I don't know what I have done to annoy the "Gods" at Volkswagen AG. It seems that I am most certainly in their "bad books" when everything thing I do to acquire a Volkswagen R32 comes up negative. Obviously, the fact that I have owned eight VWs over the past twenty years has gone by completely unnoticed! One 1976 Rabbit, one 1980 Rabbit, two 1980 Sciroccos, one 1985 Golf GTI, one 1987 Jetta GL, one 1996 Jetta GLS, and one 1998 Jetta GLX. Oh, I forgot to mention that my first car was a 1973 Audi Fox, and I currently own a 2002 Audi A4 Avant 1.8T Quattro and a 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe. They too, ought to count for something! However, after some focused deep breathing and a few moments of rational thought, I come to the realization that, "it's not me....", it's where I live. You see I live in a place where no Volkswagen R32 can be licensed or insured for the public roads by a resident of that country. I live..., in Canada. Yes, the land of ice and snow, the "Great White North", eh. A land where 4motion, actually makes a hell of a lot of sense.
For me, this slow tempo 12-bar blues tune (in the key of E) began on a happy note the day my May 2003 issue of European Car magazine arrived in my mailbox. On the cover was a fabulous photo of Neuspeed's Euro-spec R32 - Rocket Launch! I quickly flipped, or rather "rocketed", to the table of contents and found the article. I then slowly and carefully read the article 2 or 3 times, and jubilantly concluded, "Yeah baby, I'm buying one! This is exactly the car I have been waiting for!" I phoned my local dealer the next day to find out when they might expect the first R32 to arrive in North America and how many they were allotted. To my surprise they didn't even know what an R32 was, but to their credit they volunteered to look in to it and get back to me. The next day I got "The Call". Bad news! The Volkswagen R32 was not coming to Canada. Dejected, I thought "it was too good to be true anyway". I had the R32 blues - real bad.
I caught the R32 bug again in the middle of the summer and when I finally saw the re-run of the Super 2NRTV episode that featured the R32 on Spike TV. Now, I really had to have one! It must have been the sounds and the motions this time, instead of the written specs and photos. So I contacted Volkswagen of North America and asked, "Why is the R32 not coming to Canada? Specifically, what are the technical reasons?". It took me two or three phone calls to get the information I was looking for. The semi-official word was that the bumper safety requirements for cars in Canada are a minimum of an 8 kph (5 mph) impact with no damage, and in the U.S. the minimum requirement is 5 kph (3 mph). The U.S.-spec R32 will only be manufactured to the 5 kph minimum. Another reason given was the lack of French language warning labels for the airbag system behind the sun visors. I was pleased that there were no engine emission issues as this meant I could likely handle the modifications myself. With some new bumper internals and some aftermarket bumper skins, and the carefully removed airbag stickers from my 2002 Audi A4, I should be able to completely and legally satisfy the Transport Canada requirements, ...or so I thought. My research revealed that there are very, very specific rules and regulations regarding the import of vehicles from the U.S. to Canada, in fact, there is a whole website dedicated to the subject ( http://www.riv.ca ). One can easily check the lists of "admissible" and "inadmissible" vehicles to determine if a particular car can be imported. Cars on the "inadmissible" list CANNOT be imported to Canada under any circumstances, PERIOD. In recent years, Canadian buyers have missed out on the VW Quantum, the first generation Audi A4 Avant and the new Audi RS6 models (prior to 2004) which have been enjoyed by our American neighbours. The US-spec 2004 Volkswagen R32 was added on to the inadmissible list in early December 2004. "Damn it", I said to myself, "Still, I've gotta have one!"
My next course of action was to learn about privately importing a Euro-spec R32 directly from Europe. On to the world wide web I went, looking for some sort of autobroker that could help me import a European vehicle into Canada. It did not take me too long to determine that this was not as easy I had originally thought it might be. So I had to think a little harder and come up with another plan. Then I remembered that Neuspeed's R32 (European Car- May 2003, Super 2NRTV - Episode #7) was a 2003 Euro-spec model. They had imported the car in 2003 to get a head start on their R32 aftermarket parts research. I sent them an e-mail asking if they could help me import one, or at least put me in contact with the people who helped them import their R32. Neuspeed sent me a quick reply stating that they obtained a special one-year import authorization from the United States Department of Transportation, and under the U.S. laws, the car must return to Germany within one year. On a whim, I fired back a reply to Neuspeed thanking them for the information and then politely asked "if they didn't have any specific obligations in place for the vehicle in Germany, why not sell it to me and ship it to Canada instead?" Used was better than none, after all! Neuspeed replied, "Thanks for the offer. Actually, we already have a buyer for the car, but we will keep you in mind if that deal falls through." Well, in mid November Neuspeed e-mailed me stating that the R32 was now available, they listed the asking price and what was included. I was quite excited to say the least. However, when I went to the Canada Customs/Transport Canada websites to look up information about importing European Vehicles and then verified it by telephone, again I was stopped dead in my tracks. I typed up an e-mail for Neuspeed with the bad news and quoted the passage from the website that basically said it all:
Vehicles manufactured for sale in countries other than Canada and the United States do not comply with the requirements of the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Act, CANNOT be altered to comply and CANNOT be imported into Canada. The only exceptions to this rule are vehicles fifteen (15) years old or older as determined by the month and year in which the vehicle was manufactured and buses manufactured before January 1, 1971.
I finished by wishing them the best of luck finding a new owner, pressed the send icon with my mouse and thought, "Cheated again, but I'm getting closer. Still, there must be a way".
Okay, so there is absolutely no legal way to import a US-spec or Euro-spec R32 into Canada, unless of course you have the patience to wait out the 15 years. Thinking outside the box, the only other option would be build one utilizing a new or used Canadian-spec Golf donor vehicle as a starting point. I had done a great deal of research into sourcing the necessary VAG parts, both new and used from salvage Audi TT parts. As it turned out the simplest and likely the best way to do this leave it to the professionals. HPA Motorsports is a very reputable Canadian VW/Audi tuning company in Surry, B.C. (Vancouver area) that, besides building and installing turbo systems for Mk 4 platform VWs and Audis, also performs the highly complex 4-motion conversions on Mk4 VWs. See the "All Weather Ripper" article in the November 2003 issue of European Car Magazine, or check out the HPA Motorsport Website (www.HPAMotorsport.com) for more details. However, at the time (January 2004), to my knowledge, one could not easily obtain the 3.2L VR6 R32 engine to finish off the job perfectly. Also, the cost of custom building of an "R28" utilizing a brand new 2004 VW Golf GTI VR6 (2.8L) was, by my calculations, over eight thousand dollars more than the US-spec R32 MSRP, even after selling off the factory take-offs. This was due to the many new VAG and aftermarket parts required and the immense amount of labour involved in such a conversion. The question that I was left with is this, "Do I have HPA build me a lesser "R28" this year, or do I wait for the 3.2L/4-motion/DSG version of the Golf V GTI (which may, or may not even come to Canada) in 2 or 3 or more years?" These were tough questions for someone who had their heart set on the factory normally aspirated R32 ever since they read the "First Test" article, and the fact that I was not sure yet about the look of the new Golf V to be released in North America as a 2006 model.
After going through many verses of this 12-bar blues over the past year or so, with all of the ups and downs, scheming, dreaming, sleuthing, calculating, and pleading to acquire my own Canada-legal Volkswagen R32 (or close facsimile). I had a bad, bad, case of the Canadian R32 Blues. But like any traditional Blues number, I was hoping that it had some sort of unexpected and bitter-sweet ending in store for me. At the time, I would have been satisfied to just have the opportunity to drive a factory R32 for a day or two in the U.S. or Europe, with perhaps with an afternoon at the track, a "little fling" shall we say. However, no matter what happens in the future, I'll always be disappointed that I'm "not allowed" to have a real R32 of my own. "Lord have mercy" (Volkswagen AG)!
Stay tuned for "Part 2: My R28 Dues", the building of a Canada-Legal "R28".