When The Fast and the Furious came out in 2001, it not only revealed, but glamorized an L.A. street-racing subculture. For many of us, this was the first time we learned that basic cars could be transformed into unbelievable performance machines. The film’s incredible popularity was a testament to the huge audience out there for this kind of lifestyle. Since then, shows like Pimp My Ride have appeared, introducing mainstream audiences to the likes of “body kits” and fancy wheels. For me, the romanticism of The Fast and the Furious became a reality when I went driving with senior Shawn Trudeau and junior Corbin Director last Friday.
Both Trudeau and Director drive Volkswagens, but theirs are not of the suburban teenager’s variety. Trudeau’s jet black 2003 1.8 Turbo GTI has modifications which take the car’s stock horsepower from 180 to 220. A Neuspeed ECU (engine control unit) chip and Magnaflow exhaust pipe work to make his GTI’s horsepower and torque more commanding.
Director’s red 2001 1.8 Turbo Jetta boasts an approximated 240 horsepower, thanks to his upgrades which include the addition of an APR 93 octane ECU chip with EMCS (enhanced modular chip system). “The EMCS feature allows [one] to switch between stock turbo boost levels and the 93 octane levels from within the cockpit of the car,” Director explained. Additional upgrades include a K&N Drop-in Filter, a Supersprint stainless steel exhaust pipe, a Supersprint center pipe and an Audi TT225 diverter valve. Each of these modifications improves the engine’s capabilities largely by maximizing the amount of oxygen molecules in the fuel and by regulating how much fuel goes into the cylinder. Trudeau explained that this process is called “running your engine lean” and he noted that the fuel economy is not affected by the process, though “running your engine lean” does require more frequent oil changes.
Other modifications have improved the suspension and handling in Trudeau’s and Director’s VWs. For Trudeau, a Neuspeed/Bilstein race suspension kit has made his GTI super stiff and racecar-like. Director’s Eibach Pro-Kit springs and shocks lower his vehicle’s center of gravity enhancing the facility with which his car takes turns, thereby making his Jetta a real road-hugger.
Tires improve handling and performance as well. For Trudeau it is Hankook Ventus II performance tires that make the car roll and for Director it is Pirelli P Zero Nero M+S tires. Director warns that modified autos, like these, necessitate brake replacements about twice as often as un-modified cars.
Moving from the technical to the aesthetic, both VWs are head-turners. Trudeau’s black paint, black leather interior, 18″ Smoked Excel rims, lack of badges, dark tinted windows, smoked headlamps and silver mesh front grill give his car an urban sleekness which matches its driver’s chic persona (think Michael Knight and KITT in “Knight Rider”). Director’s red Jetta has a very different look with 18″ HP Racing EVO wheels, a GLI Front lip, Rieger M3 side-skirts and a Rieger rear valence. His Rieger parts were hard to come by when he purchased them several years ago as there were only a handful of North American companies who imported them from Germany.
Both Trudeau and Director exude deep-seated pride when they describe the research and investment involved in tuning their vehicles. Their pleasure is most apparent when they took me driving. I pulled up to the parking lot and first got into the black GTI. The black leather interior is calming and I was instantaneously swallowed up by this assuaging environment. Driving through Hamilton, one would never know of the capabilities of Trudeau’s car; but passing Spring Street, he began to accelerate and the engine’s roar was my first clue that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. I soon realized that my attempts to take notes were for naught as we ripped around the curves on Groton Road heading towards Poolville, the car taking the road with a nimble aggression. The ride was enlivening. Trudeau’s enthusiasm is evident as he tells me about how he got into all of this. With a family that has always been into cars (an uncle who races in Lemans and brothers who drove and tuned VW GTIs before him), Trudeau has had an ideal atmosphere in which to cultivate his interest.
We pulled over in Poolville and I climbed into Director’s red Jetta. Heading towards Toggenburg, Director’s graceful manipulation of the wheel and the clutch translated to an energetic and exhilarating experience. With every acceleration or shift of the gears, his engine purred in response. Director’s overwhelming knowledge of cars and tuning came through when he, while taking turns at high speeds and trying to provide an exciting ride, attempted to make me understand how it all works. When I asked him how he came to modify his car, he tells me that he likes the uniqueness of an enhanced VW and that he wanted to drive something sporty. Research led him to the 1.8T engine and the rest is history.
For two cars that are immensely popular (Edmunds.com indicates that the VW Jetta is the 5th most researched car), Trudeau’s and Director’s cars stand out from other Volkswagens. Distinctiveness and athleticism are the defining features of these suped-up Volkswagons.
Want a ridiculous ride in which you emerge eager to take on the road at the wheel of your own car? Ask Trudeau or Director for a ride. In the meantime, look out for Trudeau’s black beauty and Director’s red racer; they will most likely be gone once the snow hits Hamilton.