Mike's VWs

Welcome to my web site about my Volkswagens.

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Goals    History     Affiliations     Events     Videos


Present:

Dieter -- 2004 R32

Rebekkah -- 1980 Scirocco

Lorelai -- 2006 Jetta TDI

 

Past:

Gretchen -- 2004 Golf GLS TDI

Sonja -- 1984 Scirocco Wolfsburg Edition

Wolfgang -- 1995 GTI VR6

Konrad - 1985 Scirocco

Helga - 1975 Scirocco


Goals

My Golf R32 (a.k.a. "Dieter") was my dedicated "play car", but is now my daily driver.  I have decided to take what's called an "OEM Plus" approach, using European (and some U.S.) VW parts to improve him, and some aftermarket parts that are engineered to look as though they were original equipment.

My Scirocco (a.k.a. "Rebekkah") is my long-term project car.   I wasn't really looking for another car.  No, really.  I swear, this one found me!  Now that I'm nearly "done" with modifications to Dieter, Rebekkah will be my new focus of monetary drain.  I've done some pondering on which direction I want to go with her.  I had originally thought about keeping her completely stock, but that would have meant replacing the aftermarket stereo with her OEM unit.  Furthermore, there are very limited tire choices in the size required for the OEM wheels.  So I've decided to keep her mostly stock, but apply very few tasteful and fully-reversible modifications...namely suspension and wheels.   While she's a different color than Helga, she reminds me an awful lot of my very first car...


History

My penchant for VWs was inspired by my father.  While growing up, I remember he owned a couple of beetles, and a Dodge Omni O24--which he regularly pointed out was powered by a VW engine.  He also had a '74 Dasher, painted a very bright yellow and affectionately referred to as "The Banana Car".  I learned to drive in that Dasher, and later gained more driving experience in my Dad's '84 Jetta.

My first car was a '75 Scirocco I named Helga.  I bought Helga for $40 from my older step brother, because she threw a rod through her block, and had a couple of electrical gremlins.  We towed her to a salvage yard/repair shop/used car place named Dale's Foreign Cars, which specialized in VWs.  My dad was basically retired by this time, but he worked part-time at Dale's.  I spent that summer working there with him doing odd jobs and repainting their sign out front to help pay for a new motor and the labor to transplant it into Helga.  She got the 4-cylinder from an Audi (either a Fox or a 4000) with a Weber carb and K&N filter.  She lasted me through high school and the first year of college.  One fateful day I took her in for her annual checkup.  The mechanic put her on the hoist to look things over and discovered that her frame was cracked where the A-arms attach on *both* sides.  "I don't know how you got her here in one piece!" he proclaimed.  (She had been rolled one or two owners prior to me, then had been driven way too long on a shot suspension, so I'm not terribly surprised.)  We had shared many miles, a lot of fun, a few heated arguments, and no less than 2 electrical fires.  Her time had finally come.  :(

I was determined to own another Scirocco.  I didn't have much time or resources (or money, for that matter).  I did manage to find a white '85 Scirocco for sale not too far away.  I borrowed some money from Dad, and bought it.  I soon named him Konrad, and his easy-going personality was a stark contrast to Helga's temperamental attitude.  Konrad lasted me through the last of college and my first 2.5 years in the "real wold".  We had a great time, but he was starting to nickel-and-dime me with various repairs.  He had started developing unhealthy noises, and my wife started to complain about them.  Reluctantly, I agreed that it was time to move on.

I really wanted another Scirocco, or--even better--a Corrado.   Sadly, neither could be found very readily.  When I stopped by the local VW dealership to ask them to help me find one, the sales guy told me that they just took delivery of a used '95 GTI VR6.  I hadn't considered getting a GTI, because I always thought that Rabbits and Golfs were too "boxy" for my tastes.  I much preferred the sleek lines of Sciroccos and Corrados.  After doing some research, and a lot of soul-searching, I finally decided to take a test drive.  Holy cow!   Compared to my A1-chassis Sciroccos, this A3-chassis GTI was a luxury car with all kinds of goodies and features and room!  And then the test drive began.  The sales guy directed me down some twisty back streets, then proceeded to tell me to drive faster.  "Go faster!  No, really, go as fast as you think you can!"   <major grin>  As my poor wife hung on for dear life, we went careening around corners, and finally took a ramp onto the interstate, accelerating heavily as the mighty VR6 loves to do.  "I'm going to buy this car!!!"  And that's how I got Wolfgang.  Wolfgang was the first VW I got serious about modifying (now that I was gainfully employed and actually had the means to indulge in such activities).  Wolfgang was my daily driver and long distance cruiser.   Any time my wife and I took a road trip or there was bad weather, Wolfgang was our chariot of choice and I was driving.  As such, I had to maintain a certain level of comfort and live-ability with all the modifications I performed.  After a number of years of slow and steady modifications, I determined I was "done enough" with Wolfgang--he got nearly all the goodies I've ever wanted. 

Since Wolfgang was the daily driver, I was a little restricted in my selection of mods to him.  I started thinking about a project car, something to play with, and get as wild as I wanted to with.  I toyed with the idea for a while, then left it in the back of my head...  Then I got to thinking about my beloved Sciroccos, and how I should have held on to Konrad rather than trading him in.  (I couldn't have done it, anyway--I had neither the space nor the money to store him.)   During the summer of 2000, I went to a VW show in Omaha, Nebraska, where I saw a turbocharged '98(?) Golf.  I got a ride in it, and it was stinkin' FAST!   Mmmm....turbo....  Mmmmm....turbo....Scirocco!!!  That was it.  I was going to get myself a Scirocco project car and put a turbo in it.  I didn't plan to do so until I was more or less "finished" with my planned modifications to Wolfgang.  Well, that didn't work out, because I found a decent Scirocco for a decent price in September of 2000.  So I bought her.  Had to be done.  Couldn't let her slip away.   After an excessive amount of pondering I named her Sonja.   A couple years were spent with slow reconditioning and upgrading, including a very cool (though unexpectedly conflicted) conversion of her close-ratio gearbox to a 6-speed, complete with differential upgrade.  My plans for turbocharging her low-compression 1.8l JH engine hit a wall upon the discovery of a helicoil holding one of the spark plugs in place.  This indicated she should at least get a new head before I started thinking about forced induction.  Of course, that got me thinking about maybe doing an engine swap while I was at it, which led to much more pondering.  At least she was quite suitable for driving and playing in the meantime.

And then, in the summer of 2002, rumors started spreading that VW's new über-hatch--the Golf R32--might actually make it to American shores.  Granted, it's a little on the heavy side, but I found the 240HP 3.2 liter 24-valve VR6 (narrow-angle 6-cylinder engine) and 4Motion all-wheel drive system in hatchback form *very* appealing.  The styling and other features weren't too shabby, either, and some reviews by European magazines had shown that it wasn't exactly a slouch in the performance category.  Being a long-time hatchback addict, the prospect of owning an all-wheel drive hatchback made me several flavors of giddy.  Information from European sources trickled in, and I very much liked what I saw.  In October of 2002, the rumors become a little more solid, so I sent an e-mail to VW salesman/enthusiast Matt Brickell to let him know that this car may be coming our way and that I wanted to buy one when it did.   Matt and I got to know each other a little better during the 4 months that followed while we waited for the R32 to arrive.  Finally, on February 9th, I took delivery of my new dream car (much to the relief of everyone).  After awhile, I settled on the name Dieter for my R32.  Dieter is everything I had hoped and more--a superb balance of performance and comfort in the uncommonly practical form of a hatchback.  What more could a guy ask for?

That turned out to be a surprisingly pivotal question.

After the excitement of acquiring the long-awaited, highly anticipated R32 eventually died down, I found myself still thoroughly enjoying Dieter.  A lot.   So much so, that I slowly realized that I wasn't showering Wolfgang and Sonja with the attention they deserved.  With spring storms (and chances of hail damage), I also came to the realization that I now owned three "play cars"--none of which I wanted to be the "sacrificial lamb".  I needed a "beater car", but certainly couldn't justify buying a FOURTH car, and couldn't bring myself to downgrade either Wolfgang or Sonja and witness the eventual decline resulting from the hazards of the daily grind.  Nor could I allow them to sit unused and spoil.  I had far too much time, effort, emotion, and money invested into each.  After much internal debate and soul-searching, I decided to sell Wolfgang and Sonja, and use the funds to buy a dedicated "beater car".  Better to let someone else enjoy them than let them go to waste.

Wolfgang and Sonja are no longer mine, but I should still be able to see them on occasion.  They will be missed, but at least they're still on the road.

I shopped the used car market for 3-4 weeks, looking for a candidate that fit my goals:  4 door MkIV Golf with manual transmission and cold weather package (heated seats--I've been spoiled by this option on Wolfgang and Dieter).  I considered both 2.0l gas and TDI-powered Golfs.  Each time I found a decent candidate, however, I was thwarted by higher gas prices renewing the popularity of economy cars, resulting in those candidates selling before (and sometimes during) my inquiries.  Another side-effect of this popularity was increased resale values--especially for the TDIs.  For just a couple thousand more dollars, I could buy a new car with the full factory warranty and shouldn't have any "surprises" lurking around, waiting to go wrong, as can happen with a used car. 

I had been keeping in touch with my friends Jeff and Matt at Jay Wolfe VW (the dealership I bought Dieter from), and they eventually volunteered a great offer on a '04 Golf GL.  It had a manual transmission, but only 2 doors and no heated seats.   Even so, with VW's $1000 Owner Loyalty rebate and 0% financing, the price was well within my budget (and actually lower than most used GLS models 2 years older).  I looked through their inventory on their web site and discovered that they also had an '04 Golf GLS TDI with 4 doors, manual transmission, heated seats, ESP, and the Monsoon stereo.  Lots of bells and whistles to make a "beater" car more enjoyable/safe.  However, all those bells and whistles added up to a price that was a bit higher than my target (though still within my budget if I delayed some modifications to Dieter).  Also, given the popularity of TDIs, the special financing did not apply (meaning I'd want to pay it off in very short order).  Tough call.

I realized that I had never actually driven either a 2.0l or TDI MkIV Golf.  I decided a comparative test drive was in order, as that should help me decide which powerplant would be best for me.  The 2.0l engine is a decent lump, but my opinion is that the MkIV chassis is just a bit too heavy for it to move around very well.   In the lighter MkIII, a 2.0 can still get up and go.  Not quite the case in the MkIV.  On a flat surface it does pretty well, but accelerating up a hill was a burden, and merging onto the interstate turned out to be rather stressful!  The TDI, on the other hand, had much more low-end torque, pulling the Golf around with much more ease.  It was still obviously slower than Dieter, but it was more acceptable/liveable than the 2.0l car.  And, as I later discovered, it did so with the air conditioning on--I didn't turn on the A/C in the 2.0l car!  My decision was made:  the TDI became my new "beater car", and her name is Gretchen.  Gretchen has since served my very well--especially given my recent history of "breaking" Dieter, between complications from the aftermarket turbo and an unfortunate fish-tailing incident in the fall of 2006.  Her reliability and fuel economy have been second-to-none.


Feel free to send me an e-mail if you have any comments, questions, suggestions, etc.

Last updated:  August 17, 2008