Some engine conversions make so much sense that they become the linchpin of a particular car community or scene. Think Zetec and YB swaps in the world of old Fords, B-series VTECs in Hondas of all shapes and sizes, and, in the world of fettled VWs, 20vs and VR6s. It’s the latter we’re looking at here, namely as it’s an engine we’ve been instructed to transplant into the engine bay of the Mk1 Golf you see here. We’re not going to pretend that we’re the first to carry out such a swap, not even close, but we do plan on making said conversion one of the best realised to date.
The owner of this car is a long time VW fan and came to us with a fairly straightforward brief, namely a show-worthy Mk1 Golf with VR6 propulsion, air suspension and our now customary attention to detail. His intention to use it as a show car meant that handling poise and cornering finesse weren’t his chief considerations, both taking a backseat to noise in terms of outright importance. This in turn lead us down the VR6 route, as let’s face it, these engines might come with a hefty weight penalty when compared to more modern offerings, but there’s no denying that they sound simply superb at full chat.
The Golf actually arrived at our premises looking very clean indeed, it having even been displayed on the official Meguiars stand in the recent past. As ever when it comes to a build of this type however, there’s always room for improvement, which is why we soon found ourselves stripping the Golf down to a bare shell in readiness for a media blast. This gave us a much clearer idea of what we faced in terms of rot, and while we’ve certainly tackled cars in far worse conditions in terms of bodywork, an in depth inspection revealed the shell to be rustier than first impressions would’ve had us believe. The inner sills, wheel well and both rear quarter panels all needed work, while we opted to replace the poorly fitted rear panel completely, just to be on the safe side.
Knowing that we planned to install a VR6 allowed us to plan accordingly, which is what lead us to notch the chassis leg to gain extra clearance. While fitting a VR6 doesn’t necessarily entail a chassis modification such as this, our desire to retain the OEM length driveshafts gave us little other option. Other metalwork alterations include a bias peddle-box and associated re-mounting of the master cylinder inboard, which in turn has allowed us to clean up the bulkhead for a more aesthetically pleasing under bonnet appearance.
The Mk1 actually came to us wearing a nice coat of one of perhaps the most iconic Golf colours of all, Mars Red, though the owner was clear from the very beginning that he wanted to take the car down a different path. This eventually lead us to spray the Golf in an Audi colour, Daytona Grey, a subtle hue perfectly in keeping with the Golf’s early hot hatch origins.
Other changes in appearance are equally subtle, the addition of an Air Lift air suspension kit and BBS RM wheels both good examples. Both are a tried and tested means of getting a Mk1 Golf looking better than its maker ever deemed possible, and we thought there was little point attempting to reinvent the wheel (no pun intended) in this respect.
Sourcing a VR6 donor car has become a damn sight trickier in recent years thanks to the scrappage scheme, the popularity of these engines in swaps, and of course the general passage of time, which is why we breathed a collective sigh of relief when the owner revealed he planned on supplying said engine himself, along with a suitable gearbox. These have since been given a mild cosmetic overhaul and general inspection, and have since been bolted to the car.
Currently fully painted and partially assembled, the VR6 Golf is in the final stages of its build. The interior is beginning to come together and will soon sport a set of SPA clocks and various other additions, meaning we should have it up and running by the end of the year.