is as VW intended.
There’s no discounting the forged Kinesis wheels, however, as an effective update. Measuring 18x8.5" front and 18x10" rear, the K58s were wrapped in Falken tires and are the perfect match for the muscular body.
Behind those five-spokes lurk modestly upgraded brakes, with OEM R32 parts, including calipers, pads and rotors at the front, but stock GTI brakes on the rear.
Another area where Todd’s GTI is refreshingly absent of internet influence is the ride height. The ‘stance police’ are quick to discount anything that isn’t sitting on the frame rails, but we think Todd’s got it just right. The K Sport Pro coilovers chopped a few inches off, but not to the point of parody. It still looks like you could throw the car into the corners, which is just how we like it.
The suspension choice was important because this GTI isn’t for show. Having gone the big-turbo route previously, he was looking to do something with a strong visual impact. “I just wanted more,” he explained after ditching the set-up. “It wasn’t exactly the route I wanted to go. It was too off-the-shelf, and that’s never what I wanted with the car.”
The solution was a sidewinder-style manifold and an even bigger turbo, designed and fabricated by Todd’s friend Scott Mackey at Makk Motoring. The “sidewinder” had been done on a few Hondas and the unique problems you encounter doing such a setup was exactly the sort of challenge that Todd enjoys. “It’s something you don’t see too often,” Todd explained. “Some racecars use this kind of set up but we wanted it to be completely streetable.”
The sidewinder lets you admire the fabrication handywork: “The manifold is a work of art,” he enthused. “So why would I hide it behind the motor?”
The position of the big Garrett GT35R turbo required significant changes both physically and in terms of managing the thermal issues of placing a hot turbo in the middle of the engine bay. The solution was to work with Ray Pabon at JRM Machine to develop a number of trick billet aluminum pieces to relocate various items, such as the power steering reservoir, master cylinder, coolant flange and more. “We didn’t create these parts as something we could necessarily sell. It was more about keeping the car from burning down!” Todd laughed. “But JRM sells the pieces online if you’re interested.”
After Todd reworked the cooling system and re-routed parts of the wiring harness, Scott got down to fabricating the sidewinder exhaust manifold, intercooler piping, Garrett-cored intercooler and intake manifold. All the parts were TIG welded from 304 stainless steel for durability. “We powdercoated all the pipes at Cascade Powder Coatings and wrapped them, so even after a hard dyno pull, the radiant heat in the coolant reservoir is only about 190˚,” Todd confirmed. “We spent an hour on the dyno just making sure what we’d done wasn’t going up in smoke.”
Internally, the AWP 1.8T block was bored for 83mm 8.5:1 Supertech pistons, connected with Brute rods to an ALH diesel crank that took the capacity to 2.1L, all tied together by ARP hardware and a topped with a stock head. Larger 870cc injectors were controlled by a factory ECU running Eurodyne’s Maestro MAF-less software. The car hasn’t done any dyno runs for power, but Todd confirms the 2.1L 20v has it where it counts, seeing full boost around 3700rpm and pulling strong to 7500.
Todd estimated an easy 500hp on tap, depending on boost, which varies from 15-28psi, depends on the fuel being used.
As a result, the standard 02J transmission has been beefed up with a Quaife diff and Clutch Masters six-puck sprung-center disc.
Inside, everything is basically stock but there are a host of high-end audio components, with a custom fiberglass enclosure housing the sub and amps in the rear.
The final piece of the puzzle is a Makk Motoring bolt-in roll-bar – a first for fabricator Scott. The bar was made from TIG-welded 4130-chromoly tubing, but rather than have it polished or powdercoated, the bars were painted in PPG soft-touch paint. Todd speaks highly of the finished item: “It feels the same as all the interior handles and switches; it’s pretty cool.”
As you might expect of a car that’s gone through as many iterations as Todd’s GTI, there are plans for the future. But, as Todd explained, learning to pace yourself helps keep you interested over the long term. “If I’d done everything at once, I’d probably have got bored and moved onto another project by now,” he concluded. “It’s a car I’ve been working on since I bought it new, and haven’t wanted to get rid of it. Every time I think about getting rid of it I take it out and play with it again.”
2002 VW GTI 1.8T
Owner: Todd Cope
Location: Kennewick, WA
Occupation: VW tech
Engine: 1.8L four-cylinder 20v bored and stroked to 2.1L with an ALH diesel crank, 83mm 8.5:1 Supertech pistons, Brute rods, billet main caps, ARP main- and head studs, stock head, Makk Motoring long-tube sidewinder 304 stainless steel header with custom collector and TiAL flanges, 3" 16-gauge 304 stainless exhaust with Vibrant V-bands, 18" stainless resonator and 3" SS Borla muffler, Garrett GT35R turbo with TiAL .82 A/R V-band exhaust housing, 44mm V-band wastegate with 0.5-bar spring and TiAL Alpha Q re-circulating BOV, Makk 28" Garrett FMIC core with polished end-tanks and piping, Makk intake manifold with JRM Machine velocity stacks, 870cc injectors, stock ECU with Eurodyne Maestro MAF-less software, relocated power steering reservoir, JRM billet master cylinder relocation bracket, coolant system flange and water pipe, heater core fittings, Makk coolant hoses and lines
Drivetrain: stock 02J five-speed manual with Quaife differential, Clutch Masters six-puck sprung-disc clutch
Brakes: R32 front calipers, rotors and pads, stock GTI rears, dual master cylinders
Suspension: K Sport Pro coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" front, 18x10" rear Kinesis K58 wheels with 225/40 front, 225/35 R18 rear Falken FK-452 tires
Exterior: R32 front bumper, Seat front splitter, smoothed sill panels, blended 4Motion rear valance, rolled rear fenders, böser hood, smoked Hella tail lights
Interior: Makk Motoring 4130-chromoly roll-bar in PPG soft-touch paint
Audio/Visual: Eclipse CD8062 head unit, two Zapco Reference amps, Focal Utopia component speakers front and rear, JL Audio 12W6v.2 sub, Dynamat, fiberglass enclosure, IXOS Gamma cable and connectors, Audio Force batteries
Thanks: Pam, INA, Greg at Podi gauges, Scott Mackey (makkmotoring.com), Ray Pabon and Brian Bement