The Golf MK1 marked a major shift in Volkswagen’s philosophy. The company was known for producing rear-engined, air-cooled cars, however when it came to the Golf they moved to a front-engined, front-wheel-drive layout. It’s fair to say they’ve never looked back since!
The MK1 debuted in 1974, and styled by Italian, Giorgetto Giugiaro, it’s modern (for the time!) styling, hatchback layout, and hugely usable water-cooled four cylinder engine helped make the car an instant hit. The Golf also adopted a more complex, but far superior suspension set up to it’s predecessor (the Beetle) using Macpherson struts up front and trailing arm independent suspension at the rear.
Just like that, Volkswagen had given birth to the original hatchback, and other manufacturers would forever be left in its wake – the Golf today (in it’s eight incarnation) is still one of the best selling cars in the world with an eye-watering 35 million cars sold since 1974!
Imran’s just about finished building this lovely MK1 Golf. We love these cars, they’ve got such a beautiful shape and age only makes them better on the eye. Imran’s really set this car off with some subtle visual modifications including a set of BBS wheels and coil overs to give it the low down look. In terms of mechanical upgrades, “subtle” maybe isn’t the best description, as this car is about to get its SECOND engine swap!
Volkswagen Golf MK1 GLS (1978)
- Engine swap – Originally Imran installed a 16-valve ABF lump from A Mk3 Golf, however he's now in the process of installing a 20-valve 1.8 litre engine from the MK4 Golf GTI!
- The gearbox will be an 02J Gearbox from a Mk4 Golf (happening alongside the current engine conversion).
- Upgraded suspension to BC Racing Coilovers – these are fully adjustable (ride height, bounce and rebound).
- Paintwork has been changed to "Bright Blue Metallic" which was a paint code on the MK2 Golfs.
- The car sits on 15" BBS Replicas wrapped in 195/50/15 Tyres. However Imran is currently getting some custom Split Rims made.
- The interior is from a Mk3 Polo GTI. These were already converted to fit into a Mk1 so it was a straight fit.
Interview with the owner
- When did you first purchase the car Imran?I've always loved the Mk1 Golf shape and this was given to me as a present from my Dad back in 2016. So it has a lot of sentimental value. The Mk1 Golf was the first proper Hot Hatch that came out and is an iconic car in many peoples eyes. I have been lucky to be around a few.
- What's it like to drive?Mk1's are brilliant to drive. All depending on what engine you have and what sort of suspension you are running.Every car gives you a different experience. As for my current Mk1, I am currently doing my second engine swap. Originally it was a 1.5 Automatic. Nice smooth drive being an Auto. As long as the carburettors were Ok, then the performance was decent for that engine. The first engine conversion I did was a 16-Valve ABF which was from a Mk3 Golf ABF. I only got to drive the car once before I found out there was an Oil Leak which I couldn't stop. I tried everything possible but ending up selling the whole conversion!I'm now on my second engine conversion, which once done, should be amazing.
- Has the car been restored / rebuilt?I started the restoration in November 2019. I stripped the whole car with my Dad and sent the shell off for the necessary Work I.E. Wings, Sills, Arches Etc. Got all that sorted and ended up changing the colour to a Mk2 Bright Blue Metallic. Then during lockdown I managed to put the whole car back together and do the first engine conversion.
- Has the car been modified in any way?Yes, so I've obviously done the engine swap (with another one to come). But I've also done some mods to the suspension, paintwork, wheels, and interior. Also part of the current engine conversion involves changing the gearbox!
- So tell us about this "ongoing engine swap number two" then….As I mentioned earlier, I am now on my second engine conversion, so it will be having a 1.8T 20-valve engine from a Mk4 Golf GTI. Once mapped this should be running at least 200BHP!
- And you mentioned this will involve a gearbox change too?Yes, the gearbox will be an "02J" Gearbox from a Mk4 Golf, so the shifting will be a lot better that the standard rod change.
- What have you done to the suspension?I have upgraded the suspension to BC Racing Coilovers. Reason being is that I can adjust the ride height, camber and change the softness of the suspension. If you ask anyone they will say BC Racing are the ones to go for.
- What have you done to the paintwork?Paintwork has been changed to a Mk2 Bright Blue Metallic. It was a hard choice but I wanted to keep it more period correct, rather than going for a modern colour.
- What have you done with the wheels & tyres?The wheels I have at the moment are 15" BBS Replicas which are on 195/50/15 Tyres. But I am planning on getting some custom Split Rims made.
- What have you done with the interior?The interior I have is from a Mk3 Polo GTI. They were already converted to fit into a Mk1 so it was a straight fit.
- Do you plan to do any further modifications to it?There are always mods that can be done. So all I can say is watch this space.
- Is the car a "keeper" or will you sell it one day?For the right price, anything is for sale
- Ok final question – ignoring cost, and assuming you couldn’t go and sell it for profit… what’s your dream car and why?Thats a hard one. I would say a Mk1 Golf GTI. To have one sitting in the Garage, almost standard with a few tasteful upgrades that you can take out in nice weathers. That would do me!