Forum Friday: 1996 GTI Build

Sometimes you just can’t go wrong with a classic, which is exactly why forum user staingang decided to pick up a 1996 GTI in Windsor blue. The car is in fantastic shape for being 22 years old — with only 125,900 miles on the odometer — and staingang has some big plans for this beauty. Let’s look at what he’s done already and what’s on his agenda.

The Car

This classic little car features a 2.8L V6 gasoline engine which generates 172 horsepower and 173 foot-pounds of torque. It’s a great little car to get you from point A to point B through your daily commute or just to and from the grocery store. The GTI staingang picked up was in fantastic shape for its age — no major body damage and an engine that ran well enough to carry him home to San Jose, Calif., after he picked it up in Portland, Ore.

The Build

The first few add-ons to this classic GTI were purely aesthetic. Staingang replaced the radio with an OEM model and swapped out the tire clamshell, as well as the original coolant expansion tank that was starting to look pretty beat up after 22 years on the road. The suspension got a good cleaning, as did the wheels, and the oil filter housing got a nice upgrade. The OEM battery tray also got a snazzy new polished replacement, and the battery wires got a re-loom.

To date, staingang has also replaced the oil pan, flushed and replaced the oil and antifreeze and detailed the car. He also removed the aftermarket wiring for the radio that was installed when he purchased the car. His goal isn’t power or racing — staingang just wants to enjoy the car until it needs a full rebuild, which he plans on eventually doing himself.

Future Plans

Staingang already has his work cut out for him. First, he has to get the GTI roadworthy — it recently failed an emissions test, so he must fix that issue before making the car his daily driver. He’s also planning some more emissions work, in addition to fixing a secondary airflow OBD II code. There’s also a small fuel leak when the car’s tank is full, which will require some troubleshooting to repair.

He also plans to overhaul the suspension and brakes — replacing the stock suspension with a KW V1 coilover set, as well as replacing all bushings and hardware. On inspection, he also found a torn CV boot that needs replacement.

For the brakes, he needs to refurbish or replace the calipers and rotors, and the brake pads are overdue for a replacement as well.

On the aesthetic side of things, he’s planning on removing and resealing the windshield, removing the side trim and getting the bumpers and lower grille resprayed. He’s keeping that classic Windsor blue paint job, though!

We can’t wait to see what staingang does next with his classic GTI. There’s a special spot in our hearts for these old cars, so to see one so lovingly restored is a great thing to watch.