Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars. This week it’s Zac Miles’ tuned Mk1 VW Golf from back in 2015…
When your family business makes some of the finest VAG tuning parts on the face of the planet. And your old man and work colleagues recently shifted the scene with their awesome Berg-inspired Mk1. How do you bring your very first car into the world?
For Forge’s Zac Miles, he simply turned everything up to 11. His bid to carve his own mark on the show scene displays a purity of vision that belies his tender years.
I don’t know about you, but my first car didn’t look anything like as good as this. It was from the right factory – a ’72 Beetle from Wolfsburg. But as for the condition and execution, it was as you would expect for a 17 year old’s first hack. All there, but a little rough around the edges. Still, it got me to work, shows and all manner of other fun activities, so it can’t have been all bad.
For Zac Miles however, things were very different. As the son of Forge Motorsport founder, Pete Miles, Zac has been immersed in the world of high-level show cars and computer-fed machining since he was small enough to bounce on his dad’s knee. So when it came to buying and fettling his first ride, he had a clear vision in his head, and he was prepared to work hard to achieve it.
And that’s something to bear in mind as you read this tale. Don’t go thinking this is a case of daddy’s boy being given the keys to the parts cupboard, the company chequebook and told to knock himself out. Nope. I’ve watched this build from the start and I can tell you every single mod has involved Zac’s own money – and considerable amounts of his own blood and sweat. The only advantage he has really had is a decent sized workshop to play in and a team of very supportive people around him to lend a hand and spur him on.
The tale starts in a reassuringly familiar way. Father and son buy an old VW with a view to Junior learning the family craft over a few familial welding/bonding/cuppatea moments. This particular Mk1 was bought liberally doused in orange paint and with more than enough filler generously sprinkled around each panel to cause a major re-think.
It didn’t take Zac long to learn his trade through, stripping off the original shoddy metalwork, along with his honorary “Polish Dad”, Waldemar Pieczonka. Then steaming into a full re-fit with VW Heritage panels to get the old girl ship super-straight.
While they were at it, the duo smoothed the bay, adding an inch of steel to the suspension turrets (a tip from Berg Cup fabber, Luke), de-seaming the chassis legs and welding over flat panels. Underneath, the legs were also notched, to allow the track rods and drive shafts to clear on a super-low ride height. This may have been Zac’s first motor, but he had eyes on air-ride from the very beginning.
With a straight-ish set of panel-work and a welded and tidy bay, under Luke’s watchful eyes Zac then began to learn the black art of bodywork, carefully skimming small amounts of filler to get the Golf’s flanks arrow straight. Then learning how to prime and guide-coat the body to get those crisp Giugiaro lines looking exactly the way the great man envisaged.
As level as the Bonneville Salt Flats, it was then passed over to Adam Speck at Blade Garage to expertly splash on several coats of the stunning Stratos Blue that now grace the Golf’s panels. Although, the result wasn’t what Zac expected. “It wasn’t the shade I thought it was going to be!” he grimaces. “But it didn’t take me much more than a few minutes to completely fall in love with it. It’s more vivid than we had planned. But having lived with the results for a few months, it turned out to be a happy accident!”
The mint shell was then ready for fitting out, with the first job being a set of mahoosive 6-pot brakes that use a sexy CNC caliper and a race-quality two-piece, semi-floating disc and bell – measuring 286mm. It’s probably overkill for this car really, but no-one ever got into trouble with brakes that were too good, did they?
Forge has drawn heavily on the knowledge gained after nearly three decades of tuning excellence, and has used it brilliantly. The calipers are machined from a solid aluminium 7075 high-grade billet and use heavy-duty weather seals to make them a genuine road-friendly kit, even in the depths of a British winter. Discs are track-quality and utilise separate bells for optimum heat dissipation, meaning the kit can easily cope with repeated hard applications without fade. It may be the smallest kit Forge has ever produced, but like the diminutive Golf itself, it punches far above its weight.
Out back, Zac sensibly upped the ante of the factory stoppers with Mk2 Golf stub axles, and all new parts all round. Topped off with a custom set of Hose Technik braided lines from Forge’s sister company, this was a package ready to stop a train.
The exhaust was next up, and that was down to Forge’s good buddies at Scorpion to sort. A custom system and bracketry was duly fabricated by the Forge team, using component parts supplied by Scorpion, terminating in a wonderfully period-perfect DTM tailpipe and hung on custom bracketry. This is a system that sounds every bit as good as it looks. And when mated to the cleaned and tidied lump that came with the car, things were looking very neat indeed on the drivetrain side of things.
Air Lift provided the suspension, of course, with the very first kit of its kind in the UK. With plenty of thought going into the fit, Zac’s Golf now has five inches of available travel to its name – meaning it can ride low for scene and show points, or crest speed-bumps without breaking a sweat. Better still, being one of Air Lift’s ingenious ‘indexed’ systems, it can be easily set to a precise ride height, to allow the suspension geometry to be perfected – and tyre scrub to be banished to a distant memory.
After this major surgery, Zac and the Forge team were able to start creating gorgeous little details. Notice the hand-fabbed bumper end-caps on the new Heritage bumpers? A great example of what Forge’s talented techs can knock up in a lunch-time or three for a bit of beer money – and a wonderful way to reinforce the firm’s reputation for being able to make almost anything out of aluminium! Much work was done here by Zac’s long-suffering colleagues Luke and Rudi.
While we’re on the subject of neat details, did you spot the Porsche door handles and glovebox lock? Or the bonnet stay and custom Forge golf ball gearknob? This is a car that rewards every close inspection with a new find.
For a car that was going to be sitting millimetre-perfect, wheel choice was essential. Despite initially thinking about a ‘sensible’ set cost wise, Zac had a change of heart. “I saw a set of Rotiform VCEs on a car at Players and I had to think again!” he laughs. “It’s such an instant classic, that wheel. I knew it would be the perfect choice for the Golf.”
Keeping everything in proportion was also a consideration from the outset. Nothing looks worse than a rim that’s clearly too big for the recipient vehicle. So Zac and the Rotiform team started hatching a plan around a set of staggered 16 inchers. “Working out the offset took more than a little head-scratching,” says Zac. “I knew we could get a considerable tyre stretch to allow a decent tuck. But I also wanted a fair amount of poke from the rims, too. Then there was the factor of the Forge Big Brake Kit up front, which meant we were limited as to what we could achieve, without fouling those big calipers.”
Between the two companies though, this number crunching was soon sorted, resulting in a perfectly statured 7-inch front and 8-inch rear combination that would clear the brakes without issue and allow for a super-low stance. Augmenting this would be a carefully chosen set of deliberately mismatched rubber to allow Zac to get the Mk1 sitting on a dime. This had to be made up of a set of super-narrow 165/40×16 Nankangs out front – as very few manufacturers make this size – and a pair of Toyo T1Rs out back in 195/40×16 flavour.
“Although I wouldn’t normally mix a set of tyres like this on a car,” says Zac. “I just had to do it this time in order to get the right rubber rake and stance combination.” Getting them fitted would be down to a brave soul called Ben, at Tyre and Battery in Hempsted, who had to use the ‘cheater’ to blow them on. It’s not so easy getting a skinny 165 onto a fat 7-inch rim.
More details followed. Worried about a colour clash between the new lairy blue hue and the factory green tinted glass, Zac sensibly opted for a brand-spanking-new set of all-clear windows to keep a sharp, clean contrast.
Speaking of which, this VW was never going to run with its factory pews either, especially not with the Dunsford clan of Cobra Seats fame being so close to the Miles family. A few phone calls and chats later and Zac had settled on a pair of Cobra’s delightful Misano S perches. These bad boys are universally loved across a variety of scenes and have been fitted in everything from Bentley Continentals to high-spec 1,200bhp Nissan GT-Rs. Class works anywhere and these are the proof.
The Misano uses a rather sexy hybrid composite steel construction, with a polished stainless steel chassis and a high-gloss composite backrest for looks that work in almost any Dub. But Zac wanted a little more integration than that. So he had the back-rests colour-coded by bodywork painter, Adam, to tie the inside and outside together. A stunning combination of soft-grain Nappa leather and Alcantara, coupled with carefully selected blue stitching in Bentley diamond effect would fit the bill.
Seats this good were always going to look a little out of place against a careworn Wolfsburg dashboard and interior fittings. So Zac had Team Cobra run their sewing machines over pretty much everything else he could unbolt from the interior. The dash, centre console and armrests, headliner and even steering wheel all got beautifully upholstered too. Cobra’s finishing touch was to use a VW Heritage carpet as a template to make an even swankier and plusher version for the car. Which, when fitted with the customised Retro Retrims door cards, looked simply unbelievable.
To tie everything together, Zac’s final visit would be to the talented artisans at Studio Incar, who would use their Jedi-level trim and design skills to create an install to house the now colour-coded air system. As well as the superb sound of Gladen RS series amps allied to SQX components and subs – all controlled by a Mosconi 4to6 DSP supplied by BladeICE.
Here, in a flurry of MDF and Alcantara, the two teams worked beautifully together to create a symphony of design in every sense of the word. Like the exhaust, this is another part of the build that matches its aural appeal with its aesthetic. Strong work, guys.
As first cars go, you would have to say this one is out there. Along with a stellar supporting cast, Zac has created a perfectly executed, beautifully finished car. If this is his first effort, we have a feeling his next project is going to be a show-stopper!
TECH SPEC: MK1 GOLF
1.8 GTi 8-valve digifant engine from a Mk2 Golf; 5 speed 1.8 GTi gearbox; Pipercross open cone induction kit; Forge Motorsport hoses; Forge brake reservoir tank; Forge heater matrix cover; CB rocker cover; smoothed engine bay.
1981 Mk1 Golf shell; Stratos Blue paint; Smoked headlights and indicator; Porsche 944 Lux door handles; chrome small bumpers with custom Forge end caps and centre insert; Autoplas rear window.
Porsche 944 Lux glove box lock; Forge golf ball-style gearknob; Cobra Misano S heated seats; Wolfsburg steering wheel.
Studio Incar boot build; Gladen audio RS series amps; Gladen SQX slim components and SQX subs; Mosconi 4to6 DSP (Digital sound processor).
Air Lift Performance performance air ride kit – x2 compressors x1 tank; Powerflex bushes; Eibach anti-rollbars; Scorpion exhaust system; Rotiform VCEs 16×7 fronts, 16×8 rears; Toyo T1Rs 195/40×16 rears; Nankang 165/40×16 fronts; Hose Technik braided brakelines; Forge 286mm – 6-pot Big Brake Kit; Notched chassis legs; Raised strut top mounts.
Words Paul Cowland photography Nick Williams