Someone please hand Adam Bell a copy of “How to Modify Your Car.” First project cars are not supposed to look this nice. They are supposed fraught with all sorts of problems, from animalistic nests of hacked up wiring, to drivability concerns ranging from mildly annoying to ‘immobile in the driveway’ stemming from whatever combination of aftermarket components have been cobbled together by prior owners. They are supposed to be a right of passage for the uninitiated. Who among us hasn't been stranded when a project vehicle has inexplicably broken at precisely the wrong moment? Bell, who started with a new 2011 Volkswagen GTI, boldly proceeded into uncharted waters to present us with this shiny black masterpiece seen here.
We concede in most cases that newer is better, but in Bell's case, his then-new GTI lasted only a week in virgin condition before the modification itch got the better of him. He started with some easy tasks, like dipping his VW and GTI badges in black Plasti Dip and installing an APR intake – just little things to help his GTI more personal. Somewhere along the way, he was referred to Anthony Foster's shop, Phantom Autowerke, in Elmsford, New York. Bell had Phantom install an APR turbo-back exhaust system and REVO Stage 2+ software, bringing output to 275 horsepower. Next came two JL Audio W6 subwoofers in custom fiberglass enclosures, molded precisely into the miniscule trunk and powered by a JL Audio HD750 mono amplifier. The enclosure for the subs (and indeed, all of the interior and engine bay trim) is finished in a retro-modern graphic scheme which would make H.R. Giger proud. Airbrushed electrical sparks painted dark-hue mechanics would, on any other vehicle, look a bit too 80s, but it works more than well here.
Bell then turned his attention to the suspension. After a bit of debate with Foster, “weighing the pros and cons,” Bell ordered a full air suspension package from Open Road Tuning. “Basically, Anthony found out he was going to install the setup when all the boxes were delivered to his shop,” Bell says.
There was only one problem – the subs were already installed. There was no room for the air tank and Bell didn't want to change the sub installation. “We spent a few weeks going over how the system would be incorporated into the vehicle,” he says. “We must have come up with two dozen iterations before green-lightning the setup in the car now.”
Their approach? Use five separate smaller tanks and mount them in the middle of the rear seats. Connecting them are perfectly formed 3/8-inch polished stainless steel tubes. Two separate manifolds split air from the pumps to all five tanks, then recombine it before reaching the Accuair E-Level distribution manifold. The polished steel tubing is used throughout the car, “even where you can't see it,” he says. “There are 148 Tylock stainless steel double-ferrule fittings and not one leak.”
He uses Bagyard Supreme front struts and Classic bags over Bilstein rear sport shocks. Dual VIAIR 444 cc compressors supply pressure to the five ViAir one-gallon shaved and custom-painted port tanks, mounted in a custom fiberglass cradle and an insane grid of steel tubing, highlighted by an array of red LEDs. We're positive this isn't exactly DOT-legal, but equally thankful that some cool-but-unsafe things are still permitted in the Land of the Free. One particularly snazzy touch is the Dakota Digital Odyssey air pressure gauge, mounted on the end of a bent 3/8-inch line inside the glove box. He wanted it somewhere it would be visible but still hidden, and who can argue with reasoning like that?
During the eleven months the car was down for this crazy air installation, Bell elected to remove the entire interior and Dynamat every surface “to prevent any rattling from the too-loud-to-be-good-for-you audio system,” he says. Every OEM component was removed and replaced with JL Audio gear from front to rear, driven by a Pioneer AVIC Z130BT DVD/NAV head unit. Somehow they found the room for four sets of C5 components, and two ZR tweeters in custom A-pillar mounts. An HD900/5 amplifier with a polished aluminum cover joins the sub amp in the rear. Even the wiring, terminals and fuses come from JL. Custom door pods hold the four-inch speakers and E-Level controller. The interior is finished off with an eerie glow of LEDs fit for a ride with this sort of detail.
For the hard-as-nails exterior, Foster pulled the front and rear bumpers, shaved the reflectors, molded the back bumper and diffuser into one piece, added a few other details and re-sprayed them. For rollers, Bell selected a set of Complete Custom Wheel Smoothies, just the second ever set made by CCW. They fit the style he wanted perfectly, and “weren't being run on a million other cars.”
Unbeknownst to Bell, Foster swapped his DIY-installed APR intake for a Forge Twintake and paint-matched the carbon fiber resonators, black plastic tubing, and engine cover to the interior trim and subwoofer enclosure. While some owners would freak at unauthorized changes to their project, it’s easy to see why he didn’t.
Bell and Foster hit it off so well they're now partners in a company called Standard Fabrications (www.StaFabCo.com). The GTI acts as a promotional vehicle for StaFabCo and Phantom, making the rounds and stunning onlookers at shows throughout the East Coast.
“It's funny,” Bell says. “A lot of people walk past the car at shows thinking it's just bagged with wheels, but then the tank setup catches their eyes. Before you know it they've spent thirty minutes looking over the entire car!”
We suppose it is unfair to call this GTI merely a home run. Bell clearly hit a grand slam with this black beauty, and we can't wait to see what he does with his second project.
Vehicle: 2011 VW GTI
Driver: Adam Bell
Built by: Anthony Foster @ Phantom Autowerke
Engine: 2.0L Turbo
Horsepower: 275 hp
Torque: 314 lb-ft
Revo stage 2+ software
Forge Twintake induction system (custom painted)
Audi R8 oil cap
JCaps billet coolant and washer cap
Custom painted engine cover
Bagyard (Supreme front struts, Classic rear bags)
Bilstein rear sport shocks
Accuair e-Level air management
ViAir (dual 444 cc compressors, one-gallon shaved port tanks with custom paint (5))
Stainless steel 3/8-in. polished hard lines
Tylok stainless steel air line fittings (148)
Dakota Digital Odyssey Series II air pressure gauge
Wheels / Tires / Brakes
CCW Classic Smoothies wheels - 18x8.5 (f), 18x9.5 (r)
Toyo Proxes tires - 215/40 R18 (f/r)
ARP (gold bolts/lug nuts)
Custom one-off shaved and smoothed rear bumper
Side skirts (smoothed, paint matched)
Front bumper (shaved, grille inserts paint matched)
HID conversion fog lights
Custom (A-pillar enclosure, painted dash/door inserts, fiberglass door pods, body-color VIAIR tank fiberglass cradle)
Audio / Mobile Electronics
Pioneer Z130BT head unit
JL Audio (W6 12-in. subwoofers (2), C5 component speakers (4), ZR tweeters in A-pillar enclosure, HD900/5 amplifier w/ polished aluminum cover, HD750/1 amp w/ polished aluminum cover, wiring, terminals, fuses)
Custom (painted fiberglass sub/amp enclosure, door pods w/ JL Audio speakers and e-Level controller)
Dynamat (entire interior)
Full LED interior lighting
Phantom Autowerke, Standard Fabrications, JL Audio, Complete Custom Wheel, and Open Road Tuning. Also thanks to Anthony, Dehate, Lucette, Andrew, and everyone that helped in some way. Most of all, a huge thanks to my Donna, Jake, and Ethan.