Around these parts, Brad Beardow at fifteen52 needs no intro. Brad has been around the VW block a *long* time and has built some memorable cars over the last 15+ years. Everything from his Projectzwo kitted Golf, New Beetle and Jetta to his famous “Project X” build series here on VWvortex where he cut up a Golf IV *and* a Jetta IV to create a Jetta IV coupe. So when Brad called me up and mentioned they had just bought a Jetta VI “to play around with,” it got our attention. The Jetta VI (for enthusiasts anyway) has been met with a high level of skepticism and in its basic form is a bit boring by all accounts. So Brad told us some of what he would like to do to the new Jetta and we decided to provide him an informal platform to tell everyone. So Brad and Co. at fifteen52 will be bringing you some regular updates on their current project car, thoughts on the new Jetta VI itself and more. Consider us interested to see what they have planned…
Since opening shop in 1996, we at fifteen52 (VW Sport USA back then) have been known for getting our hands on the latest VW models as early as possible, and turning them into our vision of something just a little bit better; a little bit more special.
In the past this has been a fairly simple task because as an importer of European VW/Audi products we had great access to a wide variety of parts. And since the Euros traditionally get to drive new VW models sometimes several years before we North Americans do, the parts we had access to were proven and widely available.
In 1998 the game changed a bit for us because VW’s newest and (at the time) most important model – the New Beetle – was built and distributed first in North America. In other words, there were no Euro NB parts to bring over because there was no Euro NB. Still, since the Beetle was pretty much all Mk4 chassis parts under its bulbous body, and the Mk4 Golf was already one year old in Europe, we did have lots of bits to play with. But when it came to exterior design we were on our own. No matter, though, as we hooked up with some of our industry contacts and designed and manufactured a variety of small exterior pieces, such as front cup splitters and a rear wing. It’s late 2010 now and staring at our Mk6 Jetta SE 5MT demo car has us thinking it’s looking a bit like 1998 all over again.
The Jetta 6 is an interesting car as far as VWs are concerned in that for the first time in its 30-or-so year history it’s no longer just “a Golf with a trunk.” For the sixth generation, VW has designed a Jetta that suprisingly shares very little with its Golf cousin. Longer, wider and employing different drivelines and underpinnings, the Jetta 6 – for good or for bad – now has its own truly distinct place in VWoA’s model lineup.
So as we’ve inferred, we’re back to the New Beetle days due to the fact there is very little from Europe or North America we can cherry-pick to help us jump-start the development process for Mk6 Jetta aftermarket products. Sure, the 2.5 5-cylinder is pure carry-over, but it’s more than likely there’s new software code to crack before we can even think of significant bumps in output. The Jetta’s rear suspension set up is unlike anything we’ve seen on a North American VW before. And with the new Jetta not exactly capturing the enthusiast’s heart right now, it looks like we’re sort of on our own for a while.
There’s a lot riding on the success of the Mk6 Jetta, as VWoA is counting on it to more than double sales here compared to the Mk5 version. To accomplish this they have cut quite a few content and material corners in order to achieve an admirably low MSRP. VWvortex readers have made it clear that this approach has its share of detractors, but we in the aftermarket like to see opportunity where others might see failure. In our eyes, the Jetta is a blank canvas from which we should have little trouble turning basic into beautiful. Right?
Unlike past fifteen52 cars, to us this Jetta is more development car than project car. Rather than try to transform it into an all-around beauty queen, we’re simply looking to use it to help develop some cool new parts of our own, and to also try out some cool new parts from other sources. As of this writing our plans include working with a couple major suspension manufacturers in prototyping an adjustable coilover kit and air ride system for the Jetta 6, designing and producing our own lineup of exterior styling products, using the car to demo our new wheel designs for 2011, and teaming up with a well-known company in order to add some extra performance under the hood.
We’re grateful to VWvortex for letting us share with their readers a little bit of a behind-the-scenes look into what’s involved in new product development for a brand new model. We’ll provide VWvortex with updates as soon as we have them and they’ll pass them on to you. No doubt we’re bound to hit a few roadblocks here and there, but that’s nothing new to us. No matter what happens we’re pleased to be back to doing what we love.
Thanks for watching.