Dedication To Detail In A Mk1 Golf

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All-out stance builds rarely command my attention these days. Not without a serious performance aspect, at least.

Before any demon-camber enthusiasts take up in arms, think of that as a change in my automotive taste rather than a commentary on the stance scene in 2024.

It’s just that after years of being exposed to some of the classiest, most gangster and most outrageous stance builds out there, my senses may have become slightly dulled to a car sat on its ass with big shiny wheels poking out from under the arches.

And yet Players Classic is still my favourite show on the UK calendar. Partly for the variety but also because it has a habit of re-kindling my love for show cars with some exceptional builds.

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Builds like Alex Downs’ 1980 VW Golf GLS, which I spent some time with at this year’s event.

After his previous project car was crashed into by an uninsured driver and subsequently written off, Alex went back to the drawing board for a new build. This time he set out to create a show car that would not only keep up with modern traffic but also show off his skills as a classic car restorer by trade.

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Taken back to bare metal, Alex has restored the Golf from the ground up with raised suspension turrets to go with a raised floor/body drop. This enables the Golf to air out as low as possible on its custom air suspension setup; modified GAZ shock absorbers with airbags controlled by Air Lift Performance management.

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The smooth engine bay is apparent, but there are more subtle details, like the custom swallowtail-style rear end and subtly widened rear arches. The paint colour is a custom mix that Alex came up with.

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Underneath the arches are a set of bespoke split rims, again of Alex’s design, machined from billet aluminium to take 34-hole BBS lips and barrels. The back wheels are particularly aggressive, with the rear suspension beam narrowed by four inches to fit four-inch lips within the bodywork.

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The faces have been left in their raw-machined finish – a look I can really get behind – with custom centre caps engraved with Alex’s car club: The Drivers Collection. A fun addition is the matching fifth wheel face as part of the air suspension system installation in the boot.

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A standout feature of the Golf, the air ride system comprises four single-gallon air tanks suspended by hard lines on a plinth. No LED light shows or large acrylic panels reminiscent of gaming PC setups in sight…

…just a boot floor trimmed to match the interior, and a stunning paint job by Jack Smith at Forged From Flake.

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Speaking of which, the Golf’s interior features a mix of bespoke trimming and some rare parts.

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A pair of Recaro Rallye 3 seats, trimmed in chocolate leather with Harris tweed inserts and with the rear shells painted to match the bodywork,  take pride of place.

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These rare seats are best known for their folding mechanism, where you lift the seat back and bolster up and forward. When fitted as the OEM seat of the Fiat Ritmo 130 TC Abarth, this movement would cause the headrest to get stuck up against the headliner, preventing anyone from easily getting into the back of the car.

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The rear bench seat is trimmed to match, with a swallowtail dashboard, CAE shifter and Momo Heritage steering wheel further elevating the cabin. My favourite details are the tinted acrylic sun visors, matching race helmet, and the vintage tobacco tin housing the Air Lift Performance controller, which belonged to Alex’s grandfather.

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The Smiths fuel consumption (economy) gauge is always set to ‘good’, a cheeky nod to the VW PD130 diesel engine swap in the shaved bay.

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Not only does the PD130 allow Alex to quietly and reliably put mileage onto his Mk1, but it regularly returns over 60mpg. All of the 318 stainless steel pie-cut pipework was done by Alex himself over six months, through trial and error in his parents’ garage.

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“This car has huge sentimental value to me,” Alex states. “I’ve built The Drivers Collection by travelling around the UK to shows covering over 20,000 miles since the Golf was first built. I’ve met some of my closest friends and achieved over 50 awards with this car. It has blown me away just how well received it has been, especially for something that isn’t the usual recipe for a show car!”

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A five-door, diesel Mk1 Golf is far from what I’d describe if you asked me what I look for in a car. Yet here we are, and I think that’s exactly what makes this one so special.

Mario Christou
Instagram: mcwpn,

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Credit : Source Post

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