Vehicle Owner: Justin Fletcher
Written by: Alex Brackett
Photography by: Bobby Kelleher
The ‘90s. Arguably one of the richest, most diverse & experimental eras for obscure aftermarket parts. It is also a time tested fact that Volkswagen is one of the most customizable brands on the planet. I only say that because, well, who really knows what crazy lip kits and lighting upgrades Martians are installing on their flying saucers? I bet they’re…. out of this world…
Meet Justin Fletcher‘s Passat. Justin has always been a lover of cars. He has bounced around between European and American, but he always seems to gravitate back towards VW. He found his way home recently by way of this unique little B3 Passat wagon.
Few cars today really stand out. You line a few similar models up next to each other at an event, and they tend to blend together. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Popular things are popular for a reason.
However, once in a great while, you come across one very individualized example that really shines. It’s important to note that this is very much Justin’s car. But it has been loved and cherished by several owners over the years. Many dedicated hands have added their own little personal touches for more than two decades. Something about that heritage and history really resonates. This car was truly built by the community.
“Originally it was a Pewter Grey, 16v car. Around the year 2000, it was painted Porcelain Blue and G60 swapped. The Rieger bumper was added shortly after that.
After this, there isn't much info about the car until 2015 when Josh Gray bought it. He installed the Airlift Performance bags and V2 management that it still has today. That year, Josh took the car to SoWo and placed Top 50.”
After Josh, the car changed ownership a few times, until it eventually fell under care of another valued member of the community, Ben Zalutsky, in February of 2020.
“I fell in love with the car the first time I saw it. I bugged Ben to sell it for months. Finally in June, he caved and agreed to sell the car.
My wife and I got off work that Friday and made the 6 hour drive from Timberlake, NC to Atlanta, GA. Met Ben at his place Saturday morning, made the exchange, and then immediately headed back to NC with the car. All in, we spent a little over 24hrs picking up the car.”
Since then, Justin has really dedicated himself to making this car his own. He sourced the ABT grille from a salvage yard in Canada. The ABT wheels he found on the BurnAllTheMk3s Facebook page in Poland, which he waited two full months for. The Hella DE headlights (also from Poland), the Momo Benneton wheel from 1991. Everything Justin has done has been in an effort to reach a more period correct aesthetic.
Justin & I have never met in person, and I hope that someday we do have that opportunity. Anybody that I have spoken with about him has said the exact same thing: that Justin is a quiet, reserved, respectful, very knowledgeable guy with whom you could literally spend hours talking about VWs.
There’s this unspoken phenomenon that seems to happen when a lot of us meet for the first time. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are often “friends” on the internet prior to meeting in person. Maybe it’s the mutual passion we all share for cars. Maybe it’s something much deeper. Who really knows? But one thing Justin said to me when I asked him for some personal details was that he wasn’t very good at talking about himself, and that I should talk to one of our mutual friends, Morgan Wilson, for a bit of a character reference. To me it sounded as if they have been friends for a very long time.
“I met Justin last year at a show down this way, and he’s just one of those guys - I don’t know, we talked for maybe all of two minutes and I immediately felt like I’d known him for years.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, because that is exactly how Morgan and I met last year and I felt the same way.
And it does really happen that way. So many of the friendships we’ve made over the years in this community were started by chance at a show or a meet, and there always seems to be this instant connection that sparks lifelong fellowship.
(Morgan’s MK2 Jetta Coupe pictured with Justin’s B3 Passat - the first time they met)
This is easily the most fun I've had writing one of these articles so far. Having a selection of owners to talk to, friends in the scene that know Justin personally who were able to provide insight to not only the car itself, but him as a person. There's just been this overwhelming rush, this sense of community, washing over me since I sat down to write this.
A point of discussion a lot of us have been reaching since the start of this site is how, now that we are older, the cars have almost faded to the background, so to speak. Yes, they are the common ground that links us all together. But it almost feels like now they are more-so the vessels that bring us to the parking lot, the friend's garage, the meet, the show.
And what we are there for - what we are really there for now - is the people.
A huge thank you to everybody involved with this one. It's been fun from day one, having the opportunity to sit down and talk about your cars and your lives. But it is starting to feel now like we really might have something here.
In this story:
Justin Fletcher (@jtfletch_92)
Bobby Kelleher (@blackcharger2001)
Special thanks to
Ben Zalutsky (@benznotmercedes)
Morgan Wilson (@morgan_fatlace)