Golf GTI up­date

Classics Monthly - - Contents - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY IAIN WAKE­FIELD

A re­view of the work done to the Golf be­fore it heads off to the NEC.

Be­fore Lan­caster In­sur­ance’s prize Golf GTI sets off for the NEC at the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber where it will be dis­played on the head­line spon­sor’s stand for the du­ra­tion of the Clas­sic Mo­tor Show, we look back at what’s been done to the car since it was pur­chased ear­lier this year

Last year’s highly en­ter­tain­ing Clas­sic Rum­ble that ended with TV Wheeler Deal­ers’ Mike Brewer and Ant An­stead go­ing head to head in the auc­tion ring at the Lan­caster In­sur­ance Clas­sic Mo­tor Show with two very spe­cial cars was never go­ing to be an easy act to fol­low. How­ever, once the team at Lan­caster In­sur­ance had de­cided that a MkI Golf GTI would be the per­fect can­di­date for a new prize give­away com­pe­ti­tion, the hunt was on to find a suitable ex­am­ple to fit the bill.

This barn­storm­ing first gen­er­a­tion GTI is now con­sid­ered one of most iconic ‘hot’ hatches from the last Mil­len­nium and it wasn’t long be­fore Lan­caster’s Dave Youngs dis­cov­ered a pos­si­ble can­di­date be­ing of­fered for sale by an en­thu­si­as­tic owner based in Ch­ester. Af­ter a test drive, a deal was done to se­cure the car and Lan­caster In­sur­ance were now the proud owner of a very smart 1981 MkI Golf GTI.

While we were set­ting up the cam­era gear to pho­to­graph the newly ac­quired Golf, David ex­plained how he would be work­ing out a list of jobs for the car. The

first job would be to get the car MoT’d and af­ter hav­ing the Golf pro­fes­sion­ally ap­praised, Dave pro­duced two lists; one de­tail­ing all the ma­jor jobs and an­other out­lin­ing the less im­por­tant ones.

At the head of the im­por­tant list was fit­ting a new in­te­rior, as the orig­i­nal seats were start­ing to get a bit saggy and un­com­fort­able. Also in­cluded on the ur­gent to- do list were fit­ting a set of polyurethane bushes to im­prove the ride and han­dling; coat­ing the un­der­side with wax preser­va­tive, giv­ing the GTI a ma­jor me­chan­i­cal check over and ser­vice and fit­ting a state- of-the-art sound sys­tem.

Other jobs in­cluded re­plac­ing the badly cor­roded head­light units, sort­ing out a cou­ple of fluid leaks from a ra­di­a­tor hose and the rocker box cover; adding the miss­ing front and back bumper in­serts; a ma­jor ser­vice and a pro­fes­sional valet be­fore hand­ing the car over to its new owner.

Jobs on the Golf’s not-so ur­gent list in­cluded up­grad­ing the Golf’s se­cu­rity and a few more mi­nor tasks were added to the list along the way. Here’s a brief round up of all the work that’s been done the Golf so far:


First job was to get the Golf MoT’d and it was good news when the GTI passed with just a cou­ple of very small ad­vi­sories. The first was a small amount of sur­face cor­ro­sion on the in­side of the left-hand sill di­rectly be­hind the road wheel and the sec­ond pointed out the Golf’s cor­roded head­light re­flec­tors

Sand­ing down the sur­face rust and ap­ply­ing a cou­ple of coats of rust in­hibitor dealt with the first is­sue which was kindly car­ried out by Krown Rust­poof­ing Cen­tre. Two new head­light units were or­dered to re­place the de­fec­tive ones. As we were keen to have the coolant leak pro­fes­sion­ally in­ves­ti­gated, the Golf was booked into South Der­byshire based Forge Garage (01827 373573) and with the car on the ramp, pro­pri­etor Tony Blake im­me­di­ately traced the source of the coolant leak to a lose hose clip. Tight­en­ing up the hose clamps sorted this prob­lem out and af­ter Tony had fit­ted the new head­lights, the beams were checked and ad­justed ac­cord­ingly.


The MkI Golf GTI has al­ways been noted for its fine han­dling, but we thought it would be a good idea to sharpen up the car’s han­dling by fit­ting a set of polyurethane bushes be­fore hand­ing the car over to its new owner. We con­tacted the tech­ni­cal depart­ment at Wrex­ham­based Poly­bush and asked why polyurethane bushes are bet­ter to fit than the stan­dard rub­ber ones.

The an­swer was that polyurethane bushes have a much bet­ter com­bi­na­tion of high ten­sile strength and elas­tic­ity over a rub­ber based coun­ter­part. Fit­ting a set to the Golf would im­prove the ride and the new bushes would last far longer, even when used in the tough­est con­di­tions. That sounded a good enough rea­son to in­vest in a set and with the or­der placed, we booked the Golf in for the new ones to be fit­ted. New bushes were fit­ted to the Golf’s sus­pen­sion con­trol arms, front and rear anti-roll bars and the main rear sub­frame piv­ots. We were hop­ing the new bushes would sharpen up the GTI’s han­dling without the ride be­com­ing bone jar­ring and a phone call from the Golf’s cus­to­dian, Dave Youngs con­firmed that far from be­ing a bone-shak­ing ride back home, the Golf had less body roll and felt far more pos­i­tive.


As there was no ra­dio in the Golf when Lan­caster bought the car, JVC Ken­wood

UK kindly do­nated a top of the range KDCX7200DAB dig­i­tal head­set and the next job was have the sound sys­tem pro­fes­sion­ally fit­ted. To se­ri­ously en­hance the rich sound the new unit was promis­ing to de­liver, a 250watt JVC sub woofer was also in­cluded with Ken­wood’s gen­er­ous pack­age along with a set of more pow­er­ful door speak­ers ca­pa­ble of pushed out up to 40watts with the vol­ume cranked up.

The in­stal­la­tion was car­ried out by a team of mo­bile fit­ters from The Bass Bin (0121 773 6907), a car au­dio spe­cial­ist based in Birm­ing­ham. Af­ter re­mov­ing the blank­ing plate on the Golf’s dash­board, mo­bile fit­ter Vi­jay (call me VJ) quickly found an un­tidy bunch of wires, in­di­cat­ing that a ra­dio had once resided in the GTI’s dash­board.

While VJ set to work be­hind the dash with his trusty wire snips, his part­ner fed a power wire through the Golf’s bulk­head to make a new fused con­nec­tion for the ra­dio di­rect from the bat­tery. Mod­ern ra­dios like the one go­ing into the Golf re­quire two power feeds; a per­ma­nent one for the unit’s mem­ory and an­other fused lead from the ig­ni­tion so the ra­dio will power on and off with the key.

Find­ing some­where out of the way to in­stall the briefcase- sized sub woofer was more of a prob­lem and the only suitable place VJ could sug­gest was lo­cat­ing it un­der­neath the front pas­sen­ger’s seat. With all the ra­dio and speaker rewiring com­pleted and the pow­er­ful sub­woofer neatly hid­den away, the fi­nal job was to up­grade the door speak­ers and slide the head unit into the dash­board. Once the in­stal­la­tion was fi­nally com­plete, VJ packed away his tools and left Dave pon­der­ing over the in­struc­tion book work­ing out how to get the best out of the Golf’s im­pres­sive au­dio set- up.


To im­prove and mon­i­tor the Golf’s se­cu­rity a Clas­sic Tracker GPS based sys­tem was pro­vided by www.clas­ This clever de­vice con­sists of a three-wire self-in­stall base unit that uses GPS and GSM to es­tab­lish and main­tain the se­cure sta­tus of the ve­hi­cle in case of any unau­tho­rised move­ment or tam­per­ing.

A really ef­fi­cient vis­ual anti-theft de­vise for a clas­sic car like Lan­caster’s prize Golf is a steer­ing wheel lock and Disklok (www. pro­vided an ex­am­ple of what they claim is ‘the most ef­fec­tive full steer­ing wheel cover in the world’.

In­stalling a dash cam­era can be a good way to pro­vide a re­li­able silent wit­ness to any road traf­fic in­ci­dent and Lan­caster’s Golf has re­cently been equipped with a Vi­sionTrack (­ VTGo cam­era. Lo­cated along­side the Golf’s in­te­rior mir­ror, the VTGo cam­era is a dis­creet 32mm cube and it’s wide-an­gle lens records in full HD onto a mini SD card and video clips and still im­ages can be re­motely down­loaded onto a smart phone.


Although the Golf’s orig­i­nal cloth seat fac­ings were in good or­der, the ma­te­rial on the squabs had stretched badly and af­ter hav­ing a chat with Dave Ted­stone at Au­tore­, it was de­cided the best way for­ward would be to book the car into his work­shop and have the Golf’s sag­ging seats re-up­hol­stered.

For­tu­nately, Her­itage Parts Cen­tre were able to sup­ply the orig­i­nal pat­terned cloth for the MkI GTI’s seats but in­stead of choos­ing the orig­i­nal red striped seat fac­ings; it was de­cided to

opt for grey striped ma­te­rial in­stead. Work­ing on one seat at a time, it didn’t take Dave too long to sew all the freshly cut pan­els to­gether and pro­duce a brand new set of very smart look­ing seat cov­ers. Each of the fin­ished cov­ers were then care­fully stretched over the re­paired foam pad­ding and se­cured to the seat frame where nec­es­sary with new fit­tings. Be­fore putting the re-trimmed seats back in the Golf, the car­pets were deep cleaned and the GTI now has that brand new car smell.


There’s noth­ing more an­noy­ing than an oil leak, es­pe­cially one that looks easy to fix, such as along the edge of a rocker box gas­ket. So we weren’t ex­pect­ing a sim­ple gas­ket swap like this to slow down a sched­uled ser­vice. Re­mov­ing the rocker box cover was pretty straight­for­ward but the new gas­ket was a rub­ber-based af­fair and it seemed rather odd that a set of new studs had also been in­cluded in the pack as well.

It soon be­came ap­par­ent that the holes in the new gas­ket where too small to fit over the small shoul­ders on the ex­ist­ing studs. All the old front studs came out without too much of a fight, but ap­ply­ing a small amount of ex­tra pres­sure sheered off two of the rear ones. Be­fore re­sort­ing to drilling out the re­mains and re-tap­ping the threads, tech­ni­cian Matt de­cided to have a go at re­mov­ing the bro­ken studs with a spe­cial socket nor­mally re­served for re­mov­ing dam­aged or rounded off nuts. The harder you twist, the tighter these clever sock­ets grip and it wasn’t long be­fore the re­mains of the bro­ken studs were care­fully wound out of the head.

Once the new studs had been screwed in place and ev­ery­thing cleaned up, the re­place­ment gas­ket was fit­ted and the rocker box cover re­placed. Af­ter fit­ting a new oil fil­ter, the en­gine was topped up with the cor­rect amount of oil and the next jobs in­cluded fit­ting a new set of spark plugs and re­plac­ing the air fil­ter.

The rest of the ser­vice in­cluded re­mov­ing the wheels to check the con­di­tion of the brake pads and shoes and af­ter fit­ting a new fuel fil­ter; the car was ready for a brief road test. A vis­ual in­spec­tion around the top of the en­gine when the car came back showed the oil leak had been cured and the top of the man­i­fold was now bone dry.

The next job will be to have the car pro­fes­sion­ally valeted by the team at Meguiar’s and we’ll show how that was done next time in the fi­nal part of Lan­caster’s Project Golf GTI.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, you’ve just bought a 1981 Golf GTI. Lan­caster In­sur­ance’s Dave Youngs (left) seals the deal with Jonny, the VW’s former owner.

First job was to get the Golf MoT’d and the good news was that it passed with just a cou­ple of mi­nor ad­vi­sories.

Fit­ting a new set of polyurethane bushes to the Golf’s front and rear sus­pen­sion to­tally trans­formed how the GTI drives and han­dles.

To im­prove the Golf’s rather ba­sic se­cu­rity, a Tracker was in­stalled along with a heavy­weight Disklok steer­ing wheel lock and a mini dig­i­tal dash cam­era.

The pre­vi­ous owner had re­moved the ra­dio be­fore the car was sold, so fit­ting high qual­ity dig­i­tal head­set and sep­a­rate am­pli­fier was an im­por­tant up­grade.

Although the orig­i­nal in­te­rior was show­ing its age rather well, the de­ci­sion was taken to com­pletely re-up­hol­ster the Golf’s front and rear seats.

A per­sis­tent oil leak was even­tu­ally traced to the rear edge of the rocker box cover but fit­ting a new gas­ket un­for­tu­nately turned into a ma­jor op­er­a­tion.

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