An Act Of Commitment

This is the best Mk1 Volkswagen Golf in existence right now.

Now, before you start steaming out your ears all red-faced and furiously tell me why you disagree, or even ask who I am to make such a statement, let me explain. My name is Mario. I’m new here, save for a few recent pieces you may have read, and my job today is to tell you why this little car deserves the praise I’ve just given it.

See, I feel the UK has some real gems, and I intend to share their stories. This is one of them. Have a read. See where I’m coming from.

It’s A Long Story

I’ve met Alex Wright, the owner of the Golf, three times. The first two times we were far from sober, and the third time was the day of this shoot, having been arranged on that second occasion. That sort of sets the tone for the story if I’m honest.

Alex has had this car for 18 years. That alone is impressive seeing as most people can’t even hang on to a set of wheels for more than a year nowadays.

His car journey doesn’t actually start with VW, though. Alex’s first car was a Vauxhall Chevette, given to him by his grandma. You can’t be a British yute and not know someone in the Dub scene though; a mate of his at the time had a murdered-out Mk1 Golf G60 which was pivotal to Alex’s car journey. Sat on a set of brand new Ronal Turbos, this mean little Golf was peak ’90s scene vibes. Alex had to have one.

The Chevette therefore made way for a Helios Blue Mk1 GTI cabriolet. That stayed as Alex’s daily driver for a while, and it was perfect for him at the time. Quick, practical, nice to drive – hell, it was a GTI after all. He even went to see The Fast and the Furious in it when it was first released. That’s how old he is.

After a while Alex wanted a hardtop car and, coincidentally, someone had just put a restored, green GTI up for sale. It made sense at the time to get the cabriolet sold and to buy the hatchback, so Alex was soon driving around in a clean, straight GTI.

Smitten, Alex took his new Golf to GTI International just days after he bought it. On the way back though, Sod’s Law (Or Murphy’s) dictated that this good twist of fate had to be balanced out, and the Golf was rear-ended. The impact was violent enough to bend a frying pan that was in the boot, so it’s safe to say that the green car’s story came to an abrupt end.

For a few months after that, Alex was carless and used his bike to get around. Yet you can’t be a car person, with car friends, doing car stuff and not have your own vehicle. Enough was enough. That’s when the Helios Blue Mk1 came into the picture.

Lowly Beginnings

It seemed like the perfect car on the ad: A GTI hardtop with the same Helios Blue paint Alex had on his cabriolet. The fact it was a Campaign Edition was almost too good to be true.

Well, it was too good to be true. Like a lot of Mk1s, it was plagued with rust; it was nowhere near as clean as the green car. Alex needed a car though, and he saw the potential it had. Also, it was a thousand pounds. £1000 for a Mk1 Golf GTI, no less. A Campaign Edition. I was born far too late…

Alex snapped it up and that was that; he was back in the game with a slightly modified 8-valve engine and some dodgy lowering springs. It picked up his daily duties again, but it didn’t take long for the modifying itch to take over.

A set of FK Konigsport coilovers and OZ Racing Turbo wheels were fitted, and the GTI was dropped as low as possible. It looked better but the rust kept spreading, and the had car failed its MOT, so ultimately it needed addressing.

Alex was fortunate enough to know a guy who he trusted to fix up the Golf’s bodywork and get it looking up to scratch again, so the car went in to chop out all the rust it had come with free in the sale. The GTI being his daily driver at the time meant that young Alex was once again using his bicycle to get around, hoping that the car would be finished as quickly as possible to get it back on the road.

The bodywork was far from quick though, and four months after having dropped it off he was still cycling around. He was livid, and by the end he just wanted his car back. You can therefore imagine the relief when he got the call that the car was ready and he saw it for the first time.

He didn’t have the highest of hopes, but he described the finished result as “absolutely mint”. With the body now straight as an arrow, Alex was finally proud of how the little blue car looked. There was little doubt it was one of the cleanest Mk1s in the UK at the time.

Edition38 was the car’s first show appearance, and it was also where it won its first award, claiming a top 10 trophy on the Saturday. That was way back in 2004. Or 2005. Alex says, “It was so long ago now it’s hard to piece together,” with a laugh.

Settling In

The Golf quickly became a big part of Alex’s life.

These were cruising days, after all. Back when you’d first learn about someone and their car online, maybe meet them at a show, and then get their MSN details and have a chat.

The long gone Wheel-Whores forum is in fact how Alex got to know our favourite goth-flavoured Porsche/BMW connoisseur, just a guy with a track car Ryan Stewart, and Mr. Ben Chandler, who around that time was rocking a Euro-spec Citroën Saxo and triggering VW fanboys left, right and centre whilst still at Fast Car magazine.

The Golf was really central in Alex’s formative years, and he’s met so many of his long-term friends through it. It stayed pretty much the same for a good few years, save for the OZs making way for a set of Compomotive TH Racing wheels. It was a perfect all-rounder, being his daily, yet well presented enough to hold its own at shows.

Fast forward to around 2008/2009 and the years of daily use had started to take their toll on the Golf’s appearance. Using his work equipment to make some car-themed stickers as a side hustle ultimately led to Alex getting fired from his job too, just days before Christmas.

It was a low point in their journey together, but that didn’t stop Alex from coming up with big plans to get the Golf not just back to spec, but even better than it was before. A new job with a company van finally allowed the GTI to get some serious time off the road, and the friends he’d made through the car were all on hand on get it where it needed to go.

Alex and his armada of cargo-short wearing, Red Stripe-drinking lunatics set to work.


There are three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and the fact that wheel choice, always, always makes or breaks a car. Alex knew exactly what he wanted the car to be sat on from the start, and he wasn’t going to settle for anything less. The Compomotives were sold to a guy in America, and replaced with the BBS E30s the car wears today.

It’s funny seeing Alex’s reaction when I ask him about people trying to get his wheel specs. He doesn’t know what the offsets are, but he says that he’d tell people if he did, purely to see them wrap their head around the sizes.


Zero-lip has become a trend in the water-cooled VW scene, because it gives the faces impact without much effort. Personally, I think it’s a weird looking cop-out, but I digress. Alex wanted dish. Four-inch lips all round the car, with four-and-a-half-inch barrels to create an 8.5-inch-wide square setup is unheard of on a narrow-body Mk1.

That’s because they do not fit. Not without extensive work.


Under the skin, there’s almost no original Golf geometry left. The strut towers have been chopped, with new camber adjustable top mounts on top of extended and raised strut towers. These allow the car to sit even lower at the front as the Konigsport coilovers themselves didn’t provide enough drop to meet Alex’s vision.

Alex, at this point in our chat, wanted to say that the vast majority of the welding was either done by his friend Latham, or by Ryan.

This new strut tower setup meant the BBS were now sitting correctly at the wheel arch, however the increase in negative camber was far more than desired.


To even things out, Alex proceeded to narrow the entire front track by 28mm, including the wishbones, the track rods and the driveshafts to reduce the negative camber whilst keeping the fitment at the top of the arch exactly where he wanted it.

The new suspension geometry was, however, worked out to have maximum tuck under compression, even with such little suspension travel. You may therefore be surprised to hear that the wheels or tyres do not hit the arches, even when being driven hard. And the Golf does indeed get driven very hard.


Mk1s can take fairly aggressive wheel setups at the back, so less work was required to achieve the same result. The whole rear beam was narrowed by 12mm, with the suspension pickup points altered to suit. The rear hub shims were then replaced with custom, hand-made items to allow the rear wheels to sit centred and true with the further reduced ride height.


Whilst redesigning the strut towers, the engine bay received a rework too. Everything that could be shaved, was, leaving as smooth a bay as possible without any big new box sections or “unnatural” shapes being added. The battery was moved to the boot, the wiring loom hidden in a wing, and every bracket and hole Alex could find was welded up and smoothed away. Even the washer bottle, expansion tank and heater were all removed to keep the bay as clean as possible.

Alex wanted the engine to be something worthy of presenting in the freshly painted bay, and he’d had his mind set on something special for a good few years.

Speedhunters_Saj_Selva_Mk1_VW_Golf_DSC09728 (1)

The 16-valve G60 is the rarest, and until the 3.2-litre VR6, the most powerful engine VW had produced. The issue is that because of its rarity, it’s impossible to get an original engine. That’s why Alex decided to make his own.

Sat in the shaved bay is Alex’s own interpretation of a 16v G60. Built on an ABF 2.0-litre 16-valve block, a huge mix of both Bar-Tek and custom parts were designed and fitted in order for the cohesive conversion from N/A to forced induction to be possible. A Supersprint manifold and custom exhaust with a simple straight tip make this one loud little GTI. And then there’s the supercharger scream.

For maximum reliability, Wossner pistons were used to lower the compression ratio, which allows Alex to safely run the stage 1 ported supercharger. A G-Werks intercooler and a custom radiator setup help keep things cool when the engine’s driven hard.


With near enough 270bhp and weighing less than 900kg, this Golf absolutely rips, even at its ridiculously low height.


The exterior may not looks vastly different to a standard Mk1 Golf, but that was the whole purpose behind the build. Alex didn’t want a car that shouts about what’s been done to it, more a car that people look at in depth and more so appreciate the details the longer they look.


The minimalist approach extends to the bodywork with every boot badge being shaved and smoothed. The passenger wing mirror was also smoothed out and an early Mk1 driver’s side door mirror was fitted to draw as little attention away from the sharp body lines as possible. Even the arches were only rolled and pulled as mildly as possible to retain the original lines.


A single lamp front grille was fitted to de-clutter the nose of the car. The original GTI duckbill had to go, not to further simplify the front end, but because Alex’s Golf is just too low to be able to run one without it getting ripped off within five minutes. A smaller CL item takes its place instead, and it’s fared much better.


A full respray in the original Helios Blue gives the mad little car an elegant edge. The Guigaro-penned lines are set off by the deep blue coat, with the gentle silver pearl really popping against the warm Birmingham sunset.


The interior carries on the theme of simplicity, with a choice selection of the best parts. Having been stripped of all the original carpets and nasty ’80s materials, select areas of the inner shell have been left visible to show off some of the resprayed metalwork.


A pair of black fabric Recaro Pole Position seats and SCHROTH harnesses up front, complemented by black fabric door cards bring a modern feel to the interior of the ’80s pocket rocket. These are teamed with an Andy Robinson half-cage to provide some extra safety and security on the move, as well as to provide some contrast to the dark interior having been left in its raw, unpainted finish.

Brand new carpets and a simple three-spoke steering wheel round off the interior, with a few choice touches and a CAE gear shifter being the only details that Alex feels the Golf is wanting for.


This isn’t your typical huge budget, established shop build, yet the custom work put into it would make you think it is. Neither is it a quick, slapped together build for internet clout or for that ‘season’, yet every time it makes a show appearance people still go wild over it.

Alex’s Golf is the epitome of building a car for yourself. It’s the culmination of years and years of f**king about with your mates, working on cars together. Having never been swayed by this trend here, or that build over there, Alex is one of the only people I know who’s genuinely built the exact car he’s always wanted.


The car’s journey serves as a reminder, not only of how good it is to hang out with the homies, doing dumb car stuff and enjoying the process. But also that if you put in good work and know when to stop, the results are timeless. That’s why my favourite part is that Alex built the car to this point eight years ago.

It’s stayed the exact same way ever since. Perfect.

Mario Christou
Instagram: mcwpn

Photos by Saj Selva
Instagram: sajselva

Build Images


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

None of my cars are nice enough for me to get in on a best of anything, I try to sand blast them with road debris, Burn valves because I wanted that extra timing and tight adjustment, And slam my too hard suspension just to enjoy a clean corner. But OK I do like the super heavy shock towers and plates and no tie-bar in the way when something throws a code a code a code. How do you keep your paint that nice? Thank you for making my morning tea better>

Mario Christou

Yes I agree, I'm glad you enjoyed the article!


Proper P38 dusty build shots. In a lock up. Rattle-canned parts on the floor. Cold and wet. Thumbs up. 10/10.

Mario Christou

One of the best things about the car is how 'real' it is. Just proof that we can all do something good with mates.

Mikko Kukkonen

Nice article, really relatable. Attention to detail, but not too fussed about the execution. That's pretty much how I like to operate too, although my space is twice the size! I'm not too keen on the "typical huge budget, established shop builds" and love learning about home made projects like this one. More builds like this please!

Mario Christou

There's a fair amount of really good home-grown builds in the UK and Europe if you know where to look. I know of a few, so there are definitely more coming!


Always fancied a mk1. This is super clean! Hats off to you, sir.


Yes, yes, ALL the hats.


very cool



Great write up! Love Alex's MKI. HE did some SERIOUS work on this car. Looks nice! I 've done a lot to my MKIII Jetta that I've owned since new in 1995. I had the floors cut out 2 years ago and replaced and spent about $10K for paint/bodywork. I would like to do the bay but it's not a show car. Only drive it between May and June and it hasn't seen rain in 20 years. Alex did an amazing job on his ride! Love the paint! Please look in your review mirror so no one hits you again. Been there already.

Mario Christou

Thank you! It's always good to know there's people out there cherishing their cars, clean examples are getting harder to find.


Just... beautiful.

Also - nice to see some pics of Birmingham, I thought I recognised the locations!


Mk1 is still he best Golf. Light yet handled well. I had an accident 4 days before Christmas in 1980 when my 1.2 corolla spun on 71 North just before Cleveland. Had shovel and luckily was able to claw my way out A few days after arriving in Massachussets I sold the corolla and bought a second hand 1977 VW Rabbit (that's what they called it back then), Drove back to Oklahoma and boy what a huge difference. The car was stable on just about any surface and inspired confidence driving on sleet, snow etc. Still admire the look of Mk1. Pure and no electronic wizzardy.


Mario, with articles like this one, I think it's safe to say you'll be at Speedhunters for a little while yet! I'm not a Golf enthusiast at all, but was absolutely drawn in by the story presented with this car. Great way to end the article too.


Completely agree, great article and a great angle for the story.

Mario Christou

Thank you very much for the kind words, it means a lot! I do plan on sticking around haha, there are more cars like Alex's scattered around the country that need featuring and that's what Saj and I plan on doing.


I really enjoyed the story telling aspect of this feature. Please continue to publish articles similar to this. I enjoyed the journey. Beautiful mkI. I have owned a mk2, 3, 5 and 7 at different point in my life but mk1s as with most vw/Audi fans are what got me into cars in the first place.

Mario Christou

With builds like this the owner's story is just as important as the car itself so I'm really glad you enjoyed it. These are the types of articles I love to write so rest assured I'll get more of these done!


As a big MK1 enthusiast I remeber the first time I saw a picture of Alex MK1, I then used the plate number to find more pics as well as his Instagram, there are a lot of great MK1's out there I do own one my self, but whenever I am asked which is the best MK1 out there I always answer that this one is the closest one to perfection, now that I have read the entire story I am sure i wasn t wrong. thank you for the story and the pictures Mario and Saj

Mario Christou

I'm happy we've been able to confirm your suspicions! You're welcome for the article, glad you enjoyed it!


Where have all the comments gone?


Page refreshed. All good now...


Loved this feature. So great to see an owner committed to 1 car, building it, refining it over time, simply for his own enjoyment. Attainable but more importantly relatable to 99% of us who frequent this website. Keep up the great work.


"He even went to see The Fast and the Furious in it when it was first released. That’s how old he is."

This quote hurts more than my aching back.


Yep, really enjoyed that read, top work (words and wheels!)

Mario Christou

Thank you!


I like the looks of the car, but to me the wheels are the worst of it. Granted its just my opinion, but I have never understood or liked the looks of a stretched tire on a rim. Granted I have always went for high grip, so that could influence my perspective.


It's a beautiful car and romantic article but saying it's the best Mk1 in the world is a bit too much. South Africa has had the longest standing of mk1's enjoying many variations

Mario Christou

Feel free to show me any cars that you'd consider better Quincy, I'll happily take on board any suggestions! I feel just because SA may have had the Mk1 around for longer doesn't mean there will be a better example about. Thanks for reading!


I will definitely so and prove to the world that South Africa is best when coming to mk1's. I myself drive a vw Golf CTI that I have been building for 3 years now


you well transcribed the passion of alex in your article, good job ! But the best MK1 ... seriously ?
Does Alex, the owner of this MK1, consider that he has the best MK1 in existence right know ?
The VW scene is huge with very committed owners all around the globe. Crossing the oceans isn't needed, Just go to Payers Show or MIVW and you will find out.

Mario Christou

Well Raul, like I said to Quincy, feel free to show me what you think *is* is the best Mk1 in existence, or any that you feel are 'better' than Alex's and why! I'm genuinely interested in seeing what you guys consider to be worthy of that status.

Having been to Players show, Edition38, Ultimate Dubs and a few more VW shows over the past few years I can safely say that to me, Alex's Golf is the best bar none.


Dear Mario, there's no such thing as "the best golf MK1 in existence today", since a project car is never ended.
Please, Feel free to check some of the coolest existing mark1's specimen on the *Rabbit mk1* fb pages
For me the best Mark1 of all time is Niki Lauda's who started the Unofficial Worthersee Treffen back in seventy nine.


precisely! id agree with you budd just like that blue mk1 citi golf from Jhb-South Africa made it all the way to overseas to germany with a Vr6 heart!

Mario Christou

Ihsaan, got any details or photos of the Citi-Golf? Sounds very interesting.


Mario how do I get hold of you privately?

Mario Christou

Feel free to send me an Instagram message @mcwpn if you'd like!


Hell i even know of a friend with two engines in one lil Mk1 Golf....


Yes, it would be nice to read about the commitment of Jamie Orr's on SpeedHunter


Awesome GTI... It’s been a while since I’ve seen a VW article on SH! Keep ‘em coming!

Mario Christou

There are definitely more top tier VAG cars around the UK, I'll be sure to cover a few of them.


Simple beauty. Much better than those widebody ones.

Mario Christou

Agreed. As much as I enjoy a widebody on the right car, I'll almost always go for the stock body lines over wide arches.