That Volkswagen is so closely related to Porsche is no surprise to anyone who has spent some time around either car. Even the average car enthusiast probably knows that none other than Dr. Porsche himself designed the original Beetle, and that the earliest cars to wear a Porsche badge were heavily based on Volkswagens as well. The connection has continued over the years, resulting in the 914 and 924, among others. Even today VW’s Touareg shares a platform with Porsche’s Cayenne.
While some Porsche owners may prefer to ignore their cars’ DNA, a whole lot of VW owners take pride in that part of the gene pool. It’s kind of like being related to a Rockefeller or a Kennedy; even if the relationship is only by marriage to a cousin twice removed, you still want to remind friends that you are part of “that family.” As such, some VW enthusiasts do all they can to highlight their car’s attachment to one of the most prestigious sports car marques in the world. One such enthusiast is Rob Tivadar, whose 2002 GTI now looks more like a 911 Turbo in a box.
Rob picked up the Reflex Silver GTI after his brother Greg purchased a 2001 Jetta VR6, also in silver. His goal from the beginning was to create the perfect all-around sports coupe. Yeah, Porsche does a pretty good job with that, but Rob was still on a student’s budget, so he would have to start small and build up to that level. The result of his efforts would not only have to be a head-turner, it would also have to perform.
Rob began in the visual department, a natural starting point for someone in the graphic design business. The 1.8T is a wonderful mechanical package, but the fourth-generation GTIs were all but indistinguishable from a bog-stock Golf. So Rob pulled out all the stops when it came to cosmetic enhancement, both inside and out.
True to GTIs of the past, black was the predominant color in the interior. Black carpets, black leather sport seats, black leather door panels, and that wonderful black dashboard. Only the headliner and pillars offered some contrast initially. That would all change though, as the original seats were replaced with a set of sport seats retrimmed with black bolsters and silver UltraSuede inserts. Other silver accents in the interior include a Legend Five aluminum dash kit, European Bora Sport gauge cluster and a Victor sport steering wheel with silver accents. The finishing touch is a pair of limited edition silver Schroth harness belts.
Other improvements to the cockpit include a set of R1 Racing gauges in a color-matched dual-gauge pod on the A-pillar to monitor boost and oil temperature. A Rieger illuminated shift knob draws attention to the center console while the tunes are cranked from the JVC KDSH 900 CD/MP3 player. Rob took the time to fit the red-LED light cluster from the W8 Passat for mood lighting. Finally, a pair of Projektzwo carpeted mats, black with silver trim of course, has been fitted to complete the ensemble. The overall look is clean and functional with a touch of flair, just like that certain German sports car.
As impressive as the interior may be, the modifications to the exterior are what get Rob all the attention. Rob knows quality when he sees it, so when he went looking for a body kit, he knew where to turn. Projektzwo was the only company to produce a kit with the looks and quality that he was expecting. The full-on kit includes an R32-look front bumper, rear diffuser, hatch blend, hatch spoiler, and sport mirrors. The rear bumper is an OEM R32 piece. The side skirts are also from an R32, though they are augmented by a set of Projektzwo skirt extensions. Kamei headlight “eyebrows” lend a more aggressive look to the face of the car. The front fenders have also been flushed by removing the side markers, which are now integrated into the sport mirrors.
Incredibly, Rob wanted this kit so bad for Waterfest 2003 that he paid next-day shipping charges to get it in time. Then, it nearly didn’t make it because of delays at the paint shop. Forgoing sleep, he completed the installation just two hours before departing Chicago for the trip to New Jersey.
What really catches the eye though are the massive 18x 8.5” TechArt Formula GT wheels with their distinctive matte black finish. You may be thinking, “Isn’t TechArt exclusively for Porsche?” The answer would be, “Yes, normally.” Rob took advantage of H&R’s unique hub adapters that convert the 5x100mm VW bolt circle to the 5x130mm Porsche pattern. This setup, when ordered in the correct offset, allows VW owners to run Porsche wheels. In Rob’s case, two pairs of 20mm adapters provided the correct positioning of the wheels on the GTI. Connecting the wheels to the road is a set of Michelin Pilot Sports in an astounding 235/40ZR18 size. That much rubber is a tight squeeze in the VW’s fenders, so the front wheel wells were trimmed to reduce the amount of interference.
Though most people just think the huge black wheels look great on the car, Rob loves the attention he gets when a more enlightened enthusiast realize his VW is rolling on Porsche alloys. To him, this satisfaction makes it worth the trouble and money to fit them.
OK, so the car is definitely a looker, but can it actually keep up with itself? Rest assured that Rob made every effort to guarantee his car was every bit “go” as it was “show.” This was planned from the beginning, when he chose the ultra-tunable 1.8T engine over the larger-displacement VR6. No self-respecting performance nut would overlook the output gained by any of the ECU upgrades on the market. Rob’s chip of choice was the APR EMCS software, allowing him to choose from stock setting, 93-octane performance or 100-octane race mode at the flick of the cruise control switch. To help manage the extra boost, he selected an upgraded diverter valve from Bailey.
Since a big part of turbo performance is related to the engine’s ability to breathe, restrictions were eliminated in several key areas. On the front side of the engine, the factory air box was replaced with a P-Flo kit from Neuspeed, who also contributed to freer breathing further upstream thanks to their less-restrictive intercooler pipe and turbo inlet pipe. The back side of the engine breathes better too, thanks to an APR 2.5” downpipe that leads into a custom 2.5” exhaust system with dual outlets to fill that R32 bumper.
It takes more than just good breathing to make real power though. Compressing air with a turbocharger creates a lot of extra heat. And since hot air is not as dense as cold air, there is power to be made by reducing the intake temps. A Eurospec twin intercooler kit provides more cooling surface than the single-intercooler factory setup. Aiding the two intercoolers is the ceramic-coated intake manifold, also from Eurospec. A pair of Nitrous Express Ntercooler bottles lend a little extra help when the going is really hot.
The stock clutch is good for around 250 horsepower if it is treated nicely. But Rob didn’t necessarily plan to play nice, so he fitted a Sachs high performance clutch kit to handle the extra abuse he had in mind. While the transmission was out, he made the wise decision to install a lighter flywheel as well, allowing the engine to accelerate more quickly. A set of Turn 2 engine mounts keeps things planted during hard acceleration.
Keeping that kind of power under control requires some serious underpinnings. The fairly soft factory suspension was ditched in favor of a set of KW V2 coilovers. Neuspeed sway bars, 25mm in front and 28mm in the rear, lend a little help in the cornering department. The addition of Neuspeed upper and lower front stress bars and a Yarrow rear stress bar further stiffen the already-solid Mk IV chassis.
No performance car is complete without the ability to stop on demand. Rob didn’t cut any corners here either. Visible at the front through the TechArt wheels is a set of genuine Porsche Turbo brake calipers, finished in their trademark red paint. The 4-piston calipers grab hold of 13-inch cross-drilled Porsche rotors. A set of cross-drilled Zimmerman rotors balance out the look and performance at the rear. Braided stainless steel protects the Teflon brake lines at each corner, while at the same time providing excellent pedal feel and modulation as compared to the factory’s rubber hoses. Friction is managed by Hawk race pads at the front and the rear.
The completed car is exactly what Rob had envisioned. It has power, handling, and stunning looks. Plus there is still room for three of his friends with trunk room to spare for whatever comes up. In short, he has built a perfect all-around sports coupe. The question is, was it any cheaper than just going out and buying a Porsche in the first place? Rob won’t answer that question. Instead he just smiles proudly, confident in the knowledge that he has one of the most unique cars on the road, at any price.
Name: Rob Tivadar
Occupation: Graphic Arts Designer
Club Affiliations: Chicago VW Org, Joliet Sports Car Club
2002 Volkswagen GTI 1.8T
Thanks/Props: Brad, Steve, and John at fifteen52design, Rob, Brian, Charlie, and Steve at Moto Persona, KW Suspensions, HPA, PG Performance, and my Brother Greg.
projektzwo R32 Front bumper
projektzwo R32 side skirt add ons
projektzwo Rear diffuser
projektzwo Signal Mirrors
projektzwo Hatch Blend
projektzwo Roof Spoiler
OEM R32 Side skirts
OEM R32 Rear Bumper
Shaved and Pulled front fenders
KW Varinent 2 Coilover INOX
Neuspeed 25mm Front Sway Bar
Neuspeed 28mm Rear Sway Bar
Neuspeed Lower front tie bar
Neuspeed upper strut bar
Yarrow Rear Strut Bar
H&R 20mm Wheel adapters 5×100 to 5×130
18×8.5 50mm offset Techart Formula GT’s front
18×8.5 40mm offset Techart Formula GT’s rear
235×40 Michelin Pilot Sport front/rear
Porsche 993 Twin Turbo 13″ Crossdrilled Front Brake kit
Zimmerman Cross-drilled rear rotos
Stainless Steel Brake lines Front/rear
Hawk race pads Front/rear
Neuspeed P-Flow Intake
Baileys Diveter Valve
Neuspeed Turbo Inlet Pipe
Neuspeed Lower Intercooler Tube
Eurospec TT 225 Twin Intercooler Kit with ceramic coated manifold
APR chip w/stock, 93oct, and 100oct programs
APR 2.5″ downpipe
Custom 2.5″ Dual Exhaust
Sachs Power clutch
12lb lightened Flywheel
Neuspeed short shift kit
Turn 2 Dogbone and engine mounts
Nitrous Express Dual Ntercooler setup w/ custom painted bottles
Custom Alcantera/Leather Race seats
Oem Bora Sport Gauge Cluster
Legend Five alluminum Dash kit
OEM W8 dome light
Reiger Illuminated shift knob
Projektzwo Floor mats
JVC KDSH 900 cd/mp3 player
Victor airbag steering wheel
Autometer color matched dual gauge pod
R1 racing color change boost and oil temp gauges
Limited Edition silver Schroth harnesses
OEM euro headlight switch
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