Peacocking in magnificent shape-shifting paint, Chris McIntosh’s modified VW Mk4 Golf R32 pulls together a world of stylistic influences to create the perfect modded ride for modern Scotland…
Feature taken from Fast Car magazine. Words Joe Partridge Photos Original Persona
First impressions count for a lot, that’s true in all walks of life. Strutting into a room in a crisply tailored suit and owning the floor with steely-eyed charisma and affable charm will permanently file you in everybody’s minds as a good egg, whereas a limp and sweaty handshake or an inadvertent mispronunciation of your own name will forever label you as the forgettable type. We as a species like to think we’re pretty on-point with forming accurate spur-of-the-moment character analyses, although this isn’t always the case. Your first impression of this particular Mk4 Golf might be that, yes, this is the zenith of where the SoCal scene is right now; glinting in the brilliant sunlight, this bagged R32 rocks a slick Stateside vibe that could only have come from the anti-Detroit import culture of hot rod-obsessed California – the disco paintwork, the wheels, the stance, it’s pure aftermarket Americana.
And then you arrive at the rear of the car, and note with a raised eyebrow that it’s actually wearing UK plates. All at once, the pieces fall dramatically into place. The order of the universe realigns itself. Because the ubiquity of social media has shrunken the world, and styles are no longer anchored in geography. This sunlit VeeDub perfection cannot be found cruising the Pacific Coast Highway. No, its owner and creator – Chris McIntosh – actually hails from a windblown corner of rural Scotland.
“I’m just a young lad from a small Scottish town, who has always loved modifying cars with his mates at the weekend – can you think of anything better?” he grins. “This is actually only my third car; my first was a one-litre Polo 6N2, which was the car that started my love of modifying. I would work all week, get paid, then buy mods for it! After a while it was time for change, so I bought a Honda Civic EP3 Type R, and the same thing happened – I spent all my money on it! That was wrapped in yellow and was on air suspension, which really upset a lot of Honda fans…”
And so the most recent stepping stone represented a logical progression: the first car was a 1.0-litre, the second was a 2.0-litre, so three-litres completed the pattern, right? Well, 3.2 is close enough, and as it turned out the Mk4 Golf R32 is a car that Chris had always fancied. The purchase price and the insurance costs had thus far been prohibitive, but when he reached the age of 22 a couple of years ago it all started to come together.
“After a bit of searching, I found this car advertised online,” he recalls. “It was a fair distance away, a fourteen-hour round trip, but I knew it was the one. I had to have it! So I made an early start, and by the time I got home that night I finally had my own R32. It was in very good condition, but of course it’d be needing my personal touches to really make it mine…”
This is an abject lesson in sheer bloody-minded logic for all those people online who come out with comments like ‘I’d love to buy your car, if only you were closer’ – it’s not beyond the wit of man to travel somewhere and then travel home again, particularly given that the car itself is a means of locomotion. (The world may be figuratively shrinking, but despite the geographical massiveness of reality it’s still easy enough to actually travel to other bits of it.) And with the perfect car purchased, it’s encouraging and endearing to note that Chris was viewing it as a starting point rather than a box ticked.
Helpfully Chris is a mechanic by trade, and this growing technological skillset works hand-in-hand with a very particular mindset whereby, as much as humanly possible, he likes to do everything on his cars himself. So this is largely a home-brewed build, he’s got the oily fingernails to prove it, and every step of the makeover was personal.
“It means so much more to me to do all the work myself,” he says. “Like fitting the air-ride system and the boot build, that was all done on my mum’s driveway… there was some struggling as you can imagine, with it being on axle stands on the drive. But that’s all part of the fun!”
The careful and painstaking measurements required to imbue the Golf with the ultimate stance were treated to an additional curveball of complexity when it came time to choose wheels. Because, you see, Chris isn’t the type of guy to simply pluck a set of wheels off the shelf having spied a label reading ‘Mk4 R32 fitment’. No, he chose the design and dimensions he wanted, then created all sorts of headaches for himself making them fit. The rims in question are 3-piece CCW Classics, a staggered set of eighteens measuring 9-inches across at the front and an extra inch out back, and that’s a lot of girth to squeeze under a Mk4. The front end’s been helped out by SRS-TEC wings which are a helpful 25mm wider apiece, but it still took some wrangling. “With most of my parts, I just hunt the internet for something I like or that stands out, and then buy it,” he shrugs. “If it doesn’t fit, I think of a way to make it fit; with the wheels I had to add some camber and smaller tyres, and it all worked out just
as I imagined.”
Those wider front wings form just part of the exterior artwork, as there’s been a huge amount of upheaval to create this sun-shiney Californian vibe. The paint is the key lure here, a Jaguar shade by the name of Caviar Pearl, and it’s a brilliant choice which harnesses 21st-century paint technologies to evoke a 1990s colour-shifting aesthetic – it’s halfway between a Global Hypercolour t-shirt and a flip-painted TVR. The eagle-eyed will have spotted a whole world of smoothing: the bumpers, roof aerial, rubstrips, boot handle, it’s all been shaved and perfected in the old-school style, with the look then brought right up to date with a smattering of carbon fibre embellishment. The front grille, wiper arms, mirror surrounds, they gleam with the glossy weave, and it creates a motorsport chic that’s mirrored in the high-end interior treatment. Porsche 996 seats wear sumptuous cream trim, courtesy of Del at Optimus Automotive Trimmers, and the feel speaks of luxury-infused track menace. If it weren’t prowling around Scotland, it’d be ready for playtime at Laguna Seca.
While we’re on the subject of power, just take a look at what’s lurking under the bonnet. VW’s celebrated VR6 in full-fat R32 spec is a formidable thing even in showroom form, but when you shove in a set of Schrick cams and bolt on a custom and completely unsilenced straight-through exhaust system (which, believe us, sounds like the enraged bellowing of the devil himself), you’re just a robust remap away from 289bhp – a situation with which the plucky 24-year-old is understandably pretty chuffed. All of this holistic modding prowess feeds into an intercontinental sharing of ideas that’s been bubbling away for generations: the phrase ‘global village’ has been circulating since the 1960s, when Canadian professor Marshall McLuhan outlined the idea that the instant transfer of information from electrical devices had effectively shrunk the world.
It all came true, his work basically predicted the internet; nowadays it mightn’t occur to you to write a letter to someone in Australia or Japan and send it by air mail instead of just emailing them, or even to look something up in a weighty paper encyclopedia in the local library when the job can be done with two seconds of Googling. The world has never been smaller. And while this state of affairs may seem a little bleak in terms of heritage and tradition, it does at least offer certain benefits to the automotive scene: it’s easier than it’s ever been to connect with like-minded enthusiasts from around the globe and share ideas, source parts, compare and contrast. We live in a hivemind that makes things better for us all.
Don’t go thinking that this is an out-and-out show car, though. Despite the top-flight specs and the flawless finish, this hasn’t simply been a case of Chris absorbing global trends and redirecting them through his own Scottish prism. “Believe it or not, I daily the car,” he assures us. “I do also have a Jeep for carrying parts and that, but most of the time I’m driving the Golf. People are always staring at it when I’m out and about, and when it’s aired out at my work people don’t understand how it works – ‘How do you get over speed bumps?’ and ‘That looks broken’, they’re the two I get most often!” Yep, that’s a human constant which is true the world over. From Arbroath to Adelaide, Los Angeles to Londonderry and Minsk to Micronesia, we’re united in a common pursuit. A SoCal-style Golf in Scotland? Hell, maybe the Californians have been stealing ideas from the British Isles all along…
TECH SPEC: MODIFIED VW MK4 GOLF R32
Jaguar Caviar Pearl paint, smoothed bumpers, smoothed roof aerial, smoothed boot handle, smoothed rub strips, SRS-TEC 25mm-wider front wings with smoothed indicators, blacked-out US-spec headlights with twin amber running lights, carbon fibre front grille, carbon mirror surrounds, carbon wiper arms, US-spec mirrors and glass, Euro-spec taillights, Triple R Composites front splitter and sideskirt extensions, VW Sharan 90mm boot badge, gloss black bumper grilles
3.2-litre VR6, Schrick cams, stainless decat manifold, stainless straight-through cat-back exhaust system (no silencers), BMC CDA carbon induction kit, Porsche oil and coolant caps, billet washer cap, painted valve covers and fusebox covers, remap, 6-speed manual, Forge short-shift
9x18in (front) and 10x18in (rear) CCW Classic 3-piece split-rims – with pearl grey centres, polished lips and polished centre caps, 215/35 (f) and 225/40 (r) Achilles tyres, Air Lift Slam Series bags and struts with Air Lift 3P management, Only Charged Dubs camber top mounts, adjustable rear camber arms, chassis notch, OEM-size Brembo pads and uprated discs
Porsche 996 front seats, R32 rear bench with centre headrest deleted, seats and gaiters retrimmed in cream with grey stitch by Optimus Automotive Trimmers, home-made air install and boot build with candy apple red air tank, polished hard pipes and OEM carpeting
“Thanks to my girlfriend Sian for putting up with my moods when things don’t go to plan! And my mates for helping me at weekends.”