Posted on Leave a comment

Playing with Fire: Mike Pauciullo’s Mk4 Monster!

If you race a Golf, you should be familiar with Mike Pauciullo’s evil 8-second ATP VW Mk4. We caught up with him right after World Finals ’18.

By Joel Batty Silva

Lying underneath the high-revving blanket of Hondas in the United States are a small group of friends that are flying the Volkswagen banner sky-high. One of them is Long Island resident Mike Pauciullo who is famous for becoming the first Mk4 to run an 8-second quarter mile almost two years ago. Famous for that eye-watering engine break, Mike discusses his previous engine setups, the 20-valve motor and how hard it is to compete against the more powerful Japanese hatches.

Where did your interest in Volkswagen start? Volkswagen was my first car, and as I got older, I modified it more and more. And it was during this time where I met a group of guys who shared the same passion as I had, and we’ve become really good friends and now we race together.

Tell us about some of your earlier engine setups? I bought the car new in 2003. In 2006 I purchased an ATP GT28RS turbo kit, which was a very basic kit that made 280-300hp. Obviously this wasn’t enough. I then fitted forged rods and pistons, had someone build me a tubular manifold with a GT37R (which was a 67mm ball bearing) and with this setup, I found some weak points and learnt a few things from the locals and the surrounding tuning shops which taught me tons of stuff. I then bought the first Precision 6765 turbo, the one that featured Precision’s original billet wheel, and that’s when things really progressed.

As did the times and speeds? For sure. I got the car caged, fitted a Borg Warner S400 67mm turbocharger, and that’s when the car started to work. The car was still a street car and ran a 9.6-seconds back in 2013. I met Todd Pavics (another well known VW racer) who assisted me with a few things and I got the car down to a 9.39@260km/h and it got better and better from there.

What power were you making when you ran the 9.3? I never went to a dyno because I just never had the money. The money I made went back into the car. Who cares about dyno numbers when the car runs, right? The car weighed 1180kg and was very heavy. It still had an alternator and I drove to work in it every day.
My tuner Kevin Black took a calculator during the 2013 World Finals and came up with about 845hp of useable power! All on steel rods, hydraulic cams and stock head.

Talk to us about engine management? Kevin’s been helping me since 2006 with my car’s tuning. I trust him with tuning and we have a good relationship. In the Borg Warner days, I had a Lugtronic engine management system that was wired up by Kevin. Last year just before World Finals, I got a good deal on a Motec ECU. It was here when I ran my personal best of an 8.80@277km/h. And we’re probably using the smallest turbo in the class.

So what you boosting? Around 53-pounds of boost. Kevin has the boost setup throughout the ECU using a multi-stage boost controller. At World Finals, Kevin let the boost go to where we could in 3rd and 4th but the turbo never seemed to make as much boost as we wanted it too.

Tell us what’s in the 20-valve motor? I feel really comfortable working on the 20-valves – I know what works and what doesn’t. It has Cat cams, a solid lifter head, factory intake valves, Supertech exhaust valves, FSi crank, aluminium conrods, and Diamond pistons. There isn’t a girdle, the block is filled with cement, has bigger main caps and runs a 10:1 compression ratio. The 20-valve motor reacts pretty good to mods, but there is a limit to horsepower with regards to the block. We’re at that point by trying different solutions right now.

…and ATP’s involvement? Todd knew ATP’s owner George, who one day asked him if he would consider getting involved with me. I sent George an email, and a few days later he sent me a turbo. The same turbo has been on the car for 4 years, and it works way better than the Borg Warner. Actually a lot more than what I expected it to. But George is super helpful – he just makes it easier for us to get to events, or if we need any parts. I just can’t thank him enough.

Is finding maximum power the be-all and end-all? If you want more power, you need to work on it. If it doesn’t work, or where the car doesn’t handle it, then you need to find ways to make it happen. So my answer is No! Find out what fails, talk to people that do the right things, and then do it yourself.

At least give me one FWD traction secret? (laughs) I don’t think there are secrets anymore, everything is out in the damn open.

Tell us about SB Parts Direct? It’s my own brand that specializes in high performance Volkswagen parts. I have a large catalogue that the Golf-mad fanatics back in South Africa might be interested in. Turbo cams, ATP turbos, wheels, you name it. And I do everything myself – I process orders, offer customer support, do the packaging. I ‘m currently busy with some CNC work, including some trick VR6 stuff from Germany. You can find me on

Do you find it hard competing against hundreds of Hondas at World Finals? 100% I do! Last year was the best Volkswagen performance ever had at a World Finals. I went to the 3rd round, and Todd went to 5th and Final round. Look, we were lucky to get that far and it worked in our favour. Jason Miller puts on the best event ever. But rule-wise, I think he should re-think the rules a little bit. I say that because there is no real separation between Super street and True Street. The cars in True Street run an 8.1 – 8.0, and Super Street 8.05 – 7.90, so there’s not much separation. I do wish we could be more competitive though, maybe allowing a 4-cylinder Volkswagen to run with a 72mm turbo as well. But hey, we’re always gonna be there and compete to the best of our ability.

What do you think is the secret to surviving World Finals? For a Volkswagen? Easy – you need at least 10 people and numerous parts (laughs) – I really do believe that! You’re always in-between swapping motors, swopping heads, swopping transmission…it’s hard work! We’re always taking parts off each other’s cars because we definitely abuse the stuff. We run them harder than anyone else to compete.

Why do run you small rubber? We’re using 13” slicks. I find it to be much forgiving on parts, like axles and transmissions. I guess we could use bigger tyres but I’m happy with the current setup.

Can our readers contact you for any advice and parts? Of course – I welcome fans from all over the world. I don’t normally hold back with help and advice and offer assistance whenever I can. Just don’t ask me about my cams coz that’s top secret! (laughs) – my Instagram handle is mike_at_sbpartsdirect or email me direct at