First of all, it has to be said, we love Instagram. The huge amount of people sharing their projects, car spotting, hashtag searches and, of course, the booth babes, make hours thumbing through images worthwhile.
During one of our extensive Instagram search sessions we wandered into the #mk3 #cabby arena and found this stunning VW Cabriolet. One look and we had to investigate further.
With a few comments and well placed "@" callouts we were able to locate the owner. Turns out, we were hot the heels of a freshly-finished nine-month project. The photos on Instagram were shot days ago and nobody else seemed to have seen or heard of the car.
Brian McCauley is the proud owner of this '96 Volkswagen Cabriolet. He bought it on craigslist for a scant $1800. But Brian is a devout tuner (he's a sales rep at the largest Audi dealership in Scottsdale, AZ) and knew he'd be modding the hell out of it in no time.
He sought the assistance of local AZ VW/Audi fans and was able to assemble a small team of aspiring gurus. Ben Unna and Jason Amiot of Parts Score in Tempe, AZ were the masterminds behind the build. Consulting with Brian they took inspiration from the 2011 Geneva Auto Show debut of the Audi R8 Spyder.
The guys at Parts Score then went above and beyond the call of duty to make this VW their calling card. Spending countless hours in junkyards and on internet forums to ensure Brian's Cabby received every detail on his wish list, and even some he didn't express.
From the rare factory aluminum firewall heat shield, to original Wolfsburg fenders and a black leather OEM tonneau cover, this VW boasts an incredible spec list.
Shortly after its tear down, Brian located a '98 GTI VR6 in Tucson with 280000 miles logged. Fortunately, the previous two owners were devout VW fans and mechanics who had kept the car in tip-top shape. So when the GTI was checked by the local dealership, they were impressed at how well it had been maintained all those years. So a deal was struck and the task of transplanting the motor into the Cabby was underway.
After discarding the stock 2.0L, the car was shipped to Josh Byland at Phoenix Collision & Custom Paint in Phoenix where nothing was spared to get the bodywork straight. The Jetta front bumper, engine bay, hood and tailgate were shaved to allow the Audi Ipanema metallic paint (the same color featured on the R8 Spyder in Geneva) to shine through. Bear in mind, this was a $6000 optional color in the Audi catalog!
Inside, the R8 theme continued with the donor GTI VR6 reupholstered diamond-stitched white seats and boots, while the dash, door cards, carpet and trim remained black.
If it sounds like a simple swap, you'd be wrong, details like speaker grilles, door sills, handles, and locks were rescued from either the junkyard or VW's shelves. The crew at Unique Upholstery in Scottsdale ensured everything was finished better than OEM.
With all the work and labor poured into Brian's Cabby, it's no wonder he took the Best Wheels award at this year's Oktoberfest show in Big Bear Lake, CA. He sealed the deal with the color-matched 16x9"Gotti wheels, lovingly restored by Memory Fab. This justified all the hard work put in by Brian himself as well as the guys at Parts Score, Unique Upholstery and everybody else who helped along the way.
1996 VW Cabriolet
2.8L VR6 12v with custom intake, 2.9L clone intake manifold, 2.25" custom exhaust
five-speed manual transmission
AccuAir e-level with AirLift bags, Twin Viair 400cc compressors, 5-gallon color-matched tank, tucked air lines, GTI VR6 front and rear subframes
'98 GTI front brakes and rear disc conversion, ABS removed
Wheels & Tires
16x9" Gotti wheels, color-matched centers, 15mm f, 25mm r adapters, 205/40 R16 Falken Ziex ZE912 tires
Black Forest Industries Mk3 Jetta bumpers, smoked Jetta E-code headlights, Euro smoked fogs, JOM badgeless grille, smoothed Mk3 Jetta hood, rolled and shaved '96 Jetta Wolfsburg front fenders and antenna, Optikwerks side skirts, shaved trunk, relocated battery, Audi exclusive ipanema brown paint
'96 GTI seats, dash, center console, door panels, black canvas hood, black leather tonneau cover
Parts Score (partsscore.com), Unique Upholstery (uniqueaz.com), Phoenix Collision & Custom Body Shop (phoenixccp.com)