We have a new project at Jim’s Garage. A good friend with a small web business (www.justgerman.com) lucked out and found a 1991 Jetta for $500. He’s done some work on it, putting in a new clutch and changing out the front grill for a European model with round headlights, but we thought it was time to give this black beauty some handling.
The first thought was to get some nice tires and, of course, some nice wheels to fit them to. Not wanting to get too radical we decided on 16 x 7 inch wheels. These were Sport Edition D3’s with a 38mm offset and weighed in at seventeen and a half pounds. Not bad for less than $100 a piece. This gave us a lot of tire choices in the 205/45-16 size. Kumho had a great tire that we think will be perfect.
Next was to improve that suspension. This car had a lot of miles on it, plus it has sat around for several years. Just changing out either the struts or the springs didn’t work for something that needed a lot of suspension components refreshed anyway so we did some research and decided on the H&R Touring Cup spring and strut package. This not only replaced a lot of worn parts, but dropped the front by 1.3″ and the rear by 1.25″.
Now I’m not a big proponent of changing ride height, although I’ve done it to a few cars I’ve owned. You run the risk of changing the roll center and roll axis in some very bad ways. Of course you also lower the car’s center of gravity, which can be a real improvement. You just have to be aware of what other changes you are creating along with improving ride height. Another consequence is alignment. Negative camber is fine, but you really have to be sure to have the toe set to zero as you go more negative. A trip to the alignment shop is a must when you lower the car. While we were under the car we also checked on the condition of the tie rod ends and the anti-roll bar bushings and end links.
The mounts at the top of the struts were in sorry shape and we had to replace them. The tie rod ends were okay for the time being as were the anti-roll bar bushings.
Then we took a look at the brakes. As I said earlier, the car has been sitting for quite a while. We knew that the brake fluid had to be flushed and broke off the bleeder valve from a rear caliper when we attempted to do so. We were able to bleed the other corners, but it was just temporary. It was clear that this car needed new caliper, pads, and rotors. The parking brake cables also needed replacement.
My friend Jake and I are scouting around for a brake system upgrade that won’t break his budget. So we won’t be converting to Brembo’s at this go-around, but we will definitely be improving on the stock set up. If we can we will see about some Porterfield R4-S pads and some high quality rotors. Right now we are not certain about going to slotted or drilled. We will use a very high quality brake fluid like Ate Blue.
Fortunately Jake’s business specializes in performance parts for German cars, including VWs. This means we can maximize his budget!
As you can see there is a lot of research and many decisions that go into improving the performance and handling of any car. Jim’s Garage will follow up