When Simon Calleja’s son came along, the old man had to buy a sensible family wagon. But that didn’t mean he had to hang up his modifying boots for good…
“The car’s nickname is Rolo,” says Simon Calleja. “My mate Darren came up with that, as it’s got a caramel centre. The name’s kinda stuck.”
You can see the logic of this when you peer through the window of this supremely sugar-sweet Mk4 Golf – it looks so deliciously caramely in there, it’s all you can do to stop yourself from climbing in and licking the seats. You’d be wrong to do so, of course, as seats are where people’s bums go. No, the principal aim of making the innards of this car resemble the kind of confectionery that has crack-like addictive qualities is that, well, this is a sensible family car. If it looks delicious in there, it’s easier to get the sprogs in without a fuss. Logic, see?
You may also have experienced a mental stumble just then on learning that the Golf’s owner is named Simon. Doesn’t it say ‘Joey’ on the number plate there? “Ah, that’s my son’s name,” he laughs. “Yeah, that confuses people, I do end up getting called Joey a lot.” But despite the inevitable switcheroo, it makes perfect sense to have Calleja Junior’s name plastered all over the car – after all, it’s his fault that it exists in the first place. Allow Simon to explain with a little gentle scene-setting:
“I’ve always been into modifying cars, ever since I started doing it at the age of seventeen,” he elaborates. “I had a Saxo that I modified, then a Supra, and a Fiesta, a BMW 3 Series coupé, Nissan 300ZX, Toyota MR2, all of which got the treatment… but then when my son came along, I wanted to have something nice and practical so that we could all fit in comfortably when we went to shows.” And the ‘nice and practical’ brief was fulfilled rather neatly by the idea of a Mk4 Golf. Makes sense, really; you get all of that reliability baked right in, solid build quality, plenty of space, fi rm residuals, plus – in this PD130 TDI guise – it fairly sips at the juice, ensuring that lengthy road trips won’t batter the Visa too heavily.
Now, there’s one particular element we need to deal with, before you all write in and point it out: yes, this magazine is called Fast Car, and yes, you are looking at a Golf that guzzles the devil’s dirty juice and, in factory form, didn’t make all that much horsepower. So what gives? Fear not, dear reader, have a little faith.
You’ll be gratified to learn that Simon’s played about with that grisly lump a bit: it’s now rocking a full Milltek decat system, EGR delete, a swanky carbon-fibre intake, and a hot map that takes it up to a thoroughly entertaining 220bhp. Respectable power, with thudding torque too. Junior can be transported with admirable swiftness.
But anyway – Simon was giving us the back story: “I chose the 1.9 TDI to surprise people, really,” he reasons. “I wanted to see the looks on people’s faces when they peered under the bonnet of a car they assumed was an R32. And because I like to think different, that dictated the development of the whole of the rest of the project.”
The most obvious manifestation of this ‘thinking different’ motif is the unmissable paint shade. In fact, a 1950s VW colour. “My friend Darren Bliss came up with the idea of giving a more modern car a real old-school twist, which is how we arrived at the paint decision,” he says. “Then Darren went on to strip and smooth all of the bodywork to get it ready for paint, to really complement the smooth, creamy colour.”
In perfecting the bodywork, Darren also had his work cut out in massaging the arches to accept Simon’s choice of wheels, to ensure they fitted perfectly without looking out of place. It was no mean feat, as the chosen dimensions of the eye catching Carline rims are a robust 9.5×19- inches up front and an extra inch wider out the back. Which is one hell of a footprint to give a Mk4 Golf. The quality of the arch work on the car really does speak for itself. The tailgate was then de-badged, dehandled, smoothed, and de-spoilered for good measure, while the R32 front bumper lost its notch and washers and enjoyed a fair bit of smoothing of its own. A badgeless grille was created from a pair of stock grilles that were carefully cut and combined, and to imbue the car with a crisp, fresh look Simon opted for white clusters, clear sidelights and imposing R32 headlights. Elsewhere you’ll spot Lupo mirrors and a Cupra R splitter.
So, then, to that Rolo-flavoured interior.Doesn’t it just make you want to take a sneaky bite out of it? It’d be bad for your teeth, but oh so good. “It’s had a full retrim in 1970s Porsche ‘fudge’ leather, by Dan at Lavish Automotive,” Simon says. “It gives a sweet retro feel to the Corbeau RRS seats, and works really well with the Porsche steering wheel with its gold bolts.
“Every detail on the car has been meticulously thought through, from the colour-coded and carbon-fi bre-accented engine bay with Audi R8 caps, to the carbon-fibre seat side panels and colourcoded harness inserts. Overall it just works, and turns heads wherever it goes.”
You can say that again. We’ve seen the Joey VW at many a show, and it’s always got a crowd buzzing around it like bees at the proverbial honey pot. People can spot quality work, and Simon’s Mk4 is oozing it from every pore.
“The car has done very well at shows,” he says, with admirable modesty. “At show-and-shine competitions people always asks where I got the interior done, and say they’ve never seen a colour like it on a Mk4 Golf before – and people love the way the wheels sit lip-to-arch. It won Best in Show at the BHP Show at Lydden Hill, and it’s always well received. I couldn’t have done all this without Darren Bliss, he really worked his magic on the car.”
What’s most gratifying is seeing this car evolve: if you’re a regular on the scene, you’ll no doubt have seen how Simon’s Golf is getting endlessly honed and refined; indeed, his plans include new wheels, a new boot build, getting more elements of the interior trimmed in that glorious Rolo hue. It’s a never-ending cycle of deliciousness. Not bad for a sensible diesel family runabout, eh?
TECH SPEC: MK4 VW GOLF PD130
1950s VW paint; smoothed, dehandled, despoilered and debadged boot; Lupo mirrors; smoothed R32 front and rear bumpers; custom flared arches; Cupra R splitter; custom badgeless grille.
PD130 1.9-litre TDI; colour-coded engine bay with carbon-fibre accents; Stage 2 map; full Milltek stainless steel decat exhaust system; BMC CDA carbon-fibre intake feeding from bumper vent; EGR delete; 220bhp.
9.5x19in (front) and 10.5x19in (rear) Carline NW6 wheels; Air Lift V2 air-ride suspension with custom boot build – fitted by Scott Teasdale.
Retrimmed in 1970s-spec Porsche ‘fudge’ leather (seats, doorcards, mats and rear shelf trimmed by Dan at Lavish Automotive); Corbeau RRS front seats with carbon-fibre side inserts and colour-coded harness inserts; Porsche steering wheel with gold bolts.
Words Dan Bevis Photography Daniel Pullen