The Fast and the Furious films have moved far beyond their humble street racing origins over the past two decades. Regardless, there’s still a huge amount of love for the cars of the original film, which distilled the essence of the turn-of-the-century tuner scene. While the actual movie cars are high-dollar collector’s items, there’s plenty of fun to be had in building your own replica.
The gang at Deutsche Auto Parts did just that, putting together their very own tribute version of Jesse’s Volkswagen Jetta. However, where the movie car had just 115 horsepower and an automatic transmission, the team’s build is intended to be an altogether more potent performer by virtue of a modern engine swap. The build is covered in a great five-part series on YouTube, or you can watch the condensed version in just thirty minutes.
The project started with a tired Mk 3 Jetta, scored for $1000 with a fairly straight body and minimal rust. A badly damaged Mk 7 GTI was sourced as a donor, offering up its engine and DSG transmission to give the build some real performance potential.
The first challenge to be surmounted was getting the new engine into the car. Plenty of fab work was involved to create custom mounts that would make everything fit, along with all the pipework to make the exhaust work in the Jetta chassis. The electronics also presented plenty of hurdles, as the Mk 7 ECUs were initially reluctant to play ball. The entire loom was stripped from the car to debug issues and figure out how to make the engine run without all the unnecessary accessory and HVAC modules.
Once the engine swap was completed, the car was then stripped to prepare for a respray. The body was sanded, filled, and then given a fresh coat of resplendent white paint. The interior was also thoroughly refreshed, with a new headliner and sound deadening. The interior plastics were cleaned up, with many painted black for a fresher look. The interior work was completed with a set of racing seats and a Sparco steering wheel. Other nice aesthetic touches include the neon underglow, big screen stereo, and the “2SOON JR” license plates.
Other work included equipping the car with coilovers for the appropriate stance and a set of Fifteen52 wheels. The car’s sticker pack is not a direct dupe of the movie car, with different sponsor decals used. Regardless, the graphics are a suitable tribute to the layout seen on Jesse’s Jetta in the movie.
The team was even able to put Chad Lindberg, the actor who played Jesse, behind the wheel of their build. Lindberg ran the car in a 2-step contest at Import Face-Off, where drivers competed to make the most obnoxious exhaust pops and bangs. The Jetta wasn’t able to beat its competitor, lacking a 2-step feature in the ECU, but nonetheless looked great trying.
Fundamentally, the car is an excellent tribute to the Jetta featured in the film that kicked off the whole Fast saga. It’s also likely a cut above the vehicle that was actually used in the film in terms of performance. All it needs now is a ridiculous nitrous kit and phantom brake calipers, and it’ll be perfect.
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