Project R: The First Steps Are The Most Important
The Honeymoon Period

When I sat down to write my goodbye to Project GTI and hello to Project R, AKA Habu, Ireland had just been put into a six-week lockdown. Guess what’s just happened again?

With the seemingly never-ending cycle of stay-at-home restrictions here set to continue for the foreseeable future, it won’t come as a surprise that progress on Habu has been glacial since its arrival. Opportunities to both work and drive have been rare, so my approach and thought process is completely different to that of Project GTI.

2020 Project R Catch Up-2

To quickly catch you up, I bought this already-modified Golf R Variant last October when an offer came through for Project GTI that I couldn’t turn down. It’s a well-specced and tastefully-upgraded example, which at first glance probably doesn’t need much more.

If that was the case, however, I wouldn’t be writing this.

2020 Project R Catch Up PMcG-3

The first (and most expensive) part of the puzzle was to register the car in Ireland. I estimated that this would cost around €6,500, but the actual number turned out to be €6,080 for the privilege of Irish registration plates. The really wild part? Even after this vehicle registration tax, the car was still significantly cheaper than buying an equivalent car already registered in Ireland. At time of registration, the cheapest comparable car was almost €9,000 more expensive.

Once registered it needed to pass the National Car Test, which it did at the second time of asking. First time around it failed on emissions, requiring a new catalytic convertor. With a Scorpion 200-cell downpipe sourced and installed, it sailed through.

2020 Project R Catch Up PMcG-2

Now fully road legal in Ireland, I could finally turn my attention to making my own changes. While I liked how the car visually looked with the 19-inch Borbet Pretoria wheels, Ireland isn’t a country for 19s. Even with the car’s DCC set to comfort, the low-profile Goodyear tyres were less than pleasant for daily driving.

Naturally, they were first to go.

2020 Project R Catch Up PMcG-4

I did use the opportunity of a wheel change to install Garage Midnight’s Hold Fast stud kit, which is the same kit I used on my GTI. I cannot abide by wheel bolts, so this nut and stud conversion is a cheap and simple solution to fasten your wheels to the hubs while providing a better clamp as an added bonus.

While my GTI might be gone, its RAYS Volk Racing TE37 Sagas continue to live on with Habu. If you remember, the TE37s were sourced in a reverse stagger for the GTI with wider front wheels and tyres.

As the R is AWD, I needed to pay heed to the overall rolling radius of each wheel and tyre. A handy online calculator helped me select a square tyre setup for the staggered wheels, which ensured the Haldex system would be kept happy. I went with Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S tyre in a 235/40R18 fitment.

2020 Project R Catch Up PMcG-6

The wider rims are on the rear now, with the slightly narrower and lighter wheels on the front axle. I’ve briefly read about Audi offering a reverse stagger from factory on the current model RS 3, which uses a similar Haldex system as the R, but that’s something which I’ll look into again when these tyres reach the end of their life.

There’s a lot to be said about buying quality parts that you can carry over from one project to another, and the improvement in how the R drives on these lighter, smaller wheels is significant.

2021 Project R - January-42

Another lockdown upgrade was the installation of an integrated P3 Gauges vent gauge. It’s subtle, simple, and as it communicates with the car via the factory OBD port, didn’t require any extra wiring. The unit itself is customisable, can display a vast array of information from the ECU, and features a few performance timers to boot. I typically use it to monitor engine oil temperature or boost. For those curious, my fastest recorded 0-100km/h (0-62mph) time according to the gauge so far has been 3.58 seconds.

I won’t mention the amount of swearing when the factory vent disassembled itself on removal, however.

As background, the Mk7 R Variant features a different rear silencer setup to the normal hatchback, due to the addition of a rear wheel well. The exhaust trims are attached directly to the bumper, with the single exhaust exiting either side, sort of aiming towards them. So, another of the simple changes was to remove these exhaust trims and replace them with more discreet H-joined tips which actually attach to the rear silencers and ensure all four tips flow waste gasses. I still think four tips is too many, but running two tips leaves a massive gap in the rear diffuser. Hence, the new smaller and more discreet quad setup.

Breathe Easy

This project has so far been a lot more conservative from a financial perspective. Partly out of necessity, but also because a lot of the big ticket items have already been covered off. The upgrades so far have all been relatively affordable (stud conversion, P3 gauge, exhaust tips etc.) or in the case of the TE37s, which actually added money into my account via the sale of the Pretorias, even after the Michelins had been purchased and fitted.


Another example of my increasing fiscal responsibility was acquiring the Flow Designs front splitter from Donal Maher’s Golf R, when it came up for sale. I wanted a strong, resilient front splitter as I don’t have the benefits of air suspension any longer, and this Australian product is the toughest of them all. It attaches to the front crossmember and I dread to think what it would take to break it.

As an added bonus, it’s not one of the thousands of cheap, fibreglass lips which seem to adorn nearly every Golf R in Ireland. By purchasing it used, I saved probably 50% of the cost of importing a new one. Money saved which can be used elsewhere is always a positive.

2021 Project R - January-22

The honeymoon period with the car has long since elapsed, and while I’m still absolutely smitten with it, I now have a much better idea of the things I want to improve.

2021 Project R - January-4
2021 Project R - January-7

Over the Christmas period, I made some headway on these areas (in no particular order).

I had spent time researching air intakes for the R, as I found the APR intake fitted to the car, while perfectly good, was a bit too quiet for my liking. I didn’t want to go back to a fully open air intake (although I was tempted), but something able to add a little bit more to the experience would be welcomed. Something that performed better again would be a bonus.

For what it’s worth, the ‘soundaktor’ on my car is either disabled or broken, but either way I have no intentions of bringing it back to life.

2021 Project R - January-12

When Eventuri offered an intake for the car, and I had done some research on the product, I was keen to try it out. There’s a lot of thought and development behind this product, with the carbon fibre housing providing an aerodynamically-efficient airflow path from the air filter to the turbo inlet.

The intake runs an inverted cone filter and utilises the carbon housing to control the shape of the airflow, resulting in a smoother (and more efficient) air flow through to the turbocharger. Eventuri claim a 16-25hp and 15-22ft-lb increase over the stock air intake system.

2021 Project R - January-24

They also supply a cold air scoop which requires the front grill to be slightly modified in order to provide a direct path for outside air to the front duct portion of the intake.

What I found interesting is that Eventuri also provide research as to why they opted for a single duct design, and not an extended double-width front duct which is common to other manufacturers. Long story short, they found the double-width duct produced less power than the single duct design for a number of reasons.

2021 Project R - January-25

I won’t claim that I can feel an increase in power, as there are too many variables when driving on the street and +16hp on a previously 385hp car is around a 4% increase, but I certainly cannot detect any drawbacks. Engine response is very nice, too. There’s a noticeable, but not intrusive, increase in volume from the front of the car and so far, it has been a worthwhile upgrade. I’ll make it back onto a dyno at some stage.

2021 Project R - January-6

With that installed, my attention turned to the rear of the car and another secondhand purchase.

2021 Project R - January-30

I lucked it with this RacingLine carbon fibre rear body brace on Facebook Marketplace. It had only been installed in the previous owner’s Mk7 GTI for a short period of time, and when he removed it, had put everything back into its original packaging, including the hardware.

‘Like new’ would be an understatement.

2021 Project R - January-31

This is a pretty sensible upgrade for the big-bodied estate car, and one I was keen to carry out early in the car’s life. Installation was a breeze; it didn’t require any modifications to the car and can be easily unbolted in the future if need be.

2021 Project R - January-33

It’s a four-point brace and is quite compact in its design. As expected, it doesn’t interfere with the rear seats, but its low height and generous openings allow maximum use of the rear storage space. Mountain bike still goes on the roof, for those curious.

2021 Project R - January-32

The difference even on the road was immediate, without any drawbacks in terms of NVH. Previously, I found the GTI was much more eager to change direction compared to the R (no surprise considering the amount of suspension and chassis upgrades), but this has helped to close that gap.

2021 Project R - January-38

I’m quite conscious of not introducing any NVH into this car, as I found previously that a little bit here and there can quickly add up. You only get the benefits of stiffer bushings (as an example) a couple of days a year on track, but have to live with the drawbacks every other day of the year.

I already passed on the opportunity to replace the front lower wishbone bushings with polyurethane bushes when the subframe was dropped to fit the Scorpion downpipe. Instead, I chose OE bushings for that particular piece of preventive maintenance.

2021 Project R - January-45

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how this car will be used, and compliance will absolutely be key as that’s what the roads I do most of my spirited driving on will reward. There are still further upgrades to come; some will be performance orientated and some aesthetic. However, I’m in no rush.

2021 Project R - January-46

The car is good, and its ability to be whatever I need it to be when I get behind the wheel is utterly remarkable. Need a comfortable cruiser to cover a long distance efficiently? No problem. Need to embarrass an unsuspecting executive at the traffic lights in his ‘sports car’? Let me introduce you to launch control and show you four discreet exhaust pipes vanishing up the road. Need something that can absolutely redefine what you thought a car could do on a damp backroad? Look no further.

Like a lot of the current VW Group performance offerings, the Golf R is often criticised for its lack of excitement in stock form. What a lot of people don’t seem to grasp is that by delivering the R in a neutral way from factory, it allows each owner to extract however much excitement from the car as they wish. And believe me, there’s plenty to go around.

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

2020 Project R Catch Up PMcG-11
2021 Project R - January-41
2021 Project R - January-40
2021 Project R - January-44


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Tell me more about those holder thingies you have in the trunk!


They're designed by an Irish company, Stayhold is the brand I think. They're a modular organising system with velcro feet and they're the absolute best things.


Nice, but I'd do the "paint it black" treatment ;) Props for the chain lube though!


I usually wash the bike from a small power washer in the boot of the car after riding, so it's handy to have the lube to hand.


Great choice hopefully this one won´t get the air suspension :)


I wouldn't rule out air in the future, but only if I choose to go lower. My impressions of it with Project GTI remain really positive.


Great setup! What about suspension? Is it just springs or what?


It's currently still on the factory dynamic dampers, but with H&R springs. I think the next change will be a thicker rear ARB, and then start looking at uprated damper options which will retain DCC.


God damn you Paddy, ever since you revealed the new car i've been trying to work out if the Golf R has enough room for 3 kids. Might just have to stick one in the boot


There's plenty of lashing points to tie one down in the boot.


Ok so i have a 2008 golf mkV variant, and its not an R or a GTI but hey, it's still nice to see some golf variant content !


Yours could be prime for a TFSI or R32 swap though!


The dream would be make it into a GTI/GTD full body kit wheels and tartan interior, but that would be a lot of work !


Very nice build. Dream daily car for me. Not like that white color, but whatever, you not looking on it when you drive it:D Very likes how its done that intake.


I'm not normally a white car colour sort of person, but the pearl paint on this is really nice. Ideally, I would have had it in Lapiz blue but this was too good of an example to turn down.


@paddy mcgrath:

The stagger is so the car rotates better under cornering. Haldex is in essence aan fairly open front wheel drive setup. On any front wheel drive setup a front staggered setup is highly recommended. The only reason you don't see it on race/rally cars is because of the regs. Otherwise it would be used on all front wheel drive setups and some awd setups without a transfer case. It's all because of the front weight bias....


I'm aware of the why, but need to figure out what stagger plays nice with the haldex (which is more sensitive to the overall rolling radius than the width).

I've read previously that a 4% difference in radius front to rear is acceptable on them? Anyways, that's a long ways off.


Easiest way to find out: Tyre pressure. Leave the fronts around the 2,2 bar. Thats lower then the factory recommend 2,6 bar, Get the tyre pressures on the rear on the factory serup, which sould be 2.6 bar. From there on out: very empty roundabout and peg it. Let it cool of, increase rear tyre pressure to say 3 bar and do it again. It should feel different and you should see it on your speedo as well. Just increase untill you find the sweet spot with increments of about half a bar each. Once you found the sweet spot measure your actuall tyre track width with a piece of cardbord and a wet tyre. Driving over it should be enough to get a fairly accurate measurement. You will know the stagger ratio. for the ideal balance for your car when you compare the measured track width with the track width advertised on the front tyres.

Because lets not forget about the most important aspect: Your not asking yourself the right question.

It's not about the percentage the haldex system needs. Its about the actuall percentage you need to get the best grip/feel/whatever you are after. It's all about the driver, not about the systems in the car.

That being said: a stagger percentage of about 10 to 15% smaller rear width wise would be my educated guess based on my preferences.

And your right: Haldex are in essence just open diffs with one wheel of the ground or after about 50.000km's, because the fluid in them will degrade over time. It's all about compliance with getting performance out of haldex, which in essence isn't so much about the tyres as it is about suspension.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Everything's looking fine Paddy. Love that you are making choice upgrades that enhances the abilities of the car.


This is the way.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

This is the way!


Mandalorian? :D


Habu what a interesting choice of words. Habu is the name of a viper indigenous to Okinawa , Japan. It was also a code name for the Air Forces SR-71 Blackbird spy plane that was assigned to Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa, Japan too. I call it home.


Nice catch :)

I've been reading a lot of books over the lockdown about the Skunkworks, Kelly Johnson & Ben Rich. I figure that the car is quite fast, relatively invisible and also carries cameras so the name kind of works.


So bummed we don't get these in the States. Awesome car


While all the Speedhunter projects are a lot of fun to follow, yours are always my favourite. The gf talked me into a NA market 2020 Tiguan but what I really wanted was a Sportwagen, and this makes me want to do a trade behind her back and hope she doesn't notice. Keep up the awesome content. I'll be following closely and drooling.


I've a soft spot for the Tiguan, had one for a week or two while on a shoot for VW, but I'm very much an estate > SUV kind of person.


As I always said with every PGTI update, I'm not one to love Golfs, but I wanted one, I wanted yours, lol.
Now I want this one.


I know its cliched, but,


That cross brace is super nice, and thanks for the top tip on the Stayhold things.


May I ask a technical question? I see you often use a Sony RX100 for "in the field" shots, and it seems to me you use it with CPL filter. Is that correct? If so, what solution do you use to mount the filter on the lens? Thank you!

PS. Top quality content and the best project cars stories as usual! I almost miss Project GTI, so it's good to is it's replacement is live on Speedhunters. Cheers!


You are correct, I use a small circular polariser I got off Amazon which mounts magnetically.


Love it Paddy... where did you get your tips from? Not seen those before! Not a fan of the standard tips and am looking to change mine


AliExpress would you believe? I had to measure the actual tips on the rear silencers, the size of the opening in the diffuser and figure out a desired length.


Great to see the measured approach to this one... however what I'm most interested in the muc off product holder in the boot!


The Stayhold organisers are the real heroes of this feature!


I think a spot light feature on boot organisers are needed


"For those curious, my fastest recorded 0-100km/h (0-62mph) time according to the gauge so far has been 3.58 seconds."

That's ferrari enzo levels of acceleration.


Pretty common for a Stage 2 (~400hp) Golf R, and I think the Mighty Car Mods Stage 3 (~500hp) Golf R went 2.87s which is utterly bonkers for a Golf.


Super excited for this one! Can't wait to see more of Project R! Man the Golf R Estate is all kinds of cool!


''Like a lot of the current VW Group performance offerings, the Golf R is often criticised for its lack of excitement in stock form. What a lot of people don’t seem to grasp is that by delivering the R in a neutral way from factory, it allows each owner to extract however much excitement from the car as they wish.''

Interesting comment.


The same can be said for most performance cars off the showroom floor.


Congrats, perfect allrounder

todays version of an Audi S4(B5)


Thankfully they're far more reliable than the B5 S4!


I agree with your last statement about extracting excitement from the Golf. My 2dr manual MK6 Golf R is about to get f/r H&R sway bars and Spoon rigid collars to go with the H&R springs. It will retain DCC while maximising the car's fun potential. Can't wait.


The MK6 R is so rare over here, although every time I say that, I see one the next day. So, here's hoping!


Hey Paddy. In relation to the handling element of it, you said the GTI seems to switch directions a little faster and the brace has helped this. Is installing a rear sway bar on the R something that you are considering doing? Or do you think you wouldn’t notice the difference off the track?


Yes, that's the next piece of the puzzle. I just need to measure the current rear ARB (should be 20mm) and then decided between a 22mm or 25mm