When life dealt Harley Kitt a cruel blow he sought therapy through the dark times in creating this ground-breaking bagged VW Golf Mk4 in loving memory of his late mother.
From Performance VW. Words: Graham Leigh Photos: Mark Rodway
VWs have always been a big part of 29-year old Harley’s life: “Growing up all I’ve ever known is Volkswagens; my parents had a fleet of T4 transporters for their business, which were replaced with T5s. We also had a Mk3 Golf and a VW Crafter”.
It’s, therefore, no surprise that the Paignton-based Telecommunications Engineer ended up with a T4 as his first vehicle. The practicality they offer was welcome to Harvey who, in addition to his VW addiction, is a keen surfer and angler. The plucky T4 went all over Europe taking in the best surfing hotspots which only strengthened the love affair with the brand. Harvey has predominantly stuck to Wolfsburg’s finest since with a couple of dalliances with Bavaria. Currently, a T5, that has been in Harley’s family from new, takes care of daily duties as the Mk4 Golf now resides firmly in show car territory. Both vans were fitted with coilovers and aftermarket wheels but it was with the resulting bagged VW Golf MK4 that the modifying bug really took hold.
Harley takes us back five years where the love affair with the Golf began: “I sold my previous car, which was the BMW 320CD, as I started a new job and they gave me a company vehicle which I could use for personal use but after a few months I missed having my own car and with the BMW money burning a hole in my pocket the hunt began for a 1.8T. I searched everywhere and then my one came up for sale in a garage in Middlesborough. This car had covered just 80k miles and had only two previous owners”.
A sigh of relief was taken when the garage door was opened to a cherished example, making the seven-hour train journey to Middlesborough feel more than worthwhile. The car was already modified with a genuine R32 bumper, side skirts, aftermarket exhaust system, Recaro heated leather and 18” Porsche Cayenne alloys. With the stress of a job that saw Harley regularly working away from home, the initial plans for the car were quite simple. New wheels, lows and a remap giving him a car to attend shows with friends on well deserved weekends off.
A couple of years down the line in 2017 Harley decided that the car could do with repainting. Having seen the Porsche Olive black hue in the flesh, his mind was made. The car was stripped and prepared for its makeover. Tragically during this process, Harley lost his mother to breast cancer. The hurt and anger surrounding her untimely death was excruciating and Harvey believes that his Mk4 was a positive focus.
Harley poured all his spare time and energy into the build. On receipt of the freshly painted car expertly laid down by Autospray, Lifton, next up was the reassembly process where two years of hoarding rare parts paid dividends. Air Lift V2 suspension, carbon roll cage, reupholstered Mk6 tartan front bucket seats and door cards, rear seat delete with twin Kicker 12” subs and kicker amp, black Alcantara false floor, and a set of elusive Porsche ETA BETA wheels were all fitted. The rims were split down, polished and rebuilt and the results speak for themselves. This incarnation of the car was taken to most shows in the UK and even travelled to Europe three times. Over 10,000 miles were completed in 2018 alone.
Enthused by what he had seen on his considerable travels, Harley wanted to take the VW Golf Mk4 to the next level. The engine was duly removed and Harley worked tirelessly to smooth and tuck the bay. Plans for the 1.8T AUQ drew inspiration from across the pond: “Custom pie-cut pipework was something I had wanted for years after first seeing it on American cars. This style of routing was something I wanted as it was different and looked amazing”. The creation of the FMIC system took around nine months and 150 individual pie-cuts. Richard at RB Metal Works is what you might call a perfectionist. He also fabricated a custom power steering bottle which is in the place of the deleted A/C pump. Harley plumped for ECS engine mounts which contrast nicely with the gloss black engine block. A brake reservoir sock was made from matching Mk6 tartan, ABS has been fully deleted in favour of a brake compensator system with a cockpit based valve adjuster to control front and rear bias, battery and screen wash have been relocated to the boot and the heater matrix has been fully removed and welded up. A 12V race heater now takes care of demisting duties. All these ingredients add to the hot rod level of attention to detail under the bonnet.
Exterior styling is a mixture of OEM touches and high-end period styling enhancements. The R32 bumper with a Cupra R splitter, R32 side skirts with extensions and Euro rear bumper are joined by an Oettinger grille and ABT rear spoiler. The perfect stance is achieved with Air Lift V2 Suspension system with their Slam series struts. A Chassis notch and arch liner delete allows the Mk4 to get even closer to terra firma with the gorgeous ETA BETA splits sitting pretty wrapped in Nankang NS-2.
Inside the evolution continued with the bucket seats being swapped out for a Mk4 Anniversary interior including rear bench. Mk6 tartan was sourced and upholstery wizards Darren and Jean at Wedgies Workshop worked their magic.
Overall, the process has been a steep learning curve for Harley taking in fabrication skills as he went: “I’ve learnt a lot along the way, from fitting air suspension, shaving the engine bay or even doing the wiring loom for the engine myself”.
So what lies ahead for this bagged VW Golf Mk4? Well, the Coronavirus situation has stopped attendance at the majority of shows for 2020 so Harvey is hoping to get out and enjoy the car in 2021.
Harley explained that there were times with this build where he just wanted to throw in the towel. His pals jokingly remind him that at certain points his catchphrase became “I’m quitting, I’m breaking it, I’m done”. However, he was keen to point out that his friends have stepped up and helped him at his time of need and for that, he will remain eternally grateful.
Back at the 2018 stage of the build, Harley wrote a message on his socials that read “Mum, I made it” alongside a photo of his car. He was overwhelmed by the response and reassured that his mother would have been proud of what he had achieved through hard work. Fast forward to 2020 with an Ultimate Dubs Top 20 Trophy and a PVW feature, the car is a credit to Harley and a fitting tribute to his mother, Sarah.
Tech Spec: Bagged VW Golf Mk4
1.8T AUQ, 6-speed manual, fully tucked and smoothed engine bay, Ram Air induction kit, Toyosport intercooler, REVO stage 2 map (240BHP), custom FMIC system in alloy pie cut and welded including rubber elbow joint deletion and metal joints with internal ‘o’ rings and custom nipples for N75 valve, custom power steering bottle in the former A/C pump location, ECS mounts, tartan brake reservoir sock, battery and screenwash bottle re-located to boot, heater matrix delete, 12v race heater.
Porsche ETA BETA 18” 8J et34 front, 9.5J et42 rear, Nankang NS-2 tyres, 312mm brakes, ABS delete, brake compensator system with interior-mounted brake bias adjustment valve control, Airlift V2 suspension with Slam bags, chassis notch to clear driveshaft, arch liner delete.
Resprayed in Porsche Olive Black, genuine R32 Front bumper with Cupra R Splitter, R32 sideskirts with extensions, custom Built Headlights, Oettinger Grill, Shark fin aerial, ABT rear spoiler, Euro-spec rear bumper, R32 Side skirts.
Mk4 Anniversary interior retrimmed in Mk6 tartan with matching gear gaiter.