I’ve just failed in my mission to build a Berg Cup Mk1 Volkswagen Golf.
Well, truthfully I never really started it. I had all the will in the world though, and wanted to see it through. Hell, I even went as far as 3D-modelling ideas and made a lot of arrangements to get things moving.
It’s not from a loss of love. I’ve yearned for a red Mk1 Golf since my early teenage years, when I first got into Dub culture thanks in no small part to a Speedhunters article on a red Bergrenner-inspired Mk1. Using an E30 M3 Gurney flap as a rear wing was mind-blowing to my younger self.
I put in extra hours at work, sold bits here and there and really pushed to come up with the money for the Golf in as short a timeframe as I could. Not that it was expensive, but nearly a year of lockdown on top of already terrible financial choices (see: Small Mirrors Will Ruin Your Life) did require a little more sacrifice than it should have.
The outcome of all of my effort is me sat here with a drink, writing this piece, watching the new owner discuss arrangements to collect the Golf from my mate’s unit where it’s currently being kept. The group chat is ironically named ‘Mk1 Golf Owners’ Club’. I still have to pay the rent for last month’s storage.
The thing is, this would have been my first ‘real’ project seeing as my beloved Golf is little more than a rusted-out 1.1L Driver shell. No engine, no interior and a lot of brown on the outside to complement the faded Mars Red paint.
What I didn’t know was that whilst entirely hole-free, the floor of the car was about as thin as a sheet of Rizla and the rear chassis legs were practically rotten through. Obviously I knew it was bad, but I didn’t expect it would be that bad. After this revelation, I made a fairly quick decision that the dream was over and it was time to move on.
At this point, I’m sure some of you are thinking, ‘Is that it? You’ve not even got started and you’re giving up?’. Yes. Yes I am, and I’ll tell you why.
There are hundreds of stories on Speedhunters about people going to extremes with their cars, rescuing them from dumps, pouring thousands into them, rebuilding them after crashes and whatnot. It’s absolutely fantastic, and the sheer amount of respect I have for the owners of these builds is enormous.
But doing that as a 22-year-old with limited space, funds, time and another big expensive car on the go, and it’s just not going to work well without some serious sacrifice. I was never going to sell my 740 to fund the Golf; it means too much to me to part with. I did consider becoming a hermit and living solely on a diet of water, ramen noodles and used air to save up, but there’s a little more to life than that I reckon.
As a result, the Golf had to go. Simple as that. I’m sure one day I’ll put myself through the stress of a ground-up restoration and build, but until then I can get some pointers from a very good friend of mine, Adam Osbourne.
Adam’s pouring his entire life into an absolutely fantastic BMW 2002 Group 5 build, and as a result I get to vicariously live through his pain and suffering, joy and journey without any of the financial outlay and stress. In fact, I thought I ought to pick his brain a little over the phone in order to learn more about what it is that I chose not to put myself through.
MC: Hello mate, how’s it going? I’ve got a few questions about you and the 2002 build. Do you mind talking me through them?
AO: Not at all, I’ve got a few minutes. Fire away.
MC: Let’s start at the top. Why choose an ’02 as a project in the first place? I know you’re keen on Italian metal too.
AO: Well, you know me and I’ve always been a BMW person. When I was young, the 2002 Turbo caught my eye with its arches, air dam and mad stickers. I couldn’t believe it was a road car.
MC: You’re not just going for a Turbo homage though, are you?
AO: No, well, I fell down the wormhole of Group 2 and Group 5 race cars and it resonated with me. Plus, I had an E30 that I regretted getting rid of, and I saw how classic BMW prices were going. I decided to do a 2002 before I couldn’t afford to do one any more. Truthfully, I’ve spent a lot more on it already than I ever planned to. In hindsight I should have bought an E30 M3 instead, but it is what it is.
MC: Seeing as you’ve already gone way over budget, what was the initial plan?
AO: So for a bit of context, I bought the car sight unseen after it popped up on a forum. The guy received something like eight messages in an hour, but I was the first to commit to the purchase. I had the car trailered from a leaky, damp, rat-infested garage in East London.
MC: Clearly a worse start than planned.
AO: Yep, initially I thought it wasn’t as bad as I’d suspected. Down the line, it was much worse than I’d thought.
MC: This is the point where I can somewhat relate it seems.
AO: Haha, I think so, and like yours my plans started out simple: Obviously restore the metalwork, but I’d also bought a turbo kit and an M42 engine – plus everything to do the swap. As I got further down the rabbit hole, I managed to get a bodykit made from the mould of a 1977 DRM race car.
MC: So, originally you were going to build a less-faithful track car?
AO: Well, I went to meet the guy at the Nürburgring to pick up the kit and that’s where it escalated. I’m now on my fourth engine setup without ever having driven the car!
(At this point we both started laughing and discussing how much money can be pumped into daft old cars like the ’02 and Golf)
AO: Have you got any more questions, because there is a moment that needs to go in this?
MC: By all means, dude.
AO: I’d tried to make you aware of all the money, time and sacrifice it would take to build that car. So when you came up to get the Mk1 I saw myself in you, all naive and excited to start this build. I saw your face and you looked at me, and we both knew exactly what each other was thinking.
MC: It’s safe to assume I reminded you of how deep you’ve gone in the project then?
AO: Pretty much, yeah. As it stands the shell and full cage and seam-welding is done. Like, now it’s ready for a dry build to make sure everything’s okay before painting.
MC: So I guess that grinding I hear in the background is your E30 build?
AO: Yeah, that’s the project I bought to keep me going because I knew how long the ’02 would take. I’m just finalising metalwork and stuff before the S54 goes in. Custom subframes, suspension, everything. I’m not the sort of person to throw three times as much power into a car without sorting it out.
MC: Glad to see one project of hardship wasn’t enough for you mate!
AO: Haha, I think it’s safe to say that some things never change. Some things take money, blood, sweat and tears.
MC: As happy as I am to be rid of the Golf now, I am sad we won’t have two like-for-like builds to chase on track.
AO: Well, yeah, but I couldn’t just let you not have any sort of project to stress over. Hence why I pushed you to buy the E12.
MC: Thanks for that. At least this one runs which takes a slight edge off the pain. I’ll let you get back to the E30 and I hope you feel bad for persuading me to buy another rusty old car.
So maybe I don’t quite know when enough’s enough. As soon as I knew the Golf had to go, I immediately jumped on Car & Classic and looked at what else might take my fancy.
Kidney grilles just have a special place in my heart, and I love the softer lines of late-’60s-designed cars. When I saw a two-owner E12 BMW 520 up for sale, I couldn’t say no. As it just so happens, Mr. Adam only lived 20 minutes away from the car, so he kindly went to see it and test drive it for me. It didn’t take a lot of persuading for me to pull the trigger. At least this one works, and I drive it to work almost every day. Plus, the license plate is just so f**king cool.
Anyway, I’ll save details for a Speedhunters Garage post when I go through what I’ve already done to it, and when my overdraft starts looking kinda thicc again… That is, if my 740 lets it get to that point. I will never financially recover from this.
Before I go, I want to know which cars you’ve regretted buying and selling the most. How many of you have bitten off more than you can chew, or spat it out before you choked? Alternatively, how many of you have been able to see intense projects to the end? All I know is, I regret nothing. Don’t run before you can walk.