In a world where the wide-bodied modern classics attract all the hype and adoration, there’s a lesser spotted breed of connoisseur that looks a little deeper into the metaphorical VW record box for something a little more rare groove. We check out Harry’s tuned VW Golf Mk2.

We love a Rallye. I was lucky enough to own one back in the day and Performance VW Editor Elliott’s long-awaited project is edging ever closer to completion. In fact, I’m of an age where I appreciate all those cars adorned with automotive shoulder pads.

There’s an E30 M3 print hanging on the office wall, the Porsche 959 model my Grandad bought me for Christmas in ’87 takes pride of place on the living room bookshelf and, of course, I bought my son the Hot Wheels Sport Quattro when they hit the shelves a couple of years ago. However, as time’s gone on, often from an ownership perspective and through purity of design over motorsport function, it’s the narrow-bodied stablemates that I find myself yearning for. A controversial statement but I’d take a 325i over an E30 M3, I have no desire to put an X-Pack on my Capri and when I had my Rallye, I’d have swapped it for a Mk2 Golf GTI G60 Syncro but the chance never arose.

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this viewpoint and 37-year-old Buckinghamshire-based finance director Harry Chodha is with me in the controversial narrow-minded Mk2 camp.

front on shot of Tuned VW Golf Mk2

Harry’s car history

Harry’s introduction to the marque came at a very young age: “Some of my first memories were spent driving around with my parents in a Mk1 Golf Driver and a Mk2 Golf big bumper 16V and, of course, fixing them on our driveway when they inevitably broke down. From this came my passion for cars, and I was fortunate enough to have my parent’s Mk2 as my first car which I still own today. Then at the age of 21, I made my first car purchase which is my Mk1 Rivage and from this point, the collection just grew.”

Many of you will know Harry or his cars from the shows. The aforementioned Rivage was built into a full-on show car that accompanied him to different events for 14 years prior to him building the Mk2 on these pages. In addition to the long-standing red Golf GTI Mk2 16V and Mk1 Rivage, Harry has an impressive VAG fleet including a fully restored 1978 Series 1 Mk1 Golf GTI, a 1981 Series 2 Golf GTI that is used as a summer runaround, a 1982 Mk1 Golf GTI race car which is currently in build (more on that later), an Oak Green Mk2 Golf GTI (currently in the early stages of a modified build), two Mk5 Golf R32s that have been kept stock for daily duties and, flying the flag for Ingolstadt, a full fat Audi R8 featuring a factory carbon pack, titanium race exhaust and Rotiform rolling stock.

Despite his cars appearing in some of our show coverage over the years, Harry’s busy life has meant that the stars have never quite aligned for a full feature until now but, what a way to start.

Tuned VW Golf Mk2 side profile

Tuned VW Golf Mk2 project begins

“When I purchased the car, it was just a rolling shell with just the running gear, front bumper half hanging off and a roll cage. The car also had a Corrado dash fitted which was the first thing that was taken off the car. After finishing my Rivage build, I decided that I wanted to build my dream Mk2 Golf – never being a fan of the Rallye, my base for the project was always going to be a standard G60 until this 1991 GTI G60 Syncro came up for sale.

German Car Festival

Knowing that I wanted to build a powerful yet drivable car, this proved to be the perfect base. I had known of the car for many years as the old owner and I are friends. Knowing the rarity of the car, it was always on my radar. I was given first refusal and a deal was struck within a few minutes. The car was delivered to me in the middle of 2019 and started the build during the lockdown in 2020. I had witnessed my friends build some cracking Mk2s and I was influenced by the iconic Westside builds which helped to shape my dream MK2 vision.”

carbon fibre door

Initial modifications

Harry wasted no time and the Mk2 was stripped to a bare shell to enable a ground-up build to fit the mould of his vision: “Firstly I made sure I had all the requisite parts and I gathered bits from my own collection and ordered some others in from all around the world. Language barriers and pandemic-related supply chain and production issues made for a logistically challenging start. I spent the majority of lockdown putting the car together and when restrictions relaxed, I was able to get some help from a couple of friends to get the engine in and the remaining bits of the project together.

I had been in touch with the team at Vara Technik to finish off the finer details at about 65% complete. Once the car was dropped at Vara Technik, I spent many days discussing with Sanj and Praks what my vision was. They really ‘got it’. Many hours were put in by the team to get things perfect from fabrication work to ideas that were once just a dream which the team put into reality.”

Tuned VW Golf Mk2 engine turbocharger

Engine build on the tuned VW Golf Mk2

The Vara Technik-built engine is a beast. It started life as a 1.8T AGU from a MK4 Golf which was stripped and rebuilt. The block was bored to 1.9 litres and fully forged. It boasts a mouthwatering spec including 82.5mm Wossner pistons, X beam drilled rods with ARP 2000 bolts, ACL big end and main bearings, ARP 2000 head studs and main studs, 550cc injectors, a large port head, a full Supertech valve train and B5 Cat cams, new hydraulic lifters, a Bartek high-flow oil pump, a Garrett GT3076r turbo with Owens Development core and a Tial 38mm external wastegate.

The intake, radiator, oil cooler and intercooler are all custom setups and pipework was made to support the Garrett Turbo. The mock-up pipework was dropped to Alex at The Car Kitchen who did a sterling job fabricating that stunning titanium pipework.

titanium pipework

Transmission upgrades

The gearbox is a six-speed Quaife 02A 4wd item with synchromesh internals which transfers power via an overhauled Syncro transfer box. Style Dynamics came good with a complete stainless steel custom exhaust. The Emerald K6+ management with external AEM wideband is running a map by John Lamsley that produced an impressive 524.6hp and 622nM of torque on the dyno at 21PSI. Harry plans to carry out a Haldex conversion which will allow him to run 28-30PSI so there is yet more firepower to come.

Tuned VW Golf Mk2 driving shot

Brakes and suspension upgrades on the tuned Mk2 Golf

Further upgrades to allow the Mk2 to safely use its newfound power include Tarox six-pot callipers, a full Powerflex rebush and KW’s tried and tested V3 coilovers. These also help to get those gorgeous Borbet Bs sitting pretty. These measure in at a girthy 15×9” with an ET of 15 and are wrapped in 205/40/16 Nankangs. Whilst the square set-up is aesthetically in keeping with the build, it’s also technically sensible, aiding the equilibrium of the four-wheel drive system with differential longevity in mind.

“Over the years my go-to choice of wheels on all of my Mk1 and Mk2s had always been the BBS RM or RS but I set out a few years back trying to find a Set of Borbet B wheels in the correct 4×100 fitment to use on a car one day as a nice change. I managed to source these wheels back in 2016 and they sat in boxes after a refurb in the loft for many years until this build was put together. With the vision of the front end, the dish on the Borbet B worked so well that it was the wheel choice to go for.”

lights on Tuned VW Golf Mk2 air filter

Exterior modifications

That segues us neatly into discussing that front end and the exterior look in general. Despite preferring the narrower flanks of the Syncro, Harry was keen to utilise the Rallye’s purposeful front end. This works a treat combined with the smoothed front bumper, US spec rear lights and those arches. G60 front arches have, as per tradition, been installed up front but also adapted to fit out back, providing uniform coverage for the Borbet square set-up.

“Heart and Sol Paintworks were entrusted with painting my Rallye front-end custom setup, bumper smoothing and reproducing the factory texture on the arches. They also custom painted the rears of the Recaro A8s and the rocker cover in black with a heavy gold flake which look amazing and tie the project together. Just like Vara Technik, they really got the vision which helped me to execute it how it appeared in my mind.”

Tuned VW Golf Mk2 boot and roll cage

Vara Technik worked hard to fit all the custom radiator and pipework under that OEM+ Rallye front end and it took a lot of careful fab work and determination but the results speak for themselves. Attention to detail runs throughout the build and is evidenced by a selection of rare OEM and aftermarket parts. Genuine Happich pop-out rear windows and a Bonrath single wiper conversion are amongst our old-school favourites and we love the way the 24-carat gold plated bonnet catches, bonnet stay, bolts and door pins are complemented by the gold contrast stitching on the diamond quilted black leather trim job on the rare second- generation Recaro A8s on genuine Recaro rails.

Tuned VW Golf Mk2 interior

Tuned Mk2 Golf interior

Full carbon door cards and interior A, B and C pillar covers flow with the matching scuttle panel in the ‘bay, whilst a DIGIFIZ instrument cluster is joined by a brace of DIGIFIZmini auxiliary gauges to keep an eye on those all-important Ts and Ps. A triple Chrome plated TR Motoring gear shifter, a Momo D32 steering wheel with Carbon Fibre Inserts, a Custom Cages half cage and a bespoke flat floor complete the considered cabin that combines high-performance functionality and show car wow factor.

rear shot of Tuned VW Golf Mk2

What’s next?

The tuned VW Golf Mk2 came together over a three-year period which, given the pandemic, was no mean feat. It’s already been well received and with the imminent Haldex conversion and increase in power, promises to get even better. “The car has received an amazing amount of attention since being built. It’s already been on display at Autosport International, NEC Classic Motor Show and been the subject of a VW Heritage photoshoot. The majority of people just look at it as another Mk2 Golf until they come over and have a look in the engine bay or have a read of the spec. It’s funny when they learn that it’s a Syncro, I witness many showgoers crouching down and looking underneath just to make sure.”

With another Mk2 project and a four-wheel drive track spec Mk1 Golf GTI build in progress, we’re pretty sure this won’t be the last we’ll see of Harry on these hallowed pages. What was that? The Mk1 is going to be the first UK car to run the wide-bodied Voomeran kit? This doesn’t fit in with my narrow-minded theme but it seems a bit too exciting to omit. Until next time…

Words: Graham Leigh. Photos: Ade Brannan.

Love German cars? We’re hosting our premier German Car Festival event this October 5th at Goodwood. Check out our event preview here, or purchase tickets to the show via the event website here.