I hate to sound like a broken record, but you just can’t escape the VAG scene in the UK.
With the sheer number of Volkswagens at car shows only growing every year, standing out from the crowd is harder than ever. So how do you do it? In the case of this Golf I found at Tucked At The Park, by sticking with a timeless VW recipe.
As a teenager, Matt Hagan didn’t have any interest in cars. That started after his uncle gave him a copy of Performance Volkswagen magazine with a Tornado Red, big bumper Mk2 G60 on the cover. Fast forward to 2015, when Matt’s own Golf journey began with the Mk2 you see here – a £500 purchase. Of course, back then it was nothing close to how it looks now; the VW was totally standard and finished in Royal Blue with a grey interior.
It also started life as a simple 1.6L Driver variant. For the Volkswagen uninitiated, you bought a Driver if you couldn’t afford the insurance on a GTI. In 1980s Britain, car theft was more common than the cold, so you can imagine how many young lads found themselves in Golf Drivers after receiving their licence.
Why this particular car? “It was the cheapest one on the internet with an MOT,” Matt laughs. “And it was the cheapest way into modified car ownership.”
It lasted a week until the carburettor packed in, but instead of giving it away for repair, Matt decided to teach himself how to fix it. He did manage to get the engine going again, which set the trend for the rest of his ownership. Every time something broke, Matt simply fixed it himself.
Over the next few years, the dream of that PVW cover car never eluded Matt, so he took matters into his own hands. By 2017, the car may have been lowered on a set of mesh wheels, but the blue paint job was certainly the wrong shade of red. 2018 was the introduction of the newly-rouge Mk2, now on Schmidt Modern Line wheels, then big bumpers. There was a slow yet steady transformation going on, unrelenting, yet the car was still Matt’s faithful daily the whole time.
The biggest leap was the shift to what you see now. In 2019, it was time to retire the Golf from daily use and give it a proper going over.
Externally, Matt’s Mk2 follows a tried and true formula: Clean paint, wider arches all round and BBS wheels make for a hard-to-beat styling package. Even though the recipe might not be ground breaking, there are small details to help it stand out from similar cars. All-red tail lights, side repeaters and even front indicators keep the colour scheme nice and simple.
Admittedly, I’m an absolute sucker for colour-blocking. And not just in cars, so that’s a winning idea in my books. The violent red-ness is broken up by the satin black details along the bumpers, grilles, windows and even the badges.
The colour-blocking extends to the interior too, where everything is black, including the relocated battery, rear seat delete and the Recaro ‘fishnet’ seats themselves. The white stitching contrasts nicely against the black Momo Prototipo steering wheel, as does the accent on the 8-ball gear knob and the white typeface on the dials and seat backs.
Visual modifications alone wouldn’t cut the mustard, and it was decided that the single carb 1.6L had to go with a 2.0L ABF Mk3 GTI engine being the obvious replacement. Twin side-draught Mikuni carburettors sit as the focal point of the smoothed bay; crown jewels in what is undoubtably one of the tidiest front ends I have ever seen in a Mk2 Golf.
The engine block, gearbox, subframe, radiator and lower ancillaries all received a fresh coat of gloss black, whilst the head and valve cover are in a beautiful shade of metallic silver. Matt even fabricated his own oil catch can and brake fluid reservoir, learning as he went.
I think you’ll agree that Matt hasn’t ‘overdone’ it with the tucking and smoothing. Sure, there aren’t any loose wires left hanging about and the wheel tubs look like boiled sweets, but the stamping on the bulkhead and seams on the chassis legs remain to break up what could otherwise be a very boring space.
Call it my OCD, but even smaller details such as the textural differences between the rough cast intake trumpets, the metallic silver valve cover and the billet timing gear make such a huge difference to the overall appearance. They may all be silver, but they don’t blend into one.
It’s not just in the bay where this textural difference can be seen, but on the wheels as well. BBS RMs are commonplace amongst Mk2 Golfs, but these aren’t actually VW spec 4×100 items. The convex 4×108 faces give them up as being early Audi 80/Porsche 924 items… or maybe even Ford ones. Re-drilled to 4×100, they’ve been combined with custom three-piece centre caps comprising of matte black hex nuts, BBS RZ ‘centre plates’ and laser-cut rings.
Oh, and somewhat impressively, the car sits and rolls at this height on coilover suspension. Whilst there’s no denying the practicality of air, seeing a silly-low static car on the move never gets old. And this Golf is low.
Whilst from the outside it may seem like this is a fairly standard Mk2 build, I would argue that it’s one of the most novel of recent times. It’s certainly not breaking any moulds, but by refining and distilling the classic VW tuner recipe down to its bare essence with a simple yet devastatingly simple aesthetic, Matt’s managed to build one killer Golf.
Happy with it in its current guise, the next step is to re-trim the interior, but only once Matt’s learned how to do it himself. “I’ve built the rest of the car myself and I want to keep it that way. It’s definitely a forever car… Anyone who owns a Mk2 and sells it always regrets it,” he says.
Less, in this case, is most definitely more.