Golf GTI update
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:
THE WORK BEGINS
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.classic-tracker.co.uk. 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. disklokuk.co.uk) 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 (www.visiontrack.com) 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 Autoretrim.co.uk, 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.
SERVICE & OIL LEAK
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.