With a beefy VR6 lump, a Westmorland front-end and a set of ultra-rare, SSR Hiro rims, this Mk2 Golf is a fusion of US, Euro and Japanese car cultures…
Unless you’ve spent the last few years living in a cave, you’ll be well aware of the current craze for all things retro. This concept of looking back to ‘the good old days’ influences everything we do, from the trainers we wear, to the furniture in our homes; it’s big business.
And car culture hasn’t escaped the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia. 2018 was definitely the year of the retro ride with more of these golden oldies tuned and modified by enthusiast owners, than ever before. Central to this phenomenon were shows like Players and Retro Rides Gathering; they not only embraced modern classics, they pulled down their pants and gave them a reach around too. (You been sniffing those Ambi Pure’s again, Dav? – Jules).
Here at FC we’ve featured some of the finest examples of old-school cool, from James Williams’ Hillman Imp on air-ride, to Pipey McGraw’s epic ‘Japuar,’ and retro goodness doesn’t get much better (or indeed cooler) than Benny Smith’s Mk2 Golf. Like a bratwurst with a topping of sushi, chugged down with a Budweiser, it’s a daring fusion of US, Euro and Japanese – guaranteed to upset the OEM+ purists.
“I’ve had loads of cars over the years – Mk1 Golfs, Novas, R5 Turbos, a 309 GTi, an E30 BMW, a Supra, a Skyline, but never a Mk2 Golf,” explains Benny. “My bro-in-law is onto his dubs and suggested I get one, so that’s where it all started.” Having set out with noble intentions to keep it simple with lows and wheels, the urge to modify this ’80s Golf soon became too strong to resist. “The more I looked into new parts, the more ideas I had and it spiralled from there,” smiles Benny. With his dad’s garage available and a mate with a unit to stash car parts, it was only going to end one way.
“It’s taken me seven years to get to this stage,” says Benny proudly, “and I can honestly say that not one company has worked on the car; it’s all been built by myself and friends on the driveway and in the garage.” But there’s more: “The VR6 engine was fitted under a gazebo and the two-tone paintjob was done in my mate’s carpentry shop.”
What really sets this 30-year-old Golf apart from the rest is its unique fusion of car cultures. Clearly there’s a Euro influence, but then there’s the US-bits such as the Westmorland front end. Then, tucked up tight in the arches, you’ll find a set of ultra-rare SSR Hiro wheels in a 7x15in flavour. If you’re a bit of a wheel aficionado you’ll already know that these beauties were designed for Hiro Engineering by SSR (Speed Star Racing) in the 1980s and could be found of some of the most exciting Jap cars of the time. Benny explains: “I was just browsing eBay for 3-spokes a few years back and they came up. They were in a right state when I got them and I had to have them fully refurbed.”
He continues, “I didn’t realise how rare they were until I looked into it. They’re just missing the centre caps but are rare as. When they do come up, they cost hundreds!” Having unintentionally hit eBay gold, hub adaptors were sourced and the Golf was soon sitting pretty on its rare 1980s hoops. Sweet. But don’t go thinking this is just another average car on a set of rare rims. The rest of Benny’s Mk2 is dripping with neat touches. Inside you’ll find a half-cage and a pair of OMP bum-rests, complete with harnesses. There’s a smattering of US-spec switches and a leather rear bench. The boot is home to a functional air-ride set-up.
This entire build, which has occupied Benny and his team of loyal helpers for seven years on and off has resulted in a truly unique car. “The car wouldn’t have got to the stage it’s at without the help of friends and family,” says Benny. “There’s Riceboy for doing the paint the night before a show, Tommy B and the crew for fixing it on many occasions when it broke and my bro-in-law, Paul for working on the car when I was too hung-over or still out partying to do it myself,” laughs Benny. One thing’s for sure, modifying a retro ride is going to involve some pain – especially if you take on all of the work yourself and Benny has become acquainted with many of Britain’s hard shoulders over the years.
“The biggest challenge with the car was keeping the faith to see it through to the end. It literally went through a stage where every time I took it out, it broke down,” he laughs. But it gets worse: “One time, the engine actually fell out from running it too low, ripping the front cradle off.” Fortunately, the lads came to the rescue with a piece of wood across the wings and ratchet straps to hold the engine up so they could drive it home. “It was well dodgy as every time we went over a bump it tripped all the electrics off. Then there was the time an airline split on the way to a Vagmen show and my mate came and helped me change it on the side of the motorway. That was fun, ripping the seats out with lorries hammering past us, but somehow we made it to the show.”
It’s clear that Benny has suffered more than his fair share of dramas with his Golf, but he doesn’t regret it one bit and you know why? It’s because he’s created something truly unique and for himself.
“I love all the parts together which make the car. It’s about having a vision that it would work and not look a mess. Purists and the OEM crowd hate it, but I’m a strong believer in following your own ideas and building the car that you want, not the car that you think will make you ‘famous’” Wise words indeed, sir.
So what lies ahead for this stunning VR6’d Golf? “I’m planning a full interior re-trim, a proper boot build and looking to re-do the engine bay,” says Benny. “Then maybe I’ll supercharge it or start another project.” Whatever he decides, you can be sure that it will have Benny’s innovative and creative stamp on it – we look forward to seeing his next home-built Hiro.
Tech spec Golf Mk2
RSS Designs ’90s fibre glass vented bonnet, Westmorland front-end, eyebrow spoiler, side indicator delete, carbon F1-style mirrors, smoothed C-pillar swage lines, late-spec big bumpers, Hella green rear lights, Happich pop-out rear windows, side rub-strip delete, clear front indicators, custom two-tone paint, rear wiper and spoiler removed
2.8-litre Golf VR6 engine, lightened and balanced flywheel, 6-branch racing manifold, CDA carbon induction kit, custom straight-through exhaust with middle box removed and upswept tailpipe, VR6 transmission
G60 brakes, Air Lift Performance V2 air suspension system, 2-piece SR Hiro 111 7x15in wheels with 165/45 Nankang tyres, H&R hub adapters
OMP seats and harnesses, OMP flat-bottom steering wheel, air-ride install in the boot, half cage, leather rear bench, US-spec heater control panel and various US switches
Paul stokes Shine and Revive Detailing 07931 486218, Tommy B head of pit crew and all the other lads, Rice Boy for the paint Scuff Off Body Repairs 07890 138770, all the Vagmen for sorting me out in times of need, Dubclub lads for always having faith in the car
Words and photos Davy Lewis