According to Forbes, Airbnb is today the world’s largest provider of accommodation, yet it owns almost no property. Similarly, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are all fuelled by content creation, but deliver very little of their own material.
And then there’s the world of crypto, a currency obtained through mining bits of code and traded without ever having to physically exist. We can then use this money we can’t see to pay for subscriptions we can’t see either. But that does mean we can stream music and videos from anywhere in the world. Providing we’ve also paid for enough data.
The digital age is a confusing one at times. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing; we all buy into it on some level. But it does make physical ownership of something feel like a bit of a novelty.
For many years, we’ve witnessed immensely talented artists like Khyzyl Saleem show us a world of car tuning previously unimaginable; the result of what’s possible when reality is no longer an issue. These aren’t blocky, PS1-spec graphics either. They’re mind-bendingly realistic.
But this virtual world can also a dangerous one. Like social media, it doesn’t have to exist in that awkward realm of real life. There’s little accountability here; it’s just time and imagination. Design looking a bit turd? Refresh it and start again.
It exists to inspire and entertain, its success measured by likes and engagement. A request to change paint can take seconds compared to weeks in actual reality. And their environments don’t need to worry about permits or other cars spoiling the view. The only limitation is imagination… and computing power.
I love seeing every creation – they’re an insight into the brilliant minds behind each render – and the ability to translate this into any art form is a skill that should never be underestimated. However, these aren’t real-life cars, and they shouldn’t be treated as if they were. Because turbochargers can exit from any panel when there’s no virtual dashboard or brake lines blocking the path.
That’s not to say they don’t come to life; they do, usually with some kind of compromise though. You can thank that battle between designer and engineer, something which has existed ever since the first concept car was unveiled.
But to every rule there’s always an exception, and in the land of rendered cars Jean Pierre Kraemer is exactly that.
Jean Pierre, otherwise known as JP Performance, isn’t a man who does compromise. Not in an arrogant, dictator-like fashion with no grasp on reality; he just finds solutions where others would usually tap out.
Take the renders above for example. The idea first came to Khyzyl back in 2018; a combination of Group B and Dimma styling applied to a Mk2 Golf purely to see how it could look. Two years later, it then morphed into the wider, lower and meaner version below. It’s still outrageously cool, but Khyzyl will also tell you that the design was never built with reality in mind; it was only ever supposed to be a bonkers digital creation. Yet JP’s first thought wasn’t ‘how is that even possible?’. Instead, he simply thought ‘damn, that’s cool. Now how do we make it really crazy?’
‘Crazy’ is a brave word in 2021. We’ve seen certain online personalities go overboard with it in the quest for clout – like crashing a brand-new car while handily being filmed – but that’s less YouTube’s fault and more the individual being a narcissistic maniac.
JP is a YouTuber - and a really good one at that – but he’s not dialled in to the shouty algorithm brigade; he’s giving an insight into his own tuning business and documenting what happens when you go beyond the ‘normal’ level of creativity. The good kind of crazy like you see in these renders.
Peek inside JP’s current garage and you’ll see he really is one of us. What he lacks in vinyl-wrapped Lamborghinis he makes up for with an R34 Skyline GT-R littered with Nismo parts and a DTM-inspired E30 M3 running an F80 M3 drivetrain. He’s even got a backdated, turbocharged RWB Porsche.
It would seem JP’s algorithm is firmly set to Speedhunters.
That’s a pretty hefty introduction to prepare you for the Mk2 Golf featured here, but it’s also necessary to understand why it exists in the first place. As mentioned earlier, Khyzyl never designed this car with reality in mind, nor to produce it as a bodykit after. It was far too extreme for the real world – or so he thought.
JP is no stranger to the Mk2 Golf platform. He knows its typical limitations and also knows that most rendered cars are designed without the need to physically function. Challenge well and truly accepted from his side, but where the hell to start?
“I think the main problem is always how to make it work as a car,” JP explains. “To make something that is only standing is very easy, because the tyres and steering don’t really have to work. So, the main issue was to try and keep as much of the bodykit true to the render, around 90% in total, to keep this cool style but also allow it to be a working car.”
“As you can see from the positioning of the rear wheels, the mounting point is so high compared to standard that actually underneath is all a tubular frame which carries these parts. In fact, we ended up using an entire Mk3 Golf rear end to allow the high position of the suspension to work under the Mk2 bodywork.”
This is one of the biggest challenges when making a rendered car a reality. Wheelbase, ride height and track width can all be manipulated into the most visually-appealing dimensions without too much hassle, but in the real world that equates to hundreds of hours of fabrication with no guarantee the end result will even look good. Still, at least the bodykit was easy, right?
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you,” laughs JP. “But to produce the kit itself we had to make more changes to the real car. That’s why the front fenders are not the same as in the render. We can achieve the super-low stance easily these days with Air Lift Performance suspension – which is used on many of my builds – but getting the wide wheels to fit correctly (and still drive) takes a lot more effort.”
“In total, the bodykit took around 100 days to produce, including the forming of the panels. If you look how big each panel is – especially the rear sections – well, normally you don’t produce panels this size in one piece as the forms get really huge. So we had to make them out of two or three smaller pieces before putting them together to create the full-size moulds instead.”
One of my biggest gripes with traditional ‘internet-breaking’ builds is the sole focus being on exterior and very little under the bonnet. I get it; a lot of these cars are built for show and only need to exist as a static image on Instagram. But if it’s a proper build – for an individual or company – isn’t the engine as integral as the rest of it? Even if it’s destined for a life of low-speed rolling shots and show reports.
Khyzyl’s render never specified what powertrain the Golf would run, but looking at its proportions you’d be forgiven in assuming it had something stuffed up the rear of it. And this is where JP’s commitment shines through. Not only does his Mk2 have a VR6 motor sitting in the back, it’s actually plumbed in and driving the rear wheels through a manual gearbox.
“The VR6 produces such a cool sound,” adds JP. “It’s truly a nice, drivable engine and it has so much potential with turbocharging (if we want to see that in the future). I chose it because nobody really hates this engine; it’s still a cool swap for VW fans and it feels like the right choice for a Mk2. There have been many VR6 swaps in the past, but very few really that sit in the back and power only the rear wheels.”
This all sounds brilliantly straightforward, but surely combining that kind of engine swap with this kind of bodywork isn’t without its hiccups?
“Funnily enough, the main problem we had from the rendering was the tube frame and exhaust position,” JP adds. “The look under the bumper is dramatic in the render, but to keep the car stable we had to go quite low with the Mk3 Golf frame in the rear to keep its structure safe. That’s why the rear view of the tyres isn’t quite the same as the render, but when you see it in real life it’s still super impressive. Because when you think about it, this was a €500 [approximately US$600] Golf in really bad condition to begin with.”
JP continues, “Andreas from Prior Design is a very good friend of mine and his work on the bodykit has been truly amazing. Luckily, he likes my ideas. He’s always a little afraid when I call him up – not in a bad way – but he knows serious sh*t is about to go down. So, while you look at it here, I’m already thinking and planning a new design with him. But this time it will be truly crazy.”
We all know nothing is truly finished until the day it’s sold or scrapped, but looking at JP’s Mk2 in its current guise I’ve got nothing but respect for what’s been done. Not to mention the detail carried over (and even added) from the original render. It could’ve easily been rushed in the quest for social clout, but it wasn’t.
And as a car, it’s not going to be for everyone, but as an execution of an idea – one that would’ve otherwise been deemed as too wild to create… and then stuffing a VR6 up its arse – it’s utterly brilliant.
Back in the mid-2000s while I worked on Max Power magazine, that era seemed to be all about the excess – be it number of exhausts, wheel size, arch width or speakers installed. It reached a point where cars were built only to get on the cover, and with no intention of them ever being roadworthy, nor having any substance beyond the headline-grabbing mag feature.
It feels like that ethos has carried over to a lot of ‘personality’ builds recently; they exist for a single reason and no sooner are they revealed they’re quickly shunned in favour of the next revenue stream. Jumping from one clickbait title to another.
With JP’s Mk2 Golf – and most of his big builds – the approach is always more progressive. To him, this is just the beginning of this project rather than the end. We’ve seen render-to-reality builds in the past, but if all they aspire to be is a replica of something not real, they’ll forever be in that virtual shadow.
What we don’t see often enough is people using that as the base for an idea and building on it further because they want to. The internet’s reaction would’ve been just the same had this Mk2 still featured a stock engine up front. That might be good enough for some, but not for JP.
Let’s not beat around the bush; the ability to do this kind of build requires time, money, engineering and even more money. It isn’t the normal approach, but JP accepts that. He’s just using every tool and contact at his disposal to make each car the best of his ability, rather than doing the bare minimum to keep his engagement up.
Whether it’s your style or not is entirely up for debate – something we’ll likely discuss in the comments sections shortly. But this level of commitment should always be applauded… especially when Jean Pierre is already toying with the idea of sticking an EV powertrain on the front axle too. Why? Because JP Performance of course.