‘Far from being just a ‘Golf in a frock,’ the Mk1 VW Scirocco is now among the most sought after ‘70s VWs of them all, and Frederik Ceulemans can claim to have built one of Europe’s best’.
It’s hard to fully appreciate the impact cars like the first-generation VW Scirocco had on the automotive landscape when launched back in 1974. Its wedge-y shape and Giuguaro-penned lines weren’t just stunning, they looked quite unlike anything else you were likely to encounter on the road at the time, unless you lived down the road from Maranello of course! It didn’t matter that the Mk1 Scirocco was little more than a Golf in a (very) pretty dress, its stunning styling ensured that it sold like the proverbial hot-cakes, taking off where the Karman Ghia left off and spawning a line of cars that continues to this day.
Fast forward over 4 decades, and the Mk1 looks if anything even better. The same styling which enabled it to stand out amongst its boxy automotive peers when new enables it to do the same amongst modern, rounded offerings, helped along by its comparative rarity of course. That being said, not all Mk1 Sciroccos are created equal, and though we’ve had the pleasure of featuring a good number of them over the years, we think that the example you see here, owned and built by Frederik Ceulemans, is easily one of the best yet.
Modifying a car like this is a skill all of its own, and it can be a deceptively tricky undertaking. Yes, there’s no denying that the base car is a stunning bit of kit in standard fettle, but that just means that you, well, Frederik, have your work cut out trying to improve upon it! Put simply, there’s a hell of a lot of scope for taking thing too far, over egging the pudding or otherwise ruining a rapidly appreciating classic when it comes to modifying a Mk1 Scirocco; remember it was designed by Giogetto Giugiaro, a man whose CV includes the likes of the Ferrari 250GT, DeLorean, Aston Martin DB4…and the FSO Polenez.
The need to do the Sciroccos styling justice probably explains why Frederick has stuck to the old adage of ‘keep it simple, stupid’ with something approaching religious fervour, and also why his car looks so utterly flawless.
“I bought the car back in 2008 but it wasn’t in a great way back then, in fact I only settled on this car as it was an early TS model from ’75, hence the small indicators at the front,” Frederic recalls.”
While it might have been blessed with factory good looks, the original Scirocco was far from an automotive powerhouse in terms of outright grunt, which is why, just over a year after he bought it, Frederic set out to imbue it with some much needed ‘shove.’ The omens started off very, very well indeed; Frederic managed to track down a Mk3 Golf fitted with an ABF engine. So far, so ordinary, but what made this such a coup was the fact that the car had covered a grand total of 0km from new, it’d been used as a demo vehicle by a school for many years, and had presumably been treated to numerous rebuilds over the course of its life.
“The problems began when I handed the actual engine conversion over to a local garage, and it soon became apparent that they had no idea what they were doing. It took a year and a half of back and forth with next to no progress being made, and in the end I got fed up and collected the car.”
It’s worth point out at this point that at that time Frederic had no idea how to get the ABF engine into its new home, but what he did have was boundless enthusiasm, a willingness to learn and some close mates, and all of this conspired to help him complete the swap in far less time than the so-called professional he’d formally entrusted it to. Along the way he discovered all manner of horrors and bodges, again a legacy of the aforementioned garage, including a badly butchered wiring loom which looked like it had been flung in and forgotten about, with one wire even dangling over the red-hot exhaust manifold.
The increase in power prompted Frederik to invest in some more capable brakes, and though the stoppers in question, a Golf G60 setup front and back, went on with no trouble, the same could not be said for the wheels – said brakes were simply too large for the HTNs to swallow!
“That wasn’t so much of a problem as it gave me the perfect opportunity to buy new wheels, a set of 7.5×16in BBS RFs,” muses Frederik. “No, the real issues began when only two of the wheels turned up! It was made all the worse as my neighbour signed for them so the delivery company washed their hands of the problem and refused to help. I’ve never seen the wheels since.”
Putting aside the fact that some light-fingered UPS man was probably rolling around on half a set of BBS, Frederick pressed on with the build, borrowing a set of his brother’s RF’s for the rear…only to find that the Scirocco was now too low to move without clouting its sump on anything taller than an ant with ideas above its station, which explains why, some years ago, Frederik’s Scirocco was treated to a complete air-ride setup.
The end of summer 2011 actually marked an important milestone in Frederik’s ownership of this car, as it was the point where he finally deemed himself ready to undertake a complete strip down and rebuild, having spent the previous 3 and a bit years collecting rare Scirocco parts left, right and centre.
“I’d been looking around for parts that my car was missing, or bits that were hard to come by, ever since I bought it, so I jumped in and started stripping it right back to a bare shell,” Frederik recalls. “It then went to Marc Loncke’s bodyshop for welding, sanding and, eventually, a new coat of its original colour, Palma Metal.”
Frederik admits that despite being madly in love with the colour the Scirocco now sports, it wasn’t actually his first choice. Indeed, he was all set to have the car painted in a shade of gloss white until the bodyshop in question went so far as to spray the boot in the stunning shade of OEM green it now sports, something which changed Frederik’s mind at a stroke. He fell head over heels with the Palma Green paint there and then, and hasn’t looked back since.
Frederik’s devotion to his Scirocco is no doubt impressive, but what’s even more so is the amount he now knows about his car, particularly when by his own admission he was far from an expert when he first bought. The learning curve that both he and the classic VW have been on reached its apex when he began to rebuilt it, using the pristine, freshly painted shell as a base – no mean feat when you consider the scale of the project, not to mention his desire to end up with a show-stopping Scirocco he could drive to the Worthersee show further down the line.
“There were points where I had literally no idea what I was doing,” he laughs. “I can’t stress how intense the learning process was, but it means that I now know every single part of my car in huge detail, not to mention the satisfaction which comes from having done almost all the work myself.”
Further evidence of Frederik’s near fanatical commitment to perfection, if indeed it were needed, can be found in his sense of disappointment once he’d finally bolted the Scirocco back together. Whereas most of us would be content to pat ourselves on the back and bask in the glory of a job well done, Frederik instead took one look at the freshly re-installed engine and decided his work was far from done!
“I really wasn’t happy with how it looked once I saw the engine back in the bay; it was completely matt black and I knew I wanted something a little more special, so I turned to Davy De Rycke of RS-Tuning and asked for ‘a few’ parts to be covered in carbon…that’s where things got a little out of hand,” laughs Frederik.
By this point Frederik’s self-imposed Worthersee 2013 deadline was looming large, and with much of the build still to complete, he and his friends doubled down on their project, working through the night in order to give the Scirocco a fighting chance to make it to the show.
“I got to the show, just,” he laughs. “I couldn’t believe how well received it was by everyone there, the standard of cars there is so, so high. It was a fantastic feeling to have made it there successfully though, the attention the car got was just the icing on the cake.”
Again, many lesser modifying aficionados would’ve been content to rest on their laurels having built a flawless, utterly spotless Scirocco like this, but not Frederik. No, since the car’s debut at Worthersee he’s carried out a number of modifications, most notably a turbo conversion. He event went so far as to source another ABF 16v to use as its base, carefully removing storing his original, sub-10,000 mile one for future use! The new engine doesn’t want for spec, either; it boats a forged bottom end, uprated fasteners, a suitably lowered compression ratio…and the small matter of a thumping 250bhp, plenty in a car which tip the scales at just 960kg. We don’t know about you, but we’d say that Europe’s finest Scirocco is in rude health!
VW 2.0 16v ABF with Wiseco 83mm 8.5:1 pistons, Integrated Engineering con-rods, high performance bearings, uprated fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator, Audi S2 inlet manifold, custom front mounted intercooler and radiator, shaved engine bay with various carbon details
High gloss polished 7.5×17in BBS RS, Porsche 996 front brake setup with custom caliper carriers, custom air-ride setup comprising struts and bags
Exterior 1975 Scirocco TS resprayed in OEM ‘Palma Metal’ green, Porsche door handles, carbon bumper detailing
Custom dashboard with bespoke leather interior, black CAE shifter, Porsche seats and Porsche 356 seat-belts, Raid 28cm steering wheel with snap-off boss
Words Jarkle Photography Neil Sterry