"I'm always in the pedal. I look forward to stopping, just so I can accelerate. Every time a stop sign comes up or a stoplight turns red, there's always a sense of excitement. Because I know I can get the thrill of this car's acceleration, it's that exciting," gushed Dave Graf.
I resisted temptation and didn't drive Dave's car while we looked for photo locations. I have a hard time resisting the siren song of Dunkin Donuts, let alone 300 bhp. I'd be in jail for sure if I had the keys to this monster for very long. Besides, my Jetta was in pieces back at his shop, New German Performance, halfway through a transplant of Dr. Schrick's finest. I didn't want to ruin the experience of jumping in and reveling in my car's newfound power by driving Dave's car. Just riding around with him was enough to make me wonder if it was too late.
Graf, 32, has been hooked on VWs since he was 16, same as his partner, Ed Sheets, 26. The two have been friends since '92, crossing paths at shows and hanging out talking cars. Both also started major projects about the same time, Graf with a VR6 transplant for his '91 GTI and Sheets swapping a G60 into his '85 Golf. Both had similar-frustratingly bad-experiences with delays and broken promises by the shop contracted to do the installations and decided there must be a better way.
So nearly 6 years ago, the two (along with a now departed third partner) quit their jobs and started NGP. With their recent experiences fresh in mind and backgrounds in retail, Graf said, "We pretty much based the business on customer service. It's a 50/50 split between normal service work and performance installations. The margins are lower on the performance work, but it is something we enjoy and it keeps our techs interested in the job. We try to stay within limits, though, so we're not using our customer's cars as guinea pigs."
Not that limits seemed to deter Graf when it came time to build a shop demo car. A fan of the "Euro look" ever since his first car, an '84 Rabbit GTI, Graf went all out on his 2000 Golf GTI 1.8T. "The theory behind this car was to give it the 'German Look'. Unlike a lot of shops, we don't put the shop in debt to the car, we build the cars personally," said Graf. "But I did want to use a bit of all the products we sell for business purposes. NGP is the exclusive distributor of Schmidt Wheels in the USA, and the wheels bring a 'look' to the car that is new to the U.S. market."
A FK Konigsport coilover kit, complemented by Autotech sway bars, drops the Golf almost 3 in., its wheelwells filled to overflowing with the massive 18-in. Schmidt Race 2000 wheels. Ultra-low 225/35-18 Dunlop Sport 8000s stretch to fit over 9-in.-wide wheels in front; 265/30/18s are mounted on 10.5x18 wheels in the rear. There is plenty of room for Autotech's 312mm brake upgrade (including stainless-steel lines and Mintex pads) under the giant custom wheels. "Most of the 30- to 40-series tires in the sizes we would use have a very stiff sidewall. Because that sidewall is so strong anyway, [stretching them to fit the wheels] really makes no difference," said Graf. "The car handles great, like it's on rails. And, no matter what I do, with the rears being so much wider than the fronts, I can't make this car oversteer." But Graf admitted, "The car is so low, it's not practical. It was built to show. It sure looks great down there, though!" Pity the poor front sub-frame.
A Dietrich GT front bumper, Kamei grille and Hella black headlight kit grace the front end of the NGP car, and a NACA-style duct was added to the black Golf's hood to feed air to the Eurosport ITG Cool Flow intake. While the hood was at the body shop, the small cut-out on the front lip that clears the stock badge was filled, a subtle detail well done. Votex sideskirts (from the Euro-spec 25th Anniversary Edition GTI), a Dietrich rear wing, factory RS badging and R+A Design DTM Cup power mirrors round out the exterior mods.