After Volkswagen’s roaring success with the MK1 Golf, it became apparent there was a gap in their product line – an affordable ‘three-box’ sedan (or “saloon” car as we know it in Europe). Volkswagen’s competitors such as Ford, and BMW, were still offering traditional saloon cars, and there was still a huge market for them. This gap in VW’s product-line was particularly apparent in their North American market, where customers were slower to catch “hot hatch fever” than their counterparts in Europe.
The simple solution for the German manufacturer was to take the tried and tested MK1 Golf, and effectively graft a trunk onto the back (Ok, it wasn’t quite as crude as that – but not far off). Thus the MK1 Jetta was born! The Jetta was an instant smash hit in the USA and became the best selling European car over the pond.
In 1984, VW released the MK2 Jetta, which again was an overnight success, and again became the best selling European car in the USA. The car was a big improvement over the MK1 (notably being able to seat five people rather than four) and featured updates to the suspension, drive-train, sound proofing, and overall styling. In terms of mechanicals, like it’s baby brother (the MK2 Golf) it was available with both petrol and diesel engines, was front-wheel-drive and had modern independent rear suspension. In 1988 the MK2 Jetta engines were upgraded to having fuel-injection.
Though not as well known in Europe as the trusty Golf, the Jetta has been a hugely successful car for Volkswagen. It’s now in its seventh generation (albeit it’s not always been called the Jetta) and has sold over 10 million units!
Tommy’s Jetta has had an incredible amount of work done to it. From the outside it may look like it’s just been lowered and stuck on a nice set of wheels, but wait until you see the pictures under the bonnet. The engine has been hugely modified (we won’t spill the beans here) and is also an absolute work of art. Tommy is part of a club called Retrospec+, we’d recommend you check out their Facebook page as some of the builds are incredible.
Please note – photography credit here goes to Alex Challinor.
Volkswagen Jetta MK2 (1990)
- Engine has had a 2.0 litre 16-valve ABF conversion (rebuilt by tempest RS) with Wossner high compression pistons, piper fast road cams, and ported cylinder head.
- The engine is fed through Jenvey throttle bodies, has a custom equal-length 4-1 exhaust manifold, and is running an Omex600 standalone ECU.
- 02A Gearbox, rebuilt by Martin at "gas n gears" with shorter final drive but longer 5th for motorway cruising – runs through a Quaife LSD
- Wilwood midilite 4-pot front callipers with 280mm discs, and Mk2 Golf GTI rear disc conversion (used to be drums).
- Suspension is BC racing BR series XTRA low version. Soon to be on air-ride with OCD BAGS bag over coil conversion with 3P management.
- Full bare shell respray with engine bay and boot painted body coloured. Cabin floor in colour coded raptor and underside fully Waxoyl’d in black.
- 4×100 16 inch OZ Futura wheels – fully rebuilt from 6j to 8j fronts, and to 8.5j rear. Wrapped in 195/40/16 Yokohama S drives all round.
- Full re-trim of cobra front seats and rear bench in grey tweed, all trim refinished in crackle black for an OEM finish, parcel shelf dyed black, headliner re trimmed in black fleece.
Interview with the owner
- Well, this is really impressive this car – when did you buy it?Back in 2016.
- What made you buy this make and model in particular?I originally set out the buy a MK1 golf driver, but at the time it was a bit out of my budget (well, for one that you didn’t have to sweep up after every time it moved). So I looked at other options, I spotted a MK2 Jetta coupe on the net and I’d never even seen one before. So I dug deeper and found a few that had been modded tastefully and loved the look. I found one in Leicester that was pretty straight, a runner and was affordable. They’re also pretty rare in the UK which is always nice. I actually sold my Tag Heuer watch to fund part of it. At the time I wasn’t so sure but I’ve not looked back since!
- What's it like to drive?It’s stiff, bumpy, noisy, heavy steering, no ABS or TCS, no A/C or radio…. and it is absolutely epic! I’ve never driven anything that puts a bigger smile on my face. Just something about how it looks sounds and goes feels right, and you never tire of that ITB noise! It turns heads going down the road and lets off the occasional back fire. It’s got shorter ratio gears than what was in it from factory and also a Quaife differential so it puts the power down really well.
- Do you know the current BHP?Yes, it's got 203bhp, and 151 lb/ft.
- So it sounds like the car has had a full resto – tell us more about that.So I bought the car in April 2016, I drove it onto the trailer, backed it down my drive into my garage, and that was the last time I drove it until I took it for MOT in July 2020! The engine was dropped out within a couple of weeks and the strip down began. Once it was fully stripped down I moved it to my commercial garage at my work where my now good friend Jack Smith came and prepped it for paint at weekends and eventually painted it.Another friend of mine took me out in his Jetta that had a 2.0 16-valve engine in it and I loved it. So that was it… I had my heart set on an ABF. I wanted an OEM+ looking car so kept the body nice and clean, some nice wheels, nice interior with a nice clean bay but still usable.It seems to eat crank sensors for some reason. Apart from that it’s been ok. It took 3 crank sensors to get it to fire and it’s had another since then!
- Ok, let's dig into the mods then, let's start with the engine – what exactly has been done there?I did an engine swap to a 2.0 litre, 16-valve, ABF lump. I had it rebuilt by Troy at "Tempest RS" with high compression pistons, piper cams, ported cylinder head and Jenvey throttle bodies. I've then had a custom equal length 4-1 exhaust manifold fitted, and it's running an Omex600 standalone ECU.
- What have you done to the gearbox?02A rebuilt by Martin at "gas n gears" with shorter final drive but longer 5th for motorway cruising (apologies I’m not sure on the ratios) with Quaife LSD.
- What have you done to the brakes?Wilwood Midilite 4-pot fronts with 280mm discs, and MK2 Golf GTI rear disc conversion (used to be drums).
- What have you done to the suspension?BC racing BR series XTRA low version. Soon to be on air-ride with OCD BAGS bag over coil conversion with 3P management.
- What have you done to the paintwork?Full bare shell respray with engine bay and boot painted body coloured. Cabin floor in colour coded raptor and underside fully waxoyl’d in black!
- What have you done with the wheels & tyres?4×100 16 inch OZ Futuras fully rebuilt from 6j to 8j fronts, and to 8.5j rear (unsure of et) running 195/40/16 Yokohama S drives all round.
- What have you done with the interior?Full re-trim of cobra front seats and rear bench in grey tweed, all trim re finished in crackle black for an OEM finish, parcel shelf dyed black, headliner re trimmed in black fleece.Managed to source a genuine LHD MK2 carpet in black that was in nice condition. Which is a good job as the heater matrix went bang on the Dyno and soaked the original carpet in coolant!
- Do you plan to do any further modifications to it?Yes, well it’s all up in the air as to what I do first! But I’d like some custom splits, possible a bigger brake kit and may even pull the engine back out and head for 220+ bhp still naturally aspirated.
- Is the car a "keeper" or will you sell it one day?Never say never!
- Ok final question – ignoring cost, and assuming you couldn’t go and sell it for profit… what’s your dream car and why?Now that is the impossible question!One dream car to have in the garage would have to be a Singer Porsche 964.Why? Look at them. They’ve got the timeless looks but with the performance and reliability of a modern car. What’s not to love?