I have problems, the kind of mental malfunctions that make psychotherapists rich. I'm manic--one moment filled with euphoria and the next with a burning desire to blow myself up. And so it goes with Project GTI, a car that has given me both extreme pleasure and an intense desire to push it over a cliff.
Just the other day, the hydraulic struts on the rear hatch gave out while I was rooting around in the trunk. It slammed into my spine and produced the kind of pain I'd describe like passing a cantaloupe-sized kidney stone. Raffi, Eurosport's wizard wrench, had ordered a new set for me, but in the meantime I would make those old bastards suffer.
"I want these frickin' things out right now!" I exclaimed. Raffi looked worried and assured me the new units would be a snap to reinstall. He threw the blown struts into the trash bin and closed the lid.
"NO...I WANT THOSE THINGS!" I screamed, and leaped into the bin like a stage-diver at a Korn concert. Raffi looked really worried now, reassuring me they were worthless and a danger to no one. "No, these are going to pay for what they did." I took the struts out into the parking lot, laid them down side by side and stared at them. "Had your fun, didn't you, you little bastards? See how you like this." And with that I took a ball-peen hammer and smashed the offensive units into tiny, little bits.
There's a certain joy in destroying inanimate objects, especially after they've shown malice towards you. With sweat and hydraulic fluid dripping from my body, I felt much better. I pointed the hammer at the new struts: "Try any of that shit, and you'll end up like your little friends here."
Raffi locked himself in his office until I left.
Weird as this may sound, I get the distinct impression Project GTI is alive, like some sort of bio-mechanical organism that's learned to adapt to its failing organs. Case in point: the CIS computer. There isn't any power feeding it, so the car is running in "limp-mode," which means the timing is not advancing, the knock sensor is not sensing--the engine is running on sheer mechanics. Vik and Raffi have changed practically every component on the engine, and as I write these words they are probing each wire in the harness. It's tedious work, especially when you think you're on the cusp of a cure and it turns out a dead end. Although the cold-start unit is new, it doesn't work--getting the beast started is a bitch. Once it's warm, it runs decent enough to putter around town but refuses to rev over 5 grand. I'm dying to put it on the dyno but realize the futility in it. If this thing makes 60 hp, I'd be really surprised.
We plod on, however, and in this installment address the intake and exhaust--two systems that, when I bought the car, were strapped to the car with a coat hanger and bailing wire.
The airbox on the GTI 16V is fitted with an intake air pre-heat system that operates a regulator flap in the lower part of the filter housing. In cold weather the regulator flap opens so that the engine can draw in preheated air from around the warm exhaust system. Vacuum from the throttle valve, which opens or closes the regulator flap, is controlled by the temperature regulator valve in the side of the upper air filter housing.
In especially cold climates, the pre-heat system has some value--not much but enough to heat the engine to temperature a bit quicker than without the system. Generally, however, its convoluted, serpentine passages are more of a hindrance than benefit. A popular modification has been to drill the airbox with additional air holes or remove the box altogether. While this did allow for more air and thus greater performance, it also sucked in all sorts of nasty debris motors hate chewing on.
Eurosport Accessories has an elegant solution for this dilemma with its CIS Cool-Flow intake for either 8V or 16V Golf and Jetta cars. The Cool-Flow simply replaces the entire airbox with a sturdy, powdercoated housing that uses a reusable, oil-impregnated high-performance ITG filter. Eurosport's Cool-Flow offers efficiency increases of at least 100 percent when compared to the stock airbox. And despite Project GTI's poor performance (for now anyway), there was a genuine increase in power and a great sound to boot.
Although performance intakes have been around since forever, I was especially impressed with the Cool-Flow's fine design.
We also replaced Project GTI's exhaust--one, because the stock system was nearly dead and, two, because it fell off. Although VW's exhaust technology has made tremendous advances during the last couple of decades, the system on Project GTI 16V was a typical example of the company's cost-cutting measures and speed-driven construction during the late 1980s. The bends were constrictive, and the system resembled a chewed-up "bendy straw."
With lessons gleaned from last month's "mother of all exhaust tests," I now know the aftermarket is more than capable of building exhausts that are at least equal in performance to VW's current systems. That's no easy feat, as the exhaust of the new Mark IV Golfs and Jettas are both efficient and well made. However, it's a different story with the older cars, and it's common practice to swap out the stock system for something even sportier.
I chose Eurosport's cat-back exhaust for several reasons, the first of which is build quality. Eurosport's single-outlet cat-back exhaust is wrought from 2.25-in. mandrel-bent aluminized steel and features an optional ($50) ceramic coating. The welds are smooth and even, and the system weighs 31.96 lb (12 lb lighter than the stock system). It also features a 2-year warranty (3 years for the ceramic-coated model) and is priced well under $300. But what really hooked me was the sound--it's got the sporty braaapppp that, to this GTI enthusiast, defines the voice of a sports hatchback. At relaxed cruising speeds, the Eurosport exhaust is only slightly louder than a factory system, and more importantly, there are no annoying drones or resonances at specific rpm.
The Eurosport exhaust was easy to install and features plenty of clearance over the right areas. I have two gripes--I don't care for the single outlet tip, and the clamps look cheap. That aside, this is a fine system.
As I said before, putting this car on the dyno would be fruitless--until we find the problem (we think it's the wiring harness), the GTI feels like it's being driven with the emergency brake engaged. I suppose I could medicate myself and make it seem faster, but I'd prefer a healthy, happy VW.
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