The original Golf GTI is one of those cars that crosses divides, classes and cultures; it doesn’t matter where you’re from, how old you are or how much you have in the bank, it’s a brilliant car to look at, sit in and drive. It was also among the first front-wheel drive hot hatches and helped cement the template that we now know and love, which in turn has helped it become something of an automotive icon over the course of the last 42 years. Not bad for a car conceived and built ‘on the sly’ by a group of VW engineers after work.
The Golf you see here has recently been progressing through the Retropower build phase, and what began life as a Mars Red GTI with some subtle tweaks has evolved somewhat, with all rot removed and a handful of custom chassis changes made for good measure. It has since been given a coat of Audi Daytona Grey paint, an Air Lift Performance suspension kit, and VR6 power plant.
We feel that we’re on fairly solid ground when we say that the GTI’s interior was among its most iconic features, and to this end we’ve attempted to retain as much of what made the GTI such a brilliant place to sit all those decades ago, hence why all significant trims and fittings have been retained, albeit with a coat of black flock to key areas such as the dash and centre console. It’s an exercise in minimalism, a means of helping the car to stand apart without diluting the essence of what made the GTI such a significant hot hatch in the first place.
The most obvious deviation from the factory spec is the SPA instrumentation unit. This gives the owner accurate display of essential engine parameters such as oil pressure and coolant temperature but also features programmable warnings for all parameters. There is also a custom configurable shift light which cleverly uses the illumination colour of the analogue needles as indication – changing from blue to amber to red as the shift point approaches.
We’ve added our own neat touch to the already great SPA system. Keen Mk1 GTI owners will know that switching between the various ‘modes’ in the OEM trip computer involved pushing the end of an indicator stalk, a process soon second nature to millions of Golf drivers. We’ve retained the same core functionality but connected it with the SPA hardware, meaning that using the indicator stalk will now cycle through the various LCD menus.
We’ll soon be plumbing finalising the cooling system plumbing and fitting the remaining interior as we push towards completion.