FRONTIN’ #Volkswagen-Jetta #Volkswagen #VW-Jetta #Volkswagen-Jetta-II #2015
There are some that say any more than 300bhp through the front wheels is just plain silly. Imagine what they’ll make of the 1200bhp Mk2 #VW-Jetta-II
Coupé Lee Ross recently finished building then… Words: Mick Clements. Photos: John Colley.
It’s a sign of the sheer scale and good health of the #VW
fraternity that there are so many diverse ways of doing the things you love in a VW. Out there, away from the mainstream VW shows, there is a band of brothers (and sisters) who have worked their way through the quarter-mile sprints at #Volkswagen
shows, which has given them an appetite for the adrenaline of track days and drag racing. So, for those frustrated with the coverage given to extreme stanced and cambered show cars that seem incapable of spinning a wheel in anger, meet the antidote in the form of Lee Ross’ pro drag spec 1200bhp Mk2 Jetta Coupé.
Lee has been at all the same shows as us for the best part of two decades and built several cars that have balanced show and go. His Jetta, however, is built purely for go. It’s also probably the most evil-looking car we’ve ever featured on a VW cover: “I’ve been told it looks like Darth Vader’s daily driver,” says Lee with a smile on his face. But the smile sums Lee up – he has a bad intentions car, built for one job in life, to crush you on the strip, so the ‘G4Y VW’ plate is his own twist to mess with your head.
After being a regular at most domestic and European shows, including Wörthersee, Lee realised he preferred meets with the opportunity to race, rather than a beauty pageant in a field. So, to take part in those races, he had a Mk2 Golf with a turbocharged G60 setup followed by a legendary lightweight Vento, packing a supercharged and nitrous-equipped VR6 that pushed 500bhp and ran low 11-second quarter-miles in VWDRC sprint classes. So, we can begin to understand why he’s done it, but why do it to a Jetta? “I’ve always liked booted VWs, like the Vento and Bora,” he tells us. “Plus the weight distribution is more favourable than a hatchback.”
Rewind to March 2012, when Lee bought the shell of a two-door LHD Jetta ‘coupé’ in Staines. It was a significant find because it came with an Andy Robinson Race Cars roll-cage: “The cage was worth more than the car, so it was a cheaper option than starting from scratch!” As with many monster projects, Lee’s initial plans for the car were relatively simple: “It was just going to be a Cup Racer-style weekend playabout. I was going to keep the supercharged VR6 from my Vento and use it for a bit of dragging, to get into the tens and still keep it road legal whilst also being good for track days.” With the Vento’s powerplant, Gemini gearbox and Peloquin diff ready to be swapped in and wrapped in bulging Berg kit, breaking cover in summer 2012 was entirely do-able.
But a rocket was lit when Lee was in conversation with an experienced drag racer from the Japanese fraternity, who reckoned there were no fast VWs around, and that Lee would “need to spend to contend”. Lee wouldn’t give the guy the satisfaction of that being his sole motivation, but it did move his thinking on from keeping the supercharged VR6.
Lee was now thinking of switching to a turbo to charge the air through the low compression 2.8-litre VR6 and focusing more on the quartermile. A healthy 400bhp plus a 200bhp nitrous blast for 600bhp to deliver runs in the ten second bracket were realistic targets. It would mean serious power, with only just flickering on the bat sheet crazy scale…
Then along came the 3.2-litre 24v V6 powerplant from a VW Touraeg (essentially an R32 spec engine). Lee was convinced the newer engine would be stronger and flow more air with its 24 valves. With strengthened internals (rods and pistons) the new engine was almost completely built when Lee sourced the first of three turbos, a GTX35. This was then upgraded to a GTX4294R two years ago, sourced from Glenn Robinson, but before this was fired up, Lee went back to Glenn for the higher spec GTX4202R (rated as good for 1200bhp) currently in situ under the bonnet.
Lee was stockpiling parts as the spec grew with his ambition. But as he upped the ante, the next weak link in the chain needed to be engineered out. You don’t need to be Sherlock to figure out ratcheting engine power upwards by over 500bhp was going to stress-test the strength limit of any transmission, and be futile if the gear ratios were not optimised for the speeds the Jetta needed to be hitting for singledigit quarter-mile runs. And so the six-speed VW Motorsport ’box and Peloquin diff were sold on and a fit-for-purpose setup was ordered from Mario Thau at Hidden Power in Germany.
Mario is a man who knows how to get the power down; his Mk4 Polo VR6 turbo has notched an impressive 8.7-second quarter-mile. The PAR four-speed auto drag ’box is geared for a max speed of 186mph at 9000rpm and the Wavetrack differential should ensure the engine and fat slicks operate in close harmony.
Whilst Lee had started to build, and rebuild, the evolving engine and was confident in his abilities, he ultimately preferred to trust the skills of those who build high spec engines like this for a living. In 2013 he hooked up with JP at JNL Racing: “We had a long chat over numerous cups of tea, discussing options for the power I wanted, including valves and springs, to keep the engine strong,” he says. “I bought all the parts I needed and left the engine with JP for a couple of months. There was no rush as I was still sorting the body mods.” Lee also sensibly imported Carillo titanium rods directly from the USA ready for the fresh rebuild.
At the same time, Lee supplied the turbo and his specification to James at G-R Performance for fabrication of the custom exhaust manifold and 4” exhaust which runs through the car and exits through the bonnet. It looks (and sounds) incredible and Lee describes it as “a work of art”. Whilst the average boy racer can’t wait to strap on a giant tailpipe to show he’s a man to be feared, Lee can just smile and point at his stubby protrusion; the tailpipe barely poking through the bonnet in front of the windscreen. There’s nothing stealthy when the engine roars into life though.
To progress the substantial body modifications and aid fabrication of the pipework and ancillaries, Lee borrowed an R32 engine from fellow York VW nut Paul Horrocks, to use as a mock up whilst the cutting and grinding took place around it. Lee cracked on with cutting out the bulkhead and floor. The new bulkhead was all steel, with the servo sacrificed in favour of routing the chargecooler alloy pipework, some of which runs through the car. He welded in a custom floor section with floor-mounted OPM pedal box. With the seat moved further back, Lee felt like a munchkin trying to reach the pedals until fine tuning of seat frames and pedal positions were sorted. The new alloy rear floor was raised, as was the transmission tunnel and it was starting to resemble a car again.
In addition to massive bhp, Lee tackled the power-to-weight ratio from the opposite end with weight reduction, such as Lexan plastic windows and carbon fibre panels. He also decided to fit a carbon roof skin. He couldn’t find an off-the-shelf carbon skin for a Jetta, so he gel-coated the roof and fibreglassed it in order to make a mould. The steel roof weighed 9kg and the carbon replacement is only 1.5kg! Furthermore, with the roof off, it was an opportune time to transport the car back to Andy Robinson Race Cars in Basingstoke to upgrade the roll-cage to 12-points for maximum safety.
Lee fabricated a carbon tailgate using the same process, but was able to reuse a carbon bonnet he already had. The inner door skin liners were removed and final prep work was completed before Lee trailered the shell to Glenn Robinson for painting inside and out in Porsche RS grey. He was impressed with the quality of the job and set about completing the final panels, bumpers and trims.
Bear in mind this was spring 2013, and with the engine rebuild underway and the shell good to go there was still a chance of using the car in anger and racing that season…
With the Jetta semi-complete he took it to GTI International and displayed it on HR Engineering’s stand where it looked intact from the outside. Although Lee had initially smoothed some bumpers and fitted Berg Cup arches he wasn’t happy with how it looked and so he painstakingly produced his own mould for HR Engineering to make the smoothed front bumper. The arches had been reworked too, to fit over the powdercoated black 10x26” Weld Pro drag wheels.
This constant fettling and revisiting is a recurring theme of the whole project. “I’m a perfectionist,” Lee acknowledges. “I don’t like thinking something’s rubbish and I constantly change my mind. It’s my own fault that this car has been built three times.”
At Inters, the Jetta was very much a work-in progress under the bonnet. It had the mule engine, manifold and second turbo (GTX4294R) in place, but needed a radiator, charge cooler and various tanks. It was there that Pete Miles from Forge Motorsport took an interest in the car and subsequently worked closely with Lee in developing and supplying the key ancillaries.
Forge supplied the radiator and oil cooler first, before complementing things further with a chargecooler tank, oil return tanks, header tank and fuel tank. Lee is really pleased with the Forge products: “I’m most appreciative of the support from Forge, the team have been awesome and I can’t thank Pete enough.”
With the rebuilt engine back from JNL Racing, two key components were still missing – an ECU and sequential gear shifter. The shifter came from SQS, which Lee fitted with Bowden shifter cables. With a Sparco race seat and six-point harnesses, TT dashboard and trick Race Technology Dash2 instruments in place, the stripped interior was just about there.
For the standalone ECU, Lee had spoken to a few different companies before deciding that Chris at EFI Parts in Runcorn was the man to trust. Chris recommended an Adaptronic 440, which can interface with everything on the car from the instrument pod to traction control and boost control and is fully mappable. With the ECU sorted and a basic map to get the engine running, Lee decided on one final engine upgrade to match the higher output GTX4202R turbo. The engine went back once again to JP at JNL Racing for a bottom end rebuild. After speaking to more people in the know, he had a VR6 forged R30 crank fitted as these are believed to be stronger and more durable than the 3.2-litre crank.
The project stalled for a while at this point due to various issues but towards the end of 2014 the pace picked up again with the fully sorted engine installed and yet more ‘final touches’ to the bodywork from Lee. He set about fabricating the front bumper, arches and grille panel in carbon. This involved an intricate process using the tops of the original wings as a guide and then building the arches out with fibreglass to form his mould for the arches. The front bumper mould was made from an aftermarket R32 front bumper, which he cut, shaped and filled out to get the lines he wanted to flow the air around the three-box shape (and not just look bad ass).
With the engine reinstalled and a bigger turbo in place, Lee put some running-in miles on it (on a private road of course) and early impressions were positive: “It left black lines everywhere!” Then he returned to EFI Parts for the proper ECU mapping to commence. Running with 2bar boost, 960bhp at the flywheel was recorded. With the boost increased to 3bar, an immense 1100bhp was delivered. With a +100bhp shot of nitrous this is good for 1200bhp on the track. With these big numbers, the Jetta was lighting up the rollers. But how did it feel on the track?
Lee has a massive smile when he recalls the first time he properly launched it: “It was mental. I was scared sheetless. I can’t remember driving it, just holding on!” With 2bar boost, at the Big Bang at Santa Pod his quarter-mile terminal speeds crept up to 156mph. Thankfully the parachute and long run off area at Santa Pod helped bring the car to a halt. The traction bars aren’t there to prevent wheelies, but help to reduce front end lift and improve traction in FWD cars.
This feature could easily be three times as long to cover the epic spec in fine detail, but one that made us smile was that Lee still turns the original Jetta key in the ignition barrel. Which, along with the steering column, is about the only original part of the car left.
Despite his racing credentials, Lee still enjoys the VW scene and he trailered the Jetta to the season opener at Ultimate Dubs in March this year. “Many people didn’t realise it was the same car. It looks so mean now. You can only really tell from the rear spoiler. It’s evolved from a track to full-on drag car,” he smiles. He was stunned by the overwhelming and enthusiastic reception he received from the whole spectrum of the VW family. It also scooped a couple of trophies, including Best Engine at UD.
Lee has set the highest standards to deliver his ever-evolving goal, otherwise he could have been racing it two years now. But he wanted to be 100% happy, or as close to 100% happy that builders of monster projects ever get, as cars like this are never ‘finished’, they are always evolving. Lee is understandably proud.
Knackered and skint… but proud. “It’s been all my own work,” he says. “My blood, sweat and tears, and no money for three years! The feedback I’ve had has been nice. I’ve got a few events coming up now to hopefully get down into the eight-second bracket.”
The Jetta has been three years coming and so we bagged the photos just as Lee got it over the line running in anger and in those final stages of development that can only be achieved while being run competitively. With more time behind the wheel and final development work, particularly the launch control, Lee will be dialling in higher boost to make a serious assault on FWD quartermile records this summer. Watch out for him!
Other than the Porsche grey paint, nothing about this car is subtle. If Darth Vader drove a Dub…
ENGINE: 3.2-litre 24v V6 Touareg block and head. #JE
pistons with 8.5:1 compression ratio, Eurospec R30 forged crank, #Carrilo
titanium rods, #Racewear
head studs, #ARP
main studs with custom girdle, 034 Motorsport rod and main bearings, ARP main studs, Race Wear head studs, metal head gasket, Ferrara valves and seats, Supertec camero valve springs with titanium collets and top caps and forged roller cam lifters. Fully gas flowed head. Engine built by JNL Racing. Camshafts by Cat Cams. Inlet: 292° at 0.1mm/ 246° at 1.0mm/12.50mm/2.59mm at 110°/vc 0.250mm. Exhaust: 274° at 0.1mm/230° at 1.0mm/11.25mm/0.93mm at -120°/vc 0.300mm – duration data with indicated clearance, TDC data with zero clearance. 9000rpm. #Garrett
GTX4202R dual ball bearing turbo 1.15 Ar with 76mm inducer compressor (1200bhp capability), Siemens 2400cc injectors with AEM pro fuel pressure regulator, all Teflon/PTFE fuel lines and billet fittings, uses VP C85 ethanol race fuel, 2 x Precision 46mm wastegates with floor screamers, fully custom turbo manifold with separate EGT probes by G-R Performance, including 4” out-of-bonnet exhaust with ER and AEM wideband lambda sensor, 4” throttle body and alloy boost pipes, Ross Racing log inlet manifold, charge cooler with dry ice box, all-alloy fabrication done by Forge Motorsport, nitrous kit with Max Extreme 2 race controller from Wizard of NOS, #Adaptronic
440 ECU with CD500 coil booster and Autronic coil packs (wasted spark). Incorporating traction control: launch control and NOS boost control, boost per gear and speed sensor, setup and mapped by EFI Parts, four-speed drag box with PAR Cryogenic dog gears from Hidden Power, Wavetrac diff with ARP Pro bolts, SQS sequential shifter, Clutch Masters twin-plate clutch with custom flywheel, driveshafts from the Driveshaft Shop, USA rated at 1400bhp.
CHASSIS: Weld Pro wheels (10x15” front, 4x15” rear) fitted with Mickey Thompson M/T drag slick tyres (fronts: 26.0/10.0x15”, rears: 24.0/4.5 x15”), front rose jointed bottom arms with traction bar, rear traction bars with nylon wheels and custom holders. Brakes: Simpson parachute, stock Mk3 Golf VR6 callipers with drilled and grooved discs to clear the wheels, KW Clubsport R struts with 1400lb rated front springs, 700lb rears.
OUTSIDE: Carbon fibre bonnet with exhaust cut out. Custom front bumper, custom wings, custom light delete panel, roof, boot and rear diffuser, carbon fibre front wings and bumper fabricated by the owner, custom raised transmission tunnel and rear floor, Lexan plastic windows, shell, doors and interior painted Porsche RS grey by Glenn Robinson.
INSIDE: Full 12-point Andy Robinson Racing Cars roll-cage, TRS six-point harness. Sparco Pro Race seat, race net, Audi TT flocked dash, Race Technology Dash2 instrument pod, EFI Parts custom data logger, nitrous bottle heater and nitrous electric pressure sensor, SQS four-speed electric assisted sequential shifter with custom Bowden cables, hydraulic handbrake with launch control built in, OPB floor mounted pedal box on custom floor mount, parachute handle, custom centre console in carbon fibre.
SHOUT: My sponsors Pete and the lads at Forge Motorsport for all the awesomeness and the fantastic custom parts on the car (www.forgemotorsport.co.uk), EFI-Parts – Chris aka Scoff is an awesome remapper, I would say one of the best in the UK and a true gent (www.efi-parts.co.uk), Clutchmasters for the clutch and custom flywheel (www.clutchmasters.com), G-R Performance for the awesome manifold and bonnet exhaust (www.g-rperformance.co.uk), Trackstuff for the lovely VP C85 race fuel (www.trackstuff.co.uk), Neil and the lads at Yorkshire Hydraulics for their help and for never letting me pay for the fittings and custom pipes (www.yorkshirehydraulicsltd.co.uk), Mario Thau at Hidden Power (www.hpower.de), JP at JNL Racing (www.jnlracing.com), Andy Robinson for the roll-cage (www.robinson-race.cars.co.uk), HR Engineering (www.hrengineering.net), Cat Cams (www.catcams.co.uk), Paul Horrocks for the general support, words of wisdom and the loan of the trailer! My biggest thanks has to go to my biggest sponsor, my wife, for putting up with me being in the garage every spare waking minute for the past three years.
While the roof skin was removed for carbon fibre replacement, the car went back to Andy Robinson for cage to be upgraded to a 12-point item.
Right: Remote reservoirs are tucked under scuttle Below: We’ve seen some intricate piping but this is about as extreme as it gets.