Written & Photographed by Ramzi Estephan
2004 1.8T Volkswagen Jetta
My passion for Volkswagens stems from my childhood as my father is a VW mechanic and I have been around them my whole life. He used to take me with him on weekend jobs and I would just sit and watch while he worked on the cars, always intrigued by how things worked. As I grew up I slowly learned the basics of car maintenance and how to drive manual. The car that I learned on was a MK4 Jetta TDI which had a whopping 97 horsepower, but was a suitable beginner’s car nonetheless. The Volkswagen MK4 chassis are great because they are a small size sedan with lots of functionality and potential. The one car that caught my attention while I was driving my TDI was the GLI that Volkswagen made which was the highest performance version of the MK4 offered with a 180hp 1.8L turbocharged engine. High performance versions of regular cars have always been of interest to me due to the fact that they can perform very well on the street without having to sacrifice any functionality.
Since I am a younger driver who is also a student, getting a GLI at this age was a little bit unrealistic, so I went for the Jetta GLS which had the exact same engine, but was offered with a five speed transmission instead of six, basic interior and no body kit or fancy features. It would still be able to give me a taste of the car I fell in love with. This did not bother me at all because it meant that the car was very affordable, and parts were plentiful and cheap since it’s fairly old and there are so many of them. With the GLI as an inspiration, I slowly worked on this car to make it better than a GLI, but on a budget. I began with some performance modifications to bring that engine to life. I upgraded the exhaust from the turbo-back, the intake, turbo inlet, intercooler, engine and transmission mounts, recirculation valve, suspension and had the engine computer safely tuned up to 225hp. The amount of power is more than enough to have some fun on the back roads and this platform is amazing for learning how to work with and upgrade a turbo car. Modifying this Jetta has given me an introduction to turbocharged cars and has sparked my love for how the systems work and the potential they have when done properly.
Aesthetically, my inspiration with this car comes party from the GLI, but it also comes from the European spec cars. I have many rare original VW body parts on the car that have been shipped here from around the world. My interior is put together with OEM pieces I gathered from local classifieds and part-outs. I have RECAROS from a GLI, floor mats from a GTI, and pedals from an Audi TT and Golf R32, steering wheel from a Wolfsburg edition Jetta, door panels and back seats from a VR6 Jetta, and a few other custom mods for lighting sound that I’ve done myself.
How the car sits right now, makes me very proud of the work that has been done to it and very grateful of the knowledge and experiences that came along with owning and modifying the car. The journey is far from over and I am very excited for what the future is going to unfold.