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Project VW GTI 16V Part 2: Subframe, axles and CV joints

Jul 30, 2002 SHARE

Viagra: Medical marvel or road to ruin?
With four kids under my belt, I have little use for the stuff (actually, I could have used something with the opposite effect). For some guys, however, it's been a god-send, a path to intimacy long lost--that's what the ad says anyway. Unfortunately, some of the men taking advantage of Viagra's effects have logged quite a few miles on their clocks--leaky valves, clogged lines, dubious underpinnings, etc. Throwing Viagra into their bodies supercharges one system but puts a tremendous strain on the rest--sort of like what would happen if I tried to hop-up my beater GTI. Sure, I could throw the mechanical equivalent of Viagra at the car but the results would be catastrophic--one good run and the damn thing would seize up and die.

Hot cams, exhausts, suspensions, etc.: This stuff just ain't gonna happen, not yet anyway. Closer examination revealed a total basket case, a car with one wheel of its walker in the grave. The body, interior and wheels are the only things right on this VW. Everything else is a mess.

A year from now I'm going to be laughing about this (God, I hope), how I bought this total wreck and turned it into something special. Today, however, I'm thinking about stuffing a rag in the gas door and putting a Bic lighter to it.

Front Sub-frame Restoration
Simply driving down the street was a horrific undertaking--I built soap-box derby cars with better steering. Triage dictated this took priority, as a dead motor won't kill you as fast as a busted suspension. The second generation of Golfs was born with a front suspension bolted onto the chassis as an independent unit. Unlike the earlier Rabbits, whose underpinnings were part of the frame itself, the Mark II's subframes allowed VW to make a stronger body and assemble the car more efficiently. It also absorbed a great deal of energy otherwise transferred directly into the car. In the case of this GTI, the subframe (a fairly stout piece) had absorbed enough energy to deform its shape and split the seams. But that's what it was designed to do--otherwise this first installment would include a very involved and expensive visit to a frame rack.

Removing the subframe is a straightforward procedure:It simply unbolts as an entire unit. The biggest problem we had was killing the nest of black widow spiders living there. While it's possible to do the procedure on jack stands, a lift makes things much easier--Raffi Kazanjian, owner of Euro Sport Accessories, graciously allowed me to use his.

Locating a decent subframe is not difficult--Cambell/Nelson Auto Recyclers or Specialized German Recycling usually have a bunch on hand. In typical Germanic fashion, any Golf II subframe will fit underneath the GTI. Later models include a hefty chunk of steel designed to dampen vibrations--I chose to remove it with a plasma cutter as its effect is negligible.

After pressing out the rubber bushings, Vik (Eurosport's ace wrench) solvent-washed the A-arms and the center assembly to the point of brand new. Though Vik advised me to retain factory rubber bushings for a more supple ride, I opted for Eurosport's polyurethane bushings (I have my reasons). New ball joints were installed, and the gel-filled rear transmission mount was retained because it was in good shape. The factory's 19mm sway bar was cleaned and put back into position.

With the suspension removed, the CV joints revealed torn boots, guts and grease--they needed to repaired as well. Rather than repack the nasty things, I purchased remanufactured driveshafts from ARI at Raffi's suggestion. Though lacking the girth of the factory units, they carry the same torque rating, not to mention the fact they are nice and clean. After removing the stock units, keep the bolts and retaining clips, get a good synthetic grease and re-attach the shafts to the flanges (make sure they are really clean).

While doing the driveshafts, we found more stuff to do (will it ever end?). The shift linkage bushings are totally gone as are the bushings--and maybe the guts--of the steering rack. Though I should have replaced them, accessing those parts while the subframe is attached is not too difficult. Next time.

As I said before, there is much fundamental work necessary before the party starts. No Viagra for this old boy until he can walk down the street without breaking a hip.

Eurosport Accessories
1464 N. Hundley
Anaheim, CA 92806
(800) 738-3876
www.eurosportacc.com
polyurethane bushings, driveshafts, sweat, tears

RPI
1940 Broadway St.
Port Coquitlam, BC V3C-2N1
Canada
(604) 944-0494
Fax: (604) 944-1797
www.rpi-equipped.com
euro lighting, bumpers, flares, grille spoiler, assorted trim bits

Campbell/Nelson Auto Recyclers
(888) 337-7757
www.findusedparts.com

Specialized German Recycling
(916) 631-1700
www.specializedgerman.com

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