With some 20 years under its belt and countless tuned transformations, the GTI has finally come to the point where people are actually restoring them to factory trim. We saw it first hand at the New Dimensions 2003 Charity Car Show, where enthusiasts milled around stock Rabbit GTIs and 16V MkIIs while speaking with reverent tones. By today's standards their performance numbers are pretty weak (as were most cars of the time), but folks don't seem to care. You either "get" the GTI or you don't. It's a German car thing we'd like to think only the coolest understand. We have collected a few examples of modified VWs from our files. Most started out as GTIs while a few have morphed into GTI trim. Enjoy.
Rabbit GTI 16V
In the '80s, nothing Japanese could touch a 16V Golf or Scirocco. Placing VW's multi-valve engine within the confines of an even lighter Rabbit made it a true giant killer. Steve Holloway revived his dead Rabbit with the mill from a 16V Scirocco, a fairly straightforward task as both shared the same chassis. A Euro intake cam and free-flowing exhaust helps this Miata Blue hatch maintain a competitive edge, even against today's more powerful albeit heavier cars.
ABD GTI 16V
If you were to consider Germany in the same geographical light as the United States, ABD would be Deutschland's West Coast tuner. Although Dave Anderson and crew are just as power hungry as hardcore German tuners, it treats its cars with a distinctive SoCal slant. This 1992 GTI is a perfect example. Its 2021cc engine featured Schrick 260 cams, Techtonic's adjustable cam sprocket, a European downpipe and full Remus exhaust. The body was fitted with ABD's Aerodynamic E package, Euro bumpers and the Rallye Golf headlamp conversion. The cabin features Cobra Silverstone seats, Autopower roll bar, ABD short shifter, MOMO controls and center gauge console. The suspension was modified with ABD's hollow sway bars (25mm/28mm), ABD's urethane bushings, ABD's front and rear strut tower braces, Speedtech springs and Tokico Illumina dampers. The brakes are 11 in. with stainless-steel lines. Fast and well-dressed, ABD's 16V GTI spawned an entire generation of followers with its distinctive style.
RPI VR6 Rabbit
As the MkI cars continue to age, so does the audience they attract. Face it, these cars are officially old and therefore require money, time and enthusiasm to regenerate their fading performance. Seven years ago, the crew at RPI placed a VR6 within the engine bay of this Rabbit, and it has remained a rarity in swap circles. Although it makes for a great deal of fun, it takes a great deal of fabrication to make such a swap a reality. This VW began its new career on a rotisserie, where its stripped body was seam-welded and fitted with an integral cage for great torsional strength. Custom-engineered motor mounts and their respective hard points were fabricated to ensure the chassis would retain a grip on its vastly improved powerplant. In lieu of VW's wider Plus Suspension (it will not fit the Rabbit), a combination of Scirocco underpinnings and G60 driveshafts suspend the car. The pedal assembly is VR6 stock and required much persuasion to fit within the Rabbit's footwells. The electronics are split between two separate boxes: the factory's VR6 box controls the lower amp functions and a secondary box controls the higher amp functions such as computer, fuel system and oxygen sensor. The VR6 head was ported and polished and augmented with Neuspeed's 2.9-liter throttle body and its P-Flow intake. The factory exhaust manifold is linked to a Supersprint StreetComp exhaust. Brakes are comprised of Wilwood four-piston calipers with stock Scirocco rears.
HPA MkIII GTI SC
We love big displacement motors and forced induction. Marcel Horn of HPA loves 'em both, too. It was no surprise then when this Windsor Blue A3 GTI became the recipient of a big motor and a blower. The 2.8-liter VR6 was enlarged through an Abt stroker featuring a larger bore of 82mm and longer stroke of 95.6, bringing effective displacement to 3.0 liters. The engine internals feature a balanced crank, oversize valves with upgraded springs and HPA's own forced-induction camshafts. A Schrick variable intake manifold sits atop the ported and polished head and is fed through a ram air system. The supercharger program is based on an AMS/Vortech blower with a custom fuel delivery system featuring bigger injectors, a custom fuel pump and regulator and a custom-programmed ECU. To help cope with the additional power, HPA wisely installed a Quaife limited slip differential. HPA Dynojet recorded 278 whp and 269 lb-ft of twist. The suspension includes KW coilovers and bigger, 6-piston Winner Power brakes which grip 13-in. rotors up front and 9.4-in. units out back. Rolling stock is based on 8x17-in. ROH alloys and 205/40-17 Yokohama A520 tires.
Resembling the boxed fenders of VW's Rallye Golf, the Konigseder package is more than just a pretty face on this black GTI. Those pronounced flares allow brave owners to trim the radius of each wheel arch and stuff some serious running gear underneath. The silver car wears 9.5 x 18 TechArt Porsche wheels on each corner with 255/35ZR-18 Pirelli P7000 rubber. H&R billet spacers push these sizable wheels out a few extra millimeters for more stability and help clearance the massive brake package. The Mov'it Porsche brake conversion kit uses genuine Porsche 322mm rotors with cast, not drilled, holes. The calipers are from the 993 Twin Turbo and the pads are immense. The calipers are sealed and need no rebuilding, and they work with the GTI's master cylinder. Fischer stainless-steel lines also come with the kit. The front and rear of the GTI feature Konigseder's airdam and rear valence (without the optional diffuser); the entire program is fabricated from urethane.
Other body mods include Hella black-out headlamps and taillights and ProjektZwo mirrors. The suspension was augmented with H&R height-adjustable coilovers with Neuspeed front and rear anti-roll bars underneath. Neuspeed's lower front control-arm support also was installed. Neuspeed also provided an ECU upgrade and K04 turbo kit featuring a larger intercooler inlet pipe and P-Flow intake. A Techtonics 2.5-in. exhaust with hidden tip provides freer breathing, and horsepower increases to 240 bhp with an even higher torque figure. The cabin features Recaro SPG seats for driver and passenger and a buttery-suede Sparco shift knob. A custom-fabricated gauge panel houses VDO Vision instruments including boost, oil temp and pressure readouts. Visually, this Satin Silver sled differs from the black car with the optional diffuser integrated into the rear valence, the Oettinger grille featuring Greedspeed's mesh inserts, and the BMW M3 rear-view mirrors. The rear hatch/body blend is a ProjektZwo part as well. Lighting was augmented with In.Pro's clear taillights and Super White headlamp bulbs from Jahn.
The GTI runs with 8 x 18-in. OZ Superturismo wheels and 224/40ZR-18 P7000 tires (H&R spacers were required). Neuspeed's race springs and specifically valved Bilstein dampers lower the chassis 2 in., and Neuspeed's big sway bars help control the car's rather stout curb weight. The engine features Neuspeed's P-flo intake and AutoThority's ECU; the exhaust is comprised of a TDI center section (no center resonator) and a Remus muffler. Output is claimed to increase some 15 to 20 hp. Originally equipped with a beige interior (yes, a silver GTI with a beige interior!), everything was recovered in black leather with Audi TT pedals and the TT dead pedal underfoot. A 13-piece chrome dash kit from Perfect Image Creations Inc. can also be found inside. The rear seats were removed to lighten the car.
Autohaus GTI VR6
This VW began its racing career after Michael Wanner, a VW and Porsche dealer from Harrisburg, PA, spied it sitting on his lot. His father was one of the "Pioneer 25," the group responsible for getting Volkswagen started in the U.S., so German cars ran in Mike's veins, so to speak. This GTI ran in the Professional Sportscar Racing Endurance Challenge (EC) and is largely stock save for an Autopower rollbar and a modified coolant inlet on the head gasket to reduce head temperatures. The suspension includes Carrera shocks with custom-made coilovers in front. The GTI ran Toyo Proxes, the spec tire for the EC series, although Michael was limited to 15-in. diameter because that was original equipment on the car. The GTI proved to be amazingly durable with the exception of the brake pads that would literally fry on venues like Daytona. Pads from Performance Friction solved the problem. Fellow racers dubbed the car "The World's Fastest Toaster" because its sizable dimensions punched a big hole in the air. Smaller cars tended to favor its considerable aerodynamics and would sit behind the GTI, riding in its wake. They rarely got a front view.
Although cars like the Rallye Golf and Golf Limited enjoyed VW's forced induction, the U.S. never saw the G60 used in the Golf chassis. Brandon Moessner and hundreds like him were forced to take matters into their own hands. Before Moessner dropped the Corrado motor into this cobalt-blue 1985 A2, he massaged the heads with larger 33.5mm intake valves, a port and polish session and larger throttle body, which links to a ported intake manifold. The car exhales through a Euro downpipe and Leistritz exhaust. The blower was fitted with an additional belt that provides an extra net of safety should the original break. A Schrick 268 cam spins in the head, and the radiator was replaced with a G60 unit. To deal with the additional torque, the car was equipped with a Centerforce clutch and a Quaife differential.
The VW rides on Tokico shocks and Jamex springs with 16-in. MOMO five stars shod with 205/40-16 Ohstu tires. The suspension was augmented with a front-mounted Autotech swaybar and its upper strut tie bars, while the rear torsion beam axle remains untouched to negate the inherent understeer. The body was shaved of extraneous handles and lights, and the gas cap was culled from an 1100 CBR Honda motorcycle. The hood scoop is from a Lancia.
A3 GTI VR6 SC with Nitrous
In terms of bolt-on simplicity, adding a supercharger and nitrous oxide to a car is the most effective way to boost performance. It's an idea Tom Lacosse took to task with his 1995 GTI. A Vortech blower was added to the engine and its function enhanced with a Neuspeed ECU, Neuspeed throttle body and P-Flow. In addition to a 50-shot of nitrous oxide. (Ok, get this straight. Nitrous oxide is a gas made from two parts non-flammable nitrogen and one part flammable oxygen. As this compound gas is released into an engine, the nitrogen separates from the oxygen. The flammable oxygen enhances the engine's performance. NOS is a registered trademark of the company, Nitrous Oxide Systems. If someone declares they have "naus," it is technically incorrect.
The correct usage is, "I am using nitrous oxide," or "I have a NOS unit." Get it? Good.) Lacrosse used an undersized blower pulley to raise boost levels to 8.5 psi. The transmission was reconfigured to include a Quaife limited slip, Centerforce clutch and a 4.24:1 ring and pinion. Running gear is comprised of 8 x 17 HRE 540 wheels and 215/35ZR-18 Nitto 450 tires. The front and rear aerodynamics are Zender stock. The headlamps, rear wing, grille and mirrors are by Abt. The car was put on a crash diet, shedding hundreds of pounds and managed to run a blistering 13.1 quarter-mile at 105 mph (on slicks).
Although it's wise to choose the most powerful model before embarking on a tuning program, this pair did not start that way. Equipped with VW's anemic 2.0-liter crossflow motor, these cars were going nowhere and not very fast. Owners Quinton Kirbach and Ali Farzad decided to do something about it. Kirbach's Jetta was rigged with a turbo kit of his own design (Dad helped, too). He started by using a New Dimensions turbo manifold and bolting on a modified watercooled IHI RHB5 turbo.
A Neuspeed chip optimized for the system was added as was a Vortech SFMU adjustable fuel management unit. The compression was lowered via a thicker head gasket to keep the pressure at a reasonable rate. A HÖR Technologie 270 cam spins in the head, and boost is controlled with an HKS EVC IV controller, while an HKS Turbo Timer keeps things cool. A Spearco front-mounted intercooler with custom mandrel bends lowers intake temperatures, and the air is metered by a digital fuel meter. Peak boost is set at 12 psi. The car exhales through a 2.5-in. Remus triple-chrome flow-through exhaust.
Dyno figures revealed 225 hp, which is transferred by way of a heavy-duty Clutchmaster unit. Eurosport race springs, Black Label wheels and Nitto 555 tires provide the underpinnings. ABD provided the athletic wear. The Venetian Blue Golf belongs to Farzad, and it has been rigged with an EIP turbo kit. The EIP system is based on a Turbonetics-modified Garrett T3 Stage 3 super 60 turbo working in tandem with a Turbonetics Delta Gate wastegate. The turbo is mounted on an EIP manifold, and cool air is provided by a Bell Engineering intercooler. Farzad used a Techtonics adjustable cam sprocket, an EIP custom 2.5-in. downpipe connected to a Genie stainless-steel exhaust. A Greddy Profec boost controller and Greddy Turbo Timer, along with a Cyberdyne digital boost gauge and digital air/fuel gauge, control and monitor the system. An AutoThority ECU was custom programmed for this application. The engine dyno figures show 220 bhp at 4750 rpm with 230 lb-ft of torque at 5700 rpm. These numbers were obtained without using the optional ZEX Innovations 50-shot nitrous oxide system. Power is transferred through a Clutchmasters heavy-duty disc and a Quaife LSD. A Weapon R fuel-pressure regulator works in conjunction with a Vortech boost-sensitive fuel-pressure regulator.
The engine breathes through a Weapon R air filter fed by a scoop cannibalized from a '76 Pontiac TransAm. A Wings West body kit clads the exterior with dual ProjektZwo lights and clear marker lamps. Ground Control coilovers utilize Tokico Illumina dampers, and the car rides on Axis 7.5x18 alloys with Toyo Proxes rubber.
Abt GTI IV
There's a certain "correctness" about Abt Tuning that makes it one of the most copied companies in VW tuning circles. Being in close proximity to the factory helps, as does an active pursuit of motorsport activities, both traits the German-based company enjoys. Abt was privy to the Golf IV long before we saw it in the U.S., and although this car is more than three years old, it still looks great and is wickedly fast. The car was clad in Abt's polyurethane aerodynamics and runs Abt's 8x17-in. five-spoke modular alloys shod with 215/45ZR-17 rubber; underpinnings include Abt's proprietary suspension. The 150-bhp 1.8t engine received an 85-bhp boost with a larger KKK turbo, larger intercooler, high-flow air filter, Abt ECU and free-flow exhaust. With 1.3 bar of boost, the GTI produces 235 bhp at 5800 rpm and 247 lb-ft of torque at 1700 rpm. The 0-to-60-mph sprint comes up in 6.4 sec., 100 mph in 15 sec., and top speed is 151 mph. Abt tagged this car the VS4.
Almost three years before Volkswagen's R32 was introduced, the crew at HPA had completed what is perhaps the most impressive Golf the world had ever seen. Capable of producing twice the power of the R32, this GTI is the ultimate "giant killer," a hatchback capable of running with the world's most exclusive sports cars. The concept was based on a 2000 Golf and included VW's 12V VR6 augmented with twin turbochargers; Audi's Haldex-based all-wheel-drive supplied the grip. The car was assembled with a combination of Golf, Jetta, TT and A3 parts and pieces for the revised floorpan. HGP Turbo GmbH provided the forced induction system with a pair of Garrett ball-bearing turbos and a focus on factory accuracy while utilizing as many factory VAG parts as possible. The only internal engine mods were special hardened "black" race connecting rod bearings and HGP's head spacer, which lowers compression to 7.0:1.
In VW Motorsport testing, the production drivetrain can accommodate up to 750 bhp, so it remained unmolested. Runs with a similar HGP vehicle on the Bosch awd dyno revealed stunning results--with 100-octane fuel, the car made 491 hp with 537 lb-ft of twist. Tuned for 93 octane, the HGP system made 442 hp and 484 lb-ft of torque, still enough to best Porsche's bad boy biturbo. Underpinnings (by order of importance) include Porsche 993 Twin Turbo cast drilled 12.88-in. rotors and calipers up front and Boxster S calipers and rotors in the rear. KW's new Competition suspension features both bump and rebound adjustable dampers and work in conjunction with 8.5x17 and 10x17 KW Cup wheels with Yokohama A520 rubber measuring 215/45-17 and 235/40-17.
16V GTI Turbo
In the mid '90s, AMS experimented with a turbo kit for the much-loved VW 16V engine. The system was comprised of a water-cooled Garrett T3 turbo, AMS exhaust manifold, modified head gasket to lower compression, intercooler, AMS adaptive ECU, electronic wastegate control and plumbing hardware. Standard boost level was 8.6 psi with an overboost mode (AMS's Conditional Boost) that would temporarily raise boost to 10.5 psi. Dyno figures indicated 244 bhp at 5800 rpm. The AMS program was well engineered to provide a reliable and yet exciting boost in performance.