“Your son has a real nice car!”
“I don’t have a son…”
Hopewell Township, NJ resident Pat Tamminen chuckled as he shared the conversation with us and admitted, “Maybe I’m not your typical R32 owner, but I enjoy the looks I get when people see an older guy like me driving this car.”
“This car” happened to win the Top Dawg contest at this year’s H2O International, and Pat has spent the better part of the last seven years getting it to where it is. And we don’t mean New Jersey.
Who cares if he’s a little older – he’s obviously doing something right and has the trophies to prove it. It’s also refreshing to know a car that ticks all the boxes while offering honest performance and aesthetic improvements can still compete with some of the crazier projects on the show circuit.
Pat is the original owner of his ’04 VW R32, and the way he tells the story it hints at a long road of different modifications – some entirely successful, and others not so much.
His first new car was an ’84 Rabbit GTI, so when he learned VW planned to offer 5000 Mk4 R32s in the US, he was first in line at the dealer. Upon delivery, the mod bug was already underway. “When I see people lined up at shows to get their cars flashed, I think to myself, don’t do it because you’ll never be able to stop there!” Pat laughed.
As you may have figured, the R32’s first mod was a GIAC flash courtesy of AWE Tuning. An EIP exhaust system and a cold-air intake were added before Pat and his R lived happily ever after…
Hardly! In fact, a seven-year journey filled with prototype forced induction kits, too-big big-brake kits, and a variety of different wheels had only just begun.
Suspension upgrades in the form of Koni coilovers, sway bars and adjustable control arms made the car more enjoyable and made Pat content for all of about 15 minutes. “After the new suspension I couldn’t help but feel more power would make the car better. So I got with Mike Pancheri at TyrolSport and he fitted cams and tweaked the software,” Pat said.
More power almost always begets Even More Power, so it wasn’t long before Pat was looking at forced induction.
VW’s original R32 has enjoyed healthy aftermarket support, and when it comes to forced induction there’s no shortage of options. At the time, Pat researched supercharging and turbos but after going to EIP for a test drive in one of its R32 turbo demo cars “I wasn’t very impressed,” Pat explained. “So I took a ride in a VF-Engineering stage 2 supercharged car and preferred the power delivery. After weighing the pros and cons, I chose to go with VF.”
“I looked into VF’s stage 2,” Pat continued, “but was told it wouldn’t work with my cams. And since I didn’t want to remove them, VF told me they were working on a stage 4 kit that would be able to use my cams and was showing about 500hp at the front wheels on the dyno. So I ordered the kit and AWE installed it.”
Despite some lengthy issues with stage 4, and VF ultimately choosing not to develop it further, Pat is pleased with his choice; “In over 25k miles it’s been great – I love the linear powerband.” We imagine having 400awhp at your disposal doesn’t exactly suck, either.
There’s certainly more to a Top Dawg winner than impressive power and, as you might imagine, that means Pat’s R32 is built from nose to stern. Take, for example, the ECS/Porsche stage 5 front calipers and rotors, fitted with the help of good friend Chris Lancaster.
While the kit looked amazing, to Pat’s dismay his beautiful 19" BBS LM wheels didn’t fit! Apparently, the template used as a fitment guide was incorrect.
Undeterred, Pat saw an opportunity to trade the LMs for a set of staggered 18" HRE 540 three-piece wheels. With only a small spacer needed, the HREs cleared the brakes and encouraged him to order the ECS stage 1 rear brakes as well.
Most people agree the Mk4 R32 needs little help in the looks department, so Pat chose his exterior mods carefully. A mini-böser hood offers a subtle touch, and draws welcome attention to the OEM Euro-spec HID headlights and FK two-bar badgeless grille. The rear hatch was shaved, and smoked lighting goes nicely with the stock silver paint.
Interior improvements were just as thoughtfully selected. Although many people rave about the R32’s OE Koenig seats, Pat’s a Recaro fan and installed the latest Sportster CS buckets. Sitting behind them is an Autopower rear cage, painted gloss black. The rear seat has gone bye-bye, replaced by an embossed “R” panel and MTX subwoofers integrated into the false floor.
So where do you go after winning the most coveted prize on the water-cooled VW show circuit? Pat put it this way: “Like most people who build project cars, I never had a vision of what the car was supposed to be…” In other words, he doesn’t know when the project will end. So that means he’ll be back next year with something new!
et Tech Spec
2004 VW R32
Owner: Pat Tamminen
Location: Hopewell Township, NJ
Occupation: Drummer/Ski Coach/ Marketing
Engine: 3.2L six-cylinder 24v with VF-Engineering stage 4 Vortech V2 supercharger, 9:1 CR head spacer, 440cc injectors and harness, Techtonics 264/260˚ cams, GIAC software, race bypass valves, VF Hi-Flow Intercooler, motor mounts and auxiliary fan, Walbro in-line fuel pump, EIP Street Series exhaust, J-Caps polished strut, oil, coolant, dipstick and washer caps, painted manifold, engine and battery covers
Drivetrain: six-speed manual transmission with HPA short-shift kit, VF dogbone mount, Streetwerkes stage 4 clutch
Brakes: ECS Tuning stage 5 kit with 14.1" front rotors and six-piston Porsche Cayenne calipers, ECS stage 1 12.1" rear rotors with stock calipers, Hawk HPS pads, Motul fluid
Suspension: Koni coilovers, 22mm Neuspeed rear sway bar and upper front strut bar, CPP adjustable rear control arms, Euro Sport upper rear stress bar
Wheels & Tires: 18x8.5" front, 18x9.5" rear HRE 540R polished wheels, 8mm front, 5mm rear H&R spacers, 225/40 R18 front, 255/35 R18 rear Michelin Pilot Sport tires
Exterior: mini-böser hood, bumper notch fill, FK two-bar badgeless grille, OEM HID headlights, Euro Image rear wiper delete, shaved hatch, painted roof, Hella smoked tail lights, smoked markers, stubby antenna, rolled fenders
Interior: Recaro Sportster CS seats, Schroth four-point harnesses, Autopower Street-Sport rear rollcage, Euro Kreations rear-seat delete, Euro light switch, AWE Tuning boost gauge in steering column pod
Audio/Visual: Panasonic AVIC D3 head unit, MTX Audio Thunderlink 210P amplified subwoofers
Thanks: Cherie Forchette, Chris Lancaster, Tyrolsport, Emmett, John and Mike at AWE Tuning, Gino’s Auto Body, Patryk at Douglas Motors, Roy at Vespias, Rusty’s Island Euro Custom, Ariel at Perfect Metal Polishing, Coolwater VW club, RSWorx