Every story has a beginning. Could that be any more cliché or obvious? Regardless, the Mediocre Jetta started life some 20 years ago, on a Wolfsburg assembly line. The finest engineering West Germany had to offer: 4-cylinders with 16-valves linked to a 5-speed transmission eventually made its way across the pond to the US. 7 owners, 3 accidents and 173,000 miles later, I bought the car.
I’ve had this car for a little bit more than a year now and as you readers know, I overpaid for it. In a fit of passion, I overlooked its blemishes, rough edges and mechanical faults so I could own a piece of that MK2 dream. After 365 days of driving the car, I’m ready to take a less blindly passionate and more pragmatic approach to its maintenance and rise to Mediocrity.
Before I highlight some potential projects for the build-up, I’d like to lay out some ground rules.
Letter A. I have a budget that I will attempt not to annihilate like a bottle of lube at a sex addicts convention
(Fuck you, Somerville traffic enforcement. $50 bucks from the budget, down the drain…)
Number C. In an attempt to stay under that budget, I will try to shed some of the ‘But I may need it someday’ parts (hopefully in trade, but cash works too)
(I have stuffed parts and tools into every conceivable space in my attic…)
(…even in the rafters. That’s a half-axle, spoiler and set of wiper blades.)
Paragraph 6. I will take pictures of whatever I do (even if it’s mundane) and post about it once a month; more if I feel like it (see above)
Point 4. I may chronicle some of my more interesting encounters with parts traders, and share with you their VW tales
Projects I plan to feature:
- Regular maintenance that needs to happen
- Replace driver’s-side half-axle
- Replace and repair all faulty cabin, boot and accessory illumination
- Belt protector installation
- Find and repair water leak into trunk
- Reinstallation of power locking system
- Hose replacement
- Anal stuff I want to do, that exceeds regular maintenance
- California emissions system delete
- Full A/C delete
- Heater core, cabin fan and selector replacement
- Replace oil pan, drain plug and gasket
- New radiator support and grille
- Fun stuff for performance, looks or just because
- Sunroof reupholster
- New summer wheels and tires
- Camshaft, chip and exhaust installation
What is the goal of all these? To put together a sweet looking daily driver that runs as well as cars half its age. I also hope to learn more about the New England VW community and improve my car repair skills.
Up Next: Oil change, ISV cleaning/testing, parts acquisition, (possibly) the quest for a reasonably priced 50mm Euro Intake
– Mister Rich
As you know I am woefully inept at writing original and moving pieces for the blog. Hell, I copied most of my first post from War & Peace. Seriously though, in an effort to not be as much of a social loaf, my plan is chronicle the build/repair of the Jetta. The first month will highlight my goals for the year, and each successive month will go over what I’ve done. Since I’ll acquire a lot of parts in trade, I figure it’d be a cool way to showcase the quirky VW people while also detailing some of the struggles of trying to daily drive a 20 year old car of ill repute.
(Picture unrelated…but funny)
Leave us some comments on your thoughts
As Steve mentioned a few posts ago, rarely are we going at this expensive and time consuming hobby alone. He talked about how your friends help you out a great deal along the way. I’d like to expand upon that concept and take it in a bit of a different direction. I want to talk a bit about a few people I’ve met in my journey so far with the Mediocre Jetta. I’m quirky, I’ll admit it. I have irrational attachments to completely irrational things. I never put on dirty socks, ever. It really creeps me out. I park in the same spot, facing the same direction every day at work. It’s on the complete other end of the business park from my office. I don’t mind the walk, it helps me relax after a long day.
Shortly after locating my spot, a black Mk4 GTI began parking next to me. The GTI owner worked later hours, so we never crossed paths. Then, in July, APR was running their tri-annual, “Buy our Stuff for Cheap because of lame excuse XYZ sale”.
Being the nice ‘Dubber that I am, I left a note on the GTI’s winshield, under the wiper, whoring out a local shop (http://www.namotorsports.net, started by some alums from my High School). A few days later, I get a note on my windhsield, from the GTI owner. He leaves a quick blurb about his plans for the GTI and passes on the APR stuff. We pass notes back-and-forth randomly for the next few months, but never connect in person. Eventually we connect, in person, and share a nice long chat about ‘Dubs and cars in general. I quickly find out, this dude is serious. See for yourself: http://www.cardomain.com/ride/579694 .
(Mister Rich and friends fondling the rear end of their new parts car prize)
Long rambling story short, this is us a few months later. He had picked up a junked ’91 GLI for the interior and BBS RM wheels. I was free to have at anything else I wanted, for a reasonable price.
(Some people look and see a pile of junk, Mediocre Motoring sees a good weekend!)
That’s right, I was getting very difficult to find parts (Non-power GLI Doorcards), all because I park in the same spot every day and passed a few notes after work.
Fast-forward to Saturday. I’m teaching Mo Volks (my special lady friend) how to drive stick in Steve’s old neighborhood. After an hour or so of stop-and-go learning, she’s starting to get the hang of it. As the lesson comes to a close, the Mediocre Jetta sounds a bit louder than usual. Driving to get groceries the next day, it’s obvious to everyone within a ¼ mile that the exhaust has a hole somewhere near the muffler.
As I mentioned before, I’m naturally paranoid, especially about anything involving someone else and my car; I planned on waiting till a decent weekend to fix the muffler. Then it fell off. On my home from work. On 62. In PM rush hour traffic. The following morning, with the loudest Jetta on the North Shore, I drove to the exhaust shop closest to where I work. Irrationally expecting to get screwed, cheated or somehow ripped off, I dropped the car off.
Come 5:30, I walked down to grab the Jetta. I expected a huge bill with all kinds of suspicious repairs and strange fees. Nothing of the sort ever came to fruition. The total bill, for a cat back custom exhaust, was less than I could buy the exhaust. I spent a good 45 minutes talking with the owner of the shop, about all kinds of car things. Just good, old fashioned shooting-of-the-shit about cars. Fuel injection, alcohol funny cars, how shit is too expensive, how people who slam their cars to the ground are dumb, Auto-X, drag, rally racing, muscle cars and Stoptech brakes.
What did I learn? That not everyone in the automotive business is going to rip you off and that there are some great car people on the North Shore. What can you, the Mediocre readers, learn? I’m not 100% sure, but I think you should never wear dirty socks…ever.
Greetings gentle Mediocre Motoring reader. I’m having a bit of a dilemma… My friend wants to buy a Miata. Should I be concerned or thrilled? On the one hand he’s excited about the performance (?), learning how to drive stick and pumped to turn a wrench on it. On the other hand, it’s a Miata, the penultimate chick car. Seriously, Corky Romano drove one and there’s probably a whole subset of the iPhone cock community that drives Miatas.
(That movie was effin’ hysterical)
Why do I care? Deep down inside, for the prices he’s floated, I think he can get a higher performing car, with more potential. Most of us buy less than a dozen cars in our lives, and I guess I hate to see him miss something better. Another factor could be guilt by association. I’m a VW guy, all the way and that matters to me (which is probably worthy of a whole different post). I think I may be a little concerned I may lose some street cred. Then again, most of the world isn’t like the majority of internet car people.
Maybe I’m asking the wrong question, I’m asking “Why do I care?” when I should be asking, “Who cares?”. I like going fast and I like VW’s. He wants to go fast and he likes Miatas. What’s the big deal? It’ll be one more person who knows what a torque wrench is, one more person who can change their oil and one more person who can drive stick. And the world needs more people like that.
Maybe this is the best car for my friend, the Miata looks like a quick little coupe and he’s an energetic little dude. 170 bhp / 140 Ft-lbs, with a 6-speed manual. It’s light and seemingly agile, while also probably able to tolerate a decent New England weather. The Miata community rolls pretty tight in this area, and they remind me a bit of the BMW community (with fewer “Brah’s”, popped collars, and much less iPhone cockery). A few quick internet searches yields some scary performance upgrades. Turbo chargers? Check. Superchargers? Check. V8 swaps? Check (WTF, seriously). ~450 hp 16V NA 4-cyl crate engines? Check (also, WTF?, where are these for the GLI?). I think I’ve convinced myself that this is in fact a good car for him.
(Corvette motor into a tiny little Mazda…that’s just insanity)
Who am I kidding? I’ve never cared about street cred, and I love working on cars. Over the course of researching (Gasp, I know, we don’t try to blatantly lie on MM) this article, I’ve really come to appreciate what people see in Miatas. Once you get past their girly-looks, they are pretty mean little machines. With a few bolt-ons, you’re driving a nice street monster. Would I ever drive one; no, probably not. But am I excited that my friend may be getting one; hell yeah! Now, I just need to convince him to line up a GM LS-series engine for some ‘moderate’ performance gains…
Me crazy with your idle
New plugs this weekend