January 23rd: Is that a rocket in your pocket?

When VW introduced the GTI version of the Golf to the world, it was an instant success. They invented the category “Hot Hatch” or “Pocket Rocket”. They carried that success into the second generation, but the introduction of the third generation in the mid 1990’s brought a great new 6 cylinder engine in a boring, overweight chassis. In my opinion, VW was singing the same tune with the 4th generation. Magazines sang to the tune of “the disappearance of the pocket rocket, that affordable, fun to drive class of cars once ruled by the VW GTI”. Fast forward to 2006, Popular Mechanics tested 100 cars and voted the the newest GTI the winner of the Driving Fun category. The new GTI won Automobile Magazine’s Car of the Year award for 2007. OK, so VW’s pocket rocket is back, but where does that leave me for the past 15 years?

When I was a teenage kid, living in Germany in the 80’s, I payed attention to cars on the streets, in the magazine and on the television test drive shows. In the 90’s, when I was a bigger kid with a license, VW was no longer building 2000 lb. pocket rockets. Where does that leave me? It leaves me to build my own pocket rocket. I bought a 1991 GTI that a friend saw sitting in someones yard. The car never moved, so he knocked on the door and asked if they wanted to sell it. They eventually did and I bought it, drove it home, stripped it and put it back together with late 90’s parts. I stripped a 3,000 lb. 1997 GTI of it’s 180 hp VR6 along with it’s bigger brakes, axles and suspension and put it in the 2150 lb GTI. I got a little carried away with the “rocket” part, and I added the same ProCharger supercharger our Boxster s/c kit uses. Unlike our Boxster kit, I added an intercooler and ran 14 pounds of boost making the the car literally sound like a jet driving down the street. Click here for video. Turn up your speakers!

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With the bigger motor, supercharger, intercooler and related parts, the cars weight is now closer to 2,400 pounds. Strapped to the dyno the car made 331 whp or approximately 385 hp at the engine versus the original 105 engine hp. Wanting to keep the weight down and fun up, I removed the entire a/c system. The car was now a lot of fun… when it wasn’t 100 degrees in a black car in the middle of summer! The way it goes with anything quick, I needed more power. I made plans to put together a turbo system and strengthen the internals to run 25-30 lbs of boost. But then VW introduced the new GTI and received great reviews. I got to thinking about having air conditioning and not spending too much money on a 15 year old car and my plans changed. Before I knew it I had a new car and too many cars in the driveway.

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I sold the 1991 GTI and never looked back. OK, I’m lying. I’m thinking more about that turbo VR6 plan. The new plans include even less weight to go with the extra power. Forget rockets, this time I want a missile!

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