Call it what you like – patina, wear and tear, or character – I think the texture that comes with use is something that should be savoured. It tells a much more interesting story than a car gleaming like a shiny new penny. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with an immaculate car, it’s just not quite within my price range. Perhaps this story is me just trying to convince myself that all these lumps and bumps are beautiful; it’s hard to tell sometimes.
The car you see here is a pretty humble 1990 Mk2 Volkswagen Golf. It’s nothing too much to write home about, but it is an Alpine White non-sunroof car – exactly the same variant as my first Mk2 Golf around 15 years ago.
I’m not sure where that car is now, but I did all sorts of unspeakable things to it. Originally a 1.3L Golf C, I put twin DCOE Weber carbs on it. That engine didn’t last too long with an exuberant RPM expectation of a young enthusiast, and I’d found a Polish Westmoreland Mk2 in a scrap yard to distract me.
Everything was swapped into the white car, including the 1.6L diesel engine. Naturally that didn’t last long either, and I embarked on a winding journey of IDI VW diesel tuning. It culminated in a lot of smoke, a T3 turbo and around 150bhp.
Thankfully this car is slightly better stocked in the engine department with a 2.0L 16V ABF engine from a Mk3 GTI, plus all the wide-track axle parts and LSD-equipped gearbox. It all sounds quite impressive, until you realise this car has lived 10 straight years at the track.
It’s been all over the country and Europe in that time, putting in solid performances at every stop. You can see it pop up in old forum threads now and then, and also in Nürburgring compilation videos. It is like ‘Where’s Wally’ but with a white box on wheels. It’s certainly been around the block.
Now this car isn’t strictly ‘as bought'; I jumped the gun a little bit and began to tidy it up before showing you. Luckily I have a bit of an eagle eye for vintage Recaro seats and had this Pro-HANS seat ready to drop straight in. I’ve got another Kevlar Recaro Profi seat to go in the passenger side.
In fact, this car is starting to take on a life of its own as it seems to attract vintage period correct parts like a (rusty) magnet. A Kamei rear spoiler and VW Motorsport four-branch exhaust manifold popped up on eBay and I snapped them up.
As did a pair of ‘M3′ rear clusters. You can just about get any colour of rear light you like for a Mk2 Golf, and I’d love to find a set of black Treser lights with matching heckblende, like I used to have on my first Mk2. It probably wouldn’t work with the track look, but I can’t resist the lure of rare stuff. There’s a guy on Instagram who has one of every colour; I can’t lie, I am impressed.
Inside there’s a lot of water and a lifetime of ill treatment. There’s a lot on the ‘to-do’ list in here, but I’m keen to tidy it up without completely deleting too much of its story.
One aspect that I’d like to completely overhaul is the engine compartment. Traces of orange show that it was loved at some point, and I can imagine that the original builder would be quite pleased to learn that the installation has lasted this long. It even put down a really respectable 162bhp when dyno tested – not bad for a car that has been stood for a few years.
I’m sure many people will look at these images and wince, but I think that you’ve got to embrace the flaws and look past the now to the what could be. Allow yourself to dream a little. This is a solid shell with a healthy engine, and I can see the track car it could be just lurking in there amongst the poor wiring and questionable cage mountings.
First on the list is to go right through the car and make sure it’s safe and at least comfortable to drive. A new steering wheel, new wheels and tyres, and the tying down of some loose components is a good starting point.
An even better place to begin is perhaps to ensure the car at least starts. This generation of VW engine has a separate immobiliser box that was placed right in the path of water ingress into the cabin. One of the reasons this car came up for sale is because it had an intermittent starting problem, tracked to the immobiliser.
Luckily, technology has moved on in the time that this thing has been sleeping and I was able to completely remove the external immobiliser circuit. You can see here just how corroded it had become.
But to me that’s just another chapter in a long and colourful life story. At 31 years old I feel like this Mk2 Golf is only just getting into its prime. I was there for the teenage years, so let’s see what mid-life has to offer to the both of us.
For the record, I’ve gained some ‘texture’ too.