Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

Some people search high and low for their next project cars, while others, like Daniel Herrera, manage to find them far closer to home.

Words: Bryan McCarthy

Photos: Zak DePiero


There are finite ways an enthusiast can come into possession of their next project. Barn finds, hand-medowns and the little old ladies nursing their garage-kept Polos are all fit for punching your next project car ticket. But sometimes it’s the cars right under your nose that work best.

Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

“I got this car from my good friend Jesse Seymour in April 2013,” 35-year-old Daniel Herrera tells us. “I had painted this car Alpine White for him and that’s how we met and became friends.” Daniel, a body shop owner from Bowie, Maryland, is no stranger to these pages, having painted a handful of previous feature cars including Joe Tavella’s 24v Mk1 and Tony Grimmel’s Mk2 Jetta Coupe Rallye.

One thing you’ll notice is the pop of colour that’s no longer reminiscent of snow. We’ll circle back to that. “Back then Jesse had his eyes on a different project and wanted me to do the bodywork and paint on his new car, a white MK1 GTI that found itself on. He knew I always loved his Mk2, but back then I couldn’t afford to buy it from him so that’s when he proposed a deal that I couldn’t refuse. We exchanged my bodywork and paint labour for the Mk2.”

Bartering, right! The oldest form of currency can oftentimes be the most cost effective way to make something yours. And a wallet filled with talent and time has just as much persuasion as a blank check, the combination that lead to Daniel acquiring the Mk2. This isn’t his first go on the Wolfsburg Express, mind you. Prior to relocating to Maryland, Daniel lived in Connecticut and had a group of friends that were all into VWs. His first wasa Mk4 GTI with the 24v VR6, a car that was a group effort to bring back from a fairly shoddy existence. But back to the Mk2…

Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

“This car was already a nice car to begin with,” Daniel tells us. “The engine bay was already semi-shaved and the interior was in really good shape.” The caveats? It was lacking an engine or wheels. “Between 2013 and 2017, I didn’t do too many mods other than install the 12v VR6 engine, put 15” gold BBS RMs with red BBS centre caps, painted some engine parts to make the engine bay clean and I kept the car always clean since this car meant a lot to me.”

“Some of the best memories of my life were made because of this car and the VW community,” Daniel reflects. “I drove this car everywhere when times were a lot simpler. One time I drove this car for 10 hours from Maryland to Helen, Georgia for the last year of SoWo with a bad headlight relay. Loaded with my bags, tools, spare tyre, and parts just in case something broke on the long trip. The car was super low and I got pulled over for driving with my fog lights and not headlights. But still managed to enjoy the weekend with friends that now I’m honoured to call family.”

It wasn’t until July 11, 2017 that the transformation to something grander began. “After painting many VWs and doing numerous engine bays for other cars that go to shows, I decided the car wasn’t up to my standards. and I could do a way better job that when I painted the car for Jesse many years ago so that’s when I made the decision and took the entire car apart.”

Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

Daniel wasn’t kidding when he said he took the entire car apart. His buddy Osmin Guerra was one of his pals to help get the shell prepped for primer. “This car was a bare shell. There’s was not one bolt [still] bolted to the car,” Daniel admits. “I also made a homemade rotisserie and painted the car underneath to match the exterior colour. After seeing how beautiful the paint and bodywork came out, I knew there was no going back. Everything on the car needed to be either new, restored or needed to look as good as the body of the car.”

If the exterior hue looks familiar, it’s because it is actually from the Toyota family. “My original plan was to keep the car white, but plans changed right before I mixed the paint for the car,” Daniel tells us. “Blair Peterman was the first person who sent me a picture of a Calvary Blue car. It was when Toyota had just came out with that colour and I loved it right away, so I decided to go with that colour.”

Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

The blue pairs nicely with the textured flares and big bumpers. And who could overlook those incredible 8x17” Abt A9s? The shaved rear emblem, exhaust cutout and all-red tails almost overpower the subtle custom wing made by his friend, Alistair Parker. “I think he made five or six of the wings, but has only seen them installed on three cars and don’t know where the other ones went.”

Up front, the single round grille is highlighted by crosshair lights, smoked bumper indicators, darkened VW badge and RD Plastics bumper air ducts.

Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

Peek behind the wheels and you’ll notice the bright red Wilwood calipers with Porsche markings. The Stuttgart branding reaches the door handles as well and carries through to both the engine bay and the interior. Which direction to go first…?

“I had a right-hand drive (RHD) swap I purchased many years ago siting in my garage taking space, so that was also the perfect time to fit and make it work with thehelp of David Palacios and Paul Galleron. This was a little challenging since I’ve never done one before, but was able to make everything work with help of these guys.”

It wasn’t just a simple swap and drop for the dash, however. The use of a Cayenne 3.2 engine cover necessitated some finagling to make it work. “To fit the Cayenne engine cover on a RHD car,” says Daniel, sharing industry secrets, “I had to cut a section of the cover. I did bodywork and paint so no one can tell it was cut and for everything else being super tight on the right side of the engine with the brake booster, Swoops was in charge to custom make the intake pipe and a custom made brake reservoir to fit perfect since there’s barely any room.”

Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

With a new 3.2-litre VR6 powering the car and it now sitting on Ksport coilovers, it was time to pass the project off to a name that’s familiar with readers of this mag. “I put the car in a trailer and took it to Fishkill, NY on March 2, 2020 to see Swoops for all the custom metal work in my engine bay. He also installedand ran soft brake lines on the car which came out awesome,” beams Daniel. Naturally, this wasn’t a simple drop and go as the alternator in Daniel’s truck gave up the ghost whilst doing so. “Paul and I had to get a new battery and alternator for the car and replaced them in a parking lot while it was snowing outside so we could make it back home that day.”

Once Swoops was done working his metal magic, the Mk2 was transferred to the care of another longtime supporter of the scene. Matt from Eurokraft was tapped to create an engine harness for the car, a feat he did with ease. All the polishing and chroming on the car, including the aforementioned rollers, was courtesy of Nick from NBP Finishing, another name in the game.

The puzzle was nearing completion. Before piecing it all back together, Daniel had Capital Gloss ceramic coat the car and again after it was fully assembled.

Right-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

“The full interior was done by Leather Medic in Rockville, Maryland,” Daniel shares with us. “Not one piece of the interior was leftuntouched. Everything has been reupholstered in two-tone chocolate brown and a light cream colour.” The overhauling included the Recaro seats, the dashboard, the steering wheel and shifter. The MOMO Prototype features a Porsche horn button and the BFI shift knob also has a custom emblem on it, tying the Stuttgart theme together. Underfoot you’ll find Cocomats keeping the carpets clean.

After five years, the car was ready to make its debut, which it did in Lebanon, New Jersey at Mk2 Mayday of all places. It would go on to take Best of Show, a testament to the talent and hard work that was put into the car. About the same time Daniel decided that after being a body and paint guy for 15 years, he would strike off on his own and started DHauto. This Mk2 isn’t a bad way to spotlight his talents, that’s for sure.

So is that it for the MK2? Is it time to cast it to the side and start over? Or maybe turn the page and begin a new chapter with the car?

“This car pretty much became part of me, part of my family,” Daniel says. “The memories made, the friendships I have made because of this car, it makes everything worth it. The late nights working with my friends on the car, all the sweat and tears and blood while building the car, all of the years spending money on it. That’s what makes this car so important for me. Knowing that this car makes me smile every time I drive it since the first time I drove it until today, I still feel the same joy and the same happiness.”

With that sentiment, it’s easy to see how this little GTI is a keeper.

DUB DETAILSRight-hand drive 3.2 swapped American-spec Volkswagen Golf Mk2 V6

  • ENGINE: 3.2-litre 24v swap with Porsche intake manifold and engine cover, Swoops fabricated intake pipe and brake reservoir, full shave engine bay, Eurokraft engine harness, Eurowise mini alternator kit and coolant over flow bottle, Dumpybunnydesign clutch, Fabless Manufacturing engine swap kit
  • CHASSIS: 8x17” Abt A9s wheels, Ksport coilovers, 4-piston Wilwood brakes, custom brake lines
  • EXTERIOR: DHauto custom rotisserie paint job in Toyota Calvary Blue, RD Plastics front bumper air duct, single round grille is highlighted by crosshair lights, smoked bumper indicators, darkened VW badge, Metalmuckler custom hatch spoiler
  • INTERIOR: RHD swap, front Recaros, full custom interior done in two-tone chocolate brown with light cream, custom Coco floor mats, MOMO Prototype steering wheel with Porsche horn push, BFI shift knob with custom emblem
  • SHOUT: Maria Montoya, Jesse Seymour, David Palacios, Paul Galleron, Blair Peterman, Joe Tavella, Steve Ouellette, Capital Gloss, NBP finishing, Swoopsbuilt, Eurokraft, Juan Relaxamigo, Dumpy Bunny Design, Zak DePiero
«Once Swoops was done working his metal magic, the Mk2 was transferred to the care of another longtime supporter of the scene — Matt from Eurokraft „
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