Ross Tobin’s supercharged, fully custom MK2 Golf is a big ‘screw you’ to the die-hard classic car lovers out there. And you know what? It’s one of the freshest modified cars on the scene as a result…
Owning a piece of history can do wonders for your street cred. Vintage racing bikes are now a must-have in the trendy suburbs of London, and any self-respecting interior designer wouldn’t be seen dead without at least a couple of antique artifacts in their gaff to show off at dinner parties.
This ‘older=better’ rule applies to cars, too, with the majority of petrolhead’s dream car line-ups filled with motors from decades past. There’s no doubt the thought of owning a classic sends shivers down our spine, but if you had to live with one on a day-to-day basis, how long would the romance really last?
Our man Ross here gave it a try a few years ago after taking a punt on perhaps one of the most universally adored of all of the old-school rides: a MK2 Golf. His first proper retro car, he learnt that the best way to enjoy this already VR6-swapped beauty was to ignore the haters and apply his own youthful, modern style into the mix. After all, it’s his car, and he’s the one driving it every day, so why worry about what anyone else thinks?
“Let’s just say it’s had a really mad life!” Ross laughs as he begins to tell us the story of how this very special hatch came into his life. In its 26 years on this planet, this once-GTi has been stolen, stripped for parts, and been through at least 12 owners. But there were some good points, too… “I had a MK3 GTi at the time, and was looking for something with a bigger engine. This car looked tidy and already had the VR6 conversion, which was great as it meant that I didn’t have to do it myself…”
The deal was struck, and Ross enjoyed a year of blissful MK2 ownership, with the VR6 lump providing plenty of grunt and that delicious burble to waft him from A to B. “…and then the problems started,” Ross grimly recalls. “The engine packed in, and from then on it was problem after problem…” Ah, the curse of classic car ownership, it’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
Not deterred, Ross accepted that the Golf would no longer be his daily driver, and took it off the road for a no-holds-barred re-working, accumulating in the replacement of the knackered engine. First, though, the bodywork was addressed. Panels were smoothed, badges were deleted, all the plastic was binned and Porsche door handles were carefully crafted onto each side, all in the aim of bringing the car slap-bang into the 21st century. By this point, those newly-sculpted lines were in desperate need of some new paint. “I wanted the car to be black, but to stand out from the crowd,” says Ross.
The solution? Hitting up Custom Classics in Barry and getting several layers of the relatively modern Black Magic Pearl hue professionally slapped onto those angular panels. (Note the modern styling on a classic car theme going on here – it’s something Ross loves so you’ll no doubt see a pattern forming as we go on…)
Things remain equally as standard inside (ie – not very). Ross’ clear vision of what he wanted mean that two Recaro recliners from a Sierra Cossie (those awesome ones with the extending bottom sections) now sit where the tartan GTi jobbies were once placed. The whole inside was then stitched up with quality Bentley cream leather to contrast that re-sprayed exterior fantastically.
Well, that was the idea, anyway… “The car had the optional green-tinted windows when I got it,” Ross tells us. “They unfortunately made the cream interior look dirty! I therefore replaced them all with clear glass…” Not a job for the faint of heart, but it did give him the excuse to add some super-rare Happich pop-out rear windows into the mix. You certainly can’t knock this proud owner for going the extra mile to get what he wants…
The time had now come to replace that well-and-truly broken V6 engine. Something which could’ve daunted Ross, was it not for the fact that his friends had once again stepped in to offer vital assistance. “We hired a unit with no water, lights or electricity,” he recalls, “but you just have to make do with what you’ve got…” As well as swapping motors, Ross had another trick up his sleeve, too. “About a year previously I was on eBay at about 2am and came across a Z Engineering supercharger kit…” We’ve all been there… “So naturally, I had to snap it up as it was at a very tidy price.”
A week of re-building bits and bolting on the ‘charger, Ross and his friends had nailed the swap. A quick visit to Stealth Racing for guru Vince to tweak up the car’s ECU to handle the extra oomph, and the Golf was almost ready to drive again. The final piece of the puzzle was getting this boosted boxy beast sitting pretty. “I try to stay away from the static vs air debate, but at the end of the day I wanted a car I could use with wide wheels and at the same time would look good,” Ross justifies his wise move to opt for a Air Lift suspension system.
Propped up on some super-wide and fully re-built BBS RMs (Ross reckons these wheels at those widths are another first on his car), and that clear vision he had in his head a few years previously was now looking right back at him in the flesh. Result!
You see endless gloss red and green examples of MK2 Golfs, painfully restored to factory condition. And although there’s no denying they’re superb little machines, if you slapped a standard car next to Ross’, which one are you going to spend more time gawping over? By being daring enough to break those strict molds which dominate car trends and scenes, our proud owner here has been left with an extremely unique retro ride that can be driven stress-free every day. And isn’t that what owning a modified car is all about?
OWNER: ROSS TOBIN
TECH SPEC: MK2 VW GOLF
2.9-litre ‘OBD1-spec’ VW VR6 V6 engine; Z Engineering stage 1 supercharger kit; 6psi pulley; Raceland 6-branch exhaust manifold; Pro-Speed 2.5-inch racing exhaust system; MK3 Golf VR6 radiator with twin 10” universal slim-line fans; up-rated fuel pump; braided fuel lines; Mocal oil cooler; Roose Motorsport hoses throughout; polished strut brace, supercharger, inlet manifold and top mounts; custom map and ECU from Stealth Racing.
Standard five-speed manual VR6 gearbox.
9.5×15” (front) and 10.5×15” two piece BBS RM split-rims with VW cream centres and polished lips; 195/45/15 Yokohama S.Drive tyres all-round; gold BBS centre caps; gold spike nuts; Air Lift air-ride suspension system using bags (front) and struts (rear); AccuAir e-Level management with iLevel app controller; five-litre gloss black air tank; VW cream 0.5” copper lines; 996 Porsche 911 brake conversion with Black Magic Pearl callipers.
Re-spray in VW Black Magic Pearl; smoothed front bumper; front number plate recess filled; smoothed G60 arch extensions; rear VW badge delete; rear wiper delete; colour- coded Porsche door handles; twin-lamp front grille with custom VW cream strip; smoked indicators; Happich pop-out rear windows.
Full re-trim in Bentley cream leather; Sierra Cosworth Recaro reclining seats; 350mm Isotta steering wheel; custom MK2/Porsche gear knob; Porsche glove box lock; Kenwood head unit with hidden iPod attachment.
Jon Davies from Phokus Photography; Sinclair Volkswagen Cardiff for use of the showroom; Rothink for the continued support and for always creating a great atmosphere at shows.
Words Tom Willcox Photos Jon Davies