So my friend got this thing last week 3 weeks ago and I’ve had a chance to drive it. I love it. Here’s a few words about it:

What

It’s 1 988 Golf which came from the factory as a GTI 16 valve. It has since been lowered and engine swapped to what we think is a post-1999 4 cyl TDI engine, lifted from a Seat Ibiza, along with the gauges and all the necessary gubbins. It’ll get a small lift soon, because as it sits now it’s scraping on everything. It won’t be too difficult as it’s on adjustible coilovers.

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Looks

I love it. The Golf 2 can look terrible if it’s the base model with a smoky tractor diesel, missing half a bumper and rearview mirrors hanging off, but this one is very nice. I love the GTI trim, it really gives it an aggressive look. It’s slammed to the ground and has these lovely period-looking BBS knock offs, which I have no problem with. The wheels could do with some polish, and some of the trim is rattly and bentm but overall it looks great, I think. It’s all subjective, though, so whatever floats your boat. I should clarify that this is an original GTI, with the engine missing thanks to one of the previous owners...

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Power

Plenty. The engine feels great. It doesn’t make a very great noise, to be honest, but since this car lacks the insulation the newer engine is intended to have, it’s very loud both inside and out, and when you step on it it really pulls, and it sounds and feels powerful. Not as fast from a standstill, but the 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to 4th feel amazing, the turbo really kicks in very early and you feel it make a huge difference. The engine really dominates the character of the car, and frankly I think it’s a great fit.

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Handling

God help me. The previous owner really hacked the suspension. When breaking it veers violently to the right, and on hard acceleration it goes both ways. But it has the potential to be fantastic.

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Not sure if my Twingo made me used to having easy and soft steering, but you really have to put some force into the wheel to get it to turn. It still does, it has power steering and it feels great, you feel the road well and you know what your wheels are currently doing, it’s just that you’re never quite sure what they’ll be doing in a second or two. The alignment and suspension need tuning ASAP.

Comfort

Hard suspension aside, the GTI seats feel great, you’re bolstered pretty aggresively so you’re not going anywhere in the turns. And again, coming into this from a Twingo, in which I have to hold on to the steering wheel or with my elbow outside the window if I’m going crazy in a turn. This is a huge improvement. I’m not sure if the back seats are GTI-specific or do all Golfs have them, but they also kinda feel like sporty bucket seats, too. You sit far back and your knees are pretty high.

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My Twingo says Hi!

Overall

For 3k euros it’s a decent deal, since it has the new engine approved by the MOT/DMV, and is registered and insured, which is all a big deal here, and makes a huge difference, as opposed to how it is in the US. It’ll also be good on gas diesel and it’s probably gonna be bulletproof and the parts are plentyful and cheap. Future plans are to lift it a bit so it’s more user-friendly, and the long-term goal is to find an original GTI 16 valve engine to put back in it, which will probably double the value...

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The previous owner was obviously into the car, hence the low and the wheels and the car-meet sticker.

If you’re interested I’ll keep update posts about it sometimes.
BTW can I ask a mod to allow for a big header image at the top?

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