The Milkman: Pd-powered Volkswagen Mki Golf

In the Volkswagen scene there are a handful of automotive painters that consistently knock it out of the park. Say their name and you know that the car’s bodywork is going to be nothing short of flawless. Greg Howell is one of these ‘go-to’ guys.

A bit like this Mk1 that he has lovingly put together, one of the reasons for Greg’s success is his honesty. This, combined with expertise gained spanning three decades of show car creating, and you have a man that’s seriously capable of paint and bodywork.

From simple crash repairs to full-on wide-body conversions on B5 saloons using genuine Audi RS4 Avant panels, nothing is a problem for Greg – it’s simply an enjoyable challenge.

So where did this obsession for building things start? BMXs. Back when Greg was around 10 or 11-years old he started upgrading his bikes and then later on in life his attention naturally turned to cars.

Whilst most kids were revising for their school exams Greg was in his parent’s garage – his then makeshift paint shop – carrying out body mods. At that time, though, he didn’t even have a compressor. “I was using these compressed air cartridges and could only repair and paint small panels and motorcycles”. Greg explains.

Things have changed since then quite considerably. Not in a ‘Billy Big Time; look-at-me’, type of way, though. No, there’s none of that. Greg runs a humble paint shop with just one right hand man called Iain, a state-of-the-art oven and a modest sized, but seriously well equipped workshop.

Add Howell’s ridiculously obsessive and geeky knowledge of paintwork hues into this set-up and you have a small operation that produces killer paint. It’s a simple but very effective affair.

Onto the car you see here. Like many project vehicles it came along by chance. Greg’s friend Warren needed to free up some space and when Greg asked some questions Warren spoke of a very sweet Golf with low miles showing on KW Variant 1 coilovers and steel wheels. The rest of the car was bone-stock and apparently the body was in good shape.

It turned out that the car was super-straight – no accident damage – simply a few stone chips, so it was a done deal. The car was so nice Greg considered using it as a daily driver. In fact, the car sat on his drive for nearly 2-months before he decided what to do with it.

After considering all sorts of engine swaps from a Mk2 Golf’s G60, to the Mk5’s 2.0-litre turbocharged FSi lump, Greg settled for a PD130 diesel motor out of an Audi A3. The project was to be a perfect blend of old and new.

The engine bay was stripped at Southam Bodies, Greg’s paint shop, and the car was delivered to a company for its engine swap. The initial stage was to mock the new motor up in the bay and then that would allow the car to be delivered back to Greg for the bay to be smoothed. This was done in a sensible way – ensuring that the original identity and character of the Mk1 Golf’s motor surroundings would remain.

Admittedly, the rest of the body was quite a simple affair. It was just a case of making sure the prep work was spot on and giving the shell a full re-paint. No other modifications were executed except for an exhaust exit re-design, allowing Greg to run a diesel-style tailpipe.

The colour was to remain the same with Greg shooting the paint in the original Lido Green that the Mk1 left the Wolfsburg factory with in 1981. Still, despite this simple paint job, there’s around 300-hours in the body alone. The bay and the tedious smoothing of the bonnet framework ate into a lot of these hours, but nevertheless, the perfect preparation very much shows in the overall finish.

Tricks of the trade were employed to get the paint looking this good. Greg had the Lido Green hue formulated in base coat. The reason being that this original colour was created as a ‘direct-gloss’, if this had been used the finish would not have cut the mustard. So by using base coat with clear coat over the top, the finish that Greg desired was achieved.

With the motor installed, complete with upgraded turbocharger and along with more go-faster software, the car had 200bhp under the bonnet. Not a massive number, but the 300 lb/ft of torque is where it’s at with TDi power and a Quaife differential helps keep the Golf in a straight line when under hard acceleration. These cars are very lightweight and with this PD-motor tuned-up, it’s seriously fun to drive.

In my eyes this is the perfect Mk1. The interior and exterior keep the essence of the original car, whilst the motor brings the vehicle into the 21st century. For years now Greg’s name has been saved in my phone as the ‘The Milkman’. Not because he drops past my house every morning arming me with semi-skimmed for my cornflakes. Simply because no matter what you ask of him: Greg Howell always delivers.

This trophy hoarding Mk1 is a true testament to his ability as a painter and I am glad that it got transformed from a simple daily driver to this piece of art in motion.

-

Words by Ben Chandler
Photos by Paddy McGrath paddy@dev.speedhunters.com

ENGINE
PD130 motor, Hybrid turbocharger with matched housing, custom software and Quaife differential.

CHASSIS
KW Automotive Variant 1 coilover system, ETA Beta 17×7-inch wheels using imported barrels from Germany with stainless lips, 185/35×17 Nangkang NS-II tyes, with machined centres for custom fit.

INTERIOR
Bone stock with iPod integration and Bluetooth hands-free mobile system.

EXTERIOR
Exhaust exit redesign, bonnet framework smoothing involving 49 holes being welded and deleted, engine bay smoothing, chassis notch and leg shrink to ensure pulleys from PD motor would clear, full repaint in specially formulated Volkswagen Lido Green.


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30 comments
bullrun
bullrun

Good to see he doesnt always make major f*ck ups with show cars.......

VW
VW

@MrDeLand We agree! Thanks for stopping by :)

greenroadster
greenroadster

Like the seats. You wouldnt believe that it has 200 bhp!

AlexanderEvensen
AlexanderEvensen

Wow, that's one smooth ride. So clean. I like that it looks/is original inside.

tomwookieford
tomwookieford

@MHumpho Nah.. that's excellent Humpho. Wheels a bit big for a build like this for me. But most lovely.

KiwiMotoring
KiwiMotoring

I like Mk1 Golfs, but my eyes kept going back to the workshop in the background of the photos. Very nice setup!

bakayaru
bakayaru

Who did the swap? No credit given, for the hardest part of the build?

sam
sam

A piece of art!! Wish we could have these engines down here, must be hell of a fun to drive. In this case Its not the miles/gallon thats important, it's the set of front tires/weeks... hehe

koko san
koko san

A little bit wider picture of the engine bay would have been good. ;-)

koko san
koko san

What a clean Golf Mk1, I like the idea of putting a modern TDI engine it really makes it a practical daily driver. The only thing I don't like are the wheels, in my opinion they don't go very well with the boxy shape of the car.Good write and pictures thx.

Brad_S
Brad_S

I love all the golf generations, but I have to say this one is on top. My only problem is getting a 6'7 frame into it.... Other than that props to the owner for pulling off such a clean build a cop would think it's stock!

Gerben aka Suburuuh
Gerben aka Suburuuh

This is a piece of art 'sleeper', in such a basic trim, almost to say humble! What a great job, luv'it. Who wouldn't want one, well?! Anyone?

Peter@Forge
Peter@Forge

another good chandler feature on a really nice car 

Myself
Myself

nice, looks, power, fun and economy in one place i bet he still fit in 4-5l/100km..

shieldsyo
shieldsyo

Gorgeous car man, wish I could see it up close and personal...

SaudQureshi
SaudQureshi

More detail desktops please! Especially the hood latch, shift knob, gauge cluster AND EVERY OTHER DETAIL!

b3nson
b3nson

That was MY idea for a mk1 Golf! Haha! Perfectly done, awesome car!

Stealth
Stealth

Ok Speedhunters, we need to talk. I really enjoy your coverage and the pictures you guys take. But sometimes, as in this article, the pictures kinda glance over the really cool parts. In this case the engine swap. I want to  see the whole engine bay in it glorious stock-plus entirety. One straight on shot of the engine bay I think would have been awesome.

miksfield
miksfield

This car is seriously OG.  Makes me want to go on Ebaymotors right now.

Ben Chandler
Ben Chandler

@bakayaru The engine install was the most challenging part of the build for Greg. There's no real mention simply because Greg was unhappy with the work and I do not believe it's fair to detail negative experiences. The car has been to a couple of specialists since and had some remedial work. Jamie at Turner Racing Developments spent a lot of time on the motor and the car now drives very well indeed. The turbo has been swapped and some wiring issues resolved. The swap itself is not that hard to do, but it is tricky to do very well. The car has been in this state for around two years now and has travelled to Worthersee and back without any issue, which is a 2000 miles round trip. It has also been flown over to SEMA courtesy of Meguiar's, so this is also a testament to the quality of the build. Nothing worth doing is easy I guess, but the car is now 100% and it really is a super cool combo of old and new!

SaudQureshi
SaudQureshi

 @koko san I do agree with that, but it's quite refreshing in that at least they aren't the regular deepdished BBSs.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath moderator

Just to echo what Ben said, there's nothing to see really without stripping the top of the engine bay. Greg obviously prides himself on his attention to detail but doesn't really allow his builds to shout about it. Everything is considered and reserved. You could easily be forgiven for thinking it was a factory build. 

Ben Chandler
Ben Chandler

The engine swap is super on-point. Thing is, though - it is so OEM and tight, I am guessing that it's very tricky for Paddy to show that much. I wish there was more to show, but it's like a perfectly installed motor (after much evolution) with a super-smooth bay... all of which is pretty difficult to display because space is so limited. I understand where you're coming from, though! Even I would like to see more and I know the car inside-out.

bakayaru
bakayaru

@Ben Chandler Thanks for your reply, and candor. As someone who's been repeatedly used for labor and not thanked properly, I've taken great offense to 'buyers'- people who simply purchase labor and take all credit. Plenty on this site - especially from New Zealand. Cheers.

koko san
koko san

 @SaudQureshi wheels are difficult to choose, I would have tried some widened stock steel wheels or some Fuchs, but you are never going to make everybody happy, so at the end the owner has to like them.

 

SaudQureshi
SaudQureshi

 @PaddyMcGrath I think that's what one of the things I love about some of the VAG builds, when people do fantastic OEM+ builds like these!


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