One of the things I love about aircooled Volkswagens is the way they share DNA with Porsche models of the same era. Sure, the 356s, 914s and 911s might have been sleeker, sexier and faster than their Volkswagen cousins, but the fact they shared so many traits provided many with the inspiration to build their Beetles into something more than their low price and humble image might suggest.
In 1974 when Volkswagen introduced the first generation Golf as the eventual replacement for the Beetle, I’m not sure if anyone knew it would go on to become the icon that is today. Whether serving as basic transportation for people around the world or a platform to enjoy the automotive hobby, the Golf would very much become the people’s car of a new generation.
But even after decades of watching people build some genuinely badass Golfs and watching VW itself continually develop faster and more luxurious versions of the iconic hatchback, it’s hard to look at a Golf and a Porsche side by side and see any sort of meaningful connection.
These days it’s not that you expect a compact hatchback and a high end sports car to be built from the same stuff, but that connection is one of the things that made aircooled VWs so fun to play with.
That brings me to 034Motorsport’s GTI RS – a car which thanks to some pretty gnarly engineering has injected some of that Porsche spirit right back into VW’s popular compact car. And no I’m not talking about having styling influenced by Porsche – this is a Golf that’s both mid-engined and turbocharged.
If you think this sounds something like you’d expect to find at a Gatebil event in Scandanavia, you aren’t alone. This is the exact sort of thing those crazy folks up there like to do, but this car isn’t from Northern Europe. It’s actually from right here in California, where 034Motorsport has been building some wickedly quick Audis and VWs since the late ‘90s.The wild recipe
When you’re running a high performance shop, the best thing you can do is build something to get people talking – and really, what better way to do that than by doing something crazy like a mid-engined VW Golf?
So starting with a basic 2001 GTI, the team at 034Motorsport got to work creating one of the craziest Golfs the world has ever seen.
As you’d expect, converting a front-engined, front-wheel drive car to mid-engined, rear-wheel drive is not the easiest of tasks, and the first thing the guys did was fabricate a custom rear tubular subframe using suspension components from a Porsche 996 Turbo.
Along with the 996 suspension, the new subframe was also built with custom pickup points, custom mounts for the engine and transmission mounts, and it even includes the stock 996 Turbo rear sway bar.
Next up came the task of selecting and building an engine that would occupy the space where the GTI’s rear passenger area once was. Given 034’s experience with Audi, it’s not surprising that they went with a 2.7 liter turbocharged V6 from a 2001 S4.
Not only was the S4 motor a perfect fit with the shop’s image, but in many ways the relationship between VW and Audi today is the same as that of VW and Porsche way back when. You might be buying an entry level Golf, but you don’t need to look far to see the resemblance to the sexy Audis in the dealership down the street.
Of course the S4 motor in this particular car is far from factory spec. For starters, it’s been bored and stroked to a displacement of three liters and the bottom end has been fully strengthened with a forged crank, JE pistons and other heavy duty bits. Up top, there are ported 2.8 liter heads from a B5 A4, a valvetrain from Supertech and a set of high performance CAT cams.
The big story though, is the turbo set-up, which depending on the driver’s mood can be switched between two different snails: either a Precision Turbo CEA 62mm GT35R or a Garrett GT42RS.
Either way, the turbo sits on a custom 034 manifold and is backed by a one-off intake and exhaust set-ups along with a custom air-to-water intercooler. The whole set-up is then controlled by an 034EFI stand-alone ECU with two different maps available. With the GT42 turbine fitted, the GTI-RS made an impressive 807 horesepower and 596 foot pounds of torque to the rear wheels.
It also makes for a pretty wicked sound, as you can see in this short video clip that Larry grabbed when he shot the car.Not quite a sleeper
And how exactly does all that power get to the rear wheels? It goes through an Audi 01E six-speed transmission with custom ratios, an 034 Motorsport LSD and heavy duty axles from the Drive Shaft Shop.
As for the suspension, the Golf is equipped with custom-valved Ohlins three-way dampers in the front and rear with H2Sport front spindles and control arms up front.
Braking duties are handled by the factory 996 Turbo brakes in the rear, while the front calipers have been swapped out for those from a 993 Turbo, along with custom 034 Motorsport rotors.
In keeping with the Porsche theme, the car is running a set of 996 Turbo ‘hollow spoke’ wheels 18”x8 in the front and 18”x11 in the rear with Continental ExtremeContact DW tires all around.
If someone asks to pop the hood, they’ll find the place where the GTI’s original engine once sat is now occupied by a large ATL fuel cell.
While the body of the GTI has for the most part been kept stock, I’m not quite sure if you could call this thing a sleeper. Especially when you see things like the big vents in front of the rear wheels or the widebody conversion, which was custom-built out of metal by the crew at 034.
Inside, the cockpit is surprisingly original with an original dash, factory GTI leather seats and an R32 steering wheel.
But if somehow you didn’t realise there was a wild turbocharged motor sitting behind you, the NHRA legal roll hoop and rear chassis reinforcement might raise some suspicions.
In the end, there’s a lot to like about 034’s crazy project. First off there’s the fact that this GTI is both very unusual and very fast – two things we always dig.
Then there’s the idea that these guys have taken a basic Volkswagen and mixed it perfectly with some high tech Audi horsepower and some old fashioned Porsche DNA. This is really what Speedhunting is all about.
Photos by Larry Chen