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In the spring of 2016 I was in the market for a TDI VW. Not in the market in the sense of “having the money” or “time for another project”, but in the sense of trolling Craigslist and designing my build on paper. I had narrowed my list down to a few necessities. I knew for SURE that I wanted an MK4 Golf or Jetta Wagon the ALH block, a VNT 17 turbo, 520 injectors and the generous 11mm injection pump. That combination, paired with a tune is undoubtedly the sweet spot for some big time axle-snapping, coal-rolling, tire shredding torque. Fast forward a month. I got a text from my brother saying that his friend had been hit in his MK4 Golf. TDI. 5 Speed. Hoping that it at least had the ALH, I called and listened as he told me what happened, that it had been hit pretty hard in the rear left corner and that it was a 2004. My heart sank. The PD 110. A weird, common rail, unit injector setup that I had no familiarity with. Still, a TDI manual is a TDI manual and I took the leap. I went to pick it up for next to nothing and was pleased to see that it had only 110k miles on the clock! The damage was pretty extensive and I drove it home 50 miles stressing the whole way but ultimately without incident. Fast forward another month and after a long weekend on the frame rack with lots of help, a few long nights with seam sealer and silicone, a few other general maintenance repairs, and a hellish afternoon at the DMV, I drove away in a legally registered TDI that I had brought back from the brink of death. Now, in the spring of 2018 I look back and it seems like this car has been with me for much longer than a year and a half. I can see it from where I’m sitting and it fills me with happiness to think of all we’ve been through together. It’s rough around the edges for sure. Big dent, rough touch up paint, usually muddy, but that adds to its charm. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’ll never be even close to perfect, but that would go entirely against its nature! It’s always been a twisted fantasy of mine to have a wheel set on my car that’s worth more than the car, and the BBS CH-R 18”s I have lined up fit that bill a little too well. Now thats not to say that I’m not in the process of making dramatic improvements. As I have learned this system, I have learned it’s limitations and potential. The MK4 is truly one of my favorite platforms because of the age of abundance in which we live. Performance lower control arms with TT polymer bushings (to be installed tonight!), Eibach front and rear anti-roll bars (later this month), upper and lower stress bars, Unibrace and brass subframe bushings are the phase one and should take care of any of my handling needs. Just a tune alone on the factory setup will put the torque to the wheels well in the 250 range which for a small, weight reduced hatch will keep me happy. Maybe down the road I’ll do a VNT17 turbo and seek out some big power numbers but again, that seems to go against this cars nature. It is exactly what it is, and much of this journey has been about accepting things as they are and cultivating patience. My TDI journey began out of opportunity and has followed a vastly different trajectory than I could have ever imagined. I have learned that I have more patience than I ever believed and that most cars, especially this one will tell you what they need and what they are if you just listen. Keep building, keep driving, share the passion.
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