Pat Roddy isn’t in it for the short haul – he’s spent four years getting his modified VW Lupo GTi on point
Gravity, July 2018. There’s a little Volkswagen on Airtisan stand and it’s collecting stares from all over. Glittering in Audi Merlin Purple, dropped hard over OZ Futuras and boasting a deliciously extra boot build, complete with a pair of carbon fibre air tanks, this Lupo is fully lit. Add in the Polo G60 front brakes, Mark 5 Golf GTi front seats and a Rockford 12 inch subwoofer and it’s obvious the owner takes every element of his miniature GTi seriously. This is one thought through build, the product of four years’ graft by owner Patrick Roddy and his friend, Airtisan founder Ryan Castleman.
Pat’s Lupo love stretches back even further, thanks to the standard 2001 1.0E he bought as his first car. It didn’t stay standard long; Pat had plans. Taking inspiration from both deseamed classic Minis and the Eurosmooth scene, Pat skimmed the front bumper and indicators, dropping the lights into the foglights, deleted the side repeaters and fitted a downscaled aerial and mirrors. BBS RX2 alloys and a Momo 280mm steering wheel completed the transformation.
Two years on the show scene saw the pair grow closer but nothing was going to keep Pat from his ultimate goal: a range-topping GTi. ‘I’d wanted one since I first passed my test,’ he smiles, ‘but I just couldn’t afford one back then.’ By early 2014, his finances were looking favourable and the search began for a decent example. Casting his eyes nationwide, he finally settled on a black 2001 example that was up for sale in Portsmouth. Boasting heated leather seats, a sunroof and less than 60,000 miles, the car’s spec was irresistible. ‘It was really well looked after,’ Pat continues, ‘and then I ruined it…’
The change really was that abrupt. AP Racing lowering coils, VW Polo G60 front discs, Ferodo DS2500 brake pads and partial polybushing arrived just a week into ownership, before Pat introduced the GTi to the daily grind. He was happy but one question kept eating at his mind: what if he could make it lower? Working with a friend, and using his driveway as a makeshift workshop, Pat soon found out. Together, the pair used a selection of Airlift parts – including Mark 2 Golf front struts, a set of rear bags and the V2 management system – to convert the Lupo to air ride. Four days later, freshly equipped with the ability to sit arch-to-lip at three corners, the GTi was back on the commute.
Another six months passed; the time had come to elevate the Lupo to show car status. Focused on improving the car’s blemished bodywork, Pat dropped the GTi at Body and Tuning in Mansfield, with instructions to smooth the front bumper, shorten the rear recess, add a Mark 6 Golf boot release and roll and flare the wheelarches. As a finishing touch, the VW was also down to receive a respray. Pat just had to choose the colour. ‘I was going to keep it black with a little bit of a twist,’ he explains, ‘something like purple-tinged Ford Panther Black. Ryan’s partner Amber convinced me to go with the purple I really wanted, though.’ Sparkling in Audi Merlin Purple, the Lupo stands testament to just how right her advice was.
Keen to showcase his refreshed Volkswagen, Pat wasted no time in attending Ultimate Dubs, Early Edition and Worthersee. Things were looking great. Then the clutch let out. Six months later, Pat and Ryan finally returned to the car. Top of the list was the clutch and minor engine mods, followed by further paintwork, including an engine bay and interior spray. Last, but by no means least, Ryan was to strip out the original air ride and rebuild the system with Airlift Mark 2 Golf front struts, Airtisan Ultralow rear bags, AccuAir eLevel management, an AccuAir ENDO-CVT tank and a custom boot build.
The pair set DubShed 2017 as their deadline, yet work commitments left them with only one week to rebuild the car. They pulled 20 hour days but it wasn’t quite enough. ‘We were finally about to leave,’ Pat grimaces, ‘ but the tracking was so far out it kept chucking itself down the road.’ Pat and Ryan couldn’t bear to look at the Lupo any longer. The seemingly incompletable project spent the next nine months in exile.
May 2018 arrived and the Volkswagen finally returned to the workshop. Gravity was the new deadline. The pair started by stripping back the interior, then Ryan was given complete freedom to install the uprated audio system and refresh the boot build. ‘He wouldn’t tell me what he was doing at all,’ Pat explains, ‘the only input I got was the raised centre section and the stripe in the alcantara. But it’s so cool to see what you get when you let Ryan just crack on.’ With twin carbon fibre supplementary tanks and a boot-mounted Rockford sub, the result is unapologetic show car jewellery. After three weeks of work, Pat was finally allowed to see the result. ‘I’m a reserved person,’ he smiles, ‘but I just stood there thinking “f*ck that looks good!” It’s exactly what I wanted when we started.’
One week to go and completion was tantalisingly close. Then Pat took a closer look at the OZ Racing wheels had he’d been running on Lupos since 2013. Finished in gloss white and built up from a retro Mercedes base, they framed the bodywork perfectly but there was a problem: they were too badly buckled to ever be effectively restored. Crestfallen but determined not to miss the 2018 show season, Pat immediately jumped online to find some suitable replacements. Later the same day, he ordered a set of 16 inch OZ Futuras.
The issue was only half solved, however. Before the new wheels could set the Lupo rolling, they had to be brought up to show ready condition. There was only one man for the job: Dan Taylor, owner of Wheel Unique. With seven days to work, the Yorkshire split wheel specialist had a challenge ahead of him. The faces and barrels needed media blasting and powdercoating; the corroded outer lips had to be replaced and mirror polished; and the resulting wheels required rebuilding with new bolts.
It was a close run thing. Supply delays slowed the process and Dan was still constructing the alloys when Pat came to collect them. Nevertheless, the deadline had been met and the fresh OZs, complete with Audi Nardo Grey faces and Radinox outer lips, speak for themselves. ‘He pulled it out the bag there,’ Pat explains, clearly appreciative of Dan’s commitment to absolute punctuality. ‘He’s a wizard at what he does.’ Two years after its last show appearance, the Lupo would make it to Gravity.
Flush and fine the GTi might be but Pat won’t call the Lupo project complete just yet. ‘I don’t think I can ever be happy with it,’ he says, ‘there are things that wind me up like the rear not sitting arch to lip like I want it to…’ Some off-season fettling with spacers, camber and wheel sizing will hopefully sort that little issue, before Pat and Ryan switch focus to the project’s next stage.
Their plans are substantial. Leaving the exterior as it stands, the pair aim to revolutionise the interior and engine bay in time for the 2019 season. ‘Oh, we’ve got loads in store,’ Pat smiles, ‘we’ve got replacement interior panels for every section, which will be finished in alcantara, we’re going to retrim the dash and I want to change the seats too.’ A driveline swap, ideally to a TFSI unit with a DSG double-clutch transmission but more likely to the ever popular EA113, will complete the winter’s work. With goals like those, this Lupo’s lore has many chapters left to run.
CAR 2001 VW Lupo GTi
Lupo GTi bodyshell with full repaint in Audi Merlin Purple, smoothed front bumper, shortened rear recess, VW Mark 6 Golf boot handle integrated in Volkswagen badge, smoothed rear spoiler, front and rear arches rolled and flared.
OZ Futura alloys 16×8 inch front and 16×8.5 inch rear, fully rebuilt with Radinox lips and Audi Nardo Grey powdercoating by Wheel Unique, Airlift VW Mark 2 Golf front struts with Airtisan custom top mount, Airtisan Ultralow rear bags, Powerflex bushing throughout, AccuAir ENDO-CVT tank, twin carbon fibre supplementary ranks, polished hardlines, AccuAir eLevel control system.
VW Mark 5 Golf GTi front seats, renewed and extended sound deadening throughout, Apple iPad mounted in dashboard.
Audison bit Ten, Hertz speakers throughout with 12 inch Rockford sub woofer.
CBA air intake system, decatted four-to-one exhaust manifold, custom exhaust centre section and back box, VW Polo G60 front brake discs and calipers.
Ryan because he’s done literally everything and anything I’ve wanted, Dan at Wheelunique and the rest of the lads for chipping in whatever else for it.
Words Emma Woodcock Photos Jules Truss
BRITISH DRIFT CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVERS @ JAPFEST SILVERSTONE