Gwen – Turbo VR6
Midnight Special started with a simple idea: Let’s call up some friends, drag them out for an afternoon and tell the internet some bits about the experience. How people ended up with these rad cars that we admire and give a piece of the character behind the machine. This brings us around to a story that’s gonna start right before (not) H2Oi 2017. You know, the year it “wasn’t happening” because it formally got cancelled, but everyone already paid for their condos, and there somehow wasn’t a goddamn hurricane on the forecast. Sadie and I decided hardly a week prior that “Fuck it, we’re heading on down like a damn cannonball on Friday and leaving by Sunday”. Meanwhile, my Jetta is in the shop having my BBS re-barrelled due to some definitely-foreseen cracks as a result of driving all over New England like a crazy person for two seasons, not to mention the hooligan activities of the previous owners. Anyway, so, Friday rolls around, Sadie picks me up in the city at some god-awful hour like eight in the morning and we head north, in spite of a few mechanical snags on the way. Upon arrival, we run into Luke Rocknak, with his turbo’d VR6 GTI, Gwen. I ask for a ride along, and Luke’s thrilled to share the experience of a rip through some twisty southern New Hampshire side roads filled with turbo noise, a few aggressive pulls down the open road, and the constantly entertaining view of that uncovered engine bay. And then, of course, Sadie and I blasted down to Maryland for something like twenty hours all-in, round trip, eventually blowing off the piece that we were maybe producing for some other website.
But let me get back to Gwen.
Now, I love a good long-term project, even if they can’t be as drawn out as Ted’s process. Luke’s had this MK2 GTI since 2012, before which he’d been eyeing it for months. It was an unmodified late 16v MK2, with big bumpers, Recaro seats, red stripe dashboard, and probably working air conditioning, too, if I’m following along correctly at this point. He followed the familiar young dream by picking up shifts at a supermarket in town and setting aside a bit of cash until it all came together.
2014 rolls around, and the car gets a pair of fixed back race seats, followed quickly by a VR6 swap and a light bay shave with a set of BBS RM’s, for a complete and classic package. It’s around this point that Luke and I begin to cross paths, as we both occasionally cross paths among the DTM Autowerks crowd and in the New England show scene. Shit, I remember this one time we’re driving back from Wolfsgart in like 2016 and it just started to pour. I mean absolute garbage rain, and I roll up alongside Luke and a few others, and both him and I are rolling down 89 south with shaved bays and our hoods off, exposing soaked, obsessively polished motors, just laughing at how ridiculous the situation is. Some dudes just know how absurd and fun a moment can be and want to share it. This is Luke in a nutshell for you.
But things didn’t just stop there. I know a lot of people are content with a forty-five percent increase in power, but Luke’s got some weird shit going on where he wanted that doubled and then some. This meant the car went back to DTM for a custom turbo setup, 262 duration cams, a stage four clutch, and a limited slip differential. By all sound logic, you could say this is where shit got real. At this point, one ride in this car is a sales pitch for adding forced induction to absolutely anything. The good news, at least, is that the brakes have been updated to cross drilled and slotted rotors all around, with some more serious pads to keep the four hundred horses under control when necessary. But when all that potential is let loose, it’s purposefully directed and raw as hell, despite the madness that’s knowing this car is riding on 165/50’s wrapped around 15×8” wheels. It’s an exercise in restraint and/or control, depending on the situation, if you ask me.
It’s easy to get caught up in engine details on a car like this, but the interior is where the experience really comes together with purpose. Four-point belts. Fixed back seats. Perfectly clean red stripe GTI dashboard. Momo race wheel, GTI golf ball shift knob, and a red on black theme throughout. As a passenger, you belt in, sitting low in front of a stripped-out rear with a half cage and nothing for your hands to grab on to if you were to become overwhelmed on the ride. Fortunately for you, Luke handles the car with the sort of deserved respect that a project of this intensity deserves.
It’s late fall at this point, and I’m chasing Luke around these picturesque golden tree lined roads, lamenting the coming cold months. Talking up plans that neither of us will reveal to the internet for future bits of fine tuning our compact German cars. Loosely planning trips for future shows, calling out some old asshole for hitting a turkey right in front of us that one time back in October (Seriously, fuck that guy), and cracking jokes about me getting pulled over while texting earlier during the shoot. Eventually, we call it a day and head back to Massachusetts before the late fall chill set in, parting ways, looking forward to the next excuse to cross paths when show season comes back around.
Have a great car? Let’s go for a drive.