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Monday, June 27, 2011

Diesel and gasoline mix just fine.

The debate over the diesel vs. gasoline Smyth G3F is starting to get underway if my inbox is any indication of the next few months of conversation.  As the first 1.8T car goes under the knife in July we will have the opportunity to watch Clint's gasoline Smyth car and John's diesel G3F being built at the same time.  My driving impressions so far have reminded me how important this 800 pound steel cut diet is making to the performance of the car.   I am still sold on the seat of the pants feeling of the TDI of course, but the 250hp gasoline crowd is coming on strong.

For those of you who don't know VW's like us fervent followers of the brand, both the 1.9 liter turbo TDI and the 1.8 liter turbo gas engine found in the mark 4 jetta/golf respond incredibly well to computer chipping upgrades.  The electronically controlled turbos in both engines are transformed by nozzles and a chip to the tune of about 30 or 40 horsepower added.  In the 1.8T or the TDI the difference in performance will blow you away for a few hundred bucks.  In the TDI the 130 horsepower and huge 220 plus lb feet of torque let you peel rubber for a block if you wish...who knew that the lowly 90 hp stock diesel could be slapped into shape so easily.  Chipped 1.8T's are equally if not more impressive as they routinely get 205-210 horse at the wheels with nothing but a chip...remember these are at the wheel horsepower numbers...a mustang 5.0 from the late 80's was running silmilar v-8 level power for comparison. Talk about cheap performance.

When I enter an exit ramp in the stock 90hp TDI without the chip and injector upgrade I am driving an econo-dog...nothing really fun.  The car feels like it handles great of course since all cars with no power feel like they handle.  Put the chip in and the car blasts out of the apex at 1600 rpm with almost full torque available.  It is this low end grunt that I am now officially addicted to.  As fun as the turbo gasser will be for many G3F customers it is the unique feel of that diesel pull that has me in a trance.  I have said it before but it bears repeating, in the rpm range that you use 90% of the time the diesel feels faster and pulls harder.  I can't keep up with a full howl 1.8T once it gets going...that 210 hp is too much and pulls away, but around town and on the ramps of life I play racer all day long at 2500 rpm.

The rear drive configuration of the Smyth car is proving very kind to the diesel version of the car as well.  With the weight now transferring to the rear wheels when you launch, the diesel torque does not have to be wasted in wheel digs in and goes.  I am balancing the fun of the firm shocks and springs vs the ride of the factory struts and the firmer car is just superior when matched with a tuned engine.  The lower weight of the 1.8T unit is the wild card here as it will be almost perfectly balanced with a savings of 100 lbs in the rear...we will see fairly soon as Kim is considering a 1.8T G3F for her ride this summer that I build next.  When you combine the agility of the lower weight car with the traction of the rear drive layout either version is a joy to toss around.   So the question remains for all you potential builders...rubber band acceleration of the 1.8T or instant stump pulling speed from low rpm in the TDI.  Decisions, decisions...and if I can keep the price under nine grand like it appears we can...even more fun for everyone.

Mark Smith

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