The Hot Hatch

I have a confession to make. I stumbled onto The Humble Mechanic on Youtube when I clicked on a video where he tore down a Volkswagen W12 engine. I had heard about that, and I had owned a 2000 Jetta with the VR6 motor so I knew that VW had some mojo for exotic engine design.

And it was addicting. Watching him to disassemble it, show the cool bits, and the strengths/weaknesses was intoxicating. Since then I have watched a ton of his videos, especially as he rebuilds a well abused VW R32. Teardown, finding bad things, fixing them. All good gear head stuff.

This kindled something that has been rattling around my head for a long time. I grew up working on my motorcycles and cars, becoming a fair backyard mechanic, unafraid to roll up my sleeves, pick up the Clymers or official shop manual, and just tear into it to fix, or upgrade.

My first brush with what is a hot hatch was when an old friend had a brand new VW Corrado, a sporty hatchback that replaced the Sirocco, and damn, was that a fun car to drive. A great balance of power (a 1.8l inline 4 with a small belt-driven supercharger) and aggressive suspension setup that delivered a lively, fun, yet safe drive.

That was the spark. I went on to buy a couple of Jettas, one a 1992 bare bones basic version that was not fast, or quick, but a solid car, with a modest 1.8l motor, and a 5 speed manual. In 2000 I sold some stock and bought a brand new Jetta with the VR6 motor, and a 5 speed manual. That was a fun car, fast (enough) very lively, and it would give a high end BMW 3 series fits for about a third less money.

Then I bought an Xbox360, and Forza motorsports game, and one of the classes was, you guessed it, the “Hot Hatch”, a class of consumer based hatchback cars. Tracing its roots back to the old formula Rabbit races, populated by the venerable VW Rabbit, not only was it a hoot to play (race), but it allowed me to buy and build that old Corrado into a race car, albeit virtually.

This is a long winded way to get to the start of this thread. As I dove more into The Humble Mechanic’s Youtube archive, I saw more and more of the hot hatch. From his “White Wookie” – a late 90’s vintage GTI with a VR6 motor, to his two R32s, and his 2017 Golf R, and it kindled a desire to get a hot hatch (note to the wife: this is just a dream, like my dreams of the motorcycles of my youth that I never bought, it will remain a dream).

Suddenly I am poking around Craigslist and Ebay Motors looking for oughts and later sporty Golfs, GTI’s R’s, and even some older R32’s. There is the 2009 GTI (2.0 TSI motor) in Milpitas for $1900 with a motor that probably had its timing chain tensioner go (no compression – likely slipped timing chain, and bent valves), or a 2005ish vintage R32 for 9 grand. Runs, but needs some work. Or mid 2010s GTIs that are in the mid teens in thousands, but too many of them are automatics.

It is a dream, but it keeps me going to consider, and peruse. No, I do not need another car, I barely put any miles on the one I have, and I really don’t need more insurance costs.

If you have any gearhead tendencies, I highly recommend The Humble Mechanic, and his Youtube channel.

Product Manager in Tech. Guitar player. Bicycle Rider. Dog rescuer. Techie.