Project GTI: Planning The Ultimate Road Trip
Where To?

This was always the goal.

Later this summer, I will have owned Project GTI for four years. Since day one, there was a plan with the car which we’ve stuck to fanatically: to maximise performance with as little drawback to the car’s abilities as a daily driver.

Every upgrade, improvement and modification made have all been with this ethos in mind. It’s always been a humble project, we’ve not tried to re-invent the wheel or break the internet with it. It was always about building one car that can do everything well, and it’s something which I think we’ve achieved.

It’s a car that is huge fun on a race track, it doesn’t look out of place at shows and a car which I have absolutely no qualms about getting in and driving long distances at a moment’s notice. While it might be just a GTI to some, it’s special to me. I didn’t think I would ever own a car quite this good.

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With over 300hp at the wheels, a trick differential, subtle styling modifications, increased braking power, essential track day upgrades and suspended on Air Lift Performance 3H, it’s really capable of anything.

Since the start, there was always a ‘finish line’ moment in mind. For all the years I’ve owned it, I’ve day dreamed countless times about performing one simple task with it: driving the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Further to this, driving the Nordschleife as part of an even larger adventure. One that takes in sights and places that I know and love, along with places that I’ve always wanted to visit.

For the longest time, this was all just a pipe-dream until I sat down one Sunday earlier this year and starting looking at the logistics of it all…

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When I previously made the pilgrimage before in 2013 (as a stopover between events) I sailed to Wales, drove across the UK and got the tunnel from Dover to Calais. By the time I reached France, I had a huge amount of mileage under me, along with the expense of two sea crossings. My first destination on that trip was a show in the Netherlands, a scene show called DMPD, before spending a couple of days at the ‘ring and then returning north to shoot my first Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

With all of this in mind, along with information learned from other trips to Germany, I sought out a new route to the Nürburgring. With the uncertainty surrounding Brexit at the time, and the predicted chaos at the ports, I planned to avoid the United Kingdom altogether on this trip.


By the time you read this, I’ll likely be preparing to be loaded onto a ship in Dublin Port, before an 18 hour journey that will take us around the most southerly part of England and into Cherbourg in north-west France.

The advantage here is pretty simple; there’s only one sailing and it’s overnight, so when we arrive in France on Sunday morning, we’ll be well rested for a full day’s drive of  837kms (520 miles) to the Eifel region. It’s the longest single stint we’ll do, but it means that all going to plan, we wake up at the Nürburgring on Monday morning, with a full day’s touristenfahrten before us.

We’ll spend a couple of days there, before heading to Stuttgart and then onto Reims in France as we make our way back to Cherbourg via Caen and the Normandy region.

I do enjoy a good plan, and there are lots of things scheduled on this trip, which of course I will document as best as I possibly can. We’ve allowed one full week for this, and while I would love to make it longer, it’s a long time to be away from the office with limited connectivity.

A trip this long, requires an immense amount of preparation, particularly when it involves derestricted autobahns and of course, the Nordschleife itself.

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I’ve steadily been working through a check-list of Project GTI related things to be completed in advance of this trip. While the car feels good, I’d much rather know that it’s good before setting sail…

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That’s not to mention the logistics of packing for a week’s worth of speedhunting; figuring out what I need and what I actually need, along with being prepared for any of you that I might meet along the way (for a change).

Yes, I’ve had a Project GTI sticker made to give away on the road, and yes, I know, it’s terribly self-indulgent but I’m not even the slightest bit sorry. I’m that proud. Also, there’s some normal Speedhunters stickers coming with me, along with some of our 10 Year anniversary ones, too. All you have to do is come and say hello…

The Preparation

Before setting out for Goodwood and 77MM two weeks ago, I wanted to make a start into this considerable checklist, starting with a simple four-wheel alignment. Well, it should have been simple…

It was going swimmingly until a rear lower control arm bolt snapped, and due to significant time constraints, the only solution was to cut the remaining bolt out and put in an entire new rear lower control arm.

While the bolt snapping was unlucky, everything else was maximum good luck as we were able to source the parts locally and install the new arm very quickly. If even one part of the puzzle wasn’t available until the next day, as is usually the case when you go looking for parts here in the afternoon, I wasn’t going to Goodwood. A close call, for sure.

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The trip across to the UK and back for Goodwood was thankfully fine, but I knew that I wanted every nut and bolt checked over on the car before the big one. There’s nothing quite like absolute peace of mind before venturing that far from home.

As always, the good people at Stone Motorsport were able to make time for me and poured over the car, top and bottom, earlier this week.

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I’m pretty diligent anyways, but it’s always a good idea to have a second set of eyes check things over, especially with the benefit of having the car up in the air.

Lots of tyre left, lots of brake pad, lots of disc with lovely pad marks on them where they have bedded to perfection. All suspension componentry in good nick, nothing was loose and no leaks or anything suspicious looking either. Ready for road.

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I know you only really see the car static in these updates for the most part, but it’s a car that I really enjoy driving. It’s far from a show queen, as the underside of my front splitter will attest to, but I’d rather this than worrying about tiny blemishes, stone chips and never really driving the car properly as a result.

I happily drive this down roads that others wouldn’t even dream of, because I know it’s capable.

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This shouldn’t be interpreted for negligence or anything, but at the end of the day, this car was built for driving and there’s a lot of driving to be done this summer.

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With approval from John Stone received, I can tick another (significant) item off the list with only superficial ones remaining such as cleaning the car inside and out, and brimming the tank so we can cover as much ground as possible early on Sunday across France.

As mentioned above, I will be documenting the trip in as much detail as possible, along with sharing updates on the Speedhunters’ Instagram Story. If you’ll excuse me, I have some more packing to do.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

This journey is being brought to you in association with Air Lift Performance, an official Speedhunters Supplier.

Cutting Room Floor
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I always enjoy updates of Project GTI and have diligently followed every article being a hatch owner myself... looking forward to the next installment, Godspeed!


Thank you!


Love seeing a car being properly used. I’m planning to do a dream drive from Edmonton, Alberta into British Columbia down the Pacific Coast Highway then loop back north through Nevada.

Looks like an AWESOME trip Paddy! Looking forward to updates.


That sounds like an epic drive, really want to do a cross country trip in the US at some point.


It's a great car, I'm glad it gets driven and I'm jealous of your trip. Good luck and have fun.


2,500KMs in a fixed back seat, what could go wrong? XD

(I actually find the Recaro more comfortable on long journeys as it offers better support, but you just can't nap in it)

Bryn Musselwhite

Planning - You're such a grown up. Mother Musselwhite lives in Normandy, avoid any black Volvo estates in that area, it might be her.


So, what you're saying is that I should definitely follow any black Volvo estates and see if I can seek out anything from your early years to share with the world?

Bryn Musselwhite

I have nothing to hide*

*Runs and hides.


Enjoy the trip Paddy! We'll try not to burn the place down while you're gone.

Theo-Jordan Cousins

This build series is very inspirational. I always get excited when a new chapter is posted for this build. Keep up the good work Paddy!


Not to take away from what looks to be an amazing trip or to take away from your amazing car (which has now become my desktop photo) but I love, love, love, those business cars!!


Business cards? Or stickers? :)


Doh!... well they would make cool business cards!!


Nice roadtrip! And well prepared!
If you can me when you arrive at the ring and how long you stay there, i would really like to meet up with you! Yeah i just want that Sicker :D :D :D


I’ve followed every single step you’ve done to your perfect GTi.. its just so well balanced and executed perfectly! Not too much and not to less, best project out there!!

Keep it up, cant wait for next update!

Cheers from Sweden :D


Thats a great trip! luckily i live less then 3 hours away from the ring in the Netherlands. But why not visit Spa francorchamps? its not far away in france seen from the Ring. Tip for a hotel @ the Ring is Hotel an der Nordschleife. I always go there, its the best at the ring imo!


Agree with David here. Why not include in your trip the old Spa triangle race track? You can plot it (easily) enough on any map application. If you get really into it, you can follow the old route right to where it would have joined to the 'new' F1 track. It is pretty cool, cuts through the forest etc. There are some nice b&bs in the area too if you fancy a stop over. I reckon you could get some pretty cool pics as well. Anyway, best of luck for the trip!


Paddy, first of all, your GTI is just "sweet!". Love the wrap/paint, wheels, stance, etc. You KNOW I am a lifetime VW guy. My MKIII Jetta is with me for life! $20K restoration/tuning by NGP and myself. I have driven cross-country 3 times in my VW. It is a nice drive but kind of scary. There are some racist, crazy psychotic people in the US. Just make sure you have everything you need to survive anything. Especially in the desert. There are no cops, no cell towers, no nothing in some areas. And I saw so many bad car accidents in Las Vegas it wasn't funny. Saw a van collide with a commuter buss and the the van caught fire and burned to the ground. Vegas has some crazy people and REALLY bad drivers!


Always nice to see one of these car properly used, enjoy the trip!

Changing topic, did you ever considered using the headlights from the Mk6 R Talladega Black Package? It's 100% subjective, but those Mk7ish lights look a bit shabby to me. Thinking something a bit more OEM+ would suit better the level of quality/execution in this car.

Mahesh Sukhram za

Have always loved your car and the route you took with it wrt to modifying. Enjoy your trip and safe travels.

Patrick Divican

Great Post as always! What´s the name of the App you are using for your To Do stuff?