The Stance Movement has become quite a big thing in recent years. For those unfamiliar with the trend it is sort of like a neo-lowrider thing. People have been taking cars of all sorts and dropping them down as low as they can go, all in the name of “Stance”. Nowhere is this fad bigger than in the Volkswagen crowd, as can be seen at a host of water themed events that take place all over the country. My friend Justin spent months scouring the forums to find a slammed VW of his own, and he finally found the clean ’98 GTI you see here. He was nice enough to let me take it out recently so I could see what a slammed car is all about from the driver seat. What followed was a very interesting experience.
I will tell you up front that this is not my own particular niche of automobilia, so I came into this experience as an outsider. I have always appreciated the image of slammed cars, but would probably never have one for myself because of the practical concerns. I have driven other low cars before, but this GTI was the first properly slammed car I have experienced from behind the wheel. What I wound up realizing was that this is an entirely different approach to modifying a car, one based on image and camaraderie over speed. It is through that perspective, a different viewpoint than I normally use, that I must judge this car.
These cars are all about the image they present. Whether you have “hella flush” fitment, or wheels poking out well past the fender, a slammed car’s visual appeal is one of its most important aspects. Keep in mind that people who own these sorts of things take pride in having to inconvenience themselves to accommodate their cars. Most of them have to plan specific routes to get places, ways that have the fewest obstacles, and they all love nothing more than when a clueless person asks “why would you wanna do that?” The image grants a sense of belonging to the slammed subculture. A club, if you will, that members are all too proud to be a part of. Once again, all very similar to the lowrider culture on the West Coast.
Justin’s GTI is as low as it can go on coilovers without major modifications to the underside of the car. He has it sitting on some white C4 Corvette wheels with just a little bit of poke off the side. Also, the paint job is original, and remains immaculate even after nearly 15 years. He spent a good amount of time cleaning it up before we went out, but it was well worth it as I think it looks nothing short of pristine in these pictures. There are various stickers around the car depicting some of the internet hubs for the stance movement (Canibeat and Stance Works), and the all important dream catcher, hanging from the mirror, which brings good luck on the road. In many ways this GTI is a sort of poster child for what makes a proper slammed Volkswagen.
One thing I found during my drive was that the car really does have some appeal. This GTI is one of those cars that you just can’t help but look back at after you get out of it. There is a cool factor about this car that makes you proud to think, “yea, I came here in that”.
I think it is important to note that the different approach of a car like this makes different features more desirable than in a car meant for speed. In a fast car you want all the controls to be razor sharp, the handling to be composed, and the whole thing must be designed to keep a fast pace. A slammed car is entirely different, much more about sitting back and just cruising along. That changes the game up a bit for scrutiny.
The cabin of this GTI remains pretty much standard for a Mk3 Golf. The quality was quite good, and this must have been a top range model because it had full leather trim, which I’m happy to report was still in great shape. The seats were quite comfortable and well cushioned, not hard and grippy like the modern GTI. I was really able to sink into my seat, and it was perfect for the type of slow cruising that slammed cars do.
As far as the controls go the steering was very light and easy to operate, no road feel to speak of, but ease of use is what is important here. The gear lever had a light, long throw, but was precise enough that I always knew what gear I was going to; again great for easy driving. The clutch was actually quite good, even by sporting standards. It was on the soft side of nicely sprung, but managed to offer great feel on engagement. If this car weren’t slammed I actually think I would have criticized the controls for being too soft and numb, but they actually fit the character of the car in slammed form perfectly.
Practically the GTI is still a Golf. That means room for four people comfortably, and a nice amount of room in the trunk. I loved the open feeling in the cabin of this Mk3, the windows mere large so I had great visibility all around. The window sills were also far lower than in most modern cars, which made it perfect for hanging my arm out the window as we cruised along. Between the big open windows and the sunroof, this GTI gives you as much wind in your hair as is possible with a fixed roof, and that’s a great thing.
Like anything else that is able to divide people’s opinions, stanced cars have some very tangible drawbacks that come with their appealing side. Since most people tend to want the bad news first when given the option, I will go through some of the harsher realities of having a slammed car first.
When most people think of a car like a Lamborghini, they think of the speed, the style, and the glamour. They don’t, however, think about the constant stress of looking for potholes, dead animals, and uneven pavement in the road, capable of causing thousands in damage, which consists of about 90% of the time you spend in such a car. Very similar is the reality of driving a slammed car on real roads, except with lower repair bills for damage incurred.
During my few hours driving Justin’s car the tires were constantly rubbing against the frame of the car, onset by just the most minor disturbance in the road. He told me that having the weight of two people was causing it to rub a lot more than usual. He even said that he couldn’t move the car at all when he had four people in it over the summer. So yes, in a slammed car like this you have to be extra mindful of the amount of weight you are carrying. If you are weighed down then expect to see large chunks of tire building up on your fenders.
There was also a point where we were driving up a hill at around 40mph, and we smacked the oil pan on what looked like a pretty minor dip in the road. We got out and made sure everything was okay, and it was, but this is one thing any driver in a slammed car must be constantly aware of. The VR6 in this car is known for having a fairly low hanging oil pan, but even so a dry-sump conversion may not be a bad idea for any car like this if possible.
With all the scraping and the tire rubbing, you eventually learn to look for what will disturb the car and go around it. What most people think of as a normal, even well paved, road becomes an obstacle course in a slammed car. This is both entertaining and stressful at the same time. It is good because it makes the driver pay attention, but bad because even a small mistake could take off your oil pan, relieving your engine of its essential lifeblood.
All of this adds up to what I would call frantically mellow cruising; the speeds are slow, but the stakes are high. The ride is insanely firm, but on the bright side there is no body roll. I found myself basically sticking to the speed limit, or even a little below it, and keeping on the lookout for obstacles ahead, dodging where necessary. I was able to relax compared to my normal, high paced driving, but I also had to concentrate to a far greater degree on the road ahead. When you’re this low you must go slow.
If you do decide to try and go fast through corners in a car like this, stop yourself. From a performance perspective the handling is ruined. Sure you have lowered the center of gravity, but there is also no suspension travel whatsoever. This means that even if the pavement is totally smooth the wheels will hit the frame and unsettle the car of you throw it hard into a corner. The moral of the story is that you need to decide how you want to drive before you spend money modifying a car.
Regardless of what metaphorical object you think this car is, the VR6 engine adds whipped cream and a cherry on top of it. These motors are widely known for their great howling sound, and Justin’s car had an intake and straightpipes to boot. The aural experience that the motor added was a huge plus for me because it was one dynamic aspect that could still be enjoyed.
The gearing in the 5 speed manual was also fairly tall. This makes it easy to drive slow because you aren’t always having to shift, but also allows make the most of its power when you get on the gas. With the modifications, Justin’s car is making in the neighborhood of 180-190hp, and I can vouch that it gets up to speed pretty quick. As long as the pavement is pretty smooth this car will have no trouble merging or passing, and you get to listen to the engine wail as you do it.
I think for me, the VR6 adds some much needed dynamic value to the way this car drives. With the handling shot, there is still the engine to be enjoyed. Tunnels can easily be exploited, and an eargasm is always just a downshift away. The fact that the power is decent too is just an added bonus. Its not a huge amount, like what you can get from a tuned 1.8T in a Mk4 GTI, but it is the right amount to play with in a car that isn’t meant to be driven fast.
It takes positive and negative aspects to make anything worthwhile, otherwise it would be entirely unremarkable. This GTI is certainly a love-hate sort of thing, as are most slammed cars. What I found from driving this Mk3 Golf was that it lent itself well to being slammed. Many of its aspects from the driver seat actually work better in slammed form than in sport (stock) form. For me cars like this are sort of a case by case basis. I hate seeing real performance cars (like Evos and STIs) ruined, but for more average cars it tends to be okay. This GTI definitely worked great, and it was much more interesting to experience in slammed form.
Having had some hands on experience I definitely feel that I have more appreciation for the Stance Movement now. It takes an entirely different approach toward customizing cars than I do, but it is an approach I can respect. At the end of the day everyone talks about how a car makes them “feel”, and in that regard this GTI was phenomenal. I’m not sure what people on the internet stance forums would think about Justin’s car in comparison to others, but for me it was definitely something special. It has some lunacy to it, similar to a Lamborghini, that makes most people go “huh?”. But in the end the flaws are all endearing for the owner, and they serve to compliment all of the car’s great qualities. People who love this stuff love everything about it, the good and the bad, and I can totally identify with that as a car guy.
I really enjoyed driving Justin’s GTI because it both broadened my horizons as a car guy, and was something unique unto itself. In many ways I can see it as the quintessential slammed V-Dub, and what better place is there to get my first real taste of the scene than that?
WoM Score: Slammed VW GTI VR6
Primary Function: Unique: 2
Secondary Functions: Performance (1), Luxury(2), Practicality(1): 1.5……great engine, nice interior, lots of room, too low to get over bumps in the road
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 9.5/10