Volkswagen's R32 is a great car. It's got a feeling of solidness that makes you want to rub the steering wheel and pat the shift knob, just sit there and appreciate the cabin's elegance.
In truth, the R32 is pretty damn complete, lacking for nothing save fuel. As usual, we found ourselves wondering if this would be the shortest project car we'd ever done.
If we had to adhere to a school, it would be the OE+ school of modification. Ideally, it needs to appear as if it's been assembled with factory hot rod parts built by craftsman after hours, you know, for kicks.
Short of having a key to VW's workshop, we assembled a smattering of gear that follow the aforementioned parameters.
HRE Type C90 Wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport PS2
The wheel industry is a fairly polarized place. At one end are great wheels, the other, crap. There are a few stratified through the middle but only a handful would pass stringent TUV and Euro-Union standards.
We've known of HRE Wheels for nearly 15 years, admired their work on Porsches, Lamborghinis BMW's, Audis, Vipers, etc. Every year at the SEMA show in Las Vegas we tend to hang around their booth too long, usually fondling whatever new design HRE has introduced that year.
Rather than typical sales people, you find yourself speaking with engineers, the guys that actually designed the wheels and know them from the alloy up. These guys deal in fact rather than marketing fantasy. We like that.
We chose HRE's C90 wheels for their classic multi-spoke styling, two-piece design and solid construction. While the R32 is capable of running 19-in gear, the decision to retain 18-in rims was based on the fact that more tire means more protection to the wheel. However, should we injure the HREs, we could simply order another outer section rather than a whole new wheel.
Like all HRE wheels, the C90s reek of quality, right down to the fasteners holding them together. And while the outer face of the wheels looks fantastic, the inside is just as beautiful. Every surface and each curve has been optimized for strength and lightness, neither bowing to the other but rather striking a perfect balance. That pretty much sums up HRE's product-balanced performance.
No, the C90s ain't cheap but neither is the forging technology that created them. Moreover, the C90s provide a classic look that should serve this car or any other that one day may wear them.
Measuring 18x8.5" ET30 with a 5x100 bolt pattern, the C90s have been wrapped with Michelin's exceptional Pilot Sport PS2 tires. We managed to get 255/35ZR-18s under the fender wells, leaving this R32 extremely well-tired. Switching the generic rubber for the Michelins was like substituting standard craft paste (the kind we ate in school) for Cyanoacrylate adhesive. The original tires were some off brand we'd never heard of and in truth, they were fun. The R32 slid all over the place like a rally car. With the PS2s, it doesn't budge. The car feels much more centered and cornering is very sharp.
There's not much we can add to what's already been said of the Michelin PS2. They are perhaps the best performance tires in the world, blending huge grip with outstanding road manners and decent wet performance.
We are huge fans of VW's narrow angle six. Both robust and powerful, it responds well to normally aspirated enhancements.
This first round includes hardware designed to enhance the car's respiration. We replaced the airbox with Eurosport's ITG Intake featuring its oil-impregnated element, heavy-duty fittings and heat shield. A Tectonics' exhaust replaced the heavy factory system, an impressive piece of work with great build quality and excellent fit and finish. It's augmented with Tectonics' own breed of camshaft wrought from stainless steel billets, ground in house and then chill-hardened. A gem-like underdrive pulley from ECS Tuning and GIAC software complete the program.