Last updated: March 16, 2020

Project Ultimate 83 GTI
Overview, Goals & Specs ...

 

Project Goals & Results

The project goal was to create a ‘cost is no object’ Ultimate VW GTI by going back to the simplicity of the VW Mk1 with its tossable fun factor and old school mechanical connection between the driver and the road, and then working to improve chassis rigidity, and cranking up acceleration, corning and braking performance, while also sneaking in modern creature comforts.

As guiding references to this project effort, there were 2 great Mk1 GTI variants back in the day: the bad-ass Callaway stage 2 turbo; and the ultra-rare Oettinger 16s which was a factory supported car in Europe in 1981. To me the lighter 16s was the way to go – but in a more modern format, borrowing the Mk2 16V cylinder heads and keeping everything close to ‘stock’ configuration while maxing out all performance parameters.

The result is a car that looks inside and out like it just rolled off the 1983 VW showroom floor with a totally stock looking exterior and interior, but being a true ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ under the covers – resulting in a totally cool retro driving experience that can outrun a modern VW Golf R or a Porsche 718 Cayman S on the street or the track.

Performance: 240hp + 1950lbs = one very quick little car: 0-60mph in <5s, 0-100mph in 11s, and >1g corning and braking on street tires (a progressive nitrous system adds up to 100hp more).

Creature comforts include electric windows; forward and backup cameras – displayed on the rear-view mirror; adjustable heated seats; push-button engine starting; electronically adjustable brake pedal pressure; 1200W RMS bluetooth audio system with a hands-free cel phone interface; full data logging with 2 axis accelerometers; convex side mirrors; touch-screen digital dash (analog and digital gauges); electrical A/C system with central dash vents; infinitely variable blower speed, a stunning ‘new’ OEM sunroof; all original NOS seat fabric with sport-firm foam padding front and rear; custom leather wrapped OEM steering wheel, adjustable pedals (perfect for heel and toe shifting), driver adjustable brake vacuum assist, plush OEM grade carpeting, floor mats and sound deadening insulation.

When driven by Kees Nierop (former Porsche factory race driver at Le Mans) at the Vancouver Island Motorsports circuit (a tight 2.3kms 19 corner racetrack) the Ultimate 83 GTI was faster than a 2018 Porsche 718 Cayman S (also driven by Kees). Project goals met!

 

Ultimate 83 GTI Specifications Summary

 

My Original 1983 Rabbit GTI as inspiration for the Ultimate 83 GTI Project

I was an original 83 Rabbit GTI owner, my car having a November 1982 build date. I was proud to be one of the first GTI owners in Canada after ordering my car in October ‘82 moments after I had finished reading the November magazine issues of Car & Driver, Motor Trend and Road & Track which universally praised the new US spec GTI at its long awaited North American debut.

I made the many of the usual Mk1 GTI mods to the car plus a few unique ones:

… All in all I ended up doubling the price of the car with the add-ons.

I did quite a few weekend autocross events during the 4 years I owned the car – it cornered very flat with neutral front/rear balance, acceleration was in the range of 0-60mph in 7.5s, and it had decent but not exceptional braking. I loved the car but always wanted more engine and dreamed about owning one of the super rare factory 16V GTI models from Europe (the Oettinger GTI 16s) or a stage 2 Callaway turbo setup, which would have turned my GTI into the ultimate bass-ass GTI of its day. Fast forward 30 years to 2012 when I started to turn my attention to revisiting my true automotive ‘first love’ and embark on a new no-budget limit ultimate 83 GTI project car …

I had learned quite a few lessons from my 1st GTI mods:

I wanted the car to weigh 1800lbs in ‘track ready trim’, about 250lbs less than US spec ‘stock’ weight and I also wanted to target around 7lbs/hp which is a typical modern supercar weight/power ratio which meant an engine with around 250hp. Keeping weight off the front-end also meant saying ‘no’ to shoe-horning in a more modern turbo-charged engine with the need for a much heavier transmission as well – so the decision was to max out a Mk2 16V design, mated to an original Mk2 020 transmission (also to keep the spirit of semi-originality to the engine/transmission design).

I also wanted to keep the suspension in keeping with the original car and spent some time driving the GTI with Bilstein Rally Race front struts but they were too stiff for street use so opted for the high dollar KW variant 3 coil-overs, but using springs that were 20% softer than KW V3 specs to provide for a more comfortable, compliant ride on everyday road surfaces.

 Finally, the need for brake rotors and calipers that would fit inside the OEM 14x6 snowflake wheels limited me to 10.1” rotors but I was able to source custom large 4 piston calipers that provide world-class brake torque.

 

Index of Project web pages:

Project Overview, Goals & Specs

The Ultimate 83 GTI Summary

Project Car Initial Condition
Chassis Development
Bodywork & Paint
Suspension, Steering & Braking Systems
Engine, Oiling, Cooling, Transmission & Exhaust Systems

Electrical, A/C & Fuel Systems
Interior
Performance Validation
Final Street Trim Conversion

VW Vortex thread on this project

Videos # 001 - 049 (Feb 2013 - May 2014)
Videos # 050 - 099 (Jul 2014 - Sept 2015)
Videos # 100 - 149 (Sept 2015 - May 2017)
Videos # 150 - 181 (May 2017 - Dec 2019)

My original 1983 Rabbit GTI (owned 1983-1987)

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