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Project VW GTI 16V Part 6: Seats

Jul 30, 2002 SHARE

Every other week I pay the kid next door 20 bucks to scalp my lawn and chop the heads off my sprinklers. It costs another 20 to fix the damage, not to mention several hours of baking in the hot sun. I should fire him, but then he'd probably park his POS Toyota FX-16 in front of my house, where it would leak assorted fluids and generally look like hell. Of course, I could park my POS GTI in front of his house, but the truth is it's looking much better these days. From 10...er, 20 feet, it looks damn good.

The quad-headlamp assembly, big bumpers and Euro-spoiler have helped enormously--I just love the way the damn things look. Although I've been castigated for going the "big-bumper" look, I liked the big U.S.-spec bumpers on my 2002, and I even retrofitted big bumpers on my 914. Besides, it's my car so tough shit...I'll do what I want with it.

Personal taste aside, I began comparing the Toyota with the Volkswagen and wondering if anyone would bother to restore the FX-16. I don't think so. Despite bearing the same manufacture dates and some of the same technology (including high-revving multi-valve engines and fwd), these two cars are worlds apart. One was produced as something of a throwaway, a car full of zippy gadgetry, bells and whistles but ultimately destined to be replaced in a few years' time. The GTI, on the other hand, is a fairly basic piece with minimalist Bauhaus-like design, a "classic" if you will. [Here the author rationalizes putting another grand into Project GTI. Note the deft usage of German expressionism.]

I am by no means a "Euro-snob"--a Datsun 510 and 260Z once served as my "stabbin' cabins" during high school and college, and they were great. Although I always wanted a GTI, I couldn't afford it back then--funny it took 15 years to get one.

In part six of Project GTI I installed a set of Monaco seats with the hopes of keeping my fat ass from sliding about the cabin. Nothing is more irritating (and possibly dangerous) than being tossed about while attempting high-g maneuvers. Our long-term Jetta 1.8T is suffering the same fate: It is an exceptional car with board-flat seats--from a performance perspective they kind of suck. (However, VW saw fit to equip them with side-impact airbags, a feature that quite possibly saved one of our editors from serious injury.)

Late-model Mk II GTIs and GLIs were born with very nice, electrically assisted Recaro sport chairs. Beautifully bolstered and covered with tasteful fabric, they remain coveted pieces that retain high re-sale value. An internet search failed to find a set, although it did yield a good alternative. While running a basic search for the Monaco Gran Prix, I came across Monaco Seats USA and out of curiosity clicked on the site. Monaco's simple yet effective page listed nine different versions of seats in various colors and material combinations. Although I would never purchase a seat without sitting in it first, I remembered Monaco from ec's August 1999 "Sport Seat Buyer's Guide." I remembered they were good.

The particular seat that interested me was called the RS, a sports touring seat based on a standard tubular frame incorporating a spring support suspension and sculptured padding. The RS fit my frame very well, almost as though it were made for my particular build (6 ft and 190 lb). The RS features an adjustable back with two harness slots and has moderate side bolsters with pronounced upper shoulder support. The lower portion of the seat has enough side-wall to hold the driver firmly but not so much that it hampers entering or exiting. The RS effectively fulfils every requirement I need from a sport seat, blending great support with comfort while looking very, very sharp. They are also reasonably priced, which was no small consideration.

The folks at Monaco can cover their seats with anything you want, be it Nappa hides or the most basic fabric. In the case of Project GTI, I chose a fabric that closely resembles a VW Motorsport pattern for the inner section and a tough, black leatherette for the outer.

Dimension-wise, the RS chairs fit perfectly inside the cabin--no rubbing, no chafing anywhere. The only downside (and it is true with all VW aftermarket fitments) is losing the factory's height adjuster. But, no one but me is going to drive this car, so it is not an issue. The base-mounted sliding brackets Monaco offers were not low enough for my tastes (I prefer sitting lower than most drivers), so I pretty much had to rebuild the entire carrier to bring the seat down 1.5 in. A plasma cutter, TIG welder and some imagination worked just fine.

Monaco seats are manufactured in Greece and conform to both European and North American standards (TUeV, DOT, etc). Monaco seats also include a 2-year warranty against defects, an almost unheard of guarantee from an aftermarket seat.

This makes me very happy and yet at the same time a bit nervous. As the car continues to evolve, it also makes itself a target for thieves who could break into most Mark II Volkswagens with a simple screwdriver. For piece of mind I acquired a set of Armor Door Plates, which should help deter any monkey who tries the "pry-in" routine. The ADPs are designed to reinforce the area around the lock and add a visible deterrent. Manufactured from stout 410 stainless steel, they install in less than an hour and are so effective even VW has acknowledged their usefulness. If you have an older VW, a set of Armor Door Plates is an absolute must.

The RS seats look great in the GTI, and once again I find myself sitting in it for long periods, rowing through the gears while making engine noises, wishing it could run under its own power.

Monaco RS seats provide great support and comfort. They also look "right" inside.

From twenty feet away Project GTI looks pretty good...just don't get any closer. A low-mileage 2.0 16V engine is sitting on an engine stand awaiting transplant. I will retain the better-flowing 1.8 head, buff it up, and chuck the rest. A Quaife limited-slip differential and a 3.94 ring/pinion with a taller fifth gear will work its way into the equation. It should make for a rockin' good time.

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