Words and Photography: Jonny Smith
So you might ask, in this day of social media, influencers and other clout, how would you build a car when you don't have an Instagram profile. Well Garrett has done so, and someone who could teach us a thing or two.
My journey of getting to know Garrett starts back in about 2011, on the fantastic site of Tumblr. Just like with Alex and Sammy, a mutual following between the two of us began just because we were into modified Volkswagens. Well jump forward a few years to 2016, my first trip to H2Oi at Ocean City. Garrett was someone I met who I knew would be a solid friend for many years to come. Years on from that first impression, it's been exactly that. Upon returning home that year, we've stayed in touch regularly since.
The following year heading back again to H2Oi. It was once again a pleasure to hang out with him, and the rest of the CT crew. I felt at home at H2Oi in a different way. These people I'd only met once before felt like family. A US division of Rollhard you could say. One passion linking us altogether but one that wasn't the sole reason we were all friends.
After a few more trips, H2Oi had run its course to be honest. The police and crowds combined just made the atmosphere a little to tense and also it had become stale, seeing cars pulled over left and right with blue lights everywhere. I decided, like a lot of other people not to go H2Oi, but just visit and see my American friends. Garrett stepped up, he'd moved house and offered the spare bedroom as I stayed a week.
Garrett has had his MK2 Coupe Jetta for as long as I've known him. He's always been a fan of this era of VWs. They're just modern enough that you can be mechanically reassured they'll last long journeys, but also raw enough and handle well to have fun tearing down some twisty back roads. This Jetta is Garrett's third. It's history goes back along way in the modified world. Once VR6 swapped in the early 00's and looking very sharp, it changed hands a few times and eventually found itself stripped of parts and sat for years in one of Garrett's friends yard awaiting the day to be scrapped.
Garrett was 6 years into ownership of a 4 door Jetta at the time. A car that was mechanically sound, but rusting everywhere. The floors were rotten, seat rails were a worry and putting a jack under any of the car just wasn't safe anymore. So Garrett decided to save the poor stricken 2 door Jetta shell and swap as much as he could from his over to start afresh.
Garrett got straight to work on the new project. Stripping his red 4 door of all that was good and saying a heartfelt goodbye. He then got to work stripping the new Jetta down to a bare shell and getting stuck in immediately. Attention to detail is something Garrett is very proud of. You may not notice it when you glance at the car yourself, but as Garrett has built this solely for himself, he knows and that's all that matters.
First thing was cleaning the engine bay up and giving it a fresh coat of paint. White was the choice to match the plan later down the line of a full respray in white. The shell was far from the perfect example. With it being sat outside for so long, an amount of standing water had built up inside the car and considerable amount of surface rust had made home on the floor. So more cleaning up and treating was in order.
Once a lot of the rust treatment was sorted, it was time to get the car in a running condition. Under the hood Garrett took his 16v 9a out of the 4 door Jetta and started to make some improvements. The 16v is running on Digifant 2 fuel injection paired with a Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator. This helps with the Digi2 conversion to electronic fuel injection but also future proofs Garrett's plans of one day putting the 16v on ITBs. This is was Garrett's first experience with using braided lines & AN fittings, in his words "I'm loving it".
Other upgrades include Autotexh Sports cams, a Pacesetter header and a custom made exhaust with a Borla muffler to finish it off. It sounds beautiful on the go, and has the perfect amount of poke when you would like to put your foot down. The transmission has even had some modifications. A longer .745 5th gear out of a diesel box has been swapped creating a much better cruising gear. Garrett built this car to drive, and he really thought of everything so it would be enjoyed by him on all occasions.
From the outside with the clean look and transmission casing fully polished everything is very shiny. But behind all the shine Garrett has build a very strong , thought through and admiring engine.
On the exterior a clean look has been obtained. A combination of some 90's vibes with a twist of the fitment being of a more modern and fitted look. The noticeable modifications would be the drop and wheels. Initially Garrett fitted the wheels off his 4 door Jetta. A set of 15x7.5 Konig Retracks but with slightly smaller tyres as these wheels were going under the stock wings, and not the plastic flair trim from before. The second set of wheels and the first ones I saw on the car were 16x7 RH Classics, fully polished faces and barrels. Garrett has now set himself on these Fifteen15s Formula Tr's spec'd at 16x8 wrapped in 195/40s. The wheels transformed the car, and defiantly have given that modern fitment look.
With this Jetta being a Pirelli edition it came with discs brakes all round. This doesn't actually mean they were fine, seized is more an appropriate description. Garrett got to work fixing and replacing parts as he went along. A stud conversion with Mishimoto lugs hold the Fifteen52's on.
Other exterior work include choosing the Westy front end. A pair of shaved Euro front fenders are fitted. Surface rust and dent was needed on the rear arches and rear panels. Full trim arches weren't going to be run on this Jetta. Garrett managed to find a mint set of fat side trims and 1/4 flares for a coupe. This meant holes where the arch flares used to be had to be filled and smoothed over. Other body work took place with getting the car ready for paint. The trunk runs the infamous Heckblende paired well with some OEM Hella rear lights along with the GLI rear spoiler on top.
Inside is just a comfy as the rest of the car. It has a lovely OEM vibe when you're inside. Recaro Trophy seats are the main attraction. But if you look a bit closer you'll see the real star inside. The rare Red Walnut Italvolanti Corsa 380mm wheel which is believed to be out of an AMG Mercedes as a factory option. Fun fact, Garret actually has three of these. An original all leather 16v one which was actually one of the main reasons he went with the engine swap choice, and one in all white. Honestly it's probably best the white steering wheel stays on the wall in the house. In the middle Garrett has built a hybrid MK2 upper to MK3 lower centre console.
The red carpet and red headlining is a nice touch, pairing well with the few red 16v badges in and on the car.
The Pirelli Edition door cards managed to survive all the way through this cars life. Just some touch ups on them to match the rest of the interior.
Over the space of a year from 2012 to 2013 Garrett put an immense amount of hard work and dedication into saving this Jetta. So much so, after finishing the initial build and taking it on a 85 mile test run, a few days later he drove it straight down to Georgia for SOWO. A 2000 mile, 36 hour round trip. I couldn't think of anything more rewarding than returning from that kind of trip, with complete trust in your car building abilities. It just shows that building the car the way you vision, all the fine small details adding up really do matter. Due to Garrett's hard work and dedication there's a car that's more than just a box of metal on wheels, but one that speaks memories and experiences and at the drop of a hat can create more, be that all over the United States.