HOT ROD ’RADO / Exposed: the Hot Rodinspired Corrado that stole SEMA last year!
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT #VW-Corrado-VR6
We love OEM+ as much as the next man but sometimes it’s refreshing to see somebody stepping out of the conformist box. Steve Nodarse is that guy! Words: Tony Saggu. Photos: Sam Dobbins.
“I didn’t want it screaming ‘look at me’, I wanted people to actually look and notice the work and time that went into it”
“I’m not really a VW guy,” shrugged Steve Nodarse. “Well, not like those old-skool guys anyway. You know, guys who grew up surrounded by Dubs, who always wanted one since they were kids, learnt to drive in one, followed the scene… that’s not me.” In fact, the 30-something New Jersey truck driver grew up hitting switches and smashing sumps as part of the East Coast minitruck scene. “It was the lowrider life,” he laughed. “Hydros, loud sound systems and scraping frames.” You would think introducing this hardcore switch hitter with chrome and candy running through his veins into the VAG world would have proved to be more than a little interesting, in a bad way. We had visions of metalflaked Dubs on Daytons three wheeling down the high street, complete with velvet interiors and chain-link steering wheels. “I think I did okay though,” smiled Steve, twirling the keys to his spectacularly subtle full custom Corrado. “It’s got switches, too,” he laughed.
Steve reckons the custom pearl-coated coupé is strongly influenced by his lowrider history. The smoothed VR ride may bear little resemblance to a juiced Impala or fully flaked-out minitruck but the car was conceived and created from a mindset fostered by the lowrider culture. “You have to approach the build with an open mind,” he told us. “Forget the formula, just do your own thing. I wanted something different and sometimes that means you have to throw out the rule book and look at things in a completely new way. You learn that lowriding. You are always adapting solutions for riding lower or playing with paint and body ideas to make something unique.” The ‘unique’ nail has been firmly hit on the head with this one. Although the car carries the comfortingly familiar curves of a classic Corrado, the cleverly-thought-out detail work and exceptional execution make this car like no other. This is not your usual paint-bynumbers Euro clone or cookie cutter coupé.
“I gotta credit my cousin Ramon for getting me into the whole VW thing,” Steve told us. “He can take the blame for that. He’s been in the game forever and used to pick me up whenever he went to any VAG event. It became kind of a joke between us; I got the nickname ‘passenger’ which has stuck. He would always be busting my balls on why I was a passenger in his car all the time. ‘Why don’t you get your own or build one?’ he would always ask.”
This unrelenting peer pressure eventually had our man scouring the classifieds for a suitable candidate to silence the critics. “I remember telling people, if I build something, get ready to have your mind blown,” Steve said. “Every show or meet I went to I always saw the Jettas, GTIs, and Golfs. I rarely ever saw Corrados, but when I did see one it always caught my eye and piqued my interest. I just liked the look of them and always thought that if I ever built something the ’Rado would be the car to do.”
A rough and ready G60 bought from a mate got the ball rolling but something wasn’t quite right and it took a while for the newbie Dubber to put his finger on the problem. “While tearing it apart and deciding what to do with it, I kept looking at pictures of other Corrados and wondering why they all looked wider than mine,” he told us. “After doing some research I learned that the VR6 actually had a wider front end than the G60, so I decided I needed one.”
An exhaustive Craigslist search led to a little farm hidden away in the depths of the Pennsylvanian countryside. “I contacted the owner and set up a meet ASAP,” recalled Steve. “I wanted to jump on it before it was sold.” Cousin Ramon was enlisted to cast an expert eye over the prospective purchase as the two set off PA bound with a trailer in tow. “I got out of my truck and the owner started opening the door to a barn that didn’t look too stable,” related Steve. “While pulling the door up it was all over the place. I thought the door was going to fall on the car and crush it.
Thankfully it didn’t. The seller told us the car had been parked up for over five years after some mystery problem had beset it. The poor sap had no idea why it wouldn’t start. My cousin looked over it and we both had an idea what the starting issue could be so we weren’t too worried. It had flat tyres and the calipers were frozen so moving it was a bit of a mission. Finally we tied a rope to the back of my truck and dragged her out of barn.”
Steve reckons as soon as the daylight hit the coupé he knew he’d found his next car. “I had to have it!” he said. “It was in pretty decent condition. The original colour was red and one of the many previous owners had painted it blue. There was barely any rust, which I was shocked about, although we did find some minor damage to the rear quarter after stripping the paint off. The interior was complete. It was the stock black leather interior, too, with no cracks or damage.
The whole thing just needed a lot of TLC.” The mystery starting problem was solved in minutes courtesy of a little switcheroo of ignition barrels from the G60. Once the motor was ready to fire up after its five-year slumber Steve was sure to observe all the time-honoured safety protocols for starting a long dormant motor.
“Err, no so much,” he laughed. “I really didn’t care about nursing the engine because I already had another one sitting at home waiting to be put in! After getting her started I ripped the car around the block a few times with the pedal to the floor. The tyres were rotten and the calipers were frozen but that didn’t stop me winding it up to see if the spoiler worked!”
After a good deal of sideways shenanigans and a few well-executed burnouts the serious business of tearing down the shell got underway. “Before too long I figured I needed help with the build,” admitted Steve. “Not having the proper equipment or knowledge was going to be an issue if I was going to build a serious car. It was my first VW build and I knew my limitations.” Steve put the word out that he was looking for an able accomplice to do some real damage to his coupé’s OEM status. As expected, the local VW community stepped up to the challenge. “I came across Cory Sterling. He was a Corrado owner himself and really knew his stuff,” recalled Steve. “I talked it over with him and told him what I was planning. A few days later Cory called me and told me of a shop that did ridiculous body and paint work down the road from him.”
The shop turned out to be Legacy Innovations and the rest, as they say, is history. “Steve came to us with a general vision of what he wanted from the build,” explained Troy Spackman of Legacy, taking up the story. “It was our job to translate his ideas and emotions into custom metalwork.” Turning cars into rolling works of art is just another day at the office for the Legacy crew, and the company has over a decade of experience transforming ordinary cars into awesome kinetic sculptures, to much acclaim. Legacy’s wealth of experience, working with a host of varied customs and exotics, brought an even broader perspective to the build. This was going to be one special Dub.
“The hardest part was figuring out what to do to be original,” recalled Steve. “And how to do it in a subtle, understated way. I didn’t want it screaming ‘look at me’, I wanted people to actually look and notice the work and time that went into it.”
Legacy took the ‘subdued sledgehammer’ approach and ran with it. And indeed the wide array of painstaking details make a package that keeps you coming back for another look. The tougher than Tyson exterior treatment starts with oversized bespoke metal arches blended into custom shaved bumpers. Audi handles and a good deal of shaved body trim are age-old Dub standbys, but modified Mattig mirrors and cleverly stretched tail-lights are unique touches. “The shell as it came to us was not too bad,” explained Troy, “but we did invest a fair amount of time reworking and tweaking the panels to get tighter and crisper bodylines.”
Coating the custom creation in colour also took a lot of thought, not to mention skill. “The colour of the car is a custom BASF colour that hasn’t been released yet,” said Steve. “The company is allowing us to name it but we haven’t come up with one yet. It’s like a sandy grey pearl that changes colours depending on the light.” Our man was rather partial to the gunmetal hue on the new GT-Rs but needed to add his twist to the Nissan blend. “I searched for a similar colour looking through the samples at the shop and doing numerous sprayouts.” Fortunately for all concerned the German paint supplier stepped in with just the right solution.
Setting the custom crafted body over the rollers was no point, click and order deal, either. “We originally leaned towards air-ride and bought BagYard Bombers,” explained Steve. “On reflection I wanted a more driveroriented suspension, though, so we ended up going for the JRi Shocks ‘Hydraulic Ride Height’ system, although it had to be modified to fit the car. This setup allows me to still control the height but gives the stability of coils. With the wheels I wanted something that nobody had, so Evod was contacted to make me a set of one-off, three-piece wheels. Each wheel is specifically made due to the directionally pattern and the different widths. The brakes are a full Corvette Wilwood setup – from the individual pedal cluster to the calipers and rotors.” Troy told us that almost all the braking and suspension parts had to be redesigned and modified to fit and work on the Corrado. The pair almost glossed over the fact that the entire underside of the coupé has been prepared and painted a contrasting colour to show standard. Mention of the exquisite cabin makeover and custom RHD conversion again was almost lost in the mountain of modifications the Legacy crew undertook. “It had to be right-hand drive though,” smiled Steve. “I’m so used to sitting on the passenger side in a VW it kinda makes sense!”
The car originally came with the stock and very tired VR6 although, as mentioned before, Steve had acquired a 2008 R32 lump even before the car came along. Now dropping in a big six from a Racing 32 may be fine and dandy for some but for Steve the fully-equipped VR was just the beginning. The underbonnet experience is just that: it’s an experience. All the senses are overwhelmed by the sight and sound of a smoothed, throbbing, silky six-cylinder and you can’t help but run you hands over that perfectlyexecuted, seamless, satin, shaved bay. The smell? That’s leather, baby, courtesy of a hide wrapped engine cover. Then there’s the huge bespoke radiator, the redesigned slam panel, the custom cooling fans, the sublimely subtle wiring tuck… it’s all too much to take in at first glance – although those hand-crafted hood hinges are difficult to miss!
The quality of the build is nothing short of breathtaking, the attention to detail is stunning and the overall package remains faithfully true to its original concept. “It’s got character and attitude,” explained Steve. “It reflects a mood, an emotion… it’s like a lifestyle wrapped up in a car.” And it just goes to show, awesome things can happen when two worlds collide. ‘Still hittin’ them corners in them low lows girl…’
Every time you look at Steve’s Corrado you will spot a different piece of incredible custom work that you didn’t see the time before; it’s a work of art from every single angle. It’s little wonder, then, that it was the most talked about VW at the enormous SEMA event in Las Vegas last year. In fact, we can only assume it’s the most talked about VW most places it goes!
ENGINE: 2008 #R32
engine mated to an #O2A
Corrado gearbox with a #Quaiffe
diff and #VF-Engineering
Red 2X pressure plate, Clutchnet carbon fibre disc, 10lb billet steel flywheel, custom-made manifold, full custom 3” exhaust, custom leather wrapped engine cover matching interior, fully shaved bay painted satin with wire tuck, custom engine cooling system with hard lines.
CHASSIS: One-off #EVOD
Industries three-piece wheels with Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec tyres, 9x17” with 215/40 fronts and 10x17” with 235/40 rears. Modified JRi Shocks Hydraulic Ride Height suspension, modified Wilwood under-mount pedal assembly and big brakes with ‘Corrado’ engraved on calipers, other components and underbody painted.
EXTERIOR: Full 4” wider medal body conversion, one-off shaved bumpers, debadged grille and body, shaved windscreen washers, modified Mattig mirrors, Audi handles, custom #BASF
paint, glass sunroof, E-code headlights, tail-lights were widened and painted full red, all panels were tweaked to tighten up body lines.
INTERIOR: RHD conversion, #Recaro
Sportster CS seats, deleted vents, Momo Millenium Evo steering wheel, full interior reupholstered in leather and Alcantara suede.
SHOUT: My friends and family for being supportive, my buddy Marko for his help, my brother Jay for his help with the tear down and the use of his garage, the man, the myth, the legend, mi primo, Ramon Period for all his help and managing skills, AutoHaas for parts, Cory Sterling, Sam Dobbins for the shoot, and last but not least, Troy Spackman and the guys at Legacy Innovations for everything they did and still do for me.