Project VW Rabbit GTI: We Need A Partner, So Enter Techtonics Tuning

Once we surveyed our Callaway-turbocharged 1984 VW Rabbit GTI a bit, we realized we were going to need more parts and tech support than we initially thought. While the body and interior were both solid as could be, we still faced plenty of deferred maintenance plus some mechanical repairs. Plus, getting an early injected VW back on the road would take some fuel injection expertise.

Thankfully, one of our long-term partners, Techtonics Tuning, had both the parts and technical expertise we were seeking. We called Collin Gyenes at Techtonics Tuning for help and replied that he loves these early GTIs and would have no problem helping us get this one back on the road. 

We have known the Techtonics Tuning name for decades but didn’t realize just how far back they go until we read the company history found online. It’s a good read: 

Our History…
TECHTONICS Tuning opened its doors in 1981. However, our involvement in VW tuning goes back many years. TECHTONICS founder, Darrell Vittone, became a VW enthusiast at the tender age of 10 when his father, Joe Vittone, brought a shiny new Beetle home in 1954. Not only did he buy the car, he also obtained a VW & Porsche franchise and started Economotors in Riverside, California.

Two years later the legendary VW accessory and tuning firm EMPI was formed by Joe. EMPI developed & produced arguably the best parts & accessories ever made for the air-cooled VW's. Today the parts are collector items with some selling at 30 times the original prices. Even the catalogs and literature are worth an amazing amount of money.

Darrell's first duty at EMPI was packaging "Okrasa" kits. Okrasa was the name used by Herr Oettinger for his special cylinder heads and dual carb kits for the 36 hp VW air cooled engine. 

By 1963 Darrell was competing at the local drag strips with his '56 bug. He found out quickly that just bolting on a bunch of speed equipment doesn't always give the best results. However, EMPI had just bought something that eliminated the guesswork. This device was an engine dynamometer.

This started Darrell's love affair with dyno testing. Darrell used to remove the engine to run dyno tests on the weekend and reinstall it for getting back and forth to work during the week. This went on for months at a time. Eventually the car was modified to the point it was no longer streetable and later became world famous as the EMPI "Inch Pincher" drag sedan. 

In 1971 EMPI was sold to a large conglomerate and Darrell left to head up a small tuning firm called The Raceshop. The Raceshop set new standards in VW performance. Darrell built a Fiat 850 Spider with a VW engine that was light years ahead of the competition. The car eventually ran over 130 MPH in 10.3 seconds for the quarter mile and this was well over 30 years ago! 

This kind of performance would not have been possible without the help of another device in addition to the dynamometer. That device was an air flow bench. Thirty years ago, you had to build your own and even then, they were expensive. The cylinder heads developed and produced at The Raceshop are still sought after and are worth more than they originally cost new.

Darrell built his first water-cooled VW engine in 1978. Using an Oettinger 90.5mm crankshaft, the standard 1457cc engines displacement was increased to 1797cc. The engine was in a '78 Scirocco running a standard exhaust system and catalytic converter. A trip to the drag strip showed 81 MPH in 16.7 seconds.

Three years later Darrell opened TECHTONICS TUNING and started building engines & special project cars. Money earned was poured back into the business in order to buy the machinery needed to develop and build the finest & fastest VW water-cooled engines in the country. By 1982 Darrell built a street driven turbocharged Scirocco that ran 13.7 @ 103 MPH. Although the turbo was fun, it was a nightmare to work on and it seemed to always need work!

The year 1982 was also noteworthy because Collin Gyenes came aboard as TECHTONICS' first full-time employee. He became a VW enthusiast right away and soon bought a second-hand Jetta I (which had over 490,000 miles on the clock before it was retired). 

Collin already knew the basics of automotive tuning from previous jobs but hadn't had the opportunity to work with an experienced tuner like Darrell or the chance to use an engine dyno for testing. Collin was a fast learner and soon had his own engine on TT's dyno. Collin's Jetta set a new standard of performance by running in the 14 second bracket at over 94 mph. Collin's Jetta was often used as TT's demo and was instrumental in selling many engines and parts.

TT built many exotic Oettinger 16V's including one with 48mm carbs and a one-off turbo version. The performance was great, but the cost was too high for most people.

In 1986 TT worked with the Pizzo brothers on a turbo race motor that made almost 500 hp. In 1988 the Pizzo brothers set the water-cooled VW ¼-mile record that stood for over a decade.

In July 1990 Randy Roth came aboard with his good organizational talents, as well as, welding and fabricating skills. In 1991 Darrell, Collin, and Randy moved TECHTONICS from Southern California to Sheridan, Oregon, 1000 miles to the north.

They now have 10 employees; David Baxter (5/97), Matt Fischer (6/99), Jeff Ashlock (1/00), Joey Felix (3/02), Josh Arnold (7/03), Jon Brenna (9/04), Dustin Bean and Hilario Cruz (5/05).

In 1994 Collin started racing his drag Rabbit that could run high 12s all day long. People looked in the engine compartment in Collin's Rabbit and were amazed to see a stock appearing engine with standard CIS injection. Collin used brains and skill to obtain results that many people can't get with crutches like turbos and nitrous. The car has since been sold to an ice racer who is dominating his class.

We're always learning about the VW, our customers and ourselves. We're a small company with a big reputation, and we want to keep on earning the respect and loyalty that our customers have been kind enough to give us. We thank you.

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