If you need us to tell you why this ’91 VW Jetta won ‘best of show’ or ‘first place’ awards at every event it attended, you might want to put the magazine back on the shelf. Just kidding! In fact, buy the mag and sign up for another two-year subscription because we need to take you deeper into the scene!
Joking aside, Derek Baker’s Mk2 is one of the hottest Dubs of our time. It’s not in-yer-face with a widebody or candy paint job, but is a sophisticated work of art that’s taken the OEM+ style above and beyond the norm.
His journey started from zero and finished at hero. He bought the $100 Jetta with a motor that barely turned. And the car certainly didn’t achieve overnight stardom, instead it went through nine years of development.
The first stage was featured in et 1/08 – a clean and peppy 290whp VR6 turbo with subtle bodywork, wide Borbet wheels and Recaro interior. It was designed as a daily driver, but months later the car evolved into something more hardcore.
“From the time I got it until when I sold it, it never stopped progressing,” Derek explained. “For practically two years solid, it was dedicated to competitive showing.”
The next time we saw Derek’s ride, it stole the show at H2O International 2009, putting up the highest score to date in any Top Dawg competition. The engine bay was immaculate, with every nook and cranny shaved or smoothed, while a new 2.9-liter VR6 with individual throttle bodies was polished and chromed to perfection. The drivetrain, chassis and undercarriage wasn’t spared; every component was chromed, copper-plated, powdercoated or painted. “It was built specifically for Top Dawg competition and is the only car to win it twice,” he claimed.
Unfortunately, when show quality is the focus, drivability can suffer. In Derek’s case, the car got beyond what the judges would see on the outside. “I went through three motors in a year,” he told us. “I didn’t have time to learn the standalone and always had to rely on somebody else.”
Derek found a new shop and rebuilt the motor with new internals, valvetrain, etc. However, the build and tune was imprecise, resulting in a blown motor with nothing salvageable. The machine shop wouldn’t take responsibility, so Derek accepted everything as a total loss. He had to buy a new motor, but that only had four of the six cylinders firing – enough for Derek to get to shows but the plugs constantly needed changing.
Tearing into the car one last time, he finished the Jetta to what you see here. With a newborn on the way, he wanted to bring his son home in a Jetta that could actually run. So he ditched some of the show car elements, redoing the bay and wheels to be more street-worthy. The motor had its hardware replaced, including the rings and bearings for a solid bottom-end. With no luck using the standalone, its ITBs and Megasquirt was removed in favor of an OB2 wiring harness and a turnkey Mk2 VR6.
“I completed it just before my son was born,” he concluded. “His first ride was the five-minute drive home in the non-heated car from the hospital. That drive was probably one of the best moments I’ve ever had in the car.
“Some people love the car but others hate it. Most people will never understand what I went through financially, mentally and physically to build it. But last year it was time to move on. Having a happy marriage, family and home became my priority.”
So while Derek’s project went from a VR6 turbo, to show queen, then back to a daily-driver, the car will always be remembered for its OCD attention to detail and award-winning accomplishments. We wish him the best on his journey into fatherhood.
et Tech Spec
1991 VW Jetta GL
Owner: Derek Baker
Location: Denver, PA
Occupation: mechanic, sales
Engine: 2.8-liter VR6 OBD2 swap with shaved bay, framerail wire tuck, Mk3 VR6 fuel system, dual 8" Jegs slim fans, black wrinkle-finish PC valve cover and oil pan, semi-gloss head, block and engine covers, grey powdercoated intake manifold, satin-black headers, copper-plated radiator, vacuum tube and fuel lines, chrome intake, brake booster bracket, hydraulic lines, dipstick tube, BFI motor mounts, alternator, starter, bolts, brake lines, fuel rail, belt tensioner, pulley, wiper assembly, timing covers, CSR inline filter and hose clamps, polished 2.5" exhaust, radiator overflow bottle, coolant flange and Magnaflow muffler, stainless power-steering loop, chrome-plated billet wiper motor cap and gas tank straps, chrome hood latches, hinges, trunk latches and hood prop
Drivetrain: five-speed manual 02A transmission rebuilt by APTuning with copper-plated case, VF mount
Brakes: chrome-plated calipers and carriers, slotted front rotors, painted BMP brake booster, rear disc conversion, billet brake reservoir cap
Suspension: chromed FK coilovers, powdercoated springs, chrome axle shafts, inner CV joints, inner flanges and bolts, Prothane poly bushings, powdercoated subframe, rad support, impact bars and brackets, VR6 HD strut mounts, chrome sway bar, strut caps, end-links and rear beam, polished axle nut dust covers
Wheels & Tires: 15x8.5" BBS RS001 wheels with chrome bolts, 2.5" polished lips, semi-gloss centers and black barrels, polished BFI short caps and FK spacers, 195/45 R15 Toyo T1R tires
Exterior: shaved rear bumper, seams, emblems, antenna, side markers and side skirt flaps, ’85 rear glass, textured moldings, bumpers and flares, Euro plate tub, Mk3 handles, chrome door latches, bolts and catches, red mirrors, quad round crystal clear headlights, clear bumper lenses, headlight eyebrow, red-stripe grille, Foha trunk spoiler, powdercoated wiper arms, stainless fender bolts and washers, three-stage Glasurit paint, undercarriage and wheel painted semi-gloss black
Interior: Recaro GLI interior swap, chrome dash strip, fiberglass and leather speaker pods with Kicker components, black carpet, headliner and trim, stainless bolts, chrome trim screws, Mk3 GLX cluster, polished Momo shift knob, OE Polo steering wheel, black leather shift knob and e-brake boot, black GLI visors, sunroof crank and trim
Audio/Visual: relocated JVC head unit, head unit delete panel, 12" sub, amps, relocated battery, false floor wrapped in Recaro GLI grey cloth with hidden storage compartment, deleted rear deck speakers, fiberglass trunk cover
Thanks: My wife, son Mason, mom, dad, sister, 4EverKustoms, Jason Diem, jdiem, Jason Bauder, Darvon Diem, Jeff Shimp, Jimmy Knee, Jason Zoll, Ray Fisher, APTuning, Dave Seats, Tom, Mike, Dale, Lees Auto Body, Dale Martin, Kevin Martin, Jeff Martin, H2O