These big-power tuned Mk3 Golfs are so colourful and cartoonish, they could have been sketched by a 1950s comic artist. But right here, right now, they’re offering brutal 21st-century power and some ingenious engineering solutions…
The Marvel vs. DC Comics debate is one of those contentious issues that’s been running for generations. It’s more polarising than Ford vs. Vauxhall, cats against dogs, snooze or rise… and it’s a frighteningly violent struggle. Look at the firepower on either side; Marvel have Spider-Man, Captain America and The Hulk, whereas DC have Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. How the hell are you supposed to choose?
These two immovable forces push against each other like the matched poles of twin magnets, and we find this mirrored in the two cartoonish Mk3 Golfs you see here. In the Marvel corner, we observe Sol Peer’s Porsche-blue car – just look at his headlining and doorcards to see where his allegiance lies.
And fighting the DC corner is Rae Gami, his Lamborghini-yellow Golf’s headlining proudly flying the DC Comics flag. When two irrepressible energies such as these meet, you’d do well to stand back, lest you be pummelled with shrapnel or simply vaporised where you stand.
The fact that these cars are running a combined 1,200bhp should be enough to convince you to exercise caution… although as we tentatively approach the owners waving our well-worn white flag, a ripple in the Matrix glitches across our midst.
These two fellas aren’t mortal enemies. They’re good mates, united in enthusiasm for ridiculously powerful retro Volkswagens, and there’s little to be afraid of here. We sheepishly trouser the flag and start asking a few searching questions, more than a little disarmed by their broad smiles.
Sol’s Mk3 Golf
We veer toward Marvel first of all, largely because the holes in Sol’s custom bonnet offer a window into a frankly incredible engine bay and we find it hard to look away.
“I’ve always owned Volkswagens, and I’ve always liked to put my own unique touches on them,” he offers, by way of introducing a superhero back-story. “When I passed my test, both my parents had Mk3 Golfs, so it was natural for me to get one too – and I’ve had so many! Oh, and I’ve always loved VR6 engines. You can’t beat the sound of a VR6!”
No arguments here, and it’s obvious that this shiny blue Mk3 is about more than six-pot grunt – the aesthetics are flawless, and that’s attributable to Sol’s day job as the driving force behind Heart and Sol Paintworks. It’s always been on his bucket list to build his dream Mk3, a fusion of form and function, and that’s exactly what you’re looking at here.
“When I started planning this build, I already had a Dragon Green Mk3 VR6 and a Mk3.5 cabby VR6,” Sol recalls. “With heavy heart, I broke the green one for parts and sold the cabby to raise funds for this build. The search began, and a few weeks later I found the ideal base – a black 8v GTI, up for £360 in South London. Rae and I went to take a look – in the rain, in the dark, not ideal conditions! – and found a car with no rust, fully polybushed, Porsche Cup wheels, quad lights, lowered suspension, stainless exhaust… I had to have it! The engine was rough but it was driveable, so we drove it home in a cloud of black smoke.”
The original plan was to build a nat-asp R32 Mk3, and a few days after buying the car Sol sourced an R32 motor. He then set about stripping the car down, smoothing the bay, and sending the shell and engine off to Richard and Ricky at TWR Auto-Tuning to carry out the engine conversion and wiring.
“I had a vision of how I wanted the engine to be, but after going to Ultimate Dubs in 2013 and seeing Gethin Evans’ 24v turbo Mk3, I decided that if I’m gonna do it, I might as well go all the way,” he laughs. So Richie was charged with the task of ordering parts – Precision 6262 turbo, cast manifold, Emerald K6 ECU, AEM meth kit, the works. The 5-speed ’box would melt like chocolate with this power, so an 02M six-speeder was sourced, rebuilt, and fitted with a Quaife LSD and custom driveshafts.
With the engine all together and mapped it made 450bhp at 14psi, and Sol ran it like this for three years before deciding to rebuild the engine as an R30T. (This, essentially, is an R32 with a 2.8 VR6 crank and pistons – a strong setup as it allows for much higher revs.) With this done, John at Emerald mapped it to 350bhp on low boost and a heroic 500bhp at 14psi – impressive stuff!
“While the engine was being built, I did all the bodywork myself back at Heart and Sol,” he says. “I started off by respraying the car from Black Magic to Porsche Riviera Blue with a custom pearl. Then I moved onto smoothing the front and rear bumpers, shortening the door handles, building the custom skeleton bonnet, short number plate recess, fibreglass wide front wings, and wide rear arches.” Having run through a few sets of wheels (including lightweight race wheels, Cast RB1s and RB2s, custom three-piece splits, and even retro TSW Venoms) he landed upon the current staggered RH splits, which were rebuilt by Rusty Rims with new lips, neochrome hardware and copper centres to match the engine bay.
Moving to the interior, there was of course the question of that custom Marvel headlining, along with a bespoke push-button start, Cobra buckets and a flocked dash, while in the rear there was a suede false floor hiding the battery and subwoofer, which has recently been stripped right back for more of a road-racer look, complete with OMP rollcage.
“The Golf was a good way to promote my business, as I pretty much started up as the car came out,” says Sol. “The first show I took it to was Ultimate Dubs and it went viral – with mixed reviews… I think maybe the original pink engine bay had something to do with it! But it’s always pretty much had good reactions.” It’s certainly caught our eye a few times, and this latest evolution really has it all – massive power, incredible poise, and a sublime finish.
Rae’s Mk3 Golf
All of these attributes can be applied to Rae’s Lamborghini-yellow Mk3 too. And like Sol, he’s got a long history of sweet modified rides. The key driver of all this was his Uncle Cliff, who – when Rae was a kid – owned a lot of RS Cosworths, which hooked him on boost from around the age of eight! They attended many shows together, and when a cousin bought a Golf and gave it all the period mods, they started going to modified car meets at the Ace Café.
Most of the family were in the motor trade, and Uncle Cliff always had savagely fast cars, so it was inevitable that Rae would be a petrolhead; when he came of age he landed a job with Ferrari/Maserati specialists HR Owen. His first big project was a Polo G40, which he fitted with nitrous to try to keep up with Uncle Cliff – which cracked the supercharger right down the middle! So the natural solution was to turbocharge it, obviously…
Why a Mk3 Golf, then? Well, the Polo got written off, and by this time Rae was deep into the VW scene and the VR6 Mk3 had been blipping on his radar. Then one night, on the way home from the Ace Café, a set of angel eyes appeared in Rae’s mirror, and Sol’s Mk3 passed him at devastating speed. Decision made, then.
“When I bought this car, it was a bog-standard 2.0-litre 8v, with rusty sills and holes in the floor,” he says. “The initial plan was just to make it as quick as the old Polo, but one night I was passed by a T5 Sportline which totally left me standing, and that annoyed me…” So, channelling that DC superhero rage, things got a bit out of hand!
A mate was breaking a VR6 with a Rotrex supercharger, so Rae grabbed that and Richard at TWR Auto-Tuning set about fitting it and setting it up… in secret! Two weeks later, Rae’s supercharged Mk3 unassumingly rolled up to meet his friends on the way to a show, and he was determined to beat Sol this time – and he did, surprising him by flying past him on the motorway, although having got a little over-exuberant, the ’charger belt jumped and Rae had to get towed to the show. Nevertheless, the Mk3 journey was well and truly underway.
Keen to get quicker, he experimented with smaller pulleys and bigger injectors, and various setups which did and didn’t work, until Richard suggested swapping to an Emerald standalone – this opened the door to 320bhp+, and finally Rae had a car that was fast enough to scare Uncle Cliff. “I took him for a ride, and I’ve never seen anyone grab the Jesus handle so quick!” he laughs.
But he wasn’t done. Far from it. A race with an SL55 AMG saw Rae dropping a valve, so he sourced a low-mileage VR6 and swapped the bits over, before melting a couple of pistons (do you get the feeling that he’s quite a hard driver?!), and it got to the point where he really needed to take it off the road and build it up strong enough to deliver the performance he wanted. Rae discussed it with Richard and concluded that, while an R32 would be ideal, a 24v VR6 was more in budget, so this was sourced and built with the aim of 450bhp.
“While this was happening, the shell was with Sol – who told me that it was basically a bad shell that needed a lot of welding,” Rae recalls. “It was a real FML moment, and there were a few sleepless nights, until I figured ‘f*ck it, let’s just do it… with a twist’.”
So a junker Syncro was sourced from Europe, and Tony at Jamoy Autoworkz cut the floor out in order to transplant the 4WD setup; with everything fitted up and the car back at Emerald, it delivered a solid 500bhp – enough to run eleven-second quarters.
That’s a lot of power through a stock bottom end though, and after another blow-up Rae decided to go fully-forged; this brought it up to 530bhp and had it running tens (which requires the mandatory fitment of a rollcage), with added reliability – a shakedown to Wörthersee threw up no issues, and brilliantly after John at MJ Motorsport (the Emerald tuning guy) saw a video of the car online, he contacted Rae and said ‘I’m not happy with your anti-lag, bring it in’. So he did, and John tweaked a few things and mapped it right up to a safe 700bhp!
“Heart and Sol spent endless time painting my car too,” says Rae. “Sol hated the colour I chose as it wasn’t the easiest to get done! There were so many stages, he did most of the R&D to help it aerodynamically, and he’s still throwing ideas at me – he and Christine did the custom roof, which I would never change for the world.”
The key feature that unites these two cars is that, in spite of the Marvel vs. DC references, these are not two immovable forces. We’re looking at a pair of mates with deep roots in the scene, who’ve spent years building up their dream cars together. The question is, is a combined 1,200bhp enough? We suspect these boys are far from finished…
Blue MK3 VW Golf
Heart and Sol respray in Porsche Riviera Blue, custom smooth bumpers with smooth air scoops, short number plate recess, drag-spec splitter, custom door handles, fibreglass wide front wings, all-red taillights, quad headlights with smooth scoop for air filter, debadged grille, custom wide arches, custom pop-out rear quarter windows, carbon fibre skinned roof, one-off bonnet to showcase fully smoothed copper pearl engine bay
R30T engine (R32 block with 2.8 VR6 crank and pistons) built by TWR Auto-Tuning, cast manifold with Precision 6262 turbo, Mk5 R32 inlet, 3.5” turbo-back exhaust system with side-exit tail, battery relocated, satin black boost pipes, hidden loom, AEM water/methanol injection, Emerald K6 ECU with switchable maps, 02M Mk4 transmission
Power: 500bhp @ 14psi
8×17” (front) and 10×17” (rear) RH wheels by Rusty Rims – in custom copper pearl with neochrome hardware, 195/45 (f) and 215/35 (r) Falken tyres, AP coilovers, uprated anti-roll bars, upper front strut brace, fully polybushed, Porsche front calipers with 232mm Cupra discs, Mk4 R32 rear calipers with VR6 discs
Stripped, flocked dash with gloss black inserts, custom AEM gauges in centre console, plasma dials, full gloss black OMP rollcage, red and black Marvel headlining and doorcards, push-button start in driver’s door, red Cobra bucket seat with red four-point harness
“I have to say a massive thanks to Richard and Ricky at TWR Auto-Tuning. My car wouldn’t be what it is today without the knowledge and passion for what they do. They spent a lot of late nights on my car and I really appreciate it. From this we’ve become good friends! Also got to thank Rae and Tommy for chipping in on the late nights too. Thank you John at Emerald, he is a genius. Jason at Rusty Rims for putting up with me changing my wheels more than my shoes! But makes them look amazing. Have to say the biggest thanks to my girlfriend Christine, for helping with the build and putting up with the stress and long nights – and still helps getting the car to show-finish at shows. She’s the Heart in ‘Heart and Sol Paintworks’.”
Words Dan Bevis Photos Laurie Parsons
Yellow Mk3 VW Golf
Lamborghini yellow, custom Heart and Sol roof, Hella quads with custom intakes, Hella all-grey taillights, USDM bumpers with vortex air intakes, arch extensions, ABT rep sideskirts, polycarbonate windows, frenched tailgate, custom door handles, carbon fibre bonnet, engine bay painted Porsche Fluorescent Yellow
2.8-litre 24v VR6, fully forged, cast manifold with Precision 6266 turbo, twin wastegates, short-runner inlet, 3.5” turbo-back exhaust with side-exit tail, AEM water/methanol injection, Emerald K6 ECU with switchable maps, 02M Mk4 transmission
Power: 700bhp @ 27psi
8×17” 3-piece splits by Rusty Rims – centres in dark red with gold flakes, gold hardware, 195/40 Falken tyres, GAZ Gold coilovers, Syncro transplant, Audi R8 front calipers with R32 discs, twin brake setup at rear – Porsche 4-pots with Phaeton discs and Mk4 R32 calipers
Stripped, flocked dash with carbon inserts, 6-point rollcage, custom DC Comics headlining, Sparco Rev seats with 6-point harnesses
“Thanks to Richard at TWR, he’s been there through it all with me guided me with the build, it’s honestly unforgettable – the engine we built seems to be taking the beating. I tell him we need to bottle your stuff and sell it! Thanks to Ricky Vias for letting us use the lock-up to build the beast and giving hands on the build too, Tony at Jamoy Autoworkz – his fabrication work is unbelievable, John Lamsley at MJ Motorsport – our go-to Emerald guru, this man’s mapping is untouchable, he is the magic man for a reason. Sol and Christine at Heart and Sol Paintwork for doing practically all the bodywork touches on it – it was tough going and the hours you lot put in weren’t missed but it’s beautiful – truly indebted forever. Tommy for his helping hand on bits too, Kiran at TPS for putting up with me phoning up asking for the randomest stuff and getting for us. JNL Racing, Jeremy Thurston, G-Tuned, Rusty Rims, RNJ Motorsport for the cage, Rob at TSR Performance, Neil at Pro Engines for his efforts, and all the friends for their support. And to my cousin Dave for helping me with bits and bobs too, I wish your dad (Uncle Cliff) saw the car before he passed bro, he got us into this really – can’t forget where it all stemmed from.”
Words Dan Bevis Photos Laurie Parsons