We check out Sam Curtis’ super-clean modified VW Mk2 Golf…

mk2 vw golf modified

Built not brought. What does this term mean you for exactly? Well, we happen to think it represents anything that someone has bought and made changes to. We ask because in the past we’ve known people to criticise others for buying cars that are part built or perhaps slightly modified and we think it’s (to put it bluntly) bollocks. Any car can be fiddled with slightly – it doesn’t mean it’s built. That brings us onto this beauty…

mk2 vw golf modified

This Volkswagen Mk2 Golf is a sight for sore eyes. Owner Sam Curtis bought the car back in May 2015 having already received the engine conversion and a full respray, but did it look the same as it does laid out (literally) here in all its glory across these glossy sheets of paper, nah did it ‘eck.

mk2 vw golf modified

Sam has always been into cars, but (admittedly) had never really been involved in the modifying side of things. Then he started working car cleaning product company Auto Finesse (AF), and the modifying itch developed. It was around four years ago when he started working as a customer service / warehouse support bod for the company and shortly after is when his love for modifying came. “It’s all James’ (Auto Finesse head honcho) fault,” he said, laughing. “The temptation to modify was everywhere. I’m still not that into old cars, really, it’s mainly new stuff. I like classics as a weekend toy and a bit of fun, but, damn, they’re hard work! When I started at AF, I didn’t actually want to do a car, but got coerced into it. I don’t regret it, though. Driving James’ cars and going to shows and stuff, you just can’t help to get more and more involved and it just makes you want to do it yourself,” he added.

mk2 vw golf modified

The 1991 Volkswagen Golf Mk2 didn’t come as standard, as I’m sure you well know from our little ‘built not bought’ rant at the beginning. Gone was the original Volkswagen Golf 1.8-litre 123bhp 16v petrol unit and in its place was a KO3S 1.8-litre 20v unit. “It’s not exactly anything special, but it was a good set-up and the whole car had been massively looked after, with a load of money thrown at it, too. Which was part of the reason I bought it. There was just so much paperwork. I think I worked it out to be around 13k spent on it between ‘98 and 2006 by the previous owner,” Sam said.

mk2 vw golf modified

The Essex-based warehouse operative knew he needed to change it up and change it up he did. “I had a load of plans. Drove it around for about 8 months after buying it and then just decided to strip it back to a bare shell nothing on it at all,” Sam told us.

mk2 vw golf modified

When Sam bought the Mk2 it had been painted in the Mk1 TT Aviator Grey colour. Change was on the cards, though. That was when the engine was taken out to make way for a bare-shell respray. While prepping the car for paint, Sam also did a single-wiper conversion. The engine bay was then smoothed and painted at the same time to match the rest of the car. Ben Kmita at Silkmead Paint and Body resprayed the car. The rear end was also smoothed over during the re-paint. A custom Titanium leaf pinstripe now also features to the swage line, which was originally black from factory. “Caring for paint is a massive thing. And I’m not just saying that because I work for AF. I’ve forked out for the respray, it wouldn’t make sense to allow it to deteriorate. I machine polish it twice a year to get it to show-worthy spec, but, to be fair, it must have a billion coats of wax on it throughout the year, anyway. It doesn’t really need much to get it looking spot on, but it’s good to do and to keep on top of it. It’s handy to have a routine with your car, like with anything, I suppose,” Sam added.

mk2 vw golf modified

Once the engine was all back in and up and running. The 1.8-litre unit received a new ECU complete with remap. A Sprinter front mount intercooler was fitted, along with a top fill radiator and performance air filter. All engine mods equate to a calculated power output of around 210bhp.

mk2 vw golf modified

With the bones now all complete, it was on to the dressing and finishing touches. The original front bumper was changed for a non-GTI unit without fog light holes. “Along with the new front bumper, we fitted G60 arches. I really wanted to go for subtle with the Mk2 and I think I’ve achieved that,” Sam said.

mk2 vw golf modified

Stance was pretty high on the agenda, too, of course. Sam went for Air Lift Performance struts, complete with a single compressor and a pancake tank. The pancake tank has been custom-welded into the spare wheel well. It’s also had bigger air lines employed, along with V2 management. “Stance is a must. That’s one thing I love seeing at the shows we go to, the different looks people have gone for and managed to achieve,” Sam said.

mk2 vw golf modified

And what better way to finish off a back-to-basics build than a set of custom-made mixed splits. Sam went for some 16-inch BBS RA splits – which are the original wheels that would have come on the car back in 1991 – complete with 8j of width to the front and 9j out back. They also feature Radinox dishes to all four corners, with a 2-inch lip to the front and a 3-inch lip to the back. 10mm spacers have also been employed to the back, adding to its rear width. No wheel is complete without some rubber. Some Nankang NS20s can be seen to all four wheels; 195/40/16 to the front and 205/40/16 to the rear.

mk2 vw golf modified

Completing the outside, a custom-made Auto Finesse decal was added at the beginning of August ready for his Euro road trip overseas for RollHard Belgium.

mk2 vw golf modified

To complement that 20v, a custom-made full exhaust system from manifold to downpipe has been fitted. It features a custom-made 2.5-inch exhaust system by R-Tec from the downpipe back, with dual exit tips.

mk2 vw golf modified

Sam went for some Mk4 GTI Anniversary edition interior seats, which have been re-trimmed in black Bentley Nappa, complete with perforated diamond centres – with all works being completed by Lawrence Gray (LG Trimming). The audio has also been uprated with a new Alpine headunit and Alpine speakers all round. “I love the seats, they’re so comfy on these long road trips,” Sam said. Sam also added a BBS steering wheel to complete the interior.

mk2 vw golf modified

“Literally everything was replaced. The only thing original in that now car is the dashboard. Even the carpets, glass and all the rubbers etc. were replaced, as well as all the sub-frame running gear underneath. I might as well have burned 20k, but I wouldn’t have had the memories I’ve had with it and you just can’t put a price on that,” Sam said, smiling.

mk2 vw golf modified

Despite all the work that’s gone into it, Sam still wants to do more. He tells us that he’d really like to have the engine bay out again at some point. Saying he’d like to repaint the whole engine bay a different colour, just to change it up a bit and tidy it up a bit under there. Maybe de-clutter it a bit more. Sam also said he’s considering other options, such as an old Beemer, but wouldn’t go into details… I guess it’s a watch this space moment. Well, we don’t know about you, but we’re sure looking forward to seeing what Sam ends up doing next. Cheers, Sam. Until next time!

mk2 vw golf modified

TECH SPEC MK2 VW GOLF

STYLING
New big bumper without fog light holes. G60 arches. Single-wiper conversion. Carpets replaced. Glass replaced, along with rubber seals.

TUNING
KO3S 1.8-litre 20v unit. Running 210bhp. New ECU complete with remap. A Sprinter front mount intercooler. Top fill radiator. Performance air filter.

CHASSIS
Air Lift Performance struts, complete with a single compressor and a pancake tank. The pancake tank has been custom-welded into the spare wheel well. It’s also had bigger air lines employed, along with V2 management. 16-inch BBS RA splits – which are the original wheels that would have come on the car back in 1991 – complete with 8j of width to the front and 9j out back. They also feature Radinox dishes to all four corners, with a 2-inch lip to the front and a 3-inch lip to the back. 10mm spacers have also been employed to the back, adding to its rear width. No wheel is complete without some rubber. Some Nankang NS20s can be seen to all four wheels; 195/40/16 to the front and 205/40/16 to the rear.

INTERIOR
Mk4 GTI Anniversary edition interior seats, re-trimmed in black Bentley Nappa, complete with perforated diamond centres – with all works being completed by Lawrence Gray (LG Trimming). BBS steering wheel.

ICE
Alpina headunit and Alpina speakers throughout.

THANKS
Huge thanks to everyone involved in it. Big thanks to everyone at AF for all the support and dipping in and helping. Matt Waldock for the brains behind the build, and detailer Simon Andrzejewski for the limited nights of graft.