Chris Keeton bagged Best Mk2 at Edition 38 earlier in the year, so we decided it was about time we put his car in the studio and took a closer look for ourselves. Enjoy! Words: Tony Saggu. Photos: Si Gray.
BEST BOY GOLF PRO
We've seen some comprehensive Mk2 builds over the years but could this 1.8T-powered stunner be the best yet?
Most if not all of us tapping away at our PC keyboards and laptops here at PVW Towers, much like a great many of you our loyal readers, have been about this VW modding lark for a while, long before a few yards of sticky back plastic, some cheap Chinese rollers and a box of Alibaba accessories made you a scene superstar. Ah yes, the 'good old days' when we weren’t all addicted to technology, we had friends not 'followers', rap was real and hard graft and talent built reputations and rad rides...
it all seems so long ago. We can’t be the only ones that have noticed that new age car crafters are perhaps more interested in proving Warhol right; greedily grasping at their prophesised short-lived fame and celebrity, rather than actually building something that might stand the test of more than a quarter of an hour’s scrutiny. It might seem inconceivable now, but there was actually a time when people like MIVW, Westside, Edition 38 and a good many others had no Instagram followers and not one Facebook friend, yet they still built world class groundbreaking cars that are still legends today decades after they first broke cover. The old skoolers will tell you that if you’re labouring for likes then you’re doing it wrong, there are no quick fixes or briskly bolted together classics. Throwing money at metal isn’t the secret either, there are no 'buy ins' to this storied fraternity... it’s about vision, hard work, knowledge and, perhaps most importantly of all, passion.
“It’s taken the best part of eighteen years to get the car this far,” Dumfries Dub builder Chris Keeton assured us, gliding a microfibre polishing cloth over the pristine panels of his magnificent Mk2 GTI, “I’m still working on a few things I think it needs to improve it though.” Chris’s crimson creation is a lesson in how it’s done, schooling in applying barrel loads of talent and technique and blending it with just the right amount of obsessive enthusiasm, the result is perhaps one of the finest examples of second generation Golf goodness we’ve ever seen. Clearly we’re not the only ones to have our socks blown clean off; Keeton’s mantelpiece is straining under the weight of polished pots earned at prestigious VW gatherings across the land. "I never thought for a minute the car would be so popular,” he confessed modestly, “Best Engine Bay and Best of Show at Ultimate Dubs last year, Best Mk2 at E38... and being invited to be on the PVW stand, Best of Show at Awesome GTI, Best Engine Bay at CleanFest... it’s just been crazy.” The accolades seem to have genuinely surprised the soft spoken Scotsman, but we get the feeling there will be more than a little reinforcement required under that trophy table in the near future. “Honestly when I first bought it I just wanted a nice clean Mk2,” he told us, “but as time went on and I saw some of the amazing cars out there I really got inspired to build something a little special. Si Sweetland’s blue Mk2 20vT was a massive inspiration, the first time I saw that car I was proper blown away, Russ Whitefield’s Mk2 C4RBD and Tim Vincent's red 20vT Mk2 were a couple of others. Pete McGinley’s red Mk2, I saw that at Tatton Park years ago and loved it... it really opened my eyes to how great a red Mk2 could be.”
As most of us know, getting that first job once you’ve escaped from school normally changes things transport wise; rolling into the office in that school boy pimped out Peugeot, rusty Renault, or in Chris’s case 'sporty' Nova SR usually doesn’t cut it... especially if your new job happens to be a mechanic at a VAG specialist. Thankfully the Vauxhall got the boot and our man invested a little over two grand in a clean eight valve 1990 GTI back in 2000, Chris was happy enough to press the car into daily driver duties, only giving it the mildest of modifications to put his stamp on it. Cheap and cheerful lowering springs, a used hundred quid stainless steel exhaust and slapping on some seventeens was all it needed to look and sound more than acceptable. “That was eighteen years ago and this is actually that same car,” he smiled, “I’ve owned a few other cars in between, all VW’s. I have had a silver Mk1 GTI, a mauve Mk3 VR6 (which I regret selling), a silver Mk4 Anniversary and then bought a red Mk5 GTI Edition 30 six years ago, which I still have.” The lady wife Laura pilots an Oynx white Scirocco R and we’ve heard a rumour that there might be an Aubergine Mk2 G60 Edition One tucked away in the garage waiting to be fettled. With a quartet of Dubs at the manor and a job working at a fully tooled up VW shop, building a show stopping stunner should be easy right? Chris must have just rolled the GTI to work and onto a lift, then had everyone on the premises get stuck in. “I actually built the car largely on my own, aside from the paint and the chroming everything was done in a shed at home,” he assured us. Once he had made the commitment to rebuild the car to within an inch of its life, the unsuspecting, and we have to say already quite clean GTI, was rolled into said shed. Chris had promised himself that he would do the very best job that he possibly could, so excuses and the corner cutter were left at the door. Job one was to strip the car to the shell and discard anything that wasn’t absolutely perfect; a cracked piece of trim... into the skip, a tiny chip or imperfection on the glass... throw it out, scuffed bumper... see ya. Any part with the smallest imperfection was instantly binned and the highest quality replacement bought in, normally direct from VW. The shell itself, though fairly straight, had its paint stripped back and block sanded to better than new perfection. “I wanted to repaint it the same factory original Tornado red so technically we could have left the underside of the hatch, under the bonnet and places like the door jambs,” revealed Chris, “but it had to be perfect so I smoothed, sanded and prepared every surface including inside the doors.” Before sending out the shell for its new top coat Chris tackled what he admits was the hardest job of all. “That smoothed engine bay,” he sighed, “I did all the welding and smoothing of the bay myself and it took me literally years. My friend Kenzie taught me to use the welder and a few tricks of his trade and off I went. Welding in plates and washers into the engine bay, bulkhead and slam panel and then filling and smoothing everything till it looked the part.” Once the shell had received more paint and clearcoat than Wolfsburg would have had time or money for back in the 90s, it came back to the shed for Chris to carefully reassemble everything. The glass, brand new genuine Chromeolux Edition One green tinted, went in with all new seals, moulding, clips and fasteners everywhere. All the lights, the bumpers, brackets and badges are also new and fresh. One of the few non OEM items on the exterior is the rear hatch plinth from the legendry Cult Society.
The jury is still out on whether the engine room in this stunner is more art than science. That labour of love bay itself is clearly a spectacularly sculptured sensation, the last time we saw red hot smooth flowing metalwork like that it had a raging bull or prancing horse logo on it. No doubt the radiant retina roasting rouge has a lot to do with the sharp intake of breath once the bonnet is hoisted, but details like the custom-made one-piece carbon fibre rain tray and subtle use of aerospace style Rivnuts and polished stainless Allen bolts all add to the wide-eyed excitement. The chromed and polished 20 valve 1.8 turbo motor seems to be suspended in mid-air thanks to a lack of wiring and hoses strapping it down. “It’s all hidden in the inner wings and under the scuttle panel,” revealed Chris “it took ages to do and a fair amount of work but I’m well pleased with the result.” The engine is not just a polished jewel in a crimson crown either; the Mk4 Golf sourced powerplant has been completely rebuilt and peppered with enough go-faster goodies to return a pony count around 240. “There’s pretty much nothing left of the original 20 valve apart from the block and head,” Chris assured us, “It’s all new parts most of which are modified, the software is from Quantum Performance Engineering and has never once let me down.” Unlike many show and go machines the choice of the engine’s supporting parts and the way they have been modified and combined, shows very careful thought and planning to maximise both beauty and bhp. The chassis is just as classy; painted, powder coated and stitched together with chrome and polished hardware throughout. The full Air Lift Performance air ride suspension may not be a surprise, but custom touches like the bespoke smoothed chromed and polished strut top mounts certainly are. Take a good long look at those enchanting resorted and rebuilt BBS RS rollers and tell us they shouldn’t be hanging in the Tate, or at least in window at Tiffany’s, fully chromed centres, 24 carat gold bolts, highly polished Radinox lips, JDM red and gold caps... please stay behind the velvet rope.
With such ritzy rollers, regal rouge panels and a motor dripping with chrome, it would be rude not to have an interior worthy of a million dollar mansion. On the inside seemingly every surface has been swathed in multiple hides of rich cream Bentley leather, with old school stitch master Andy of Snappy Gaiters doing the honours. The creamy awesomeness extends to the classic BBS steering wheel, the retro Votex centre console and Audioscape door pods and even to the heater and AC vents. "I’ve recently added a pair of Gen2 Recaro A8 seats,” Chris explained, "they have black plastic backs and were retrimmed in matching cream leather by Del at Optimus Trimmers.” The custom black carpet and mats with cream piping and stitching are pure class, the fully polished Audi TT pedals look completely at home among the plush opulence. Much like cars we all call classics and exotics there has been a very thoughtful and deliberate use of colours and textures both inside and out, a very limited number of cleanly contrasting shades work to define the purity of the lines. The lines themselves are perfectly presented without flaws; the elegance is in the simplicity. Chris’s crimson creation was built the hard way, with quality rather than time holding the whip, where attention spans were measured in decades not seconds, the graft was real and the money wasn’t virtual... this one’s going viral old school style.
“I recently added Gen2 Recaro A8 seats. They have black plastic backs and were trimmed in matching cream leather”
I did all the welding and smoothing of the bay myself and it took me literally years. My friend taught me to use the welder and a few tricks of his trade and off I went
ENGINE: chrome 20vT engine conversion with QPENG management with two-stage boost around 240bhp, everything on engine smoothed, chrome-plated, polished or powder coated. BAM manifold and boost pipes. QPENG 2.5" downpipe mated to custom-made 2.5" exhaust by mate Kenzie. Golf G60 gearbox with Corrado pedal box for hydraulic clutch and cable gear change shifter. Gearbox shifter tower cut and smoothed to remove the reverse switch. Lightened G60 flywheel with Sachs racing organic clutch. Polished HKS blow-off valve. Polished custom front mount intercooler and radiator with power steering tank combined, made by Joe at Fresh Reflections. Custom-made one-off polished expansion tank incorporated into water housing on cylinder head. Carbon fibre brake servo with Seat Cupra R master cylinder. Homemade stainless flexi brake pipes hidden behind dash. Roger Clark air filter and polished alloy turbo intake pipe. Vibra Tech engine mounts all round
CHASSIS: Custom built BBS RS 047 built to 16x9.5". Fully chromed centre spokes, waffles and nuts. Red/gold BBS Japan centre caps. 24 carat gold plated split rim bolts. 3.0" stainless Radinox dishes all round. Chromed BBS dumpy valves and nut type valve caps. 215/35/16 Continental tyres all round. fully powder coated gloss black components, with chromed bolts and nuts. Full Air Lift suspension with v2 management with painted air tank and twin air compressors. Fully Powerflex bushed front and rear all round. Eibach front and rear red anti roll bars. G60 280mm front brake conversion with drilled and grooved discs all round. Custom front strut top mounts smoothed and polished
EXTERIOR: Full repaint in OEM Tornado Red including door checks boot checks. Insides of doors, boot and bonnet. Brand new genuine Chromeolux Edition One glass in quarters and tailgate, green tint door glass. New top tint windscreen. Brand new genuine VW G60 arches, bumpers, door mouldings, front splitter, orange indicators, Hella headlamps, fog lamps, 16v taillights, Wolfsburg edition wing badges. Smoothed tailgate with Cult Society plinth with custom opening actuator
INTERIOR: Full Bentley cream leather interior, Recaro A8 seats, door cards, rear seat with headrests, A B & C pillars, roof lining, boot lining, dashboard and vents, Votex centre console, handbrake, VR6 gear knob, 3 spoke BBS steering wheel, Audioscape door pods, all trimmed in cream leather. Custom black carpets mats with cream stitching. Audi TT pedals fully polished
STEREO: Sony head unit. Rainbow door speakers, dash speakers, tweeters in quarter panels and 2x crossovers
SHOUT: Biggest thanks to my wife Laura for putting up with all this carry on. Thanks to my mate Kenzie for all the help over years building the car and keeping me motivated when things were shit. My mum, dad and brother Paul. Everyone at my work for helping and their input/ ideas to the car. Paul Hair for the custom alloy touches. Graham Gibson for the paint work over the years. Steven Cluckie for painting the engine at my house. Mike the polisher for all his help with the wheels and engine bay. Christoph Kainz for the chrome work. Holger Bechstedt for the custom BBS parts. Mikey at Fife for all the powder coating. Mike Richardson for the windscreen and glass replacement. Andy at Snappy. Del at Optimus Trimmers