It's been said that when you marry somebody, you marry their family. And the same holds true for the automotive aftermarket community. The minute you modify a car like this VW R32, you become a part of that community.
We're not suggesting all Camaro owners automatically grow mullets, or budding Porsche owners become deserving of the porcupine joke but, to some extent, purchasing and modifying a car introduces you to its community. Whether it's getting a thumbs-up from a fellow driver, or becoming active in your local car clubs, it will inevitably become a bigger part of your life.
For Jonathan Leung from Richmond, British Columbia, his love for the VW / Audi community brought him back after a mind-numbing stint in a Honda Civic. "I don't like to talk about my low point because I immediately regretted buying the Civic. I had a sinking feeling the moment I pulled out of the parking lot, and it stayed with me until I was involved in the only accident of my life, which totaled the car," Leung said.
He wasn't happy to get into a fender-bender, but it did get him back into a Volkswagen. "I was raised in a VW household. After my parents went out and bought a Beetle new in the '70s, they never left the marque. So it only made sense I'd get a VW as my first car," he continued.
His first taste of automotive freedom came in the form of a Mk3 VW GTI 2.0. His parents loaned him the money for the purchase and he spent the subsequent years paying off the debt. "I'm embarrassed to think back to how I modified that GTI, but I was young... It was my first car and for the times, I suppose the 5Zigen muffler and JDM style weren't that uncommon," he laughed, trying to justify his early choices.
So he might not have had the best taste in high school, but often our definition of what's cool is determined by what we can afford. Nevertheless, he met some fellow Dubbers, became active in a local club and really enjoyed the experience.
Things changed when he took a job as a traveling salesman that involved lots of driving. That's where the stint in the Civic began and ended... rear-ended, if you will.
Don't let this lapse in judgment lead you to assume he's not hardcore. It's quite the contrary. "The VW R32 was illegal to own until Canada changed its bumper laws a few years ago, so it was really difficult to find one. But when I did, I knew I had to buy it," Leung explained.
"I missed the VW community so much that I wanted to be part of the scene again; the shows and gatherings," he added.
The lawless act of driving a VW R32 was deemed legal shortly after he bought the car, but for those few glorious months, he was a vigilante for the cause. And speaking of lawless behavior, the previous owner must have driven it like he stole it, because the exterior and interior were tatty and torn. "The interior was trashed. The headliner was sagging, and the body was dodgy at best. However, the bones of the car were intact," Leung said.
After taking possession, his priority was to return it to pristine condition but it was an expensive endeavor. "I couldn't stand the interior. It was terrible that a sought-after car was in such bad shape, so I had Velocity Upholstery fix it immediately with an OEM+ feel," he continued.
They reupholstered the interior using black leather with white stitching throughout. The seats got carbon fiber-style center panels and the rear headrests were deleted. Even the rear VW R32 hatch was trimmed.
Among Jonathon's favorite additions are the European-spec FIS instrument cluster, the boost controller (yeah, it's a turbo - read on...) hidden in the cupholder location, and the stubby JDM folding mirrors that were wired into a New Beetle switch that fold when pushed, or can be operated from the key fob.
"I didn't want to overdo the exterior since the Mk4 R32 was special in stock form, but I'd always been a fan of the boser hood, even though their popularity seems to rise and fall," Jonathan said.
So a carbon boser hood from Carbon Creations replaced the damaged, stock unit, along with a JOM honeycomb grille, Seat Cupra splitter, 20th Anniversary Edition Euro headlights as well as niceties such as smoked M3-style tail lights, an OEM VW Polo rear wiper and the stubby antenna.
Part of this car's allure is its stance, but you'd be wrong if you thought it was on air. "Although I run artofstance.com, I'm installing air ride next week simply because there are roads and driveways I have to avoid because my car is so low. It's just a matter of convenience, at this point, since the car is my daily driver," he told us.
Air ride might be the future, but for now it sits on FK Silverline Plus X coilovers. They were aided by a UNIBrace XB chassis brace, Megan Racing adjustable rear control arms and SPC front caster/camber plates.
These parts play a supporting role to the wheels, which have a colorful history. "I spent months looking for a unique set of three-piece wheels. So when I found these, I had to have them," he said. According to the previous owner, the 17" BW Motorsports Kinesis 3.6 Cup wheels were originally custom-made for a Japanese Porsche team using OEM Porsche centers and Kinesis barrels.
Although Leung didn't initially like the chrome finish, it's grown on him, and a set of adapters ensured the 17x8.5" front and 17x9.5" rear wheels bolted to the VW hubs.
So all that remains is perhaps the best part of the build, and the reason the VW R32 deserves to be called a hot hatch. "I didn't have the car long before deciding to turbocharge it. CTS Autosport in Langley, BC, wanted to develop its stage 4 kit and was looking for a car," Leung said.
Loaning his car to the shop, they fitted a low-compression head spacer, short-runner intake manifold and Precision HP6262S-B turbo with a 68AR housing and T4 V-band adaptor. When run on C2 Motorsports 550cc software with a 3" CTS turbo-back exhaust and GReddy Profect B Spec II boost controller, the 3.2L VR6 motor put down 409hp and 458 lb-ft at the wheels on 23psi boost while sipping 94-octane pump gas.
The conversion turned a decently quick VW R32 into something that eats Bimmers for breakfast and RS4s for supper. But as fast as it might be, it's not just about speed: it's also about the experience. "Saving gas in a Honda was fine, but when you're missing out on the driving experience and the VW community, it's just not worth it. I'll take my gas-guzzling R32 turbo any day," Leung laughed.
2004 Volkswagen R32
Call Center Manager
3.2L VR6 24v with CTS Autosport stage 4 turbo kit using head spacer, Precision HP6262S-B 68AR T4 V-band turbo, 3" turbo-back exhaust and short-ram intake manifold, C2 Motorsports 550cc software, GReddy Profec B Spec II boost controller, VF Engineering mounts
stock six-speed manual transmission with Clutch Masters FX400 clutch, VF Engineering mounts, Dieselgeek short shifter
FK Silverline Plus X coilovers, UNIBrace XB brace, Megan Racing adjustable rear control arms, SPC front caster/camber kit
Wheels & Tires
17x8.5" f, 17x9.5" r BW Motorsports/Kinesis 3.6 Cup three-piece wheels with chromed Porsche centers, 205/45 R17 f, 215/45 R17 r Achilles ATR Sport tires
Carbon Creations boser hood, JOM honeycomb grille, Seat Cupra splitter, 20th Anniversary Edition European headlights, smoked M3-style tail lights, stubby antenna, JDM folding stubby mirrors, VW Polo rear wiper
black leather with white stitching on seats, headliner and pillars, carbon fiber-look vinyl on seat centers and parcel tray, European-spec FIS gauge cluster, Podi boost gauge, TWM Performance shift knob, Pioneer head unit
Jason Manchester, local VW community, dubberz.com, Clay and Nick at CTS Turbo (ctsturbo.com), Tim at Velocity Upholstery (velocityupholstery.com), Jeff at PG Performance (pgperformance.com)