LARA: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE MK2 GOLF GTI
THIS, MY FRIENDS, IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN. THE CAR THAT CAN DO EVERYTHING - Race Car, camper van, you name it.
I don't know what it was that made me go for the Mk2 Golf. I think that if I HAD to pinpoint a reason, it was probably a vague but distinct memory of my brother's old one that he had when I was much, much younger. A car he claims to not care much about yet he has a framed photo of it on his mantelpiece. Go figure. But in 2013 when I was 15 years old, I decided it was about bloody time I got a car. And I don't know why. because up till then I had never really considered one, but I became fixated with the Mk2 Golf. Those four lights, the square shape that is sort of reminiscent of the Delta... A lot of people ask me why I don't prefer the Mk1 but personally I think the Mk1 is just a Mk2 with an eating disorder. Take from that what you will.
Admit it - you know the Mk2 is the ultimate evolution of the Golf.
So, anyway, back to 2013. It was around April/May time, I think, when I began my search. My parents gave me the go ahead to start looking. I never quite understood at first why my parents wanted me to go ahead with buying a car at 15 (much less a Hot Hatch) but to be honest, looking back now, it was probably a good choice. It kept me away from smoking and drinking, because I couldn't bloody afford to have both if I wanted to. But that's the beauty of supportive parents I guess - they usually do always know best. So I started looking around for ages on the usual places - online classifieds and eBay (I didn't bother with the paper. Who bothers with that anymore?). After a couple weeks of searching something came up, finally within budget.
Looking back I had made the mistake of having "already bought the car in your head before you've actually bought it".
A 1989 VW Golf GTI 8V in Tornado Red with 3 Doors. Perfect. It's the combination that everybody dreams about on these cars. And the best part, it was only £600. I know this was before the sudden price hike on Mk2s, but even then that was staggeringly cheap. "We'll ring in the morning" my mother said. I think she thought if I slept on it I might change my mind but that wasn't likely to happen. I was pretty set on this happening. It turns out, maybe she shouldn't have said that. Because the next morning when we went to call, the ad was no longer there. The car was gone. I genuinely could have cried. I think I actually did to be honest. But I didn't give up my search. Which was just as well, because two days later, the advertisement was put up again. Now, to anyone with sense, this would say there's something wrong with the car (there was) and that I should've looked for another one (I didn't). I remember it very vividly - I was staying over at my sisters house and the advert reappeared, and I rang my parents in excitement. We rang the guy, he said the other person just didn't show up. The next morning, we hopped in the family Fiesta (the Mk6 one, another car for another article) and drove the 90 odd mile trip to Buncrana in Donegal to buy this Mk2.
A Mk2 that I learned had used the wrong pictures taken from Google for the advertisement, had the wrong numberplates on it, and was a rust bucket. But hey ho, I was 15 and I bought it with my heart. And with that, I affectionately christened her "Lara", after Lara Croft. Because like Miss Croft, this car will survive anything and will keep on living to fight another day.
A very proud looking 15 year old.
So, over the next year, me and my dad worked tirelessly on it. I don't think you'll get father son bonding time quite like you will with restoring a classic car, unless you like football or something rubbish like that. But an insane amount of time was put into the restoration, and because I was still in high school my budget consisted of school dinner money not spent on school dinners. But don't tell my parents that. And, as we don't have a garage at our house, it was done outside, in all weather.
When I said we worked on it in all weather, I wasn't lying.
It got to the point where even my dog didn't think it'd be finished.
But after over a year of work, the next chapter of this cars life began. A return to past glory. She looked good, she had passed MOT, she was on the road again. And after 6 months of having my licence, I could finally afford to get insurance on her. And I have to say, compared to my mother's Ford Ka (not the horrible rust bucket Mk1, the horrible poorly built Fiat 500 based Mk2), it felt like a rocket ship. I understood quickly why hot hatches are hard to insure for 17 year olds. Thankfully, having built this thing from the ground up, I respected it enough not to be stupid. I save that for the track. But this begins the next saga of my Mk2 Golf Ownership.. "The Heartbreaker".
One of the unfortunate things about driving a classic car is their tendency to... well, not work. Sadly, this car is plagued with that. The engine is cooked and it overheats and things go wrong all the time and I've had to be towed home more times than I'd like to admit. That's where Lara also earned the name "The Heartbreaker". My brother coined that phrase and I can't take credit for it. Sadly.
But back on topic. Here in Ireland, we have an up and coming drag racing scene, over in Bishopscourt. I've been a regular competitor for all but one of the events of the Air Cooled Drag Day, which in itself is an event I'll be covering on this year when Drag Day 5 happens. But in the "Mk2 golfs can do everything" attitude that I have, I've been using the GTI as my daily driver and my race car.
Tape on the panel lines does help you go faster. Mythbusted.
As does removing a back bumper with a tow bar on it.
But that's not all of my creativity with Mk2s. Oh no, because earlier this year me and my girlfriend were told about a music festival. It was one I had been to before, called Vantastival. It's a music festival exclusively for camper vans, unless you bring a tent. We didn't have a tent, or a camper van... or did we? Enter the Hot Hatch Camper.
Never be afraid to get adventurous...
...Or a little creative with the rules.
Over the course of two days, me, my parents and my brother set out to convert Lara into a camper van. Which was just as mad an idea as it sounds. Check out the gallery below and read the captions for more information.
At first they weren't going to let us in, but we managed to convince them it was in fact a camper van and they let us. Needless to say, we got the most looks of anyone in the campsite. Everybody loved it. Like I said, a Mk2 Golf can do anything, if you put your mind to it. Best part? Everything done is 100% reversible, as if it never happened. I never want to do anything to this car that can't be put back to the way it was, because it's too much of a classic to ruin with permanent modifications.
So what's left with Lara then? Well the engine needs a rebuild, for one thing. And a respray, badly. But who cares how it looks when you have this much fun with it? Thanks for reading my writeup on the story so far, and I can't wait to share more of Lara's future stories.