IS THIS THE WORLD’S BEST MODIFIED MK1 VW GOLF?

IS THIS THE WORLD’S BEST MODIFIED MK1 VW GOLF?

Posted by Glenn Rowswell on 27th February 2019

If you thought France had no chips in the watercooled VeeDub game, allow this fresh Mk1 to change your mind. This all-carbon road-racer Golf has set a new benchmark for VW builds and may just be the best yet!

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Drink it in with an open perspective. What you’re looking at here, in essence, is the world. Sure, it may look like a Mk1 VW Golf, but it’s so, so much more than that. This is a project that neatly encapsulates the very nature of the Earth itself and reimagines it as an Ocean Blue vision of the macrocosm. You see, this Golf is characterised by two of the world’s most intriguing and exciting elements: carbon and gold. The former is the fourth most abundant element in the universe and, in this watercooled interpretation, you’ll find it everywhere.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Gold, however, is rare and exquisite; the total amount of gold in existence makes up only 0.0000000003% of the Earth’s mass (and it took us a long time and a hell of a lot of complicated maths to work that out – we used to read car mags under the desk in maths lessons). So the gold on this car is sprinkled around to embellish rather than overwhelm, and the finish is magnificent – a shiny wedge of imposing carbon, twinkling with rarefied detail. Its heart is so black-and-yellow it’d make Wiz Khalifa blush.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Where has this world-beating and world-mirroring Golf come from? Limoges, in France – an Occitan city known for its porcelain, Gothic architecture and, now, for GC Custom: a full-service hot-rodding outfit run by 23 year-old Gabriel Couty. Don’t let his tender years fool you, this guy lives and breathes modified cars and has a magical flair for it. And if you think that French tuning consists principally of questionable expanding-foam bodykits and minimal power mods then allow this impeccable Mk1 to reframe your outmoded misconceptions.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

“The car was rescued from scrap,” Gabriel tells us. “My brother has a Mk1 Golf GTI and I always wanted one too, but this one needed a bit of work when I got it.” Yep, it’s fair to say that’s a bit of an understatement… “All of the panels have been replaced with new VW parts, and I’d say about 80% of the car is custom… and 80% is carbon,” he grins.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Well, that’s quite a lot of information he’s hinted at there, so let’s unpick it piece by piece. First of all, before he could set about building anything remotely show-worthy, Gabriel had to restore the decrepit shell. Having been straightened to factory specs, it was treated to new doors, a new bonnet, new roof, new front and rear wings, a new front panel, and a new swallowtail rear panel, something which Golf nerds love – see how the lines kink downward in the centre of the rear panel; early Golfs only had swallowtails for a year or so, post-1976 ones just had a straight line. It’s all in the detail.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Indeed, ‘all in the detail’ pretty much sums up what happened next. It’s safe to say that Gabriel got a bit carried away. You see, he wanted some carbon fibre, and some became loads, until it was really almost everything. So, here’s a diverting experiment for those of you who are keen to earn your Blue Peter badge (or, in Gabriel’s case, we guess it’d be ‘Pierre Bleu’): Take a bunch of carbon atoms, and bond them together into crystals that are more or less arranged in a line. Repeat this a few thousand times, then bundle all the strands together into a sort of tiny untwisted rope.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

OK, now lay a load of these little ropes into a thermoset resin – epoxy, say, or polyester – cook it in the oven for a while, and voila: you’ve just made some carbon-fibre. Well, carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer, to be precise, although if you’re getting matey with your new creation then simply ‘carbon’ will do the trick as a nickname. Now you’ve got something with a very high tensile strength, low weight, high stiffness, high temperature tolerance, low thermal expansion, and high chemical resistance – all the properties you may desire for making housings for oily machinery without adding too much mass.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

The benefits hardly need spelling out, making things simultaneously stronger and lighter is a no-brainer. Your car will go faster and be safer. Of course, it’s also quite pricey – making CFRP is a fiddly process, after all – which is part of the reason why you often see people running unpainted carbon-fibre bonnets and what-have-you. It’s a badge of honour. Even more than a Blue Peter badge is.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

This figurative badge – whichever one, take your pick – is proudly displayed everywhere possible on Gabriel’s Golf. On the exterior, you’ll find it making up the mirrors, USDM bumpers, door handles, grille surrounds, fuel filler, window pillars, it’s everywhere. But when you open the door and peep inside, you’ll find your definition of ‘everywhere’ being reworked, as there’s just so much carbon inside it’s unreal. The custom dash gleams with the stuff, with its integrated Air Lift controller and MOD7E digi-dash; the rollcage is carbon, the doorcards, the door handles, the door catches themselves, the caps on the Viair compressors, it’s an all-out visual assault.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Carbon may be the fourth most abundant element in the universe, but Gabriel’s caricaturised the globe here – it’s the most abundant element in his Golf by quite some margin. It’s almost enough to distract you from the neat air install itself; “This is the world’s first Mk1 Golf to be running Air Lift 3H,” Gabriel casually drops into the conversation, as if we weren’t already overloaded with the sheer weight of all the awesome.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Moving to the artfully shaved and smoothed engine bay, you’ll find – you guessed it – yet more carbon fibre. Oodles of it. The cam cover, the strut brace (cleverly integrating the header tank, thus saving a reservoir and tidying things up), the triangulation bars, the engine mounts, they’re all crafted from the magical weave. So are all the pulleys and ancillaries. It’s so much to absorb, it takes your brain a second to register that the motor’s sporting six trumpets at the front and six branches to its manifold at the back.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Yep, this canny modder’s swapped in a VR6. “The head’s ported with Supertech valves,” says Gabriel. “It’s got a custom R32-based oil system, ITBs from DG Motorsport, custom exhaust, custom mounts, custom radiator, custom everything.” As a showcase for his business, all of this bespoke craftsmanship works very well indeed, and the VR6’s energetic grunt channels through a strengthened Mk3 Golf gearbox into a really capable chassis.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

Everything that can be renewed has been replaced with OEM VW parts which have all been reworked in carbon fibre (but of course), with the back end set up to Berg Cup race car specs. “I wanted a racing car with an original look,” he explains, and you can totally see the logic of that. This car has to effectively wear three hats; firstly it’s a shop window to GC Customs, and secondly it needs to be flawlessly finished so that people can pore over it on the showground. But it’s that third hat which fits Gabriel best, the one that fulfils his cheeky enthusiasm for driving about like his hair’s on fire.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

While we were in the engine bay, you might well have noticed the accents of gold. Every bolt, every fixing, every washer has been plated in 24-carat gold, an aesthetic cue neatly tied in to the aggressively-lipped RAD 48 wheels. The gold is the foil to the carbon, the cherry on the cake, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the build.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

And yet all the while the Golf’s keen to remind you that it’s a proper racer at heart. The brakes came from Porsche – GT3 calipers at the front, GT2s at the rear, in carbon obviously – and the supercar theme continues with the way those super-lightweight Kirkey seats have been trimmed in genuine Lamborghini Alcantara.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

This Golf really is everything; race car, show car, custom car, its magnificence has its own gravity. It’s the whole world, distilled into a tiny supermini-sized package.

VW mk1 golf Gabriel Couty rad 48 tuned modified

TECH SPEC MK1 VW GOLF

Styling:
Ocean Blue (L57H), fully restored shell with new doors, new bonnet, new roof, new front and rear wings, new front panel, new swallowtail rear panel, all fixing bolts and washers in 24-carat gold, carbon fuel filler relocated to rear panel, carbon USDM bumpers, USDM side markers, carbon arch covers, carbon mirrors, carbon door handles, pop-out rear windows.

Tuning:
2.8-litre VR6 with full carbon fibre detailing, ported head with Supertech valves, all new ARP bolts, stock cams, R32 oil pump with custom oil system, USDM oil cap, DG Motorsport ITBs, DLP Performance mapping, custom stainless steel exhaust system with 6-2-1 manifold and hidden tip, custom engine mounts, custom stainless radiator, carbon strut brace with integrated header tank, 2x Bosch 044 fuel pumps, alloy fuel cell with ATL gauge, reinforced Mk3 Golf VR6 gearbox, Sachs race clutch, 4.3kg flywheel.

Chassis:
6.75×17” RAD 48 VR Zero-Lip wheels (5×100) in brushed ceramic gold gloss with hidden valves, 185/35 Nankang NS-IIs, Air Lift Performance air-ride with 3H management and custom sensor fittings, Porsche GT3 carbon front calipers and Porsche GT2 carbon rear calipers with EBC Turbo-Groove discs and YellowStuff pads, anodised OBP pedal box, LB Performance custom hydraulic handbrake with R32 calipers.

Interior:
Kirkey race seats – trimmed in Lamborghini red Alcantara, custom Sparco 4-point harnesses, full rollcage in carbon, custom stainless TR Motoring gear shifter, custom carbon dash with Air Lift 3H controller and MOD7E digi-dash integrated, polished air tank with hardlines, Viair compressors with carbon caps, Sparco steering wheel, carbon doorcards and door catches, carbon window winders, carbon fire extinguisher, carbon everything.

Thanks:
“Thanks to DLP Performance for ECU tuning, Alex for the interior, Cylou’s special parts machine, Romain Mouquet for air-ride parts, Flo, and Loulou.”

Words Dan Bevis Photography Mariusz Coneck