In an age of digitalisation, is it possible to properly connect with people? Do we have the time to really get to know each other? With so much online interaction, some say our generation has lost the ability to communicate entirely. I say not.
The car you see here belongs to Alex Bednarik and he's the most English American guy I've ever met. Ever so apathetic, massively unapologetic, can take a joke, make a joke and doesn't mind the rain.
In order to tell Alex's story, I will backtrack a little if I may. It all starts with a chap called Jonny Smith, and we've got the internet to blame.
Jonny won’t thank me for saying this, but he’s a RollHard stalwart, an original ‘old boy’ if you like. Since way before RollHard was a ‘thing’ I have known Jonny (and his VW Polo). Casting my mind back, my friendship with Jonny may even pre-date Facebook. How that is possible I don’t know, was there even anything before Facebook? At this stage, you may be reading this wondering what I’m wittering on about and how Jonny has anything to do with the story behind the Alex Bednarik’s Jetta, well let me explain…
Jonny first got to know Alex on Tumblr and like so many modern love stories; this progressed to online gaming via Call of Duty. Fast forward a few months, countless kill streaks later, the obligatory Facebook friend request and life would never be the same again for these two, or RollHard, for that matter. Essex, England and Odenton, Maryland, USA, the connection had been made.
"When the internet does some good, friendships like this are born."
It's December 2009, there are no embarrassing first car moments for Alex, this is it. His one and only. Alex really has hit the ground running with this build, (no pun intended, you’ll find out why below...)
Like many of us, myself included, Alex grew up around cars, with his Dad into classic American metal, an influx of JDM influence in the US over the past 10 years and his brother’s affinity with VW’s, it was no surprise when the youngest of the Bednarik household followed suit.
On the lookout for a suitable first car, Alex first heard about the car from his Dad whilst on the bus home from school. His Dad sent him a text telling him to check out a this “red Jetta on the internet” and whilst initially dubious, with a nightmare vision of a bright red mk4, Alex decided to go along with his Dad and take a look that evening. The Jetta turned out to be OEM Spice Red, a much darker red than first feared, Alex knew this was the perfect blank canvas; 20vt under the bonnet, low mileage, clean bodywork. The deal was done and the keys were handed over.
Not long into Jetta ownership and with Alex, 17, yet to pass his test, the car was already on coilovers and waiting for wheels. Alex passed his test but his parents, as parents do, set some ground rules. He wasn’t allowed to run the car low until his 18th birthday. Their reasoning was simple; Alex’s big brother cracked the sump on his old Mk4 estate and as we all know, pissed off parents do not forget these things in a hurry.
I think you can all predict what Alex did on his 18th birthday; the c-spanners were out and the car was on the floor. Now the fun stuff was really underway...
Being a tiptronic automatic and low on coilovers was always going to be a challenging combination, given that the automatic box on tiptronic Mk4’s is the lowest point of the car. For Alex, ignorance was bliss right up until the moment disaster struck. As with all of these things, it’s never easy. 2.5 hours from home on his way to a car meet, the over-confidently low transmission casing had met its match with lump in the road and it was game-over for the Jetta. Oil everywhere. I can just imagine that phone call home, “...we told you so!!!"
With the transmission casing cracked and the Mk4 stricken at the roadside in a sea of oil, Alex’s Dad came to the rescue with a trailer to get the car home. I’m sure that was a pretty awkward 2.5 hour drive home.
Alex let the dust settle and in an attempt to win his parents’ love back, Airlift XL front struts, Firestone Rear sleeves, Accuair E-level, R32 control arms and spindles were ordered.
At RollHard show and tell, photos of Alex’s Bora (sorry, Jetta) were doing the rounds. This Alex guy from the states clearly had good taste and had built a pretty complete VW. We certainly liked what we saw, anyway. Over the coming months Alex received friend requests from all of Team RH and the rest you could say, is history.
Since that fateful night in November 2011, the new suspension setup, several sets of wheels, interior swaps, countless OEM upgrades and a re-trim later the car is now one hell of a photogenic Mk4.
"Behind every build is a story, a whole bunch of ideas... inspired by friends, family or even complete strangers on the internet"
Very little on the Jetta has remained stock, but not that you’d know it at first glance. Testament to the tasteful nature and subtlety of Alex's build, with a whole host of OEM upgrades both on the inside and the outside, the more you look the more you see with this car.
Most of you will know this car from its recent PVW feature wearing CCW Classic 5’s. Since his PVW shoot, Alex’s latest addition to the Jetta has been this set of zero-lip Rotiform LHR’s. A brave choice in this configuration for some, my view is that they suit the Jetta down to the ground and give an altogether more classic twist for a modern wheel. The concave is sumptuous, the DDT finish against the polished dishes works so very well. Well played Mr Bednarik. Dare I say the most refreshing set of Rotiforms I’ve seen since Elmo refinished his OZT’s in bronze on the TTRS. Hiding behind the 18" LHR's sit some rather large Tarox 10 pot calipers finished in anodised bronze.
Indirectly, Alex’s car has seen him travel Europe (just to meet us, obviously) and has met hundreds of new people from across both sides of the pond. It’s funny what the social network can do.
"Essex, England and Odenton, Maryland, USA, the connection had been made."
When I think about how the car ‘scene’ has changed since our Dads' were modifying cars and how even in the past 7 or 8 years the internet has become such a massive platform for meeting new people, sharing styles and taking inspiration it brings me back to one point; behind every build is a story, a whole bunch of ideas that someone has come up with, inspired by friends, family or even complete strangers on the internet, this culture is changing but we're changing with it.
The car ‘scene’ has never been more open, collaborative and accessible than it is today. It all comes down to what we make of it and how we use the tools we have. Isn’t it about time we all acted more like family...?
Words: Aron Norris
Photography: Alex Bednarik
Update: Alex is currently carrying out a six speed box change. Watch this space! :)