Project car

A past project of mine is a 2002 (Mk. 4) Volkswagen GTI 1.8T. It's one of only a very small number which have had the "Jolf" aesthetic modification, which swaps the hood, fenders, bumpers, and headlights with those from a Jetta.


I bought the car in September of 2013 from a good friend who loved the thing dearly, but decided he needed to do some financial belt-tightening in the form of a cheaper car. When I got the GTI, it had quite a few problems, including a cracked windshield, power steering leak, PCV system leak, bent passenger-side front strut, worn control arms and bushings, and a decaying interior with no driver's side floor mat and caked-on dust and grime everywhere.

During the 3 months I was driving it, I fixed everything and made it a car you could be proud of again.

One evening I was making a trip down to New Jersey, and as I was getting off of the highway, a loud clunking sound came from the motor. I ripped off the upper timing cover and felt the belt. It was loose.

It turned out the belt had been chafing against something and the inner side was wearing away. The belt didn't break loose, but with the tension only on the outer portions of the pulleys, the amount of force on the bolts holding the pulleys was uneven. Ultimately what killed it was a weak bolt on timing belt tensioner pulley. The bolt snapped in half, halting force transmission to the camshafts and causing the pistons to collide with the exhaust valves.

Luckily, the pistons were perfect save for some tiny dings, and little else was damaged. This means repair was possible.

I bought an AEB head on eBay that had bent valves but was otherwise clean and in good condition and worked with the awesome guys at Carlquist Competition Engines to have new valves and guides fitted. A high-test Gates timing belt, new water pump, new thermostat and new timing component kit went into the car over the course of May–October 2014, my first major mechanical project, and the car was running and driveable by the end of October.

Under the hood

The stock motor in this car is a four cylinder 1.8L, turbocharged with 5 valves per cylinder (3 intake, 2 exhaust). The engine code is AWP.

Other mods to the GTI (most done by the previous two owners) include:

The car is definitely making more power than stock and routinely breaks the front wheels loose even in her old age.

The plan

I've held onto this car for almost 4 years now (as of May 2017), and while it still runs, it leaves a lot to be desired and to be honest my taste has moved on past it.

Various ideas have been tossed around, ranging from a TDI swap to a big fuel E85 conversion. At this point the car is behaving like it needs a turbo and possibly some other serious things, and for that reason I'm letting it go. If you're interested, please inquire.