Photography by Sam Dobbins
Sam Dobbins is a man who is well versed in our crazy world of aftermarket automotive pleasure. Currently boasting a position as Creative Director at Vossen, he’s had quite the tour of duty in our industry, serving as a professional photographer for countless projects both inside and outside the Vossen brand’s reach. Not all that long ago, the proximity to the world’s wildest cars was enough to satisfy his desire to enjoy cars, all without diving into the money pit of modified car ownership we are all too familiar with, but the release of the MK7 changed everything.
The stunning design of the MK7 GTI was too alluring for Dobbins, a long-time VW fan, to resist. “I’ve always been a huge fan of the VW brand and GTI in particular,” he tells us, “so when the MK7 platform was released I knew it was finally time to make a new-car purchase.” He pulled the trigger on a 2015 GTI, and his fate was sealed. Having only owned (very) used cars over the years, Dobbins was in new territory, but his industry experience would serve as his guiding light in the dark.
His original idea was simple enough – build the car to be clean, functional, and unique in its own right. Inspiration came from all over the map – literally. “Throughout the past decade or so I’ve photographed hundreds of cars and been to countless events around the world,” says Dobbins. “It’s safe to say that the inspiration has come from everywhere as a result.” In May of 2015, he lowered it, put some wheels on it, and was promptly rear-ended the day before Southern Worthersee. Yikes.
After the ensuing battle with insurance companies, the car was back on track that September, and Dobbins was quick to make up for lost time. After fixing the damage, the car was rewrapped, the hatch was shaved, and Euro LED taillights were added to a freshly rebuilt rear end. After spending some time at H2Oi, the car was driven up to Swoopsbuilt in New York to begin its ultimate transformation, which included the Pandem Rocket Bunny kit – with a twist.
“I’ve seen a lot of cars over the years with bolt-on flares and the diligence with which they are installed is always lacking tremendously, even with the McLarens, Ferraris, Porsches, Lambos, and so on,” explains Dobbins. “So when I first approached Swoopsbuilt about taking on the fabrication side of the project, the main point was to make this car stand the test of time, not just one show season and round of internet hype.” To ensure his Pandem kit stood the test of time, a set of full metal inner fenders were fabricated to sit beneath the wide body fenders. This made sure that kicked up debris or stray stones wouldn’t damage the flares, or the GTI’s body.
Filling in those elaborate wheel wells you’ll find a forged set of Vossen LC-106s, an obvious brand choice for Vossen’s Creative Director. “As the creative director for Vossen, the wheels were a no brainer,” he quips. “We were able to engineer wheels specific to the specs of the flares, resulting in a perfectly aggressive but track-able fitment, square in size but staggered in offsets, allowing for the same tire size front and rear.” Those perfectly engineered Vossens are wrapped in Nitto INVO tires, measuring 285 mm wide, alluding to the fact that this car is more than just for show, and the body meets the wheels with perfect fitment thanks to BC Racing coilovers.
The finishing touches on the GTI RS would come courtesy of a Thule Motion XT roof box for ultimate practicality, as well as a final color scheme complete with some unique graphics. “Aesthetically, I wanted to keep it classy and true to the GTI’s overall look, so white with red accents was a no-brainer, as the GTI has been offered that way since its inception back in 1983,” explains Dobbins. “The only wildcard throughout the build seemed to be the graphics on the car, but the modified RS script ended up being the perfect fit.” Dubbed the GTI RS from this point forward, a new breed of Golf GTI was born.
A handcrafted and functional rear diffuser from Swoopsbuilt protrudes from the rear of the car, hinting at the GTI RS’ track-ready performance. The shop also made a custom air intake for the Volkswagen, which helps increase air flow with the help of a Vibrant air filter. Forge Motorsports’ uprated intercooler keeps things cool beneath the hood, and a full AWE Tuning touring exhaust kit bellows the modified two-liter’s song through an unrestricted system. While completely track-ready, this car is still driven on road trips and to events around the United States.
Perhaps the best thing about the final form of Dobbins’ GTI RS is how much it gets driven. In addition to the multiple H2Oi shows the car visited over the course of the build, Dobbins has committed to putting this car to use whenever he can. “The car was ultimately built to be driven, and I put 10k miles on it in the first six months that it was complete,” he says. “I drove it cross country from Vegas to Miami after SEMA. It’s been to the Rolex24, Sebring12, and every event I could fit into the schedule in Florida, and it’s still the most comfortable driving car I’ve had, despite the cage and fixed carbon seats.” If driving your show car is wrong, we don’t want to be right.