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It’s been a while since I have used the phrase, but I adore a ‘second-glance car.’

What do I mean by that? For me, the phrase describes a car that doesn’t shout about what makes it special. A second-glance car draws you in and then reveals its details while you spend time looking at it.

Joe Stanford’s Ocean Blue 1983 Volkswagen Golf C did exactly this at Ultimate Dubs 2024.

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-23

From across the hall, it caught my attention with nothing more than its 3-piece-converted Pirelli ‘P-Slot’ wheels.

At the front of the car, these up-scaled heritage wheels hide a bright red set of Porsche 4-piston Brembo brake callipers, a necessary upgrade given what now resides in the Golf’s engine bay.

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-8

A 3.2-litre VR6 engine from a Mk5 Golf R32 replaces the comparative paperweight that once powered the Mk1. Joe has turbocharged it for good measure and turned it into a work of art in its own right.

“It’s been a headache all the way through as all of the chosen parts had to be modified to fit, or parts have had to be made from scratch,” Joe says. “Making room for the turbo whilst still having a tidy solution for the radiator, intercooler, and three fans was a challenge.”

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-10

I’d say the challenge was worth it, as the little car now benefits from a beautiful engine bay. Some unique touches really made this motor stand out at Ultimate Dubs, like the teardrop-shaped intake leading to the turbo.

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-6

The engine intake runs down a channel on the underside of the bonnet, “using the top of the grille for fresh air without intruding on the car’s exterior,” Joe explains.

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-11

Joe’s period-correct ethos runs deep in the Golf, especially considering the real party piece of the build. “We knew traction would be an issue, and with all the extra weight at the front, we decided to convert the Mk1 to 4WD using a rear axle from a Syncro Mk2 Golf. To keep the floor pan as original as possible, the steering rack had to move to make room for the prop shaft running down the original tunnel, from the gearbox running a mixed gear set – half TDI.”

With only minor changes to the floor pan, Joe had to shorten the Syncro subframe and driveshafts to make up the 33mm difference in widths whilst fabricating brackets to work with the Mk1’s chassis.

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-17
Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-20

The desire to keep the Golf looking original didn’t stop there. Joe also created a fuel tank with a false bottom to sit as close to the original as possible. The factory fuel tank had to be moved up into the boot to allow room for the Syncro conversion.

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-19

And yet, the little touches that have gone into the Mk1 impress me the most. Kevlar front wings and bonnet go towards improving the weight distribution, while electric power steering, heated seats, a heated windscreen, and a period-looking head unit with Bluetooth make this little rocket an enjoyable car to drive all year round in beautifully grey England.

There are even a couple of proper top-shelf VW enthusiast modifications, such as chrome Porsche door handles and an oil catch can integrates into the strut brace (touches that long pre-date me), plus more modern ideas, such as the Rolls-Royce-style umbrella hidden in the driver’s side rear quarter panel. In the spirit of OEM+ inspiration, an honourable mention goes to Škoda for their door umbrellas, too.

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-22

“I purchased the Golf about 15 years ago now on the pretence to make my ultimate car,” Joe says. “After all this time…here it is!”

Mario Christou UD 24 Golf SH Edits-14

Pastel paint, a beautifully simple interior, an atomic bomb under the bonnet, and just the right creature comforts to bring the 1983 Golf firmly into 2024. This is a second-glance car done oh-so right.

Mario Christou
Instagram: mcwpn

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