If you’re talking money, the US-Euro exchange rate may be cause for concern. But in terms of cultural exchange? Mikey Roe from Plush Automotive has the got the US-Euro thing nailed…
The genesis of the Volkswagen Jetta is largely attributable to the suspicion of Americans. It hardly needs pointing out that Stateside motoring was characterised for generations by prolific, prodigious girth. Massively long, hugely wide cars with colossal rumbling V8s. The sort of motors that kicked out about 120bhp from a 7.0-litre displacement, because … well, who cares? Petrol was cheap and efficiency didn’t matter.
So when VW launched the Golf to the confused US market in the wake of the oil crisis, it was received with mixed enthusiasm. Certain quarters loved the idea of a small, well-built, European- engineered hatchback. Others were briefly interested, but concerned about where they might stash their many, many sandwiches. They weren’t all that enamoured with hatchbacks, as they’d grown up in the certain knowledge a car should be made up of three boxes. A bit at the front for the engine, a bigger bit in the middle for the people, and a bit at the back for the people’s stuff.
So car-makers solved the problem in the most logical way possible: take the diminutive hatchback they’d spent millionsdeveloping, graft on a few square feet of steel to the back end, and convert it into a saloon. And so the Jetta was born: a Golf with a boot, basically, turning the iconic hatchback into a marginally more practical sedan.
And while the Jetta is a globally accepted entity, passing now into its sixth generation, it’s arguably the Americans who still rule the roost when it comes to building badass Jettas. While Europe’s love affair with the Golf continues unabated after all these years, it’s relatively rare to find a modified Jetta on this side of the Atlantic.
This is the point at which Mikey Roe sidles in from stage left, a wry grin on his face and mischievous intent in his heart. He’s had an eye on the USDM watercooled stance scene for some time, and he knew an American-styled Jetta was where he wanted to go with his next project. With a lifetime of hardcore modding behind him, he certainly had the skills to pay the bills. So once he set his heart on this booted Golf idea, there really was no stopping him.
“I’ve been into cars my whole life,” he says, all starry eyes and get-up-and-go. “All I wanted to do when I left school was to modify cars. I used to work during the week doing my usual 9-5, then after work and at weekends I would go to my unit or my friends’ unit and modify all of our cars. This was until a couple of years ago when I was offered the job I always wanted at Plush Automotive. I’ve worked there ever since.”
If Plush is a new name to you, you should know that they’re basically the guys to turn to when it comes to interiors, air-ride installs and anything else that makes awesome cars, er, awesomer. ‘Do what you love, love what you do, deliver more than you promise’ – that’s their mantra. This Jetta is just one example of many of how the Plush team walk the walk as well as talk the talk. It’s not just a business, it’s a lifestyle.
“I’ve owned eight VWs now, and all have been modded – some a lot more than others,” Mikey grins. “I just can’t help myself! As soon as I get one it gets ripped apart. They’ve had full interior retrims, paint jobs, engine rebuilds, the works. “I chose a Jetta for this project because not many people do them,” he continues. “I saw pictures of a few doing the rounds in America, and realised how good they could look. Also, I’d owned a Mk5 Jetta previously and I really missed it, so I fancied another – but decided to get the newer model, as I hadn’t built one before.”
And that’s just about as simple as it needs to be. A combination of personal precedent and online inspiration conspired to ensure that Mikey’s next build would have a unique, American-infused flavour. Of course, he had to find one first…
“I looked around for about four months to find the spec I wanted,” he recalls. “I went into VW several times telling them the exact specifications I was after. I finally got an email from them with the perfect one, and I caught the train to go and have a look at it straight away. As indeed it was perfect. I came back home with it the same day!”
What he found himself with was a tastefully blue Mk6 Jetta with the 140bhp-variant of the 2.0-litre TDI motor, coupled with the hyperintelligent DSG transmission. But when he says ‘it was perfect’, clearly this was just a starting point. After all, it wouldn’t be very Fast Car to simply tell you a story of a man who bought a used car and just let it be.“I bought it in January, and had to get it ready for Ultimate Dubs back in March,” he says, evidently still slightly shellshocked by the frantic nature of the timetable. “I ordered my original set of wheels for the car pretty much the day I bought it!”
What he’s specified here is pretty nifty: a set of 17-inch OZ Futura split-rims which have been artfully rebuilt by Dan at Wheel Unique, stepped up to an 18-inch diameter, with the fronts measuring 8.5 inches across and an extra inch apiece for the rear. Pretty sassy. And then, of course, the whole thing had to be Plush-ified.
“The car sat for a couple of weeks before I had time to start working on it, but then many late nights were spent at work making the boot build,” says Mikey. “The car got stripped down the week before Ultimate Dubs, various parts were sent off for paint, and all the suspension and brakes were stripped for replacement while the boot build was installed.”
The Jetta found itself sporting Mk7 Golf GTI front brakes, with the stoppers receiving uprated Brembo discs and pads all round, while issues of altitude were efficiently dealt with by a custom Air Lift Performance setup governed by AccuAir’s ingenious and revered e-Level management.
“Once all the parts came back, the car was detailed and the wheels finally arrived the day before the show,” he remembers. “It was a long night getting them to fit just right, and finishing the final few touches.”
The results really speak for themselves though. Marc at Tuk Customs played a blinder getting the paintwork absolutely spot-on, while aftercare was dealt with by Auto Finesse, who know a thing or two about perfecting paintwork and showcasing it to the full.
Despite the flawless presentation and show-car inspired aesthetic, however, this is certainly no show pony. “I use the car daily,” Mikey beams. “The car gets a lot of positive reactions, too.” We don’t doubt it. It’s a robust slice of Americana, deposited squarely in the UK like a shiny McDonald’s franchise.
Indeed, the first branch of Maccy Ds in Blighty arrived in 1974, just as the Golf was arriving in US dealerships. Which sort of brings us full circle. Mikey hasn’t just bought a VW and dumped it on air-ride, he’s tapped into a rich cultural transatlantic crossover. This car shakes Europe’s collective hand with North America’s. And it looks pretty damn good doing it too.
TECH SPEC: VW JETTA
Smoothed front end with numberplate recess delete; custom paint.
2.0-litre TDI (140bhp); DSG transmission.
8.5x18in (front) and 9.5x18in (rear) OZ Futura split- rims; 205/40 tyres; Air Lift Performance front shocks with camber top mounts; Air Lift Performance rear bags and shocks; AccuAir e-Level management; rear adjustable camber arms; Mk7 Golf GTI front brakes; Brembo discs and pads all round.
Pioneer CarPlay headunit; Audison audio upgrade with 10in sub visible through armrest; AccuAir controller mounted in ashtray and trimmed
in Alcantara; hardline boot install with 2x Viair 444c compressors.
I would like to thank everyone involved in the build for making it happen – all the lads at Plush Automotive; Joe for being a second opinion on making decisions, and not missing a show with me! He even helps clean it from time to time. And everyone else I’ve met along the journey!
Words Dan Bevis Photos Daniel Pullen