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Behind-the-scenes: VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build for SEMA 2013

Paying homage to one of most coveted VWs of all time; the Helios Jetta

Justin Fivella
Nov 1, 2013
Photographer: European Car Staff

Additional Photos by FMS Automotive

Available for only one year, the 1989 Helios blue Jetta GLI is still held in high regard by the VW community, even to this day. Even though its exterior color and interior trim were the only real defining features, its exclusivity comes from it being limited to 1500 examples produced, forever inking it a spot in watercooled VW history.

So it should come as no surprise that when FMS Automotive decided to create a pair of 2014 Jettas for the 2013 SEMA show, a Helios tribute car would be part of the proposal.

"I used to own an original Mk2 Helios and still regret selling it," said Gil Plasencia from FMS in Cerritos, CA. "So when we were discussing options for a SEMA project car, I naturally raised the idea of a Helios tribute. Fortunately, everybody liked the idea and so we turned the idea into reality."

In a few short weeks, the crew at FMS transformed two stock 2014 Jettas into SEMA project using plenty of parts VW Accessories and key aftermarket suppliers.

Yes, there are two cars. The other is a Jetta widebody, which you can also read about, with its exclusive build up story (click HERE) and finished car feature (click HERE).

We will also have a feature on the completed Helios Tribute car (click HERE).

These two cars represent the mild and a wild side of the VW tuning scene. In this case, the Helios car obviously represents a milder, achievable build, while the widebody is a wilder, over-the-top car that was built more to inspire than to be duplicated.

The 2014 Jetta SE chosen for the Helios build came equipped with the new 1.8T motor, a six-speed manual transmission and puny stock wheels. It was finished in the new Tempest Blue Metallic, which is very close to the original Helios color.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build 02 Photo 2/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build 02

FMS Automotive wasted little time getting to work. First up was the VW Accessories body kit. It was painted gloss black to add contrast, just as the original Mk2 Helios had its black body moldings.

Thankfully, the OEM VW Accessories body kits fit perfectly. The kit included these skirts as well as a front lip and rear valance to create a sportier look.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build OEM VW accessories body kit install 03 Photo 3/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build OEM VW Accessories Body Kit Install 03

Pulling parts from the deepest recesses of the VW parts catalog, there are components on this car that only the keenest enthusiast might recognize. They include parts like the Jetta Hybrid grille, which was painted gloss black and given a distinctive blue stripe.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build jetta hybrid grille 04 Photo 4/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Jetta Hybrid Grille 04

Out back are more OEM touches, like the Jetta Hybrid trunk spoiler and smoked tail lights from the 2014 GLI. Both are subtle yet effective mods straight from the VW parts bin and easily ordered from any VW dealer in the country. As we said, the car was designed to be easily replicated...

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build jetta hybrid trunk spoiler 05 Photo 5/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Jetta Hybrid Trunk Spoiler 05

The front of the sedan features not only the VW Accessories lip, but also lower grilles painted gloss black with the blue striping repeated. FMS also installed LED foglights and Jetta Hybrid headlights for an OEM+ look that's clean and concise.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build VW accessories lip 06 Photo 6/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build VW Accessories Lip 06

No build is complete without top-rate suspension, and the H&R Street Performance coilovers will not only improve the handling characteristics, but also dropped the ride height.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build HR street performance coilovers 07 Photo 7/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build HR Street Performance Coilovers 07

The 19x9.5" VW Motorsport wheels from the VW Accessories catalog were given a tough custom ceramic coating and wrapped in 235/35 R19 Nitto Invo tires. Again, the multi-spoke design and dark hue harks back to the original Helios cars on their mesh wheels.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build VW motorsport wheels 08 Photo 8/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build VW Motorsport Wheels 08

Ride height is everything, especially when sitting pretty at SEMA, and the tape measure was used to verify the Jetta was down from the clouds. Thankfully the H&R coilovers made ride height adjustment easy.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build ride height measurement 09 Photo 9/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Ride Height Measurement 09

Big brakes are another staple of any SEMA build. But instead of turning to the aftermarket, VW Golf R stoppers were sourced. Along with the new calipers, the R-spec rotors measure a generous 13.6" front and 12.2" rear.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build VW golf r brakes 10 Photo 10/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build VW Golf R Brakes 10

Of course, the Golf R brakes couldn't remain stock, so the calipers were color-matched to the body and custom inserts fabricated as a finishing touch.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build golf r brake modification 11 Photo 11/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Golf R Brake Modification 11

As you can see, the rear brakes were also swapped for Golf R units. And although rear braking only contributes a percentage of the braking forces, the team wanted things done properly.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build rear brakes 12 Photo 12/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Rear Brakes 12

Here's a close look at the VW Motorsport wheels and their ceramic coating.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build VW motorsport wheel 13 Photo 13/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build VW Motorsport Wheel 13

The new 1.8T motor was so new at the start of the build that APR was still developing its software package. Nevertheless, APR came through with a software upgrade and Carbonio air intake, while FMS added the multi-colored engine cover and some reservoir covers from VW Accessories.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build FMS multi color engine cover 14 Photo 14/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build FMS Multi Color Engine Cover 14

The FMS crew put in many late nights to complete the SEMA builds. In the end, the hard work paid off with two cars completed. Here we see the APR/Carbonio carbon fiber cold-air intake being installed. At the time it was hot off the production line and the first anybody had ever seen.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build APR carbonio carbon fiber cold air intake install 15 Photo 15/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build APR Carbonio Carbon Fiber Cold Air Intake Install 15
Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build APR carbonio carbon fiber cold air intake install16 Photo 16/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build APR Carbonio Carbon Fiber Cold Air Intake Install16

Every project car needs to be heard, and the 1.8T found its lungs thanks to an custom 2.5" FMS exhaust that uses a Magnaflow muffler. The dual tips look great in the OEM rear valance.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build magnaflow muffler 17 Photo 17/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Magnaflow Muffler 17

One source of inspiration from the original Helios car was its interior that used the Recaro seats from the Mk2 Jetta GLI 16v. These had unique blue patterned cloth inlays and were very distinctive. In order to honor the original concept, FMS had a pair of Recaro Specialist seats wrapped in black leather with custom blue inserts.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build mk2 jetta GLI recaro seats 18 Photo 18/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Mk2 Jetta GLI Recaro Seats 18

The factory rear seats were also trimmed to match the Recaro fronts, completing the retrim

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build custom rear seats 19 Photo 19/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Custom Rear Seats 19

The interior received more upgrades, such as the GLI steering wheel that was leather wrapped and finished with blue stitching. The center console, shift boot, golf-ball shift knob and door panels also received black hide with blue stitching, while Corinthian Textiles mats and a trunk liner were embroidered with the Helios name.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build GLI steering wheel 20 Photo 20/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build GLI Steering Wheel 20
Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build corinthian textile mat 21 Photo 21/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Corinthian Textile Mat 21

Only the sharpest eyes would catch the backup camera mated to the upgraded Volkswagen Accessories RNS315 Nav sound system with custom sound box with digital sound processor.

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build backup camera 22 Photo 22/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build Backup Camera 22

A glimpse of the original rendering produced by FMS to guide the build

For the full story on the completed Helios Tribute Car click HERE

Sema 2013 VW jetta helios tribute car build FMS automotive rendering 23 Photo 23/23   |   Sema 2013 VW Jetta Helios Tribute Car Build FMS Automotive Rendering 23

2013 SEMA Helios Tribute Car

2014 VW Jetta SE 1.8T

Engine
1.8L four-cylinder 16v turbo motor with APR software and cold-air intake, FMS custom 2.5" exhaust with Magnaflow muffler, VW Accessories reservoir caps, custom painted engine cover

Drivetrain
stock

Brakes
Golf R calipers f&r, 13.6" rotors f, 12.2" r, painted calipers, custom Helios finishers

Suspension
H&R Street Performance coilovers

Wheels & Tires
19x9.5" VW Motorsport wheels, ceramic coated, 235/35 R19 Nitto Invo tires

Exterior
Volkswagen Accessories body kit, OEM gloss-black mirrors, 2014 Hybrid grille, trunk spoiler and headlights, 2014 GLI smoked tail lights, FMS side moldings, custom LED foglights

Interior
Recaro Specialist seats in black leather with blue/grey cloth inserts, matching rear seats, OEM GLI steering wheel, e-brake handle, center console, door panel trim and golf-ball shift knob upholstered in black leather with blue stitching, VW Accessories pedal covers and sill plates, Corinthian Textiles floor mats and trunk liner, LED interior lighting

Audio/visual
Volkswagen Accessories RNS315 Nav system with backup camera and custom sound box with digital sound processor

By Justin Fivella
63 Articles

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