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Hey guys! I'm Sam. I am an automotive photographer and I currently reside in Miami, Florida. I have worked as a freelance photojournalist for magazines like Performance VW for the past 5 or 6 years, then co-founded a company called More Than More, and for the last year I have been working for Vossen Wheels doing a variety of different media, marketing, and photojournalistic things.

Anyway, earlier this year I bought my first new car, a Mk7 GTI S, and have been shooting every little thing along the way to document it, including being rearended the day before SOWO when the car only had 1500 miles on it. So here we go!

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In February of 2015 I ended my search for a white, 6-speed, non-sunroof, 2-door GTI. Such a combination didn't really exist in South Florida at first, so I waited, and then a dealer about an hour away ended up getting one in, so I went and picked it up!


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - Stock - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 1007 by More Than More, on Flickr

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1.) H&R COILOVER INSTALL

First on the agenda was coilovers, and the only option was H&R Springs. I've had countless sets of H&R Ultra Lows in the past on Mk2s and Mk3s, and even though I didn't plan on going ultra low, they were the only option in my eyes. I drove up to Slammered and Danny installed the coils and got me on the road.

I am entirely stoked on the coils and ride quality, but a downside to installing any brand of aftermarket suspension with camber adjustability in these cars is that the top hat of the coilover and the camber plate is only accessible when installed if the strut top is cut out of the car. Otherwise, once installed, the camber is not adjustable. Luckily, after having the car aligned, we learned that we got the camber right where we wanted it, -1.5° front and -2.5° rear. Though, after driving it a bit, I plan to push the rear back out to be square with the front at -1.5° all around when I swap onto some new wheels.


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers Install at Slammered - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 1002 by Samuel Dobbins, on Flickr


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers Install at Slammered - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 1004 by Samuel Dobbins, on Flickr

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2.) FRONT BUMPER GAPPING/PAINT ISSUES

When the car was having the coilovers installed I noticed that the paint was peeling on the front bumper, a result of the gaps between the bumper and fender being far too tight. (Click here for the photo).

I talked with Gunther VW, showed them the issue, and they agreed to repaint the front bumper for me free of charge, as well as adjust the brackets to make the gaps correct. While I had other complaints with Gunther and the car buying/licensing process, it was awesome that they took the car and repaired it in only two days, resolving the issue.

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3.) VOSSEN VLE-1 20x9 et48 WHEEL INSTALL

While at Slammered, we also installed the wheels and dialed in the fitment. The wheels are Vossen VLE-1 Limited Edition Wheels (www.vle1.com) measuring 20x9 all around. When we first put the wheels on the fitment was a little tight up front, and because I didn't want to cutout the strut tops or run any more negative camber, I brought the wheels into the machine shop and shaved 3mm off the back pads, making a final spec of 20x9 et48. And for tires I have 235-30-20 Pirelli P Zero Neros.


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers Install at Slammered - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 1005 by Samuel Dobbins, on Flickr

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4.) FIRST SHOOT - VOSSEN VLE-1 WHEELS & H&R COILS

Click here for the first full photoshoot.


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers and Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2024 by More Than More, on Flickr


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers and Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2027 by More Than More, on Flickr


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers and Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2010 by More Than More, on Flickr

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5.) SECOND SHOOT - VOSSEN VLE-1 WHEELS & H&R COILS

Click here for the second full photoshoot.


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers and Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 4036 by More Than More, on Flickr


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers and Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 4011 by More Than More, on Flickr


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers and Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 4023 by More Than More, on Flickr


SDOBBINS VW Mk7 GTI - H&R Coilovers and Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 4028 by More Than More, on Flickr

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6.) RODWRAPS TOFFEE BROWN WRAP

Before I even nought the car, I wanted to wrap it Toffee Brown. I had found this color years ago, in 2012 or so, when I was first planning to wrap my B5.5 Passat. I got in touch with the guys at RODWRAPS here in Miami (Medley, FL to be exact) and arranged to have the car wrapped while I was away in Austria for Wörthersee. I delivered the car, hopped on a plane, and experienced the craziest of crazy in the VW/Audi world (click here for a full article on Wörthersee 2015). When I returned, the guys at Rodwraps had done a magnificent job, and upon picking it up I was almost convinced the car was painted (click here for the first photo at Rodwraps).
I drove the GTI around for two days after picking it up and snapped only this single photo on my phone.


My Mk7 VW Golf GTI Pre-Wreck by Samuel Dobbins, on Flickr

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7.) APR STAGE 1 TUNE AT USP MOTORSPORTS


My Mk7 VW Golf GTI on Vossen VLE-1 at USP Motorsports by Samuel Dobbins, on Flickr

After getting the car back from RODWRAPS in its new hue, I went straight over to USP Motorsports to get the car tuned with APR's Stage 1 Software. We put the car on the dyno and let it rip. I was super excited to find that with just Stage 1 software alone, the car put down 297hp and 362tq in hot and humid weather, pretty damned impressive!

The next morning I was leaving for Helen, Georgia, so I went to pick up my AWE Tuning S-FLO Intake, Performance Downpipe, and Touring Exhaust, so we could install it the next night in Jacksonville, on my way north. Then this happened...

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8.) PRE-SOWO WRECK

I got rear-ended at a stoplight right after picking up my intake and exhaust.



So I scrapped the plan of installing the new AWE Tuning parts, we drove up to Jacksonville and made a pitstop anyway, and my pal Neil and I patched up the car with a piece of plexi, some caulk and rivets, and a ****load of Vossen packing tape.



The car ended up being tied up between insurance companies for several months, and although it only had 2000 miles on it when wrecked, by the time I got it fixed it was up to over 6000. I had driven it around without being able to use my hatch or have my windows down (basically worked as a vacuum sucking in the exhaust through the gap in the open hatch) for 4000 miles, it was terrible.

So I debated selling the car immediately after since it was now forever unclean and tainted, but decided to see it through its first stage as planned.

My pal Clay, at DeCaudella's (@decaudellas) fixed it right up, shaved the new hatch of its badge, and USP Motorsports helped out in sourcing the Golf R LED Tails.



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9.) AWE Tuning's S-FLO Carbon Intake, Performance Downpipe, and Touring Exhaust

After staring at boxes full of parts for what felt like forever, I finally had the GTI back from Clay and it was time to finish the first stage of the build by installing AWE Tuning's S-FLO Carbon Intake, Performance Downpipe, and Touring Exhaust. I live in downtown Miami and sadly don't have a garage where I can tinker on things, so I found myself installing the intake in my parking garage as quick as I could before security would tell me to stop. It was a fairly straight forward install and very well-outlined in their directions.



Everything went together smoothly, although these little rubber grommets seemed to be a little too weak to really suspend the carbon intake box like the factory counterpart, and the factory airbox's rubber grommets were not the same diameter so they could not be used.



All-in-all, I am super happy with the intake and how effortless the install was. It probably would've been even easier if I had the correct pliers for the hose clamps too, but channel locks sufficed, as usual!




VW Mk7 Golf GTI - Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2088 by More Than More, on Flickr

For the Performance Downpipe and Touring Exhaust I figured that it might be a little bit too in-depth for a parking garage install, so I brought the car to a local shop called Miami Autosport Technik. They finished the install in less than 2 hours and the fitment of the whole system was perfect. I especially like that the tips can be adjusted in and out, depending on how you'd like them to fit relative to a stock or aftermarket valence.

As for the performance of the parts, I can't exactly say yet, but I intend to do a comprehensive dyno video of the car stock, then with Stage 1 APR software, then with the AWE Tuning intake/downpipe/exhaust, and then finally with APR's Stage 2 Software, comparing the performance of all of them.

The tone of the AWE system is wonderful, though. I was very hesitant to even do an exhaust system, as I've never been a fan of loud cars, but the Touring Edition system is the perfect compromise. When I'm on the throttle and going through the gears it sounds wonderful, but at idle, in traffic, or on the highway there's zero drone whatsoever and I sometimes forget that I even have the system at all. Well done, AWE, I couldn't be happier!


VW Mk7 Golf GTI - Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2093 by More Than More, on Flickr


VW Mk7 Golf GTI - Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2062 by More Than More, on Flickr

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10.) Finish Photo and Video Shoot for Vossen Wheels

So now that the car was finally complete, we shot a little video and I did another photoshoot of the car. I've been shooting ever stage of the car on my parking deck at home, as it's easy and keeps things consistent, stage-to-stage, but once we put the new set of wheels on we'll try to switch it up.

Click here for the third full photoshoot.


VW Mk7 Golf GTI - Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2029 by More Than More, on Flickr


VW Mk7 Golf GTI - Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2036 by More Than More, on Flickr


VW Mk7 Golf GTI - Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2023 by More Than More, on Flickr


VW Mk7 Golf GTI - Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2054 by More Than More, on Flickr


VW Mk7 Golf GTI - Vossen VLE-1 Wheels - © Sam Dobbins 2015 - 2044 by More Than More, on Flickr
 

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Wow what a journey so far! :thumbup:

Love the shaved trunk, any plans to do the front to match?
 

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You had a cool vision for your GTI and made it happen. The rear-end incident must've tested you mightily. I know it would have me. At first I couldn't "get" the Toffee Brown, but by the end of your article, it had really grown on me. With the wheels, it really looks sweet. In fact, sort of like a Snickers bar! Maybe that could be a personalized license plate :) But then if you wrap it in a diff color in a few years, you'd have to change the plate maybe. Congrats, really well done! :thumbup: And wow, 297hp from an APR Stage 1? That is awesome, and was before any bolt-ons, if I read your timeline right. Also really enjoyed your photos, and the portfolio at your site.
Good stuff! :thumbup::thumbup:
 

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I absolutely love TB, had it on my MKVI Jetta. I've been following you on IG for a minute now (since I had a MKVII GTI) and have absolutely loved when you post pictures of the car. Glad I finally get to know more about it here. :beer:
 

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This is seriously a great story and write up overall. The photography is breathtaking and honestly when I scrolled down and saw a crumbled back end to your GTI my mouth stayed open. I admire your commitment and dedication...

On a side note I can't believe how different the car looks without the rear emblem for the hatch. It's like a night and day difference...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Wow what a journey so far! :thumbup:

Love the shaved trunk, any plans to do the front to match?
I would love to, just not anytime in the near future. Shaving the hatch wasn't exactly part of the original vision, at least not as quickly as I did, but I'll probably do the front when I decide to take the brown off.

You had a cool vision for your GTI and made it happen. The rear-end incident must've tested you mightily. I know it would have me. At first I couldn't "get" the Toffee Brown, but by the end of your article, it had really grown on me. With the wheels, it really looks sweet. In fact, sort of like a Snickers bar! Maybe that could be a personalized license plate :) But then if you wrap it in a diff color in a few years, you'd have to change the plate maybe. Congrats, really well done! :thumbup: And wow, 297hp from an APR Stage 1? That is awesome, and was before any bolt-ons, if I read your timeline right. Also really enjoyed your photos, and the portfolio at your site.
Good stuff! :thumbup::thumbup:
The APR Software is really pretty impressive. I can't wait to see what the AWE Tuning parts do on the dyno with Stage 1, and then again with Stage 2. I'll be doing the clutch in no time!

Really loving this build! Awesome job 🏻


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Thank you!

I absolutely love TB, had it on my MKVI Jetta. I've been following you on IG for a minute now (since I had a MKVII GTI) and have absolutely loved when you post pictures of the car. Glad I finally get to know more about it here. :beer:
I've always loved toffee brown too, in fact I am thinking of rewrapping my B5.5 Passat Toffee Brown before I turn this car back to white, shoot them both on the same wheels, like identical builds. I think that would be really neat.

This is seriously a great story and write up overall. The photography is breathtaking and honestly when I scrolled down and saw a crumbled back end to your GTI my mouth stayed open. I admire your commitment and dedication...

On a side note I can't believe how different the car looks without the rear emblem for the hatch. It's like a night and day difference...
I feel the same way, it totally changes the way the car looks. I contemplated pulling the arches on the car too, but honestly I don't think it really suits the car, especially after shoot this at Worthersee this year: http://www.vossenwheels.com/gallery/gallerydetails.aspx?id=1824
 

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Not too crazy about the wheels, but everything else gets a :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
 

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Bro...those pulled rears.......so sexy!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·

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Pardon me for asking, but how you actually drive it in anything but a straight line without hearing tire rubbing and wheel scraping?

And wrapping it brown makes me go :what:. It does look like you've put a lot of work and thought into it. That whole accident experience must have hellish.
 
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