BRING BACK… THE 90S?
OAK Green Dream! Aston Martin engineer builds show-stopping 1.8T! Could this be the best Oak green Mk2 ever built?
Things were different in the 90’s. We’re not saying they were better (though they were, in fact, better), they were just different. Most people in the car scene (I hate that term) now wouldn’t recognise the world back then, especially the world of Volkswagens. This was pre-social media, pre-forums in fact, when everyone knew each other, there weren’t a million shows taking place each weekend, and paying your mate’s missus to see her genitalia would’ve landed you in some fairly hot water.
Mk2’s were almost new then, and finance nowhere near as ubiquitous, beyond the reach of most teens. Modifications were infinitely more limited than they are now, so people had to think outside the box, and make the most of what they had. These were the days of Rallye front end swaps, Sprinter wings vents and frenched tailgates. Where people put a huge amount of effort into doing things you’d barely see if you didn’t know what you were looking for. It was almost the antithesis of the modern day modified scene. Less was definitely more.
Whilst all this was at its zenith, a fresh-faced teenager by the name of Ady Oliver was lusting after a Mk2 of his own. Unfortunately, with them being only a few years old at the time, they were beyond his reach, so a dream they would remain, for a while anyway. He dutifully visited meets across the country, along with GTI International year-on-year with friend and Mk2 stalwart John Sigsworth, and it was during one of these sojourns that he came across Danny Smith’s Oak green Mk2. Danny’s car was well known on the scene, and was without a doubt one of the best contemporary Mk2s out there. That was it, he was absolutely hooked, and knew he had to have his own. With grown up things like houses and jobs getting in the way, it wasn’t until a few years ago that Ady would get to live his dream and build the ultimate Mk2. After a decent search for the right car, a black big-bumper 16v would appear, ticking all the boxes.
“I bought it a little bit blind if I’m honest, and just hoped that it wasn’t a complete rot box”
“When I purchased the car, it had been sat for nearly five years under a cover on someone’s drive. I bought it a little bit blind if I’m honest, and just hoped that it wasn’t a complete rot box.” Well, apparently Ady is a lucky guy, and once the car was delivered and checked over, it turned out to be a proper little peach. With the car destined to just be a weekend toy (we’ve heard that before), he decided not to go too mad on it, and just did a few bits around it to put his mark on it: a set of coilovers and 90s-as-you-like Azev A wheels (can you see a theme here?) found their way onto the car, before Ady decided to remove the kit and smooth the holes, before tidying the factory paint up a little. Nice and simple, right? Well no, actually.
“It had been removed from the dead V8 Vantage, and the whole mechanism bolted into the now heavily customised door. But the window wouldn’t move past the handle”
We should probably have mentioned that Ady is a paint engineer for that most British of institutions, Aston Martin. To bag a job like that, you’ve got to have a serious eye for detail. So, do you think such a simple build would be enough for the man who ensures the most perfect of cars are perfect?
It was during this time that best mate John was relentlessly bullying him with ideas of building a show car. He sounds like our kind of friend, to be honest. He managed to resist the taunts for a year until, one morning on the way to work (in his “weekend car”), the heater matrix went. Perfect excuse to do some extra bits right?
With Ady not being one to do things by halves, within two weeks the car was in pieces in his workshop. And when we say ‘in pieces’, we really mean it. “I decided to strip the car down to a bare shell, there literally wasn’t a nut or bolt left on the chassis. Well, that was it, I was in deep and I had started something very special.”
Ady’s self-proclaimed “passion for perfection” meant that, by his own admission, he got somewhat carried away with the build. This car really and truly is something very, very special. With it taking cues from the 90’s casr that he grew up around, his options were somewhat limited in terms of the direction he would take. It was almost a given that that stunningly simple and tantalisingly rare Rallye front end would end up on there, along with the Sprinter vent in the offside wing. Both were staples of the world in which he cut his teeth, and don’t look remotely out of place now. The frenched tailgate was another throwback, and one that is still used to this day by Mk2 owners worldwide.
By far the biggest, and yet most subtle modifications was those door handles. Yes, they look amazing, but fitting them took over a year, a written off door and most of Ady’s sanity. They were donated by a 2006 Aston Martin Vantage that was languishing in a friend’s body shop, and would become an integral part of what would turn out to be a mammoth build. They’re so flawlessly fitted in the doors you’d be forgiven for thinking they were almost plug and play. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. We’ll let Ady describe the install: “They were a right ball ache to fit! I had to get steel plates stamped for a rolled recess for rigidity, and get them tig welded in place.”
With the recess stamped in a test scrap Mk2 door that he had lying around, Ady was confident that things would be plain sailing. But, as with all pioneers, it was not going to be easy. The not insignificant mechanism had been removed from the dead V8 Vantage, and the whole mechanism bolted into the now heavily customised door. But the window wouldn’t move past the handle. For most people, this would be breaking point. They’d see it as impossible, and go back to either the trusty Mk2 handles, or something a little less ‘hot-rod’. But Ady isn’t one of those people. To him, impossible just makes it a bigger challenge. When best mate John uttered the immortal words; “It’ll never work, you won’t be able to do it”, it was all the encouragement Ady needed, and come hell or high water, those handles were going in and the window was going down.
After lots (and lots) of measuring, and some very cold evenings in a damp garage with head torch ablaze, Ady managed to get the clearance necessary for the window to slide freely into the door. Huzzah! All that was needed now was to make the electrically actuated cable operate the door’s old pin and rod system. Following some “clever engineering” solutions and “a bit of jiggery pokery” (Ady likes his engineering jargon), it was all working perfectly. Time to transfer everything he’d learnt over to the actual doors for the car, and get it back together.
The rare bits didn’t stop at the unique door handle though. Two of the most popular mods in the 90s were Happich pop out rear windows and tilt and slide sunroofs, so guess what Ady had to have in his dream Mk2? Well, actually, he decided to go one better, those rear pop outs are the ultra-rare electric versions. Made of finest unobtanium, we’ve genuinely only ever seen a handful of sets, and they really are one of the most understatedly cool things we’ve seen this side of the Atlantic.
Not wanting to stop with the utterly pointless but stupidly cool electric rear windows, Ady decided to keep the theme going with genuine Mk2 electric door mirrors. Not quite as rare as the rear pop outs, they’re still hewn from the same block of unobtanium, and are just another small details that sets this car apart from its peers.
One thing we can’t not talk about is that colour. You thought it was Oak Green, right? Well, despite lusting after one of the nicest ‘Oakies’ that’s ever existed, it’s actually a completely one-off colour that only Ady knows the details of. Considering he’s a paint engineer by trade, and for a company renowned for producing sports cars in the most British of hues, you can probably make an educated guess as to the basics behind it. In the flesh it’s genuinely stunning, and suits this car probably better than any other could. It highlights the subtle details without making them overly obvious. Classy is probably the best word to describe it.
When it came to picking an interior, Ady knew there was only one type of seat he wanted. And, this being Ady, it had to be something subtle, 90s and hopelessly rare. Enter the massively sought after electric Recaros, fitted as a super rare cost option to a number of European and Federal market Mk2s. Retrimmed to match the exterior colour in leather by the maestros at Link Trim in Marlow, with contrasting alcantara details, it’s a fantastic place to be, and epitomises the ethos of the ‘90s show car’ mentality. He really couldn’t have made a better choice with the look he was going for, and the customised Porsche dials are the ultimate finishing touch. They’re another of those pieces that have masses of work behind the scenes to pull off, but fit and function flawlessly, exactly like the rest of the car.
Chassis wise, there were only a few options that Ady could go with when it came to the wheels. And he struggled to choose between the final two. So why not have both?
Yup, sometimes you’ll see the car on those stunning 16” RSs, and other time it’ll be wearing 16” Azev As. Both stalwarts of the 90s scene, and both looking equally at home on the Mk2. Unless you’re completely unable to see the photos, you can’t help but notice the audio system. A minidisc head unit and 6×9”s this Mk2 does not have. Instead, it’s rocking a full JL Audio ICE system, with premium Alpine head unit keeping the ample speaker selection in check. It’s interwoven perfectly with that custom air ride install, which was a nod to modernity that Ady couldn’t be without. Built by the geniuses at Oxford Car Audio, the entire setup is fitted and setup to perfection.
At the moment Ady is building a T5.1 for him and his partner Emma to use for exploration and camping. Apparently, it’s not going to be a show van, just a nice usable van that they can enjoy. We’ve heard something similar to that before though… At least it’ll have a tow bar, so Ady can take his beloved Mk2 with him to enjoy. Ady wouldn’t have it any other way.
ENGINE: Seat Leon Cupra R BAM 1.8T 20v engine rebuilt using Maxpeeding rods, de immobilised and stage 1 remapped factory ECU, Ramair filter, aluminium/ oversized turbo intake pipe, Malweld custom front mount intercooler and pipework, Mk1 Golf top fill radiator with slimline fan, custom made catch can, modified exhaust downpipe with decat, AGN cam cover, full hidden engine loom, brand new hidden lighting loom, relocated battery, O2J Mk4 GTI gearbox, solid flywheel conversion running 225 bhp
CHASSIS: 7.5×16” (ET25) BBS RS or Azev A, custom air ride setup with boot build, Air Lift 3P management, Air Lift Mk2 Golf front and rear struts, Speciality Suspension 12” tank x 2 (Custom painted). Viair Twin 444 compressors
EXTERIOR: Full respray in unique colour, Rallye front, Sprinter wing vent, Aston Martin door handles, frenched boot lid, electric door mirrors, Happich electric rear pop out windows, tilt & slide sunroof
INTERIOR: Electric Recaros, full custom retrim in leather & alcantara, Porsche clocks, JL Audio C3 Components in front, JL Audio W0 12 inch subs x2 in sealed enclosure, JL Audio RD 900/5 amplifier, Alpine CDE-178BT headunit, Stinger 4000 Series RCA cables, Stinger speaker cabling throughout, Dynamat sound proofing covering entire interior
SHOUT: Link Trim in Marlow for the retrim, Oxford Car Audio for the air ride and boot build, install, alarm and tracker, OBD Works for the engine conversion, Auto Finesse for their sponsorship. Bruce Dyer, Timbo, Bob Surman, Jim Alcock, David Grace and Emma Haynes for putting up with me and being my personal parts collection lady.
While Ady’s car may have been influenced by cars from the 90’s modified VW scene, the attention to detail, fit and finish is on a whole new level.