It’s over ten years since VW decided to team up with Pirelli. While the VW Golf GTI Mk5 Pirelli Edition was special enough for most it didn’t quite cut it with a certain individual…
Feature taken from Performance VW. Words: Elliott Roberts. Photos: Matt Woods
When buying any brand or model of car the smart person will usually look at targeting the limited edition stuff, especially if they’re looking for good residual values in the future. Sure, you will often pay a small premium early on, but over time the difference in price between your limited edition and a stock version will often continue to grow.
Residual values aren’t the only benefit to buying a limited run car though, you can usually also bank on more power over the standard version, plus better trim levels and often a bunch of unique parts like wheels and body add-ons. Volkswagen has always loved a special edition, and probably one of its most famous, especially in old-school water-cooled circles, was the Golf GTI ‘Campaign’ (as it was known in the UK) or Golf GTI Pirelli edition (as it was referred to in Germany). In 1983, as the competition was closing in on the original hot hatch and the second generation Golf was just around the corner, VW decided to team up with Pirelli and produce a limited edition first generation GTI to boost sales and see the car out with a bang.
With unique 14” Pirelli ‘P’ wheels shod in 185/60 P6 rubber on each corner, a metal sliding sunroof, part colour-coded bumpers (on Continental cars at least), green tinted glass and matte black plastic A-pillar trims the Mk1 Golf GTI ‘Campaign’ edition certainly looked special. There were a few unique features inside, too, but the one part people look out for are the door lock pins which have small dimples in the top. There were also unique body/trim colours combinations, chassis and engine codes, plus they obviously ran the later specification engine, brakes and chassis set ups. We could bore you about all the specifics for ages, but hopefully you get the gist so far without us having to do that!
The fact of the matter is, the Campaign or Pirelli Mk1 GTI was a special and unique little car and, more importantly – to this story at least – there was already a link between VW and the Italian tyre manufacturer. So, some 25 years later, for reasons unbeknown to us, as a tip of the hat to the successful Mk5 Golf platform, Volkswagen decided to see the car out in style by once again joining forces with Pirelli and producing a limited run, special edition GTI.
The Pirelli Edition GTI or GTI Pirelli came, as you would imagine, with Pirelli tyres (this was actually the first time P Zeros had been fitted to a hatchback) which were wrapped around bespoke Pirelli wheels (featuring spokes shaped like the Pirelli logo), colour-coded chin spoiler, side skirts and rear valance, plus tinted rear lenses and glass, then inside unique seats featuring tyre tread pattern inserts (with yellow stitching on the seats, steering wheel and gear lever). The cars either came in black, silver or bright yellow and all boasted the larger power (227bhp rather than the stock GTI’s 197bhp) TFSI engine – basically Edition 30 spec – with lower and stiffer suspension thrown in to the mix as well.
I remember having a silver Pirelli Edition on test from the press office when the model first came out and absolutely loving the extra power and trick interior, but thinking I’d probably prefer the car in black. Well, it turns out I wasn’t the only person longing for a black Pirelli Edition either. Milton Keynes-based Kev Cunningham, creator of this very car, also had an inkling for a Pirelli GTI. “My first car was a Renault 5 Turbo when I was 17. I ended up having a Carisma-kitted car featured in Redline mag back in the day, too,” he told us. Don’t worry Kev, we won’t hold that against you mate! Thankfully he soon came to his senses, though: “I had always loved low cars, so the VW scene was eventually the obvious route to take,” he said. “I had been to Ultimate Dubs and fell in love with Ricky Grande’s yellow Mk5 GTI (PVW 4/17), not to mention the Pirelli GTI seats in the TUK Custom’s Caddy van, so that pretty much sealed the deal.”
When Kev eventually sourced the bone-stock 58-plate Pirelli Edition after much searching it did have a few scratches here and there. Being pretty handy with a spray gun (and with the help of TUK Customs), that was no major issue for the 41-year-old. “That’s kind of where it all stared… five paint jobs later and I was finally happy,” he laughed. We’re not sure whether he was joking!
You’ve probably realised by now that Kev, who builds a lot of show cars for his employer, Urban Automotive is a hands-on kind of guy: “I was always going to modify the car from the outset and I remember just after I bought it my wife saying I’d never get it into the VIP hall at Ultimate Dubs.” We get the feeling she probably regretted saying that instantly, for just 12 months later the car had been slammed over 20” Vossens and sitting pretty (in the VIP hall) on the StillStatic stand. “It also picked up a top 25 award, too, which was awesome,” Kev told us.
It was actually the StillStatic coilovers that went on first and what a transformation they made. After Ultimate Dubs things kind of snowballed. We were going to say Kev got carried away, but that would imply that what he has created is over the top, but that’s not really true. In our minds, what he has actually created is the special car VW wanted to originally build, had it had the cajones! The car really is a work of art and the perfect example of not going too far simply getting the balance between OEM and modified spot on.
Initially Kev had Alex at AKS Tuning install Revo software, which was soon followed by a matching induction kit, LOBA HPFP, Airtec front-mount, 3” turbo-back exhaust and a Helix clutch for good measure. The car’s now good for around 370bhp, which meant a big-brake conversion was another sensible upgrade. It was around this stage the single piece wheels made way for a set of 8.5×20” MB Design VR1.3 split-rims fitted using a Tpi stud and nut conversion. “I was able to fit 8.5s all round and still keep the car low by fitting a set of the wider SRS Tec wings,” Kev told us. That wasn’t before he cut and widen the wings a further 10mm to get the desired look and fit he was after. Thankfully the whopping wheels (laced in ultra-low profile 225/30 rubber) meant there was plenty of room for the monster stoppers Kev had in mind. The car now runs Audi R8 calipers with 365mm RSQ3 discs up front and R32 rear calipers with 356mm discs out back. The calipers were painted Lambo yellow, which is a theme that continued under the bonnet, too, with the TT RS cover and various other parts colour coded.
The secret to a clean car, according to Kev, is basically painting it every year. The guy is clearly obsessed with perfect paint. While he’s been reworking the body, a few mods have crept in along the way, too, including a smooth front bumper and R32 rear item, plus a de-badged grille, meaning the bonnet badge notch also had to be smoothed over. Kev has also added a few carbon touches (his own custom work), including carbon fibre mirrors and a carbon rear badge, plus he knocked up some carbon Pirelli Edition show plates as well.
With the above mods alone, combined with the car’s unique factory interior, Kev’s Mk5 was a pretty sorted motor as it was. He wasn’t quite finished though and it’s actually the work Kev carried out to the interior that really completes the build in our mind: “I had Dan at Lavish Automotive work his magic on the interior,” said Kev. While Dan did a fantastic job of using the factory Pirelli seats as a theme for the rest of interior, we’ve got to give Kev props for having the vision in the first place. The grey Alacantara dashboard, with Pirelli logo embroidered in yellow, is pure genius. The Alacantara and yellow stitching continues along the centre console, the seat bases, roof lining (and all the pillars), plus the rear parcel shelf. Then there’s the perforated grey Alacantara steering wheel and gear knob gaiter, which breaks things up. The yellow seat belts were the icing on the cake to what is one of our favourite Mk5 builds ever!
Having owned and reworked the car over a five year period, sadly in 2018 Kev was forced to sell the car to raise some cash for a new house deposit. He wasn’t about to off load the car on any old person, though. And luckily its new owner, Amanda Addison is far from being ‘any old person’. Having owned a string of quick modified cars in the past, everything from XR2is and RS Turbos to 16v Vauxhalls and a Mini Cooper S (before moving across to VWs), plus being the partner of Nathan White – who is part of the trio that run Low Collective – she fitted the bill perfectly! Nathan is also in the process of creating possibly the best Mk4 Bora show car ever built (if he ever gets round to finishing it), so it goes without saying the pair were more than capable of building their own unique Mk5: “I was originally in the market for a Mk5 R32 which we could put our mark on as I love the sound they make and don’t do many miles,” she said.
Having looked around for suitable R32s for some time the pair weren’t having much luck so Nathan put something up on his Instagram and Kev reached out that way. “He asked if we would be interested in his Pirelli Edition. I was worried it might be a bit too clean, and after viewing the car it really was as good as Kev described it. As much as we liked it we needed to go home and have a serious think about it.” The big question they had to ask themselves was was the car too clean to be a daily driver? “Nathan kept reminding me that we had originally been looking to buy the best R32 we could find, and we also wanted to do the same wide wing modification, plus big brakes and the same type of wheels.” After factoring in that the car would be cheaper to own and run than a V6, far rarer, faster and already modified to a level far better than any others they’d seen on the market it made so much sense. “The Pirelli had everything we wanted and so much more, so I decided it was the right car for me,” Amanda said.
It’s worth mentioning that Amanda wanted no credit for the car’s build: “Ever since we bought the car the plan was always to keep it to the level Kev had built it to. The standard was so high that the first step was to send it to Mike at Shine Supply in Ipswich for a three stage paint correction, followed by Ceramic Pro protection to keep the paint at its best.” The polishing and pampering didn’t stop there though, Amanda then took the car to Joe at the Window Film Centre in Ipswich to have the front bumper and A-pillars treated to a PPF coating.
Amanda claims the new car needed to have a bit of go: “I just wasn’t quite expecting the 370bhp the Pirelli had,” she laughed. After keeping the car at the same ride height Kev had it set at for a week Amanda had to raise it a touch: “We raised it around 30mm on the front and 15mm out back. I loved how it looked before but it just wasn’t practical.” The car still looks pretty low now, so imagine what it was like when Kev owned it! “The car is a weapon to drive, it goes like hell but you just have to remember about the R8 8-pot brakes up front or you tend to end up head-butting the windscreen,” Amanda joked.
“We had planned to use the car through winter, and started looking at winter wheels, but after seeing Kev at E38 and talking some more, it was only then we decided that was a bit silly, so we bought another car to use while the salt was on the road.,” Nathan said.
Going forwards Nathan would like to pull all the car’s under pinnings off and powdercoat everything, but Amanda likes just being able to use the car like it was originally intended. Amanda’s really become attached to the Pirelli Edition even in the short time she’s owned it and has no plans to sell: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2017, which thankfully I beat in January last year, but it will always be a part of me. My life insurance paid for the mortgage at the time and we decided I should treat myself to the car, which I did back in April and it’s made me happy ever since.”
While there will no doubt be a few Internet whingers that will call the car bought not built and grumble that Amanda didn’t build it herself, we totally get why she bought the car. It was not only to pick herself up during a particularly low point in her life, but also when somebody has created your dream car, why would you not snap it up there and then? Especially when she’d have to spend way more to create something similar, not to mention put herself through a bunch of stress as well. It certainly makes sense to us, especially when you consider there was already one major car build going on in the household. Actually, about that build Nathan… any progress? Will it be finished this year? Nathan… calling Nathan?
Tech Spec: VW Golf GTI Mk5 Pirelli Edition
Revo Stage 2+ map, LOBA Motorsport high-pressure fuel pump, Revo induction kit, Airtec Stage 2 front-mount intercooler, Helix clutch, BCS 3” turbo-back stainless exhaust with dual tailpipes, TT RS engine cover (painted yellow to match induction piping, bonnet/hatch struts and other details), R8 oil cap, plastic scuttle cover painted body colour along with battery cover
8.5×20” MB Design VR1.3 three-piece split rims with yellow centre caps and anthracite centres, Tpi stud and nut conversion, 225/30 ZR20 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo tyres, H&R Deep (-140mm) coilovers with top mounts from StillStatic, chassis notch, Audi R8 8-pot calipers with 365mm RSQ3 discs (front), R32 rear calipers with 356mm discs using RS7 spacer brackets (rear), calipers painted Lamborghini yellow, front Super Pro anti-lift kit, adjustable drop links, poly bushed lower engine mount
Full respray in Balck Magic pearl, SRS Tec wide front wings widened another 10mm, debadged grille, all grilles and wipers painted body colour, Team Heko wind deflectors, bonnet smoothed to lose badge cut out, candy red rear light clusters, smoothed front bumper, R32 rear bumper, carbon mirrors, carbon/body colour rear badge, carbon Pirelli Edition show plates, Golf R roof aerial
Dashboard, centre console, arm rest, seat bases, door card tops and roof lining (plus A, B and C pillars) trimmed in Alacantara with contrasting yellow stitching (with yellow Pirelli embroidered in dashboard) to match the Pirelli Edition seats, gear knob boot, steering wheel and parcel shelf trimmed in perforated Alcantara with yellow stitching, StillStatic black matts with yellow logo and yellow stitching, carbon fibre Pirelli Edition kick plates, dash inserts and seat pull details, yellow seat belts