Hey everyone! Long time lurker, first time “build” thread maker. I finally decided to document the progress on my ’92 GTI I picked up a couple years ago. A little background before we dive in – almost 20 years ago I bought my first car, a crusty 87 tornado red GTI, just outside of my hometown Buffalo NY. I always loved mk2’s for some reason and growing up with a bunch of folks who had VW’s, I was hooked at an early age. It did pretty good for about a year, then I started tearing into it with big plans and ambitions and, well, you know how that story goes…
In between then and now, I’ve had a few other old VW’s, including a few mk2 Jetta’s (one was an Eco-Diesel I still regret selling), a mk2 Scirocco, a mk1 Cabriolet, a couple mk3’s, etc. I never did own another mk2 GTI though, and I always had the allure of getting back into a T-red mk2 GTI. Fast forward to my mid-30’s, a family of 4 and the typical hectic life: I started to really get the itch again to be back out in the garage, tinkering, occasionally looking forward to those Sunday morning drives. It really came out of nowhere too – I haven’t had a project in over 10 years, I was pretty boring. Then comes the spring of 2020 – the pandemic was just ramping up and luckily mk2 prices weren’t silly yet, I finally started looking for real and actually committed to getting another mk2.
After a few months of just browsing different forums and Facebook groups without luck I cross posted a WTB ad on Facebook and struck gold. A guy in Cincinnati reached out to me within a couple days with a ’92 tornado red GTI that he was about to list for sale, but didn’t yet, and we started to work out the details. The price was really fair, it wasn’t crusty, he was only 5 hours away and that’s all it took. In my early 20’s I wouldn’t blink at driving 10+ hours for a crappy car, and to be honest I was actually looking forward to hitting the road again to buy something – it brought back a lot of fun memories.
A quick overview of the mk2 the day I bought it: 170k miles, completely original other than some no name muffler that was installed, 99% rust free (very minor surface rust on the battery tray, and about 1” of surface rust on sunroof). Car ran a bit rough, but it ran. Brakes were shot and shift linkage was gone, but easy stuff mostly. Underbody was immaculate. Paint was a bit rough – typical tornado pink with a lot of damage to the clear coat in areas, typical dings etc. Definitely not a looker, it was definitely driven and parked outside. But for what I was looking for, I was OK with that. Here’s a picture from my trip back to Buffalo:
Originally, I planned to vr6 swap it and just completely overhaul it. I’m so glad I didn’t. I’ve owned a mk2 vr6, they’re a blast, but after thinking it over I decided to keep it closer to stock, and really go after the OEM+ path (more on this soon). Once I settled on this, I focused on just making the 8v run good, fix the brakes, and focus first on suspension and wheels/tires. New plugs, wires, cap/rotor, air filter, flushed all fluids, and a general good cleaning under the hood. Found a leak in the radiator, so replaced that too. Tinkered with the TB and got it running and idling strong. Installed a Techtonics short shift kit and replaced all the bushings etc to get all my gears back. Next I went into the brakes, new pads & rotors up front, bled the system, adjusted parking brake. After a few attempts got everything working properly, and she was running and driving without issues. Basic stuff, but fun nonetheless.
Next I started detailing the trim, which was in ROUGH shape. It was all there minus the jack flaps (which I scored some OEM’s from a friend locally), but it was literally light gray/white in color. And looks like a previous owner tried to heat gun the rear bumper, causing some legit issues. I ended up using boiled linseed oil, which worked amazing. Some before & after:
Next I focused on the suspension. The OG suspension was bouncier than a trampoline, so I picked up some H&R Street coilovers and paired them with H&R front and rear sway bars (still need to install). Around the same time, I lucked out on getting a set of BBS RM’s with 1” lips from @upsetbobrosstree on IG. After ordering some new hardware from SSR, I got everything installed:
New ride height with H&R coils and BBS RM012's:
I was originally going to keep the interior stock with the ultra violet seats and cards, but I simply couldn’t resist the velour Recaro’s I once had back in the day.. Got stupid lucky and found a set locally, at a fair price! I paid about the same for an OEM 60/40 bench a few months later (the market really started getting wack so I paid a premium + shipping). Still looking for the velour door cards ☹ - If anyone has a lead and actually read all of this, let me know hah!
OEM radio delete panel - love the little things....
OG Duostyling gauges!! Founds these locally too, even dumber luck…