Don’t Judge This Book By Its Cover - VR6 Swapped VW GTI

Blog Feature

Simplicity is beauty, and Eadwine Webb’s 1990 Volkswagen GTI might catch you off guard, as the
cover of this Vee Dub book betrays the monstrous heart underneath.

If there is one thing to appreciate about the Mark II Golf, it’s the fact that it’s a very simple car to begin
with. Even as an update from the world favorite Mark I, the Mark II was still very basic as the original
had been intended. Unlike most cars today, it only grew a few inches in wheelbase, length, width, and
height. It even only gained 260-pounds over the Mark I Golf. That's why these early cars are so prized
todaystraightforwardness and just the right size to have fun with.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap
 
Eadwine Webb, though, wanted to take that original purity and evolve it further on his 1990 GTI. Prior to
its latest transformation, he used this car as his time attack racer and daily driver but semi-retired it
from racing. The main portions of the body are shot in Porsche 997 Sport Classic Grey while the interior
and engine bay are VW Indigo Blue.

Unless you’re a VDub head, the rest of the differences done to this Mark II are hard to catch. The front
bumper turn and fender signals have been removed and filled in along with the fog light holes. There
was also a recess in the front bumper for the US-style front license plate, but that’s now gone. The hood
once had vents where it closely met the windshield but those have also been filled in and smoothed out.
The driver’s side wiper is removed now the passenger side wiper is what clears the windshield of rain
using the wiper motor and geartrain from a VW Scirocco and filling in the driver’s side cowl.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

Speaking of the windshield, that’s also different as it uses a Mark II Jetta windshield rather than a Golf
one. Why is that unique? Well, there is only one difference between the Jetta and Golf when it comes to
that windshield: the Golf comes with a mount for the mirror.

This makes the Golf windshield unique as it’s the only VW with a windshield mounted rearview mirror.
All other VWs at the time were mounted to the roof. If you’re looking to delete the windshield mounted
rearview mirror in a Golf, you can either use a torch and melt the glue or install a Jetta windshield.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

The most obvious difference between the original way it looked off the showroom in 1990 and now
comes down to the grille and headlights. The headlights are round European model versions of the GTI as we got the square “aerolamps” instead. Fortunately, it doesn’t require a change to the hood, fenders, or bumper but does require a grille change along with the radiator core support. Since the grille needed to
be changed, Webb went with the ABD Racing Grille Spoiler and an aerolamp grille insert over the
badgeless grille. The Aero insert and ABD Racing Grille Spoiler don’t have the cut outs for the round
headlights and is why they don’t appear completely round on Webb’s Mk2.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

In the back, the rear hatch wiper and spray nozzle have been shaved off and filled in, just like the rear
hatch key hole. The cut out for the exhaust on the rear bumper and tow hook door have also been filled
in. Here’s another change from the 1990 design: the rear hatch glass is from a 1986 model as from that
year and under did not have a third brake light. It wasn’t required in the US until after ’86.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

You get inside and you really start to realize this Golf once had a different life in its past. The first thing is
probably what your head will hit if you’re not careful stepping in as it has a fully-welded, custom six-point roll cage installed. This isn’t a bolt-in AutoPower unit or even one that bends around the dashboardthis was intended to protect Webb when it was used as a Time Attack car.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

That’s why you also see a set of Crow Racing five-point harnesses wrapping the occupants while they sit
in a set of Cobra Monaco racing seats. In case he needs it, there is still a fire extinguisher within Webb’s
reach.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

The dash continues to reflect this past with a set of Auto Meter Pro-Comp gauges, including a five-inch
Tachometer and Speedometer and 3/8-inch water temperature, oil pressure, fuel level, and battery
voltage meters.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

A JVC single-din head unit spits out the tunes via a pair of Sony 6x9 and a pair of 5.5-inch
speakers and a pair of two-inch tweeters. It’s amplified by an 800-Watt Sony Amp. Nothing fancy, just
simple and light, but still functional.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

The car's footwell is spartan, revealing its trackday roots with aluminum pedal pads and a dead pedal. Webb also installed an aluminum heel plate on the floor to make sure his fresh kicks don't get scuffed up on the floor of his Dub.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

The feel of a car can come down to the stance it takes and the wheels it rides on. When it comes to a
European car, you can never go wrong with a set of BBS E50 “basketweave” wheels. They are 16x9 in
the front and 16x10 in the rear, but to make them work, a five-lug swap was needed. Instead of going
with adapters, Webb used parts from a common swap option: the VW A3 chassis. The A3 includes the
Mark III Golf and Corrado VR6 and makes this swap easy to find and a mostly straight forward install
with stock parts. However, a pair of Corrado G60 front calipers are used but are painted in the same
gold color as his BBS wheels. The brake lines are stainless steel braided from ABD Racing, which also
supplied the cross drilled rotors front and rear.

The tires are a set of Falken Ziex FK912 in 205/40R16 front and the rear is the Ziex FK452 in 215/40R16.
To bring the body as close to those tires as possible, a set of FK Silverline coilovers are adjusted for the
right stance. Neuspeed’s rear sway bar stiffens roll in the corners for the rear wheels while the upper
coil mounts get a custom-made rear tie-bar to prevent chassis flex during that roll. 

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

Now, we come to the part that makes this already amazing MkII GTI even more so. Under that shaved
hood sits the fabulous VR6 engine. This version is a “AAA” from a 1995 Golf MkIII, making it a 2.8-liter version of this odd V6. What makes the VR6 odd is how the block and head are designed. You see, the V-angle of this block is only 15-degrees. For an example, the 2.8-liter AHA V6 from the 1997 Passat is 90-degrees.
Actually, most production V-engines in road cars are between 45- and 90-degrees.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

To make this narrow angle work, the head of the VR6 is a single piece and is more akin to a straight-six
than a V6. The intake runners for both banks comes from the same side of the engine, same with the
exhaust. This means the runners for the cylinders closer to the ports are far shorter than those further
away, and again it’s the same for the exhaust. The cylinder spacing is also offset to take this into account
with the centerline of the cylinders offset forward the crankshaft centerline by 12.5-millimeters (0.49-inch). Even the rod bearing journals are offset by 22-degrees of each other to accommodate this very narrow
V6.

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The VR6 is also the basis of the technology that made the W12 engine seen in the Phaeton W12,
Touareg W12, and Bentley Continental GT (two VR6s mated at their blocks crankshaft and inclined at 72-
degrees); the W8 (principally a VR6 with two cylinders lopped off to make a “VR4” and mated together
with a single crankshaft) from the Passat W8 4motion; and the W16 engine from the Bugatti Veyron, and
Chiron (a W8 mated front-to-rear with a single crankshaft, essentially).

The sound of the VR6 also comes from its 120-degree firing interval between cylinders and its 1, 5, 3, 6,
2, 4 firing order. Webb’s AAA is enhanced further with a custom, mandrel bent, 2.75-inch exhaust tubing
leading into a Magnaflow exhaust muffler and a three-inch turn down tip. Unorthodox pulleys reduce
accessory strain on the engine so it can take full advantage of tune of that Techtonics chip in the OBDI
PCM.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

However, what will really tickle your brain as you look at this engine swap is the fact that it has been done entirely by the book. That means it is completely 100% California SMOG legal.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

Yep, he can drive legally, even if the police hassle him. All he must is point at the door sticker and show them it’s entirely legal according to the state ref. Finally, it’s backed by the matching factory VW 02A five-speed manual transmission. Even with its show car work, a manual will always remain the most fun to drive in a Volkswagen.

1990 Volkswagen Golf GTI VR6 swap

What makes this car great (outside of that California-legal VR6 swap) is that it shows how a basic
ergonomics of a race car can create a beautiful show car without losing most of its function. Raise the
GTI up, put a set of good tires with a square wheel setup, adjust the alignment for something more
suited for the track, and you can take this Mark II Golf to the races again. When you’re done, slam it
down, add camber, and put those BBS’ back on. You get the best of both worlds without losing too
much.

What’s not to love about that?

Story by Justin Banner
Photos by Antonio Alvendia 

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