All Green Everything. So many times these three words were repeated in a variety of group chats and throughout social media, but what the masses don’t necessarily know, is that Kellen Harris’ love for green VWs started long before the Mk3 Surf Green GTI you see here. Many moons ago, while Kellen and I were both attending university in Eastern Washington, we both had Mk3s, but neither were green. It wasn’t until Kellen graduated to a B5.5 Passat Wagon (that eventually became mine, was wrapped matte black, and dubbed the Battlewagen as it towed the MTM booth around the eastern seaboard) that the color green entered his VW life—albeit Fresco Green, none of that Surf variety.
Kellen and I spent many hours together in that Passat, venturing from Eastern Washington to the westside for various events and snowboarding, and it was riding along in that car that led to my acquiring of it. At heart, though, Kellen always yearned for a Mk3 again, and while he daily drove a new (at the time) Mk6 GTI, he began the search for a particular car. A mk3 GTI VR6, one of the cornerstones of the watercooled VW timeline. “Something like Mulberry, Jazz Blue, Ginster, Silver Arrow, it had to be somewhat of a rare color,” Kellen remembers. Of course, those are the standard options, as chosen for the USA back in the 90s.
“After a couple months of searching, I found a 75k mile VR6 Surf Green GTI down in the bay area,” Kellen says, “I wanted the car checked out before I bought it so I called Tomas Sport Tuning to see if they would do a pre-purchase inspection for me.” Tomas Sport Tuning, one of the west coast’s best-known tuning firms and conveniently based in the bay area, knew the car very well, having previously worked on it from time to time. “The car was in relatively good shape, the body was straight, but there were a lot of modifications that weren’t to my taste,” admits Kellen. “My vision was simple, build the GTI to resemble the cars I used to love when I first got into VWs—big front lips, hatch spoilers, the whole nine yards.” A set of fifteen52 Tarmacs were the first step, color-matched to Surf Green, and harmonizing perfectly with the In.Pro/Lucid green taillights.
Before long, to the approval of some and dismay of others, the green GTI was under the knife again, but this time literally getting cut up. “90s styling is an acquired taste, so I figured most people wouldn’t understand,” Kellen claims, “but the color helps. Car people, non-car people, everyone seems to enjoy Surf Green.” And when you toss in a set of Corrado arches blended perfectly to the body, accompanied by extended rockers, a Mk2 rear tub and metal plinth, and nearly every Abt part in the book, it’s tough to deny the GTI’s 90s-ness. In fact, of those presently built, or even in the last decade, I think Carl Taylor’s (also green) GTI was one of the most period-correct builds out there.
Nick Storm, another of our PNW pals and widely-known metal master, is the man behind the Surf Green makeover. Kellen’s internetting skills copped most of the 90s parts while preparing for the build, some even collecting before he found the car, and it was Storm’s undertaking to make them all fit. After being under the knife for a couple years, to most Kellen’s car was completely forgotten. The occasional post or reference would come about, citing the first generation of the build that I shot back in 2013, but nobody knew what happened to the car.
“I was actually able to keep the widebody, air suspension and supercharger part of the build under wraps,” confessed Kellen, “no Instagram, Facebook or VWVortex updates for over a year.” And this, ladies and gents, is my favorite part of Kellen’s GTI—well, except the Surf Green. It’s so difficult in this current state of the car community to keep something secret like this. Everyone somehow remembers and is aware of everything, provided that it happened in the past 48-72 hours, so letting a car as unique as this fall off of the radar is quite surprising. But having it come back in the glory that it now has is nothing short of amazing.
At the root of it all, and so well demonstrated by the photo above, are the people. Joey, Kellen and Travy, some of my best pals from the PNW, joined me for Kellen’s photoshoot in Seattle last year. Despite being split on opposite coasts, we manage to join up once or twice every year and there’s nothing more exciting or that brings back the memories of the good ole days than doing a photoshoot!