Project GTI: A Life On Air
Realising A Plan

For some, it will probably come as no surprise that the next step for Project GTI is to run the car on air suspension. In fact, this has been the idea since I bought the car. I did allude to it during a previous project car update, but it’s taken until now to finally realise this plan.

I like to do things a little bit differently, but if you think that this update means that Project GTI is going to become a rim-poking stance car, you would be very much mistaken. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not what this car has been or will ever be about.

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I like driving my car, and I do so quite a lot. I’ve come to absolutely adore the duality of my GTI and how easy it has been to live with. Recently, I racked up around 2,000kms in the space of a week and the car didn’t so much as even break sweat at any point.

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For me, it’s what makes the GTI special. There are faster cars, there are more refined cars, but you won’t find a car that’s as capable of both things as the GTI. It’s the benchmark. In between the recent long distance driving, I was able to peel off on a backroad and scare myself on more than one occasion, before returning back to the main road and cruising along in comfort and peace.

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This all-round ability is something I cherish, and those of you who frequent these updates will know that it’s something that I’m not willing to sacrifice.

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Every upgrade made so far has improved the car without inflicting any major drawbacks. I don’t want to get to a point where I can’t bring the car somewhere because it’s too aggressive. I want it to fit in when I’m at a business meeting as much as it does if I drop into Mondello for a track day or an event. It’s difficult to maintain and develop a project along these lines, with these goals in mind, but it can be done. It just requires thought, logic and consideration. It’s with this that I can’t even think of any other option than running the car on air going forward.

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I’m not writing this update to convince myself that I’m going down the right path – I’m already pretty convinced of that. Instead, I want to talk you through my own logic and the reasons why I’ve chose Air Lift Performance.

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Having such easy access to the sales staff and also feedback from the engineers at Air Lift was a huge benefit for starters. I wanted a custom tank setup, and the ability to have any question answered pretty much immediately was a huge incentive for someone with relatively little experience of air. Add to that the recent introduction of Air Lift’s new 3H system and I was sold. Obviously, anyone who is considering going on air is doing so for a reason; the reason usually being that you need the versatility of being able to increase or decrease ride height quickly and easily. This is very much true of my situation.


My last car, which I still miss, ran on KW Variant 1s. As you can see, I liked to run it quite low on the street. In fact, I love to run my cars low full stop. By the time I sold it though, I was at my wits end as I constantly had to worry about where I was driving and if there were any speed bumps or poor road surfaces. Multi-storey car parks were an absolute nightmare and scraping was a daily occurrence and not something I was proud of or enjoyed. This was no fault of KW, the V1s were superb, it was just the situation and environment I live in that made it a nightmare to own and drive a static low car. So that’s one huge part of my decision. The other part comes from my inner car nerd in that I just want to experience what it’s like to live with a car on air so I can form a proper opinion based on experiences and facts, rather than the word of others.

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I’m going about this installation and setup in a very specific way and knowing precisely what I want to get from it. I want to develop Project GTI as an on-air track day car, so performance will be at the fore of what I want, as opposed to achieving maximum low.

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Key to any air setup is the install. I’m not going for a big boot build with hard lines, LEDs or an ironic beer keg air tank. In fact, I want the install to be completely hidden from view but to still achieve maximum efficiency and redundancy. To start with, I’m going to run two VIAIR 444C compressors which are rated at a maximum of 200PSI each. Previously, Air Lift Performance’s V2 management was designed to accommodate a maximum working pressure of 175PSI, while 3H and 3P can a deal with a maximum working pressure of 200PSI. This opens up a much improved hardware offering.

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Both compressors are going to be isolated from the car’s body, so as to keep noise and vibration to a minimum. Essentially, they’ll float within the rear spare tyre well.

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The air needs to be stored, so I’ve chosen the smallest tanks that I can get my hands on. Each of these is capable of storing 2 gallons, giving me a combined total of 4 gallons in air capacity. The thinking behind this is that two small tanks will be easier to mount and hide than one large tank. Plus, their relatively small weight can be distributed in the best possible way.

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This is how much room we will have to play with with the spare removed. The tanks sit around an inch higher than the current boot floor, but I’ve already sourced an OE solution to raise the boot floor slightly without having to build a frame to raise it. When it comes time to install, I’ll show you that solution. I haven’t got the weighing scales out just yet, but I’m pretty confident that the completed install will weigh either the same or less as the spare with the jack and tools inside of it did. It’s my hope that once everything is installed, we won’t add any weight to the car and will even lose a little bit of unsprung mass.

As an aside, since I installed the Tarox brakes, the spare wheel is useless anyways as it won’t fit over them. Instead, I’m going to revert to a 12V compressor and a couple of cans of TyreWeld in case of a puncture, something I’m comfortable with as the E90 had no spare from the factory anyways.

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Air Lift Performance have supplied absolutely everything we need to get this into the car without needing a trip to a hardware store or to order anything online. This extra harness ensures that the second compressor is a simple plug-and-play addition.

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When I say everything, I mean absolutely everything. I was scared to open these bags in case something went missing, then it would most certainly be my fault. Also, notice how the connections are already taped to ensure a perfect seal and fit. I love that someone thought to do that before shipping them out; it’s a wonderful little touch.

The Brains Of The Operation
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All air setups will of course run compressors and tanks, but it’s in the management where the real difference is made. Air Lift announced its new 3H setup late last year and the system has proven to be a huge step forward for the entire industry. The ‘H’ in 3H stands for height and I’ll show you how this is relevant in just a moment.

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The last time I unboxed something quite this nice was when I got my iPhone a couple of years back. It just feels good.

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Inside I found the new ALP controller, manifold and harness. The controller feels especially impressive. I thought it would be constructed of plastic, but instead it’s machined out of billet aluminium and anodised black. I’m trying to avoid using another Apple comparison, but it does feel quite similar in the hand as last of the iPod Classics. The buttons can be re-orientated too depending on how you want to install the controller.

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The real heart of the setup is the new fully integrated manifold. This relatively small box of tricks features the ECU, pressure manifold and Bluetooth module in one unit. It’s pretty crazy how much technology has been packed into something so small.

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Like the controller, it feels solid. There’s a little bit of reassuring weight to it too, although this time I don’t have any Apple-esque comparisons to throw at you.

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Again, everything is included for a plug-and-play installation, so there’s no need to rewire anything. Air Lift also included a proper air-line cutting tool, something that will prevent leaks when used correctly (using something like a snips will only crush and deform the air line, creating a sub-standard connection and seal, and quite likely a leak too).

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What really helps add to the performance side of this setup are the height sensors (the ‘H’ in 3H). The height sensors work in combination with the air spring pressures to ensure that the vehicle is sitting evenly, to prevent cross loading and to ensure axle equalisation. It also means that you can load up the car with luggage (or camera gear in my case), start the car and it’ll rise to its usual unladen ride height. The same applies for passengers entering or exiting the vehicle. You don’t need to worry about trying figure out how much air you need to add to each bag to keep the car level; the height sensors will communicate everything to the new integrated manifold and it’ll adjust the car accordingly. Further to this, there’s also a built-in accelerometer in the manifold which further plays into how the system adjusts to motion.

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Again, everything is included to install the management and sensors. From controller wiring, sensor plugs, air line etc. I’ll be honest though – this box terrifies me as I have a complete allergy to auto electrical parts. It’s all witchcraft.

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Of course, this entire setup would be useless without the actual suspension parts.

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It’s probably this part that everyone will be familiar with and may not be aware just how simple it is. So, where you would typically find a steel spring, instead, you have a double bellow air bag. That’s pretty much the main difference between a comparable traditional aftermarket suspension setup and a modern air suspension setup – an air bag instead of a steel spring. There’s no voodoo or magic, it really is that simple and is why modern air setups can now compete against coilover setups both on the street and on track. Any variation in performance will be down to the quality of the damper used. The Mk6 GTI uses a separate damper and spring setup in the rear, so that’s what you get with the Air Lift Performance setup – a new spring and damper.

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The damper features a threaded body so you can fine tune your ride height in order to allow you to run the perfect spring pressures to suit your needs. They also feature 30-way adjustable damping.

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Similarly, the fronts feature a double bellow bag over damper setup with 30-way adjustable damping and a threaded body for, once again, fine tuning your ride height.

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The big difference here is that they have camber adjustable top mounts included too. It’s a shame that these will be hidden from view in the Mk6’s engine bay, because they’re quite nice to look at. Air Lift Performance has also included new drop links to cope with the massive range in ride height adjustment.

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I know that for some, there’s nothing that I can say or do to make you think this is going to work on a performance level. I would ask that at the very least, you reserve judgement until everything’s installed and I get a track day or two under my belt. This is new ground for me and I’m genuinely excited to get the car dialled in as quickly as possible and to see just how much performance potential there is. Being honest, I fully expect that I might never be able to extract the full potential from the car on track anyways (something I think that applies to far more drivers than some would like to admit), but that’s an argument for another day.

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The potential of performance air has fascinated me for quite some time. Whilst air is typically associated with show cars, I’ve seen enough to know that performance air isn’t a contradictory term. You just have to look at someone like Cody Miles who won his class in Time Attack driving an Air Lift Performance supported Impreza to know that it does work; it’s really not even up for debate any more. If anything, the debate has now moved onto just how fast can a car on air be. I guess I’m about to find out…

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

Cutting Room Floor
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I like the idea of using air suspension for other reasons that just sitting a car so low it becomes unusable. Interested to see how you feel it performs on the track. I do think there is great potential for air on performance / track orientated cars, it just takes someone brave enough to give it a try. I think for your application it will work nicely, bridging that gap between hard core performance coilovers that run low all the time and just having that little option to raise the ride height to clear a speed bump on the drive back home.

Good luck with the install and I'm looking forward to the next update. 

Quick one.... what model wheels are yours? Currently thinking of changing the oe BBS Pescara's on my Edition 30 and I really like the look of yours.


I've always wondered about the trackability of air, if you lower it slightly obviously the bags aren't filled to the same pressures as they are at full height so are softer, does this mean you have to run at "full height" to get decent cornering characteristics? Which would in turn mean higher centre of gravity Etc etc.


Instant ride-height adjustment>spare tire


Just lower the bag base plates like coil overs and only go low for shows?


JakWhite You're right in the theory, when run super low the bags are at lower pressures and the effective spring rate is softer.  However a well-setup air suspension usually runs air pressures at your normal (or track) ride height which give an effective spring rate similar to what you would run on a traditional spring or coilover.

The second part of the adjustment is being able to set the height of the air bag perch, just like you would with a coilover spring.  So if you decide you need a particular air pressure/effective spring rate for your performance suspension setup, you can change the ride height of the car with the air spring perch without affecting the air pressure.

Lastly, the double-bellow bag design is the preferred option (compared to sleeve-type bags) because of the large air volume inside.  Thus as the bag compresses/expands the air pressure inside (and again, the effective spring rate) doesn't change too drastically through the suspension movement.  By the same principle, changing air pressures a little bit to fine-tune ride height doesn't drastically change the spring rate either.  Obviously when running very very low, or at very high pressures, this goes out the window, but in the middle of the suspension travel (where you want to be for high-performance driving) these effects are negated a fair amount.


Ah Paddy, I do think if we ever met we'd get along. Similar to yourself I chose air years ago after riding around static led to quite a bit of money invested in flex pipes and headaches dealing with entrances and speed bumps. My wheel and tire set up is a bit more form focused than yourself but otherwise we got air for similar reasons.
My whole set up also resides in the spare well under oem panels, remove them and it's a little showy but no hardline set up. Camera gear, bike, kids stuff take priority on a daily.
My ALP set up has been through a lot, three winters, 1 written off car and taken it all with no fuss so I you'll have no issues I'd imagine.
As for people wondering the trackability of air, the 300c below has been tracking on air locally for at least two seasons and if it can work on a barge like that I imagine it should do a GTI well too.


Steve Hayward JakWhite ^Exactly


Well written Paddy.
I've been interested in air suspension for awhile, seems like the best way to go. I've seen all the claims about performance, but I'm still curious about it. Excited to see how it turns out. Could you perhaps take some under car video during track testing?
I'm also curious how essential are the ride height sensors? It seems like many companies offer different packages. I've always wondered if just the pressure control would be good enough. I have 2 vehicles, so my car doesn't get daily driven. The most weight I add to the car is a camera bag and a lawn chair. Also, the rear seats are some unusable that I very very rarely have more than 1 passenger.


my e46 on air


How many times are ya gonna be able to go up and down before it needs to build up air again? My friend has bags on his Jetta and that's one thing that annoys me, it's after every other go he has to refill.
Look forward to seeing the setup in person at some point soon :)


Jay_TrackAddict They're Volk Racing ZE40s 18x8.5 ET44


Steve Hayward JakWhite Great explanation, Steve.


90nissanS13@my350z True that.


DaveT That's great to hear, hopefully our paths cross as some stage!


SN95 Lover I guess it's one of those things where the height sensors are going to be better than no height sensors, but there have been plenty of cars running on V2 management without them and have had great success. I think Cody Miles' TA Impreza is on V2 (I think!) so he may not be running them. It seems to be working out pretty good for him!


SeanLeipoldt Sweet, how're you finding it?


Tomo Pattison Good question, I haven't worked out the fill times just yet as I was more concerned with the tanks' physical size rather than their capacity. I'm hoping that with the isolators on the compressors, it won't be much of a nuisance regardless.


Tomo Pattison For an exact fill time it will depend on how low you ran the tank. With 4 gallons of air on a ~3500lb car with double bellows on all four corners, you should be able to go from aired out to ride at least two times back to back. You will still have plenty of air in the system after that, but you may not have enough pressure to come to full height. That said, running dual 444C compressors will create very quick fill times to max tank pressure. You should be in the range of sub 1min fill times from 100psi to 150psi, or sub 2min fill times from 100psi to 200psi.

Note that running a higher tank pressure increases how many times you can make large adjustments. For example, running the tanks at 200psi may yield a third aired out to ride adjustment back to back. For me personally on my bagged IS300 drift car, I run the lowest max tank pressure of 150psi. Since my car is mostly track use only, I am only running a single 380C compressor with a 2.5gal tank. I am able to go aired out to ride once, then by simply waiting about 30 seconds I am able to do it again. It was unnecessary for my application to have a large volume of air as I do not make many adjustments throughout a track day, just when I want to show it off to a group of people.

To conclude, the larger volume of air you have stored or the higher the pressure, the more large "on-the-fly" adjustments can be made. If you don't pull up to every stop light and "hit the switches" you will not need a large volume of air.

I hope you enjoy the kit Paddy! Looking forward to your on track results :)

PS. Cars also handle great on air when sideways


SeanLeipoldt How are you liking it?  I'm more worried about DD duties, occasional road trips and the odd AX in my E46.  I have an S2000 I use for track and AX fun time.  I'm getting really tired of my cheap Taiwanese coils on the daily.


DavidCargle SeanLeipoldt For daily drive-ability, our kits feature 30-way adjustable damping, giving you the option to make it ride like a Cadillac, a race car or something in between depending on your liking. The bags themselves add a nice DD capability by absorbing small bumps and dips in the road, while still offering stiffness under high G turns. Since bags are essentially constructed like the sidewall of a tire, they will slightly expand on high speed impacts which takes a ton of harshness out of the ride. Upon cornering, the bag will compress and the pressure will increase thus raising the spring rate of the loaded corners, keeping body roll to a minimum. You really need to ride in a bagged car to truly appreciate the added on road comfort and performance benefits that bags offer.


Great looking build. 
I was thinking though, you mentioned using a 12V compressor for inflating tires instead of carrying a spare.
You have two compressors and two air tanks on board already, why not adapt those up to inflate your tires if required?


that rx8 in the back though


How complicated is it to install? Normal suspensions are pretty easy to install, but in this case it looks like handwork it's gonna be expensive, and it's not something you can do in your garage, I suppose.
Anyway I think you took the right decision, after all you're not going to race every day, and the level of comfort achieved with air has nothing to do compared to some stiff suspension setup, especially on bumpy roads. Looking forward the see the result.


EvolveWRC The install is not nearly as difficult as one would think. Our kits are designed to be installed in a driveway with basic hand tools. Most kits require zero modifications to the vehicle, while some you will have to drill and install a single nutsert to attach the rear bags. 

We like to say that if you can install coilovers and a stereo system, you can install one of our kits. The most time consuming bit is routing the air lines. Taking your time with that will ensure worry free operation.

Some may argue that the trunk setup takes the most time. That is all personal preference as you can do a simple board with all of your components attached to it, or go all out and build a full custom trunk with hardwood floors and polished hard lines. For most people who have never installed air suspension, a kit can be completed in a weekend.


I wonder how the OEM suspension on an RS6 is built? Anybody got pics to show?


Steve Hayward  In other words, starting with a bag pressure that puts you in the best place on the progressive spring rate curve makes the progressive spring rate the least noticeable.  If you change the pressure more than a small amount, or change the displacement more than a small amount, you rapidly move to a different area of that spring rate curve.  Making the bag volume larger has the effect of making the curve more gentle.

It's really just making the best of a not-so-great situation, which is understandable but not without obvious compromises.  Progressive rate springs are not without their drawbacks...


I am interested to see the updates on this, I just ordered my air suspension yesterday. After spending a month going back and forth between airlift and accuair I finally ended up going with the elevel kit. So I it will be cool to see your experience with the other option. Here's to hoping we both made good calls!


I love how every one of your modifications is well thought out. If I had a GTI, I think that I would go for the same functionality as you and your choice of mods is perfect.


I mean its cool what your doing and all, and I know that there are many people reading this who can afford to do this, but for me its a stretch to even fit a decent set of secondhand coilovers, and Im guessing you got seriously hooked up as well, just kind of a bummer that many speedhunters build stories are a bit unrealistic for the majority as many of the products are free or seriously discounted which never happens in the real world....


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! What would you have them do for project cars then? Cut springs, a fart cannon and a head unit? 

As far as "real world" mods go the majority of SH staff projects are completely attainable for the average joe IMO.

Maybe you need to look at yourself, and the choices you have made, rather than try and rip on SH for doing completely realistic mods.


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! Not really, Project Ecoboost was sacrificed for hopes of getting a move on with Project Yankee. I don't know how much the sponsors are helping, but even in the real world you can receive a good price from your friends or local shops, even manufacturers helps you out during some occasions.


I was hoping for something different with this build, guess I was wrong.


kphillips9936 If YOU could do something better, please do show


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! go watch mighty car mods on youtube then they are normal guys who do DIY projects and mods starting from $0


Nice update Paddy, looking forward to the review once installed. 

Any feedback on how the KU36 tyres are going?


What exactly would have appeased you? Leaf springs in the back, torsion bars up front? Because coilovers are pretty common too


Yay, my favorite grocery car is getting an air lift :D
Seriously I'm jealous. How does it feel during trackdays, does it make the car "boaty" or otherwise funky? Let us know once you try. Always thought air ride was for them stancers wanting to sometimes go over 20 mph or get over a bump.
Do you see any drawbacks apart from a bit of space taken away?


Can you please provide a comparison of track times before and after air?


hypodermic FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! so the average joe has a 2015 golf, then buys the 3h setup which is around $2500 + the actual struts/bags which lets say for arguments sake is worth maybe $2000 minimum, and lets not forget the tarox brake setup which is easily $3000, plus the tuning done previously, we are getting up to say $9000 worth of mods, which unless you're a dealer or a hooker isnt really an option for the average joe, who also has a mortgage and likes to eat on a regular basis, if you're a douche who just spends all his money on his car and lives with his mum then sure you can afford to do that, but in the real world its just a little out of reach. its not really about life choices, its more real world economics

perhaps a little more info from my side, I live in the southern hemisphere where things like this almost instantly double in price once you factor in shipping and the fact that we have no local distributors, and we really dont have the population base that brings these costs down.

Its cool what hes doing but its just a bummer when you look into it further and realise that its really expensive and he is probably getting most of it at cost if not free.

you seem like you'd probably vote for trump.


AWA302 FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! totally different kettle of fish that one, basic mods, much more achievable, wheels, exhaust, basic tune, totally do-able, and resto of older cars can be really cheap with companies like jegs etc, Im a mechanic so i get trade prices and deals, but this build is at a pretty high $ value


@driftoz FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! yup and I bet they paid for the shiny new turbos on supergramps, or the ecu's from haltech, or the dyno tuning for that matter, sure they do some cheap stuff but I dont have the cash for full custom looms, haltechs, custom bellhousings and all the other shit the get for free.......I see what you did there, but the double unicorn isnt really a nice cheap build either...


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! well there's always the cheaper stuff from Ksport and CX Racing if you count just the value of the parts. Plus since that GTi is in EU the currency difference might make the high end parts more affordable probably. 

The thing is your car has to be more that just a parts list on wheels, I've been following SH projects for quite a while now and I've a feeling they are more than thankful that companies help out in their builds; perks of the job I guess. Even I feel I'm sort of immersed in his build, even though I only religiously follow this site from the other side of the globe. So I understand why Paddy might pick all these parts as the car has to double as both a daily driver and a track car of sorts. You really don't wanna spare expenses when the car is going to be a double duty setup.


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! hypodermic I get where you're coming from, but you're probably not considering the sacrifices that have to be made to build a project like this. You don't see the months and months of work involved to afford pretty much anything to do with the car, the lost weekends or the incredibly rare time off. I don't drink, I don't smoke and every penny I can save goes into my car. I'm not complaining, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I don't want to get into the money argument, because it's never going to be the same for two people, especially at different sides of the planet but by the time it's finished, my car will stand me far, far less than a stock 2015 GTI (mine is a 2010 car, which is worth pretty much half the price of a new GTI here)

One of the things I learned from my last car was to save longer and buy the right parts once, rather than trying to do it on the cheap. Cheap parts are a false economy, in general. Buy once and buy right. That's why it has taken me nearly a year to do just wheels, brakes, intake, exhaust & software. I've seen people do these mods over the course of a weekend! 

I look at the other projects on here and in general, I know that I'll never be able to afford an R34 GT-R, a 996 Turbo or a new Mustang. But instead of dwelling on this, I prefer to look at what the guys are doing and figure out ways of incorporating similar ideas into my own car. I enjoy it. 

At the end of the day, it's all relative to what you can afford and you have to be able to enjoy what you have rather than obsessing over what you don't have.


rook56 I'll try! Last track day was wet, so need to get a dry day in before the ALP stuff goes in.


Airlift ftw!! oe//M+
Love your builds paddy


Beautiful car.  Have a set of Koni yellows and RPF-1s on mine, nothing else.  Great for the canyons


Chilichez Would love a set of RPF-1s for mine, but prefer them in 17s and can't fit anything smaller than an 18" over the brakes. Any pictures of yours?


LyleYnwaVanHarte Thanks! Also, does YNWA in your user name mean what I think it does? #LFC


@avu I'm looking forward to finding out. I've read so much and been told so much by others, but I need to feel the difference for myself. I can't really think of any other drawbacks, we've come up with a pretty bulletproof setup for the car. I just want it installed already!


JamesDowling They're wearing real fast. Awesome in the dry, absolutely awesome. Such an improvement in traction and grip, but the wear rate is killing me as they're nearly beyond their useful life already. Would be a great track day tyre, but for a daily driver I think I'm going to change to PS4s next.


kphillips9936 If you read the story, you would have known that this is going to be anything but a typical bagged VW build. Function > Form.


mandeepchase Thanks, although I think my friends are sick of listening to me at this stage.


Jagdroach Excellent, when are you hoping to have it installed?


@Shakedown14 I'd be surprised if it was anything but a MacPherson strut front with a multi-link rear.


@fabrik8 Steve Hayward To be fair, there are very few aspects of building a project car that doesn't have its drawbacks.


I love your updates Paddy and this is easily my favourite speedhunters project car. Thats because everything you have done, id like to do with my car. Im not normally a Golf man but seeing yours has really changed my opinion of them. I also enjoy your look into the technical side of things and the how it all works, my inner geek definitely appreciates it


I debated air lift as it would give me the access I need, but the weight was my worry, then again, I could always mount it where the passenger seat is and off set the balance of me being in the car.... Gah! I thought I had this sorted till I read your post!
The main attractions of air ride for me was being able to ride over speedhumps, sleeping policemen, general potholed cracked Tarmac and access steep petrol station forecourts. I had Settled on coilovers and a small lift bag system so I can raise the car an inch whenever I needed to (K&W system, pretty awesome). But now I'm thinking....


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! You're high if you think MCM doesn't get help from their sponsors or friends at the local shops. I would put this at the "quality build" not "unattainable build" level. Sure theres a few $3k items, but it's nothing like the show builds out there with $100k in work/parts. If you're single, work a decent job, and aren't blowing your cash on partying every night or living in a downtown penthouse, you could have this car in 2 years.
And don't hate on sponsors. If you could, you would, and you can't argue that. From what I've seen, I think they may get some parts at a good discount, but Rays/Airlift/CSR etc don't seem to be pimping out the SH staff with freebies or else I would agree with you and we would see this build at a much higher level. FWIW I think Paddy is hitting a home run with this car.


Paddy McGrath Yep but on the last model you can adjust the height. How is it done?

Sorry my question wasn't clear.


davey_bevan Glad you're enjoying them. It feels weird to write about your own car as the compliments and criticism are so much more personal.


TarmacTerrorist I'm going to try and weigh everything as it goes in and out of the car, should be interesting to see the difference. I looked at a lift kit before for the E90, it was hugely expensive but they might have come down in price since.


@Shakedown14 Paddy McGrath Oh, factory air suspension as an optional extra -


Paddy McGrath TarmacTerrorist Just guessing - air system weight is offset by removing spare tire? Those things be about 40-50 lbs... Balance isn't affected due to location. I can't imagine there would be a noticeable difference in handling.


So for track days you just jack up the psi?  Want more rotation - just soften the front, stiffen the rear, few clicks and bam. This is just my novice speculation but it sounds ideal.

turbo BEAMS ae86

FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! car hobby is not for unemployed persons


Paddy McGrath yep I read the article but I wonder if it air suspension does it work the same as yours with a big bag and where do they hide the air tank?


bluestreaksti Paddy McGrath TarmacTerrorist  Curious about this too. My car isn't all that "performance" and mostly about looks (1st Gen Celica restomod), but I DO care about adding weight, since it is a lightweight car to begin with.




bluestreaksti I have a track day booked in June in the UK, so hoping to figure it out there. I'm thinking of maintaining bag pressures and stiffening the dampers slightly and going from there.


SachaAlbarda bluestreaksti Paddy McGrath TarmacTerrorist Just from unboxing the stuff, I was really surprised by how light the struts are, so there's definitely a weight saving there. It's really only the compressors (which I think are the heaviest piece of the puzzle) and the tanks, manifold that weigh anything. Even at that, they're not that heavy at all.


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove!   I get the point about getting hookups and all but really it doesn't matter. I'm almost finishing a motor rebuild on my Z after over 18months and have had to pretty much import everything from the US (i'm in Zimbabwe to give you some perspective). Definitely buying the right parts the first time would save a lot of hassle in the long run; if i'd done that the first time i may not have been doing this now. Luckily i am paying mates rates for the build and in comparison to US/UK/AUS rates, its peanuts for the work..the economic situation here is vastly different tho..dealing with import duties, international shipping and all obviously doesn't help either.
But over the last year and a half, reading these project stories i've realised that as a long as you have some sort of stable income stream and a clear plan as to how you are going to go about the build you can do it. Things like sponsorships/trade rates and all help yes obviously.But ultimately the only thing that differs is timelines.
I would love to to have an 600hp beast and i could probably do it but it may take me 4 times as long as someone who can afford to put aside more money/ earns more...that doesn't make the dream unobtainable or unrealistic. It just means it'll take me longer to get there. If anything i think these stories should be inspirational. Thinking back on certain mods i've done so far if i'd been a little more patient back then i'd be a lot closer to an e85 setup right now
cc: hypodermic Paddy McGrath


so how many £££££ are we talking then? considering a decent set of KW coilovers is about £800-£1000


AirLift_Lucas Tomo Pattison well ı really wonder one thing. let say the mass on an induvidual tyre is 300 kgs, and a spring rate of K on a regular suspension, and the compression amount of spring under 300 kgs weight X, in this case K*X=300. similar speaking for an air set up this 300 kgs of weight is carried by air pressure P that the force is calculated by using area F=P*A. so since we are not changing the bag diameter and the load=300 kg we can not increase the pressure until the bag reaches its full stroke(the car is very high ). we can pass more air to the bag which results in an increase in height but not an increase in pressure. 
similarly we know that the spring constant and damper ratio has great effect on handling , for example if you go lower you have to increase the spring rate to stop bottoming and you should also increase the rebound damping to keep contact with the road. Under these criterias how could an air set up be succesful on track? Also going different ride heights results in different roll centers which is one of the most important things in handling, so go lower and handle better on track doent work here, how is this compansated in air ride set up?


This was what my comment was going to be as well. I used to have a truck on air, and I added a mini adjustable regulator bring the air pressure down for stuff like air tools, a tire chuck, etc. It worked great. This would be lighter than carrying another 12 volt compressor (maybe not cheaper...) and could also be used with an air impact at track days if you're changing tires. Just a thought. Keep up the good work, I'm loving the functionality and way you're breaking the bagged VW stereotype on this build!


Paddy McGrath SeanLeipoldt
I find grip and ride quality both improved with air going form Koni/H&R setup you are going to love them


DavidCargle SeanLeipoldt

only down side is cost but get a well developed kit like airlift


AirLift_Lucas SeanLeipoldt
exactly my experience with the air springs better body control with a smoother ride


@Shakedown14 Paddy McGrath I'm not sure with specifics on the RS6, but on other factory air suspension cars (Q7, Cayenne, Panamera etc.) the tank is sometime hidden either behind the rear bumper or inside the rear quarter panel.


@bluestreaksti my car weighs in at 777kgs, and that's wet (with fluids, though I do live in the uk so add 2kgs of rain...) 52/48 split - 3kgs out on the front left if I remember correctly. (It's been a year+ since the car was weighed) - If the car had an interior etc I would agree with you but im finding the problem with going light is once you get to lowish Kilogram numbers, placement starts becoming more and more important. :(


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! hypodermic It's not about the money at all! It's all about the passion, love for cars - modding, racing, drifting... whatever floats your boat. Yes some people daily race their Veyrons or Koeniggseggs. On the other side of the globe in Cuba folks trick up and race their ancient cars from the US. Look at pro drifters and then at grassroots drifters.
I'd love to drive around in a Ferrari but I have a Mazda - and love it. There will always be something "better", faster, more exclusive and out of reach.
It's not what you can afford - it's what you do with it and what you're willing to sacrifice for your passion!


Paddy McGrath Jagdroach June 1st is the hope. That way I can get maybe the car registered for some events and have it for the summer!


bluestreaksti It would be a lot simpler if the pressure change didn't also change the ride height, and if the air bags weren't progressive spring rate.  If you change the pressure, you change the progressive rate curve, and the damping is usually always a compromise because of that.  Plus, you've got sway bars in the mix as well, which are also progressive rate springs.  So you've got progressive rate springs interacting with progressive rate springs, which makes for some exceptionally non-linear behavior.  There's not really anything wrong with progressive rate springs on the street, or for racing with a well-characterized setup, but air bags are adjustable progressive rate springs, which just makes proper setup a moving target.

So yes, they're easy to stiffen up at a track day, but you're going to really struggle to find a good setup versus what could be achieved with linear springs, or with properly setup progressive coil springs.

Still great for going out and having some fun on track, but not very ideal.


@fabrik8 Understood, thanks for explaining. So basically, perceived performance will be influenced by experience and goals. 
Paddy McGrath Good luck! I want you to get another GTI out there (stock or otherwise) and switch out just to feel the difference.  Personally I would love this for every mod.  One thing cool about driving a big truck is getting in the racecar immediately after.  Seems sooo much better!


TarmacTerrorist 1,713 lbs!!! What's left on the car?? Wax can reduce rain weight :)   You are in a bit of a situation though.  Maybe get some weights, put them where the compressor & tanks will go and drive it around?


Spot on. Progressive rate springs are awful if you take your track days seriously.
I hadn't thought of air in those terms though, good explanation.


@bluestreaksti that's what I was thinking :)
there's a lot of Perspex & fibreglass... Oh and the brake discs are a part of the car where deep thought and arguments went into. fully ducted and inline fan fed vented so I get to keep the exterior as stock as possible.... Down to the front and rear tiny disc brakes. (Lighter then aftermarket ones!)


Damnit Paddy, I'm trying to get my head wrapped around getting ready to get rid of my MkIV, and seeing the J.Rabbit always gets me back into project mode.
But this does appeal greatly to me, as I have been trying to figure out a way to deal with creating a winter warrior (at least one of these is a bit of a must here in the Great White North) and street fighter all in one vehicle, which isn't so easy to accomplish. First thought was using coilovers and raising and lowing the threading at the time of tire changeover, but it would really not take very many seasons to wreak havoc on the threading. Curious now as to the temperature ratings for these air setups, since I may very well be looking at -30 to +30 (-22 to 86 for the Yanks) average in a year, and I can't see that kind of mercury dives doing any good to the system. It would be nice to not have to own two vehicles, but it may need to be the reality.
It's good to see air systems becoming more practical, hopefully they keep on advancing like this.


IRONWOLF RD Our products are tested and designed to work from -40 to +80 C without failure. A proper install should not even leak at the extreme cold temperatures.

Our company is in Lansing, MI, a state that sees about 6 months of winter a year. We all drive year round on our products, we even have some winter ice racing fun on occasion. Attached is my old WRX struggling for grip on studless snow tires. I took second overall on that day, only being beaten by a rally prepped RAV4.


Good luck with the build, it's going to look epic.


The recent rides in air-suspension cars felt great, I am sure the performance die-hards would have strong opinions, but as for an average enthusiast driving on average roads 99% of the time, the new-age air suspensions is one fabulous combo of form and function. My main concern is durability and specifically air leak. Is there service interval to check for leaks and maintain certain parts of the system to ensure durability?


stormedCORSA Thanks!


EmmaMacki Once everything is installed correctly and the air lines aren't fouling anywhere, there really shouldn't be any air leaks to worry about. Water traps are about the only regular maintenance I know of to ensure everything stays running properly.


rook56 I think 'awful' might be strong. Fair enough, linear spring rates are ideal for track work, but on the road I think progressive spring rates are far more suited. It just depends what you need from your car. 

It's going to be an all new experience for me, so I'm looking forward to it and coming away wiser. I'll certainly be talking about it all anyways, so will look forward to your feedback.


dr770 AirLift_Lucas Tomo Pattison Perhaps dampers, geometry etc. could be optimised for a low position, for the track, and be sub-optimal in the raised position for clearing speed bumps etc.? Or optimal in a raised position for daily driving, but sub-optimal for cruising slammed? 

I do wonder about the same thing as you though - you can't increase the hardness of the springs, you can only raise the ride height. Normally, you would want hard springs for a low ride height, but that doesn't seem possible here.


Usually not a big fan of air suspension but this set up is making me second guess myself....great job


AirLift_Lucas IRONWOLF RD Beauty! Thanks for the info. Lansing is actually going to be not that far away from where I'm moving to, so that's good it's tested in localized weather.


To hone logic, supported with open minds and a lot to learn. For logic that is already extensive, balance it with humility


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