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Budget B5 Buildup Part IV

The Final Frontier

Cullen Clutterham
Aug 1, 2000

What’s left? Should we call it quits and go buy a Sony PS2, a couple of games, and 40 bucks worth of chips, dip, and beer? Are you kidding? We’re not done. Hell, what project ever truly is? Let’s get real here. We’ve upgraded three of the five major modification areas (All with a budget in mind.—MAX). Now we’ve got to choose between the two remaining as to what we’re going to “end” this Budget B5 Buildup with. The five major modification areas, in case you couldn’t figure it out, are: chassis (Wheels, tires, suspension, chassis reinforcement, bushings, brakes, etc.—MAX); engine (Exhaust, intake, chip, turbo kit, porting and polishing, LSD, short shifter, etc.—MAX); interior (Shift knob, pedals, sport seats, re-upholstery, etc.—MAX); in-car electronics (Amps, subwoofers, monitoring gauges, LCD screens, DVD player, etc.—MAX); and exterior (Body kit, lighting, paint, vinyl graphics, etc.—MAX). It seems as though some parts would intermingle and could be included in other modification areas. We don’t have to make excuses, though. This is what we think it should be broken into, and so it shall be.

We’ve already been through chassis, engine, and interior modifications, and we have $491.22 left of our original $5,000 budget. Of the two areas left, one will have a greater importance depending on whom you talk to. We’d love to be able to upgrade both the audio system and perform some awesome exterior modifications, but the budget just doesn’t allow it. Then this went through our heads: “We’ve got $491.22 left, let’s make the most out of it that we can.” With the factory Monsoon sound system and six-disc changer included when the car was purchased, we would be swapping out fairly competent pieces for better-sounding equipment. For a truly awesome sounding system, however, we can’t possibly stay within the limits that we have set for ourselves. The Monsoon system may not provide the clearest, most vibrant tones that we could ask for, but anything that we desire to play can be heard through any of the driving conditions that we’ve encountered. So, the exterior it is.

One good thing about working in a building almost entirely devoted to automotive magazines is that there is always somebody with a good and free-to-perform modification idea. Trying to think of what we could do for free, we thought of removing the badges and the front plate holder, but it wasn’t something that we were going to show until one of MAX’s own ad reps asked us how to remove the badges (We told him dental floss, but he didn’t quite get it.—MAX). So, that’s one free mod that was performed.

As for the front plate holder, luckily ours was not screwed to the front of the bumper. Instead, it was simply attached to a bracket that is hidden behind the lower grille (If you live in a state that requires a front plate, we discourage you from removing the plate and won’t be held responsible for any legal actions taken against you. Hell, we’re not responsible anyway.—MAX). A simple fix to having screw holes left in your front bumper is to pick up some small plastic plugs from the local Pep Boys and some touch-up paint from your local VW dealer, install the plugs and paint them to match.

There is another good thing about working in a building almost entirely devoted to automotive magazines: all the free stuff just lying around. We debated on fuzzy dice, screw-on exhaust tips, skull-and-crossbones valve stem caps, and eight-ball door pins but finally found what we were looking for: a plain-Jane chrome license plate frame to replace the one that the dealer had installed. You might think that this is kind of a Mickey Mouse mod to mention, but the only thing worse than having a dealership’s plate frame on the back of your car is having a naked plate on there. Just to be fair, though it didn’t cost us anything, we still marked it down as taking away $15 from our budget. Now it’s time to actually spend some money.

The first thing that came to mind was a wing. We called Wings West in Newport Beach, California, and got our grubby paws on one of its Passat-specific deck wings. Remember “classy” and “stylish?” It definitely qualifies as both. A low-profile wing with dual mounting pedestals and an LED stop lamp makes for a good first modification to the exterior. The MSRP of the unpainted wing with all the mounting hardware and installation instructions is $169.

Next up was vinyl. We knew that we wanted a MAX Power windshield banner, so we headed over to Modern Image Signworks in Huntington Beach, California, to get a two-color banner cut. The two-color banner cost $20 installed. While there, our vinyl master, Vic, gave us a suggestion of what else we could do short of a full vinyl treatment. He suggested that we cover the B-pillar and rear quarter-window trim in carbon fiber-look vinyl. Rather than attempt to cut the vinyl on the car to the exact shape that we needed, he cut out a rough shape using black vinyl, put the strips on a sheet of paper, and scanned them into the computer. From there, the cutter went to work giving us the shape that we needed for the pillars. The vinyl was then applied and trimmed to the perfect size. Due to the higher cost of carbon fiber-look vinyl and the additional time to install, the end price was $30.

Groovy, we’ve got some pretty sweet mods and have only spent $234, meaning that we have about 260 bucks left to throw a party. And then we remembered that we needed to get the wing painted. And then there’s the whole installation of the wing to deal with, too. Being the constant partiers that we are, and our addiction to any and all things caffeineated, we figured that drilling through a deck lid is better left to someone that can work hungover or suffering from caffeine-deprivation. For our painting and drilling needs, we contacted Joe Delio, owner of Wet Works Garage.

Wet Works had recently relocated to Stanton, California, and Joe and his partner Dan were more than willing to have this MAX project christen their new digs. Painting and installing a wing may not sound like christening material, but do you think that’s all that we had planned? Of course not. We thought that with that much cash left, we needed to make the car look even better, even if it would mean going over budget. Good body kits are not easy to come by painted and installed for $250 bucks. Therefore, we thought that we’d get all the black underbody pieces painted to match, including the front half of the bumper, the rear half bumper, the side skirts, and lower door trim.

This may seem like a fairly simple task, but when you consider that the lower door trim is a soft rubber, the side skirts are three rather interestingly shaped pieces, the front lower-half of the bumper is secured with what seems to be about a thousand little tabs, and the rear bumper needs to be masked because it is a single piece, you realize that simple is something it ain’t. Joe, however, begged to differ. He has such an extensive knowledge of all things automotive, that this is as easy to him as riding a horse bareback on a fox hunt in some Scottish backwoods. We told him that we were leery of doing it because we didn’t want to break anything taking off the pieces. He said that it’s easy, just be “tender and loving” (We let it slide, even though he did wink at us.—MAX). We also worried about how the lower door trim would look, being that it is constructed of soft rubber. He calmed us by assuring that there would be no problem—the paint would not be easily cracked, nor would the pieces curl due to the paint drying. We decided to go for it, as long as he’d take all the pieces off and reinstall them. He muttered something under his breath and agreed.

Because we aren’t including labor in the cost of our buildup, we’ll venture a guess that the painting of the wing and body pieces would cost about $250, were you to remove and install everything yourself. Be aware, however, that Joe has devised a special process to ensure the long life of the rubber lower door trim, so results will definitely vary. The sheer quantity of paint and of the work involved, not to mention the quality of the work, warrants spending that little extra with somebody who’s work is a notch above the rest. Don’t forget that you’ll also have to tap into the brake light, so if you’re uncomfortable with doing any of the work yourself, don’t be afraid to go to a respected installer in your area. On to the part where we show you how stuff got done.

By Cullen Clutterham
33 Articles



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