Some might say that attempting to meld a big cat with a spiky reptile was a madman’s fantasy. But Volkswagen seemed to be down with the idea, and Shaun Mooloo has beautifully proven the concept with his mad-science modified VW Tiguan.
Feature from Performance VW. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Chris Wall
What do you get if you cross a tiger with an iguana? Well, something hideous and terrifying, most probably. Tigers are massive and muscular, iguanas are small and bendy, trying to sew them together to create some manner of hybrid predator would frankly be macabre. Nevertheless, this is what Volkswagen did (figuratively, at least) back in 2007 when they portmanteaued the two words together to create ‘Tiguan’.
You can perhaps see where the product planners were coming from, the crossover SUV being at once sizeable and agile, there’s a scintilla of sense there. But never before has the Tiguan made more sense than in the hands of Shaun Mooloo: the brains behind VAG Café, purveyors of Revo tunes, VW upgrades and all-round VAG awesomeness down in Pretoria, South Africa, he’s a man who knows a thing or two about reframing production cars into uniquely-specced pieces of automotive art.
“Shaun loves making the most practical cars… impractical,” grins VAG Café colleague Zack Abba. “If a car can seat four people comfortably, a rollcage will be installed to nullify the rear seats. If a car can comfortably clear speed bumps, a coilover kit is immediately installed so he can crack spoilers at the mere sight of them. I must admit though, as a founding member of the ‘forties stance club’, he has somewhat changed his outlook and settled into electric seats over Recaros, and ride quality over impractical daily-driven ride heights…”
Well yes, it comes to us all – we could hold a straw poll through the PVW office about who’s got the dodgiest vertebrae these days, but our knees are giving us gyp and it’s all we can do to concentrate with our increasingly foggy brains. Still, it’s probably only fair if we let Shaun speak for himself when it comes to analysing this rather spectacular Tiguan he’s put together. Shaun is never short for word…
“I felt like I needed a challenge, and that SUVs were never really tinkered with,” he reasons. “The Tig was a great base for me to work on – and my word, did that SUV go viral worldwide! I guess it’s a testament to the great work that was put into making it look as good as it does.”
There’s a solid cast of characters working together at VAG Cafe to achieve these results, and Shaun’s own automotive past has given him a sound grounding upon which to build these madcap realities.
“I’ve been modifying cars since the early ’90s,” he explains. “My first VAG car, however, came in 1997 – I owned a mint Mk3 VR6, that was sadly taken from me at gunpoint.”
Yep, probably the less said about that the better, but the silver lining on that cloudy experience was that the Mk3 Golf really set a tone for Shaun’s automotive future: he went on to own a Mk4 GTI, Mk5 GTI, 8P Audi S3, B8 S4, 8P RS3, 8V S3 sedan, Mk7 R, and assorted others.
“I’ve always had a love for taking these cars and adding my own unique flava to them,” he says. “I think the Tig was by far my craziest in terms of looks – but the key thing is that I’ve always stuck to my guns when it comes to OEM+ styling.”
This focused line of thinking runs through VAG Café like a stick of rock, the business spawning from his passion for the hobby, living the dream and turning playtime into work-time. For many years, Shaun was importing tuning mods and assorted upgrade parts and experiencing that frisson of joy whenever an unboxing occurred; figuring that the bringing of joy would be exponentially increased by involving other people, he started importing parts on a larger scale, and it all grew organically from there.
So, Shaun had decided upon a Tiguan as his offbeat project base this time, and there was to be no messing around. He wasn’t just going to pick up a rattly decade-old diesel from the classifieds, this thing had to be proper. “I bought this Tig brand new from a Volkswagen dealer back in 2019,” he says. “As with all my cars, I didn’t waste any time getting busy with it – I like to get my vision churned out, and fast! The vehicle was very well-specced, with the only item not included being sat-nav and a tow bar.”
A quality base for hijinks in ‘forties stance club’ style, and you’ll notice that he’s gone for the good engine too – no frugal dervs here, but the full-fat 2.0 TSI. Before we get to motive power however, we need to talk about the magnificently aggressive things that have happened to the bodywork. Regular readers will no doubt recall the bagged Audi Q2 we featured a few months back, neatly illustrating how dumping a crossover over improbably large rims makes it look like a life-sized Hot Wheels toy, and that’s very much the vibe here: rolling on 22” MB Design KV1 rims with rubber-band Pilot Sports, it’s already an in-your-face assault before we even get into the widebody shenanigans. Parsan Tuning’s catalogue was raided for the badass wide flare kit along with the front lip and side sills, the brawny majesty of which is further augmented by the bonnet and roof spoiler from the long-wheelbase Allspace model. The finishing touch was then to refinish all of the chrome trim in gloss black, colour-coding the door-trims to match the crisp white paint.
“Most, if not all, of my cosmetic work is carried out by two panel shops in SA – one being Midcity Autobody, and the other being Trident Panelbeaters,” says Shaun. “This time it was Trident who played a major role in what the car looks like now. They ensured the widebody kit was fitted properly and that the paint was correctly matched. They also undertook the task of fitting the Allspace bonnet for me, which involved some welding work.”
Naturally you can’t bolt a set of twenty-twos to a Tiguan and leave the chassis as it is, because you’ll be needing a step-ladder to get in. But fear not, as Shaun had the solution in mind from day one – static as a slumbering tiger, agile as an iguana. “The suspension was installed by my boy Ashley at D&S Shocks,” he explains. “He and his brother Jamie are simply the best at what they do. It was a task getting them to install my KWs though, as it’s not a product that they import or sell – but Ash pulled through in the end and got the KWs and H&R ARBs fitted and set up to perfection.”
The chassis was further enhanced by a mighty Racingline Stage 3 6-pot BBK, which sort of suggests that our man had some pretty substantial power mods in mind… which, of course, he did. Buying the EA888-equipped model was no happy accident, Shaun was shooting for stellar thrust. And with the fundamentals suitably beefed up to cope, it was time to unlock Pandora’s box and see what evils spilled forth.
“On the performance side, I tasked the boys at TM Stainless Steel with fitment of my turbo and exhaust system,” he says. “The challenge here was that I’d ordered a SEAT Ateca Cupra exhaust system from Milltek with a hope that this was a direct fit; I mean, they do look similar in size! Long story short, it needed loads of fabrication to get it working properly. Nishen, however, got it done along with the help of Dusty from Angels and Sons, who sorted out the electronics that were required to get the valves to open and close on the rear silencer. This is all made possible by using an AWE SwitchPath controller.”
The turbo he mentions is a Werk 84 IS38, a plug-‘n’-play IHI upgrade that’s rated for 270-380bhp, and this is working hand-in-hand with a Racingline intercooler and R600 intake system. Racingline also offers a comprehensive suite of engine dress-up parts, all of which you’ll find under that custom Allspace bonnet, and the power upgrades are knocked into shape by a Revo Stage 3 tune. The DSG trans has also been recoded to suit, with the TCU running to TVS Engineering Stage 3 specs. Meaty stuff indeed. Have you ever seen a Stage 3 Tiguan hard-launching off the line? It’s enough to make you rub your eyes like a Warner Bros cartoon as it leaves behind a silhouette of itself in the dust clouds.
The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle, with every other element of the car forensically addressed, was the interior. After all, with the best will in the world, the Tiguan wasn’t conceived as a performance car, and the stock cabin does err more than a little toward the utilitarian. Shaun was having none of that though, and unceremoniously ripped it all out, replacing the front seats with a pair of wingbacks from a Mk6 R and then having everything in sight retrimmed in sumptuous nappa leather. The steering wheel came from a Mk7 R, and has been custom-retrofitted with the engine start and drive select buttons from an Audi TT RS (Which is insanely cool, isn’t it?). All of the factory audio was replaced and further upgraded with Rockford Fosgate componentry, and perhaps the most intriguing element of all is the Vektor Technik data display unit. “I was the beta tester for this awesome little tool that displays all the engines vital signs,” says Shaun. With so much time and money invested under the bonnet, such a thing makes perfect sense. Plus it looks brilliant, like something from The Fast and the Furious – although, hopefully, without blinking ‘danger to manifold!’ at inopportune moments.
There’s a huge amount of work and creativity in this Tiguan, it’s obvious from every angle, and the manner in which it’s been embraced by the community is endearingly enthusiastic. “It’s crazy, dude,” Shaun grins. “Wherever I drove that car, people would pull out their phones to snap pics. The car is really menacing in the flesh, photos can’t really do it justice.”
And of course, as is always Shaun’s modus operandi, the turnaround was quick and the move to the next project even quicker: “The Tiguan was sold recently to make way for a new project car,” he says, surprising precisely no-one. “Thing is, I like doing these projects quickly and efficiently to show people what VAG Café has to offer. It’s marketing for me and it keeps me young. Although my wife would in all likelihood kick my arse if she were to know what I spend on these projects…”
Ah, sorry mate – let’s hope she’s not reading this. And if she is, let us just reiterate what a remarkable thing Shaun achieved here. Volkswagen suggested fusing a tiger and an iguana and, instead of recoiling in horror at the mad science, Shaun embraced the concept and took it to the next level. Nothing macabre about it, this superb custom is a crossover in the most literal sense.
Tech Spec: Modified VW Tiguan
2.0-litre TSI EA888 Gen-3, Werk 84 IS38 turbo, Racingline R600 intake system, Racingline intercooler, Milltek Sport/TMSS exhaust system, Revo Stage 3 ECU tune, full Racingline engine dress-up, DQ500 7-speed DSG, TVS Engineering Stage 3 TCU tune
10×22” MB Design KV1 wheels, 255/30 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, KW V3 coilovers, H&R anti-roll bars, Racingline Stage 3 380mm 6-pot BBK
Parsan Tuning wide flare kit, Parsan Tuning front lip, Parsan Tuning side sills, Parsan Tuning rear valance, Allspace bonnet, gloss black Allspace roof spoiler, all chrome trim de-chromed and refinished in gloss black, chrome door trims colour-coded white, headlights treated with Lamin-X
Mk6 R wingbacks – retrimmed in nappa leather, rear seats and doorcards retrimmed to match, custom Mk7 R steering with Audi TT RS start button and drive select, Vektor Technik data display unit, OSIR Design dead pedal to match accelerator and brake pedals, Rockford Fosgate speakers throughout, 10” Rockford Fosgate Punch subwoofer, 2x Rockford Fosgate amplifiers