EDMONTON, March 1 /CNW/ - Volkswagen Canada presented the Thunder Bunny
Concept as a Canadian premiere at the 2007 Edmonton Auto Show, today.
The story began back in the early '80s, with a man named Bill Neumann.
Bill founded the California based tuning firm Automotive Performance Systems
(APS). He was frustrated with the fact that Volkswagen's hot hatchback GTI had
been sold in Germany since 1976, but hadn't yet come to our shores. Bill had
driven the GTI in Europe on several of his parts-searching trips, and he was
convinced it would be a big hit here as well. So he sent letters to the
factory. He wrote to enthusiast magazines and lobbied Volkswagen dealers for
support. Then, he put together the proof that a Rabbit-based performance car
was capable of generating both stunning performance numbers and lots of
attention from the American automotive press corp.
Thus was born the original Thunder Bunny.
The APS-modified Rabbit was delivered to Motor Trend magazine late in
1981. Even though its staff was used to driving the best cars in the world,
they were blown away by the little Volkswagen hatchback. As it was written in
the March 1982 issue: "The little white wonder packs its own kind of
lightning-quick rabbit punch - one that's guaranteed to kayo unsuspecting
boulevard bullies." And when Road & Track magazine got its hands on the car,
it reported a zero to 60-mph run in the low seven-second range and slalom
times that at the time had been bettered only by the Ferrari 512 Boxer,
Lamborghini Countach and Renault R5 Turbo. Exalted company, indeed.
Bill's frustration ceased in the fall of 1982 when the GTI finally came
to America, but by then Thunder Bunny had done its job. It put Neuspeed, the
APS-trademarked line of parts and accessories, on the map. It also helped
launch a vital North American community of specialists in water-cooled
Volkswagen performance. Modifying Volkswagens, of course, was not new in
America - the Beetle had spawned a huge following of enthusiasts - but the new
generation of Volkswagen cars hadn't sparked much interest in the go-fast
crowd before the early '80s.
Neuspeed continues to be a leading force among the world's Volkswagen
tuners, and it has never stopped building special projects. The latest is also
called Thunder Bunny, and it was built in commemoration of Neuspeed's quantum
leap forward all those years ago with the original rabid Rabbit. Designed in
collaboration with Derek Jenkins, Chief Designer at the Volkswagen Design
Center California located in Santa Monica, the new Thunder Bunny is an
updated, thoroughly modern version of the original, and it debuts alongside
the Concept R GTI on the Volkswagen stand at the 2006 SEMA Show.
Today's Thunder Bunny is a blend of subtle design massaging and tuning
technology, built to show how a comfortable daily driver can also provide an
exciting motoring experience. Creating the thunderous noise from under the
hood is a newly developed turbocharger system, designed by Neuspeed especially
for Volkswagen's 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. The high quality installation
includes a modified intake manifold, Garrett ball-bearing turbocharger and
air-to-air intercooler. A stainless exhaust and specially-baffled aluminium
oil pan were also sourced from APS for optimum flow and cooling. Boost is
restricted to a maximum of seven lbs. in this Stage 1 kit, but it still
produces 225 horsepower, 75 more than the stock 2.5 L, and a hefty dose of
low-end torque. A performance clutch and Quaife differential were added to the
powertrain for durability and a more efficient delivery of power to the front
Thunder Bunny's gleaming candy white exterior is made distinctive by
several design studio touches. The concept's body kit includes a larger
central grille and a more muscular rear valance framing a twin R32-style
exhaust from Neuspeed. Like the R GTI, Thunder Bunny's paint was overlaid with
graphics Jenkins calls "topographical" in pearl silver. They were meant to
evoke the contours of the car's geography or waves of air that flow over the
surfaces. However they are interpreted, the pearl silver graphics make a
unique visual statement as they appear to blink on and off in the changing
angles of the sun.
Like the original Thunder Bunny, the forged alloy "street" wheels are
painted gold. In 19x8-inch sizing, they're wrapped with Michelin Pilot Sport
Cup 235/35-19 tires. Similar sized multi-spoke forged alloys were sourced from
Neuspeed's RS line of wheels for track use. Both sets are lightweight, in
keeping with the core GTI quality of nimble handling. The front brakes are
328mm two-piece floating cross-drilled discs from Brembo, gripped by
bunny-bedecked Brembo four-piston brake calipers. That's right, bunnies: a
veritable warren of Thunder Bunny logos dash to and from across the surface of
the white-painted caliper. At the rear, 310mm disc brakes are fitted.
Handling prowess comes from a suspension fitted with a Bilstein coil-over
shock system and APS/Neuspeed sways bars, measuring 25mm front and rear. The
suspension system is adjustable for both ride height and for shock stiffness,
giving the new Thunder Bunny a dual character, suitable for the street or the
track. A Neuspeed short-shift kit and custom spherical aluminium shift knob,
created in the design studio, put the driver in closer touch with the manual
transmission. A stock GTI steering wheel was recovered in alcantara to go
along with the upgraded upholstery and trim.
Stock GTI seats were recovered in black and white checkered tweed that
echoes styling trends from the early '80s, and the striking fabric is
elegantly framed by surrounding black leather with white stitching. The color
scheme is perfectly complemented by the white carbon-fibre interior trim
provided by OSIR, experts in hand-laid composites and also major contributors
to the design studio's Concept R GTI.
All those years ago, Bill Neumann asked a simple question. Volkswagen
responded with the GTI, while Neuspeed became a leader in Volkswagen tuner
circles... why a new Thunder Bunny? Think of it as a beautifully crafted
response to another question, "What happens when you give a modern Rabbit to
one of the original water-cooled Volkswagen tuners?"
Founded in 1952, Volkswagen Canada, Inc. is headquartered in Ajax,
Ontario. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg,
Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars
and Europe's largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the City Golf, City Jetta,
Rabbit, GTI, New Beetle, Jetta, Passat, Eos, and Touareg through more than 130
independent Canadian dealers.
For further information:
For further information: Patrick Saint-Pierre, (905) 428-5858,