Looking at this picture puts a smile on my face and I hope it does the same for you. I promise you now, there’s no photo manipulation going on, no fake lens flare. No post process manipulation. That is what it looked like. I’ve wanted to bring you the story about (and around) this Mk1 Golf since January, actually it was a bit before that… But since I first saw it sat in the development workshop of Forge Motorsport in Gloucester, England, I knew you’d get it. It’s been a random summer of missed deadlines, setbacks and problematic components, but at last on an early morning in late summer, it all came together and we stormed the motorway in a race-ready, in-your-face Mk1 Golf. Just getting the photo you see above makes it all worthwhile.
The Golf has proven to be mildly controversial, although this was never the intention. What Forge set out to do was showcase their project building skills and product range in one package, a simple plan that started late last summer when the team saw a Mk1 Golf with a 1.8 turbo conversion.
It’s always the same no matter who you talk to; you know the process that we’ve all gone through where a simple project escalates and becomes so much more involved than the original plan. Companies like Forge are not immune and this has moved so far away from that initial starting point, all it has in common is the fact that it’s a Golf.
Buying a part-finished/converted project was scrapped as the guys figured they could do much better job themselves. Which of course they were right to think. MD Peter Miles tells me that he originally set a budget of £15K for the build. I’ll let you know later on how they got on with that…
What appeared to be a virtually complete car appeared at the Autosport show in early January 2013, roughly four to five months after the project was started. An incredible achievement, but in truth only half the story. The guys had started with a rough but standard Mk1 Golf GTi. The shell was then stripped back and prepped with a cage and carbon roof panel.
The cage meant some weight could be cut out, but can you see how things are getting carried away already? The Berg Cup look was probably the biggest single factor in how this build got so wonderfully out of hand. There have been a couple of key people on this build, which I think has been the problem… because they’re all grade A petrolheads! This was never going to be an average project, which I think secretly Peter probably accepted a long time ago. For example, Luke Amon who has done a lot of the work, turns up at the Forge workshop each day in a slammed, resto mod E21 BMW. Come on, this was always going to get out of hand!
The Berg Cup inspiration came from Luke, who figured it would make for the perfect attention-grabbing look whilst being effective. Because when I say that, I mean they wanted the Golf to rip. They wanted a completed project that would be road legal enough to drive to a track, tear it up all day and then drive home. All show and all go was the aim. Speedhunters has attended a couple of Berg Cup events over the years, held on mainland Europe: they’re road based hillclimb courses with some gorgeous cars competing. Take a look at this link and you’ll see what I mean…
I’ll get back to the bodywork later on, but I just wanted to assure you that it has got the power to back up those wild visual claims. The engine is based around a 1.8T AGU block that’s been over bored by 2mm, with pretty much every other component being sourced from the aftermarket world. The guys have got a whole army of people they’ve worked with over the years and the Golf has really become so much more because of these relations; it’s hard to explain but if you’re in the industry maybe you’ll understand. When you’re passionate about what you do then good things happen as a natural consequence. So it was with the Golf. I noticed every time I’d catch up with the guys, they’d be genuinely blown away by the people that were coming forward or offering help.
People like Garrett with their GTX2860 unit. VW never favoured turbo power for their Golf until the fourth generation but the light, nimble chassis of the Mk1 is well suited to boost.
As you’d expect from a company that specialises in alloy fabrication, their expertise is everywhere. The mainstay of the business is alloy radiators, intercoolers and BOVs plus a myriad of other speciality parts. But the development workshop is set up to handle all kinds of fabrication, so don’t be too disappointed if some of the items you see here aren’t in the catalogue.
You may well have noticed that there’s only an intercooler at the front end, because in the interest of space, cooling and weight distribution the radiator has been moved to the rear of the Golf.
Although to be honest the air intakes in the side polycarbonate windows give the game away.
Those and the dirty great big alloy ducting of course. This is still a show car type build though, so details such as the header tank are held up as individual offerings of excellence. An intricately TIG welded body, complete with level gauge and custom hose fittings.Pride inside
The Golf has been built with pride, which for me has to be the key ingredient. Everything is finished to such a high standard, but it’s been built to use too. I’ve not seen any of the guys ever get precious when they’re around the project. I’ll give you an example…
Alex and Chris ask me if I want to see some flames? Well of course I do gentlemen, I’m a grown man who loves cars, and flames even more so. Chris jumps in, has a play with the laptop and seconds later, there they are! I look up from my camera and the assorted bodies stood around are all grinning from ear to ear and nodding with that mutual sense of appreciation that only comes from doing something slightly mindless… but amazing.
Which leads me neatly on to the trophies of such activities. You can tell the Golf has been cleaned and polished but there’s one area the team have left completely untouched. The scorched and burnt paint proving a point that it gets used and abused. If you’ve got it, flaunt it? Right?
Everywhere you look the names used are synonymous with quality. The KW ‘Berg Cup spec’ coilovers actually give a load of adjustability for Forge to play with, dependent on what they want to do. Because one day it might be on the track and the next popping to the shops; it’s all about making sure it’s used.
And yes it does get used – this whole feature is meant to demonstrate that fact, and reflect the enjoyment the guys get out of jumping in the Golf and taking it for a drive. It may only be twelve months or so since its inception, but it feels like much longer sometimes when you talk to them. The stripped-out interior being a wonderland of cool tech and features for an inquisitive passenger like me.
Sat right in front of me is the OMEX ECU. I’ve been assured that this 710 series can do pretty much whatever the team will need it to. Anti-lag, launch control and a whole host of other stuff can be made to happen.
Literally perched on an alloy stalk between the passenger and driver seats is this control panel. Easily falling to hand, it’s the sort of thing I think we’d all like given half a chance; flick up the switch covers and arm yourself, because things are going to get hectic.
Although everything about the boxy VW feels strong and robust, it also has that wonderful delicacy that race car components can possess. Like the Race Techology digital dash: slim and elegant almost like a smart phone or tablet. I really think the days of huge gauges are numbered.
There’s always something so committed about strapping yourself into a bucket seat, no matter what the car. It almost mentally prepares you for what’s about to come, sharpens the senses and focuses the mind. The pair of Cobra seats have been custom trimmed with the company logo and the matching harnesses are proper 3in wide, six point items.
Going back to that pride thing, the guys have been to a lot of shows this year – mostly track-based but with our own favourites like the Players events and the Retro Rides Gathering too. Peter says that Michael Flynn who runs the ‘I love Berg Cup’ Facebook page has become a firm favourite; all the guys the Golf has led them to forming part of its (so far) short but sweet story.
Looking out of the company T5 van as we return from our dawn run, I realise just what a bold move that bodywork is…Look at that!
I love the way the HR Engineering flared arches kick up at the rear edge. Aero is becoming more and more mainstream and it’s always amusing to see people discover it for the first time.
A picture of the Golf was posted on the Volkswagen UK Facebook page over the summer after it was snapped at the Players Classic event in June. Opinion was split down the middle between the thousands of comments and pretty much everyone referenced the front aero. The tired and clichéd snow plough was mentioned the most, just showing how little people understand about downforce. But this signature feature of the Berg Cup-look was vital and I, for one, love it. They had it made up by Fibre-lyte along with the carbon rear boot spoiler, with HR Engineering also supplying some GRP doors to go with the Forge side skirts.
I still think the most hilarious thing is seeing the VW roll down the road though. You can just make out the detailed underside here, along with those treaded Toyo Proxes road tyres…
… which wrap around the 9x15in Compomotive alloys; a well-observed choice given the traditional British company’s deep-rooted links to the world of motorsport. It would have been all to easy to choose a more mainstream brand like BBS but what they’ve tried to do is create their vision of how it should be done, without following fashion to the letter.
The car is hauled up courtesy of their own six-pot calipers – after all, it would be a shame to not use them here.
Get to the other end of the braided hoses and you’ll find a Tilton pedal box. I just love the way all three pedals line up perfectly, with that grippy, full width heel pad just below. Perfect for some heel and toe action.
The level of detail is relentless and that’s another thing I admire about this choice of build: because of the stripped and purposeful nature, nothing can be hidden. So instead it’s been exquisitely fabricated and considered in every way.
And just in case you forgot who built it, well the whole race car theme and consequent livery does a pretty good job of reminding you. And yes I know that’s the idea behind a demo car, so that budget of 15K that turned in to 50K? So far it’s proving worth it as the coverage the Golf continues to receive shows the love shared around the globe. Demo car job done.
Which is what I forget sometimes, that this is a demonstration of talent. I should explain myself as I first dealt with Forge maybe ten years ago for a UK-based magazine when we did a tech article. I can remember the friendly vibe well and it’s been a recurring theme every time I’ve spent time with them. If there’s a party, they’re probably throwing it and if you need some help, they’re the guys you can rely on. You might think this is because I’m a journalist, but I can honestly say I’ve seen them treat so many different people exactly the same way. It’s just what they do.
So I was smiling as I perched in a petrol station at sunrise, as Alex, Chris and quite possibly the tallest man to ever wear shorts, Zak, fuss and circle around the Golf. Because it’s one of them now; they’ve built it and instilled it with that passion.
Of course nobody on that motorway is going to think after seeing the VW, ‘oh, I should go out and buy some Forge kit’. What I can guarantee you though is that it raised a smile, the feeling of which is infectious and that’s what life is about surely? Plain and simple – having a good time.
Which is exactly what this little VW is going to keep on doing, because if you’re reading this in the run-up to SEMA 2013, then right now somewhere in the middle of America there’s a truck road tripping to Vegas, and in the back of it is a spectacular Golf on its way to the biggest show of its kind in the world.
I’m also going to SEMA and I know the first thing that will happen when I see the Forge Golf again is that I’ll smile. And that folks, is what it’s all about…