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Project VW GTI 16V Part 5: Battery, cat, fuel distributor and black box

Jul 30, 2002 SHARE

Ice-cream headaches and used cars have much in common. If you knew beforehand the crushing pain to come, you'd rethink the next bite. In the case of Project GTI, a bigger chunk of dough for a better car would have avoided a great deal of suffering.

I should have bit the bullet and shelled out another three grand for a good, solid runner. Some sticky tires, maybe a suspension and the damn thing would have been good to go. I was looking forward to driving a GTI, not rebuilding one from the tires on up. Blah, blah, blah, bitch, bitch, bitch.

Project GTI is at the point where there's no turning back--I've got way too much money and time in this thing, and yet it sometimes feels like the project will never end, the car will never move under its own power. Apparently I'm not alone here. More than a few letters and e-mail from supportive readers have described fellow beaters, cars far more pathetic than mine. Still, I wish I had purchased a better GTI.

The silver lining is the wealth of gear available for the Golf II chassis, the result of millions produced over its lifespan. Every time I pass that rotting Alfa GTV, I know I made the right choice. Robert Gal, VW/Audi's accessories coordinator, has been invaluable in sourcing the dozens of miscellaneous parts needed to revive this car, parts I figured were long since NLA. Gal drives an older GTI himself and has been most patient as I bitched endlessly about this or that. His empathy is much appreciated. Need a new knock-sensor, brain, fuel distributor, O2 sensor, catalytic converter? You can get it from VW and Audi's genuine source. And while it is possible to wander through salvage yards for these parts (if you've got the time), nothing beats new components.

The aftermarket continues to thrive as well--alongside gear for the latest, highly technical generation of Golf IVs, crews from RPI, Eurosport Accessories, 1552, Neuspeed, H&R, Velocity, Techtonics, Autotech, etc., have tons of stuff for older cars and a wealth of hands-on experience. ABD just finished development of its front splitter for the Golf II, an aero aide wrought from carbon fiber with adjustable links. I just put it on and it looks great. Brad at 1552 Design has new Euro-style lenses for the GTI headlamps, which provide a more focused beam for the GTI's quad headlamps.

Although I bitch continuously about this car, I must admit it's looking much better. Running gear has been problematic--the forged Type I ATS wheels I want are no longer made--a damn shame because these super-strong rims weigh a paltry 16 lb per corner (and look great as well). I figure a grand will get me a decent paint job (if there is such a thing as a decent $1,000 paint job) and Project GTI will be finished--cosmetically, anyway.

The real work--the engine--has yet to begin; I've been avoiding it like a testicular biopsy.

My first instinct is to rip out the grungy 16V mill and throw it away--there's a malignancy in there; I just know it. A fresh 1990-91 motor would look real good in its place. Or maybe I should go with a serious build-up, including headwork, bottom end, blueprinting...the works. Talk is cheap, though, and in truth these are probably the last things you'd want to attempt. Better try and save what's already there with the least amount of effort--anyway, that's what Raffi at Euro Sport said.

Despite the seller's insistence that the head received a "quality" rebuild, it sounds like a blender full of ball bearings. As this goes to print, Vik will have undoubtedly removed the head and started screaming. Listen real close...you can probably hear him.

"I'm pretty sure everything in the head is wasted," explained Vik. "It would explain the excessive fuel and smoke...plus it sounds f***** up."

Although I'm no mechanic, it doesn't take a genius to figure out this engine is used up. The catalytic converter is absolutely empty--not burned, not clogged, but completely empty. I'm thinking the former owner was using a mixture of cheap tequila and even cheaper Mexican gas. Every guide, gasket, seal and ring is undoubtedley fried. Can you hear the screaming yet?

So that's where things are...in case you were wondering. I haven't pushed this turd off a cliff, though it so richly deserves it. Nope, I'm not pussing out. It'll be running in a couple of months--or the real screaming will start.

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