Goodbye, Project GTI

After five years, three months, and 12 days, Project GTI is officially no longer a thing.

That sounds unnecessarily ominous, as it still exists, just in someone else’s ownership. I had listed it for sale earlier in the year, but I didn’t have as much as a single view or enquiry on the car in months. I had actually taken the adverts down and was pretty happy to hold onto it for another year, when I received an offer completely out of the blue. An offer, as it happened, that I couldn’t refuse.

So, just over a week ago I watched my Mk6 Golf GTI drive away for the final time.


It’s been an incredible journey with the car, and it exceeded every expectation I had of it. From a completely stock car when I bought it, to its ultimate form which lapped the Nordschleife and clipped 170mph on the Autobahn last year.


There was always a simple idea behind the car. It was never built to win shows or be the fastest car in the world; I wanted to build myself the ultimate daily driver that suited my needs to a tee. It was to become a car for no one else, except me. Which probably explains why I found it so hard to find a buyer, truth be told.


Everything was incremental with the car, and bit by bit it all came together. It was a gradual and very considered process, where I would add something and see what difference it made before adding the next piece of the puzzle.


There wasn’t an end goal as such, or a target to hit. Realistically, as my only car, I was trying to extract as much as I could from the GTI with regards to performance and driving dynamics as I could without taking away from its abilities as a reasonably practical daily driver.


There was also the consideration of the realities of owning and running a car in Ireland. Fuel, insurance, taxes etc. all needed to be taken into account along with everything else. I still maintain that a GTI is probably the best all rounder you can buy in this country, and probably in a lot of others, too.


Some evolutions were a lot more significant than others. Putting the GTI on Air Lift Performance 3H was a huge moment, as it improved handling and practicality at the same time, along with bringing the car much closer to the tarmac.


The addition of a Wavetrac limited slip differential all but eliminated the ‘problem’ of FWD. Another massive performance leap for the car, without taking anything away from it.


For all of the comprehensive Kenwood audio additions we made, it was the simple feature of CarPlay which had the car feeling so much more modern.


Naturally, increasing its power output with a complete Integrated Engineering K04 upgrade kit elevated the car to another level again, and still didn’t take away from its usability.


In the end, the result was a 335hp bagged track car which could comfortably cross countries without breaking a sweat (or my wallet).


It was as comfortable on track, as it was in start-stop traffic. It was as comfortable at Players Classic, as it was bringing furniture home from IKEA. It was an absolutely remarkable car.


For over the last year, since I documented that trip to the Nürburgring and back, it had been a reliable part of my life. There was no real progression or changes made, which is why the updates stopped. Truth be told, it was a project car that actually got finished. While I didn’t set out with a goal in mind, I had realised that I had reached it.


There was nothing really left for me to do except drive it, and that’s what I did. There were aimless drives, random track days, and daily commutes in the car. It always felt special, right until the end.

But in the back of my head, I always knew it would eventually have to make way.


Ironically, the biggest drawback with the car was something which couldn’t be fixed; its three-door shape.

A three-door GTI is the only real GTI, in my opinion, and I could never have owned a five-door, so this was entirely self inflicted. However, as my work evolved, I needed more space in the car and dropping the rear seats every time was becoming a chore.

2020 Project R Speedhunters PMcG Extra-1

When that e-mail came through just a couple of weeks ago with an enquiry and subsequent offer, I knew it was the right time to move on. I had more than got my joy from the car, and had done everything I had ever planned to do with it. However, any car that could realistically replace Project GTI,  had to be more in every way. More powerful, more practical, more refined, more spacious, and, er, more-wheel drive.

To find a car that could do all of these things isn’t that hard, but to be able to do them all and still offer similar running costs was the really tricky part. This ruled out RS4 and RS6 Avants, Mercedes-AMG estates, and the likes of BMW’s 340i Touring. I didn’t want to go back to diesel, so that eliminated the 335D and 535D.

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Naturally then, I’ve bought a Golf R.

However, I don’t like the five-door hatch, and the three-door was too close in size to my GTI, so I’d ultimately end up having the same issues with load capacity.

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This isn’t an issue with my Golf R, because it’s actually a Golf R Variant. That’s a ‘wagon’ or ‘estate’ in plain English. Curiously, the definition of ‘Variant’ is ‘a form or version of something that differs in some respect from other forms of the same thing or from a standard’ which I guess is entirely accurate, if not a little bit literal.

2020 Project R Speedhunters PMcG-1

The Variant is practically identical to its less practical brethren. It’s still a 300hp, AWD car from the factory, just with a much bigger boot. Interestingly, it’s not that much heavier either with just an 80kg (176lb) penalty for what is a considerable increase in size.

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A first for me is that I’ve also bought a modified Golf R, which can be a potential minefield at the best of times, particular with floods of ex-lease cars on the market from the United Kingdom. Thankfully, this wasn’t a lease car. It was a cherished, low-owner example with some very nice option boxes ticked from factory, along with choice modifications. Service history was exemplary, along with it being a pretty low-mileage car for its late-2015 vintage.

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The paint is the pearlescent Oryx White, and the car has Dynamic Chassis Control (adaptive dampers to you and I), Active Cruise Control, navigation, heated seats, Bi-Xenons, genuine Borbet ‘Pretoria’ 19-inch wheels, and lots of other nice factory bits.

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The aftermarket has supplied Racing Line 4-piston monoblock front brakes with 345mm discs, VWR lowering springs, an APR intake, Forge turbo elbow, Racing Line intercooler, and a catted Milltek Sport down-pipe along with APR ‘Stage 2′ software for both the engine and DSG transmission.


As it’s a car of UK origins (the R Variant was never sold in Ireland, so any examples are all UK imports) I wanted to have it verified and logged on the dyno to see how it was coping with our 95RON fuel (US 91 equivalent). Quite well as it turned out, making 363hp and 500Nm, which is pretty much what most ‘Stage 2′ Golf Rs make in Ireland.

With 300mls of NF Race fuel additive added to the tank, it made 382hp and 525Nm from 2,000rpm. It was pretty wild to see the NF working so quickly, as the car self-adjusted to the improved fuel quality you could see it making more power everywhere on the graph.

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Naturally, with the guts of 400hp, AWD and DSG, it’s ballistic on the road. 0-62mph is sub-four seconds, and the torque from down low makes it so much faster in day-to-day driving than my GTI.

The various driving modes all seem to serve a purpose as they change the dampers, steering, throttle response and shift speed. My current customised ‘Individual’ mode has everything set to ‘Race’ with the exception of DCC, which is set to ‘Comfort’. Because Ireland.

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While some will bemoan the DSG, the Variant was never offered with a manual anyways. I do love a good DSG, provided the software has been updated to suit the car (which it has), and it offers a true manual mode without kick-down or auto-upshifts.

Launch control with this gearbox and AWD is comical, and probably a bit anti-social to boot.

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I had a lot of ideas in my head before I collected the car last week, but most of them have gone straight out the window (for the time being, at least). I will likely replace the Pretoria wheels for my TE37 Sagas which I’ve held onto, but otherwise I’m going to just drive it while I figure out what it really needs.

All the servicing is up to date including engine oil and filter, DSG and Haldex. Brake pads are good, there’s no knocks or squeaks from anywhere, and the underside of the car is as dry as a bone.

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There’s a couple of small stone chips on the bonnet, which I’ll take care of myself, along with installing similar paddle extensions from Project GTI. Otherwise, the only other big ticket item is to register it here in Ireland and put it on our plates.

It’s a relatively straightforward, albeit extortionate, process. The current estimate to have it legally registered here is around €6,500 (approx US$7,670) along with another €600 (approx US$710) in annual motor tax. The latter of these fees will be paid every year as long as I own the car…

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October started out with planning the next 12 months with Project GTI, and is going to end with a Golf R parked in the garage. As Ferris said, “life can come at you pretty fast.”

With a mandatory six-week lockdown having just kicked in here, there likely won’t be much progress made on this for some time, but that’s okay. What’s the rush?

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

I would love to extend my sincerest appreciation to everyone who helped out with Project GTI. I won’t name names, but know that I appreciate your support, advice and guidance more than you will ever know. 



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I literally opened this article and said "awww no" lol

Loved following this build, attention to detail was great and it was fun. The R is great, hopefully there will be articles to follow on this.

I ended up getting rid of my R, it was taking away seat time from my Corrado lol


Thanks, EK.

Need to know more about the Corrado, however.


More than happy to, 93 VR.


I'm going to miss the GTI but man the Golf R Estate is just super cool!
Can't wait to see how this one comes out!

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

It's nice that you've got the rarest version of the R, Paddy.


As mentioned, because it wasn't sold here, nobody really knows what it is. There's only a handful of them imported here, and I've never seen another in the wild which suits me perfectly.


The Golf really is and will continue to be an incredible format for a practical "club" car. It is also zero wonder that your next car will be a BEV. No one will hate your next purchase of a gently used id3 "R/RS" if they make one.
What I never understood is why VW is so allergic to suicide rear doors, instead of these massive, can't open in a lot or tight space, swinging walls of boring. Rolls has em, and no one ever had issue getting into a Rolls. Also the new car has a wheelbase that might help you stay straight at over 150kph, but rubbish all day for dynamics and "fitting". Four equi-size suicide doors (or even like the i3/n30) would have checked all the boxes, kept a slightly shorter car, and made use of a more agile yet useful platform (also make more money given less material).


I spent a lot of time with the ID3 recently, and as much as I loved driving it, it would only ever be a second car for me. I would absolutely have to have something ICE in my life.

R Estate has the same wheelbase as the normal R, BTW. The body is just slightly longer at the rear.


The way things already on rails are, the ICE will be the second car!
Of course, that means the ICE will need to be turned to 11, so necessary, since modding the BEV is just wheels and a static coil over, *maybe* download a "tune" for that extra motor output. If it's ICE, you better be shootin flames!


Shooting sparks, maybe?


when I read that title, I was waiting for GT3!


Some day, hopefully.



Sorry to see Project GTI go man! But that Estate R sounds like it's ready to go! What else does it need? Seriously! What are you going to do to it? Upgrades, changes, etc. Let us know. And safe motoring wherever you go!


Just as soon as I figure things out myself, I'll let everyone I know :)


I enjoyed following the Project GTI updates, looking forward to seeing the progress made on the R. I cannot believe the cost of registering a UK car in Ireland though!! Kind of sickening. Shows how big a car enthusiast you are to stomach that for a car. Props to you Paddy! All the best


Every car registered here has paid that registration tax, but it's normally included in the price or reflected in the used value of the car. They are very strict on it, and if it's not registered within 30 days, the car can be confiscated.


Yaay even fuglier and more boring grocery cart than the previous one.


I know you're only trying to get some sort of reaction, but the only thing I really feel about your comment is pity.

What happened to you that leaving anonymous comments on the internet trying to put down another person's choices makes you feel better? Focus on your own choices in life and you won't feel the need to troll.


About fell out of chair when I read that registration fee number! But I have enjoyed following your adventures in the car as it has evolved.


It's a bitter pill to swallow, but it's part and parcel of being an enthusiast here. The fee is based on a % of the Open Market Selling Price, and is dictated by the car's CO2 per KM emissions. So, this is a 27% fee of what our tax collectors deem the car to be worth used in my case.

Spare a thought for a friend who recently registered a Huracan Performante.




Fair enough. I'm just trying to put an end to a series which has been five years in the making.


Actually I mean it in this way, Ohhh No you sold the GTI... anyways You got another Golf but it's the Golf R and it's a Wagon and it's better that's what I meant lol


R Variant is my daily dream car.

Maurice Frösler

littterally loved your GTi and was about to pull the trigger on one and but the Golf 7.5 2 door, its called GTI Original in Australia
But with myself and my wife planning to expand the family a 7R wagon is what ill be looking at and will be following your build with lots of anticipation.
Looking ad getting a Wolfsburg Editon Wagon R or if i can afford it the lastest of 7.5 R wagon
Thanks for keepingh us updated PAddy !!!! great work
P.s your GTI was the best daily IMO


Thanks, Maurice. Best of luck with your plans!


Your GTI was perfect, excellent choice in replacement though. Glad you kept the TE37s and look forward to seeing them on there. But £6000 to register it!! And then the tax! That's outrageous.


Thank you!

Re: the VRT – it is what it is. I'm still saving a lot of money by importing, as the only used ones for sale already registered here still work out around €5,000 more expensive. It's a bit of a faff to go through the registration process, but it's not that bad (asides from handing over that much money)


I always wondered what a sale ad from such a passionate photographer would look like. Is it always so expensive to register a car in Ireland, or is this some rare special case? Really looking forward to what becomes of this, though. I love me a wagon!


It was pretty detailed, to say the least!

Yes, any car first registered here has to pay a % of its value as a Vehicle Registration Tax. If it's a 'new' car, then you have to pay VAT & VRT.

VRT is a once off fee to register the car, so any car for sale already on Irish registration plates has already had it paid.

Vincent Conker Auger

Hey buddy,

Also went ''Oh no !'' when I saw it on the main page. I was almost hoping it was just saying goodbye to the Speedhunters pages because, as you said, it was finished. Truly inspiring and very well managed project with incredible results, which inspired me in the way I'm handling my 325xi wagon daily right now. Alas, it is sold. You're not being left regretting though as I see, good move mate !

Hopefully it will bring you as much joy. In Canada, ''nicest'' version of the estate Golf we had was the 1.8T AllMotion with 6 manually shifted cogs, no Rs sadly. Maybe your project will help me decide if it's worth it to replace (for daily duties, as I might keep it for an M3 estate conversion) my E46 wagon with an imported or R-converted Mk7 Golf estate someday.

Best of luck and enjoy it !


Thank you, Vincent.

(And definitely do an M3 Touring conversion)


Cheers for the straight forward sale Paddy and very best of luck with the new car. Many miles of safe (quick) motoring to you. :)


Thanks, Mick. Hope you're enjoying the GTI, and send photos when the new wheels are on!


Will do.


I really feel your pain and your happiness.
Used to own a 3 door Golf GT (Mk3 1.6) when i was young, for about 8 years, and only decided i needed something bigger when my wife told me i was going to be a dad.
So i got rid of it and even though i'm not a BMW fan, i got an E46 Wagon (too bad it was the 318d), that i held onto for about 2 years.
But it never hit the spot, I was just refueling at the wrong pump, so in 2017 i was looking for something to replace it, and during a trip to Germany, i stumbled across my daily somewhere in the small town of Deggendorf.
It was a 2006 Passat B6 Variant Highline, 2.0 TFSI manual.
Only thing i've done to it is install an Eibach Pro-kit, that i still love even though it makes my life living hell every day, because of bad roads.
But a few times a year, when i'm on unrestricted highways....makes it all worth it.


This is why I think it’s dumb to modify something that is just going to see daily use. You just end up selling it and it didn’t do anything in particular that great—just everything a little bit better than mediocre.

I guess it’s what your after, but seems like an awfully dull way to spend money. Not everything in life goes up to 11 sadly.


I don't think I'd change a single thing I done with the GTI. I loved every minute of it.

Maybe cars aren't for you?


If I might suggest a few OEM+ mods from my own experiences with a US spec R -

- clubsport s knuckles. Add a degree of negative camber with no NVH downside. Every other method has some dynamic downside for a DD, these just hurt the wallet a bit more.
- clubsport S, TTRS or RS3 LCA bushings. You could also go with Superpro LCAs. Really tightens the steering up
- antiroll bars. Rear helps it rotate a LOT but front will help keep camber loss under compression at bay, which is important for keeping track speed up. Ideally you'd get beefier springs too but that obviously has its downsides for DDability.

Enjoy the R, it's a hoot!


Wonderful suggestions! I have been looking at a mild rear ARBs (22mm) but the others I wasn't aware of. That's my evening sorted.


Hey Paddy,

Project GTI was what got me hooked on Speedhunters. As a 13 year old making his first real foray into cars, Project GTI made real sense to me and actually part-inspired my love for hot hatches. I feel like as I have grown up these past 5 years, this car has always been growing and changing too. Your attention to detail and writing skills drew me in every time, and I read every article about it. I will sorely miss it, and hope to one day own a GTI and follow a similar path. I hope the R wagon provides just as much to someone else just getting into cars, as in a roundabout way Project GTI helped change my life.


Thank you, Ryan. I'm so happy to read that you got so much from it.


Sad to see the GTI go but I understand how you feel. It was the same with me when I had my 2009 Subaru Forester. The Golf R Estate is an excellent car, and I can't wait to read up on how you plan to make it your own R.


This is a car I'm personally very interested in. An AWD wagon with luxury without breaking the bank. Very interested to see what your plans develop into over the course of time.


Sorry to see the GTI go, but happy to see the R come. The Golf R (SportWagen on my side of the world) is pretty high on the list for replacements for my xB when its time. I like hatchbacks, decent fuel economy, and plenty of space. I had a Mk3 Golf, and though I loved it, it isn't big enough for my normal needs. I've hauled more stuff in the back of my Scion than most people I know with an F150 (which is way more than I care to admit).

I've been having a very similar thought train. 5-dr Golf or Fiesta/Focus aren't big enough. BMW and Audi offerings drink to much fuel and have higher running cost (if you can even find one). I don't believe we even got any recent MB estates. SportWagen is left at the top of my list. Keep us posted!!!


I'll throw my hat into the "sad to see it go" ring! This build played no small part in my first non-sh**tbox car purchase of a GTI (mk7 with a blasphemous 5 doors though). Thank you for documenting it and writing the updates so well!

Lovely replacement, looking forward to seeing it again sometime.


GTI was a fun project to follow. Looking forward to next 5 years.
Thank you for sharing!


Never knew they had a Golf R wagon. Excited to see what comes of it


And here I was, expecting to see you finally deciding the next set of upgrades for the GTI for your Pandemic project series.


I had explored the option of keeping the GTI, evolving it much further and running a more sensible daily alongside it but I couldn't make it work for a number of reasons.


I have several of your GTI pictures circulating my screensaver. Sorry to see it go, but on to new things! I'm sure I'll have a few of this car also. Nice to see it already has some mods! Interested to see what you end up doing with it.


RIP to project GTI, but so incredibly excited to see where this goes!


I am going to miss Project GTI. It felt like the perfect project car for the "common enthusiast". That being said, I am excited to see what this new project develops in to. If it's done half as good as the GTI, I know this will be a fantastic build to follow. Best of luck Paddy!


Cheers, mate. I was always aware that it was a humble build but it had no effect on my enjoyment of the car. Honestly, it was the best I could do / afford so I was happy to make the most of it.


However, any car that could realistically replace Project GTI, had to be more in every way. More powerful, more practical, more refined, more spacious, and, er, more-wheel drive.

Oh boy. After that I instantly thought of a Golf 7 R Variant and then I scrolled down :D
But I told you to hit me up for your front and rear wing for my Golf.
Funny enough, I also sit here for months and think about trading my red 3-door MKVI for a MKVII R Variant.
I think I need to stalk you even more on how to proceed.


The front splitter on the GTI was from ECS, and the rear spoiler was from eBay!


I've never been one to love Golfs, but your GTI really made me want one. This R, will be the perfect evolution of it. Can't wait to see what you do with it, but I think we can all agree that, in the meantime, it's "perfect" and it doens't really need anything. Congratulations, and I hope you really enjoy it!


well wear lad


Hi Paddy,
Is that the Golf GTI and R both running the same engine in last two generations? R has higher turbo output and AWD.



Similar, but not the same. Different cylinder head, valves, exhaust cam, extra injectors, turbo and an improved radiator setup over the GTI.


Paddy, excellent choice. I've always rated your GTi as a "dream" second car for myself. For me, it's perfection, somewhat OEM whilst having great, functional mods. I love it. I had a red Golf R estate that unfortunately got written off. I ended up making a silly decision to get a new GTD Estate (MK7.5) to replace it with but now you've gone and bought a R I'm back looking at one again. I miss that power! I worry about diesel taxes in the UK over the next few years and I could really keep the R long term. I guess now I have to decide if I can afford to drop back to a MK7 with a few choice options (Pano roof an essential for me now!) or try to find a looked after somewhat standard R... I love and hate you for buying this car at the same time... I eagerly await every single update now!


The GTD Estate is a great car, always thought it was a bit of a shame there was never a GTI Estate as a half-way between the GTD & R.

We're the same here re:diesel, and I think they're going to slowly vanish off the roads here.


Paddy, Sorry to see Project GTI go and relieved to see Project Golf R arrive. I'm looking forward to the new series - particularly on fixing stone chips yourself (I have a few too that need attention!).


Golf 7R Wagon is hands down the best all-round daily driver money can buy. Performance, practicality, running costs. Unbeatable. Great choice, Paddy.


Cheers, Ben. I think it was inevitable that this happened, just need to make it a bit more my own.


Sub 4-second 0-60? Is that in kmh? Because for a car weighing 3400lb that had a 5 second 0-100kmh with 300hp, 400hp is not going to shave that down more than 1 second.


I timed a 3.9 the first day I had it, but will do some more 'scientific' ones when the weather improves / lockdown lifts. I think they're a bit quicker than the factory time states, and YouTube is full of Stage 2 hatches doing 3.5s so I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibilities.

I will check properly again, though. Any excuse to be anti-social TBH.