Before this scene-stealing turbo Mk2 project, Kenny Stas was never really into modifying cars. But the tuners down at the local car wash turned his head, and before long he was elbows-deep in the drama of it all… Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Robin Lagaisse.
Heavily tuned 8v turbo Mk2 bagged on centrelocking BBS E50s and fitted with Recaro A8s
The car wash can be a surprisingly pivotal and influential venue. While most of us prefer to get busy with the snow foam lance at home these days, there’s still a place for those timeworn rollers in the modern world; a soapy going-over in the supermarket car park may do the trick, but it doesn’t match the theatrical drama of driving through the old-school machine. Just ask the person we once saw in a car wash in Portsmouth who exited the vehicle after driving in, to see why the programme hadn’t started – only to then observe the rollers ripping off her driver door and filling the car with water…
To get a handle on just how life-changing a car wash can be, have a chat with Walt and Skyler White. Or if you fancy chewing it over with someone who isn’t fictional, eastern Belgium’s Kenny Stas is your man. He’s the owner of this particularly splendid Mk2 Golf, and it all began at the local shrine to soap and water. “I stumbled into the car scene around ten or twelve years ago,” he explains. “I used to regularly go to the local petrol station, which was where all the neighbourhood tuners went to wash their cars. I got interested in the projects and started talking to the owners, and that’s when I first started changing a few things on my own car.”
This is just one example of how the sheer magnificence of the modding scene can bleed out into the real world. We’re well used to hearing stories from feature car owners about how they spent their childhood working with their dads on various project cars, or cut their teeth on Fast and Furious movies and grew up to be mechanics, but Kenny doesn’t fit the profile at all. He’s an independent market vendor by trade, selling plants and flowers. And yet here he is, toting one of the most beautifully detailed Mk2 Golfs we’ve seen for a while, complete with a hilariously tuneful turbo’d motor. Ain’t life grand?
“I ended up in the tuning scene in my twenties, with friends of mine driving lowered cars and so on,” Kenny continues. “I thought it was wonderful how they could make a car look completely different with just a few changes. So when I bought a Ford Fiesta in 2005, I decided to make a few changes of my own… I started with rims and lows, and after about five years I decided it was time for a VW, so I bought a new Jetta. I’d only owned it for two weeks before I fitted coilovers and some new wheels!”
Sounds like the bug had bitten pretty hard. And as the project evolved, little by little, and he attended more and more local car meets, Kenny found his head increasingly being turned by the Mk1 and Mk2 Golfs on the scene. Naturally it wasn’t long before seeing turned to doing, and in 2011 he bought himself a Mk1 cabriolet; the initial aim was to give it a full resto, although the significant game-changers of buying a house and having a new daughter put the brakes on that idea and it was moved on. Nevertheless, the passion for old-school Dubs was showing no sign of abating; indeed, it was growing ever-stronger by the day, and when circumstances had levelled out, a lengthy search commenced.
“After a lot of looking around, I eventually found this Mk2,” he says. “It had been treated to a full respray the year before, and had a beige leather interior. It was running a 1300 engine and had been lowered a little on 14” wheels – I fell in love with it straight away.”
One short week later the Golf was in Kenny’s garage, being fitted with some shiny new 15” Schmidt TH-Lines. A new interior quickly followed, sourced from a G60, and at that point Kenny thought that it was all just as he wanted it to be, that he was finished.
"It was running a 1300 engine and had been lowered a little on 14” wheels – I fell in love with it straight away"
…but of course he wasn’t. As it turned out, he was only just getting started. A trip to Ultimate Dubs in March 2013 was the turning point, the Telford International Centre proving to be just as pivotal as that old Belgian car wash. “I saw things there that I’d never seen before at the local meetings,” he recalls, still starry-eyed at the wonder of it all. “This was different, a whole other dimension of tuning. I fell in love with the more powerful engines which were swapped into the little Golfs. And so, returning home from a great weekend, I immediately started looking for a new engine; straight away I found a Mk3 US 8-valve motor, and snapped it up for €200.”
Kenny had the scent of blood in his nostrils at this point, and the car was a regular visitor to the local performance shop over the following year as improvements were steadily made. G60 brakes were fitted, including swapping the rear drums for discs, a custom 2.5” exhaust system was built up, and a standalone management system installed. The resulting 135bhp represented a world of difference compared to how it was before, and with the power exponentially increased he turned his hand to the aesthetics: 25th Anniversary seats and custom doorcards inside, and 17” Porsche Cayenne rims outside. Job done.
You’re right, no, it wasn’t done at all. These things never are, are they? With the passion for modifying unstoppably swelling in Kenny’s chest, do you honestly think he’d be happy with 135bhp? No, as impressive as that may have been as a percentage gain, there was more work to be done here.
“It was never intended to be a show car"
“In 2014 I went back to Ultimate Dubs with my own Golf; I couldn’t believe how it had changed in a year,” he grins. “With work and family commitments I had limited time to work on the car after that, but I gathered some pieces such as the H&R Ultra-Low suspension, Porsche 944 calipers with 310mm discs, and a set of 17” BBS RS rims. These were neatly put into place in the winter of 2015 by the local performance shop. I also made an appointment for later that year to make a big upgrade to the engine...”
Before that could happen, however, Kenny found himself happening upon the seats of his dreams. On a trip to Brussels to buy a set of OZ Ultraleggera wheels, the seller told him that he had a Mk2 Golf project that he’d given up on, and Kenny spotted that it was packing a pair of Recaro A8s on electric Corrado frames – and after some negotiation, he ended up going home with the seats instead of the wheels! These were then taken to JRS Automotive to retrim, along with a stock Corrado rear bench, and the results frankly speak for themselves. That interior is very special indeed.
So, back to the engine. In late 2016 it was entrusted to Thone Tuning, with the aim of strapping on a turbo and generally making it awesome. To keep the Garrett happy, Thone made up custom piping to a new front-mount intercooler, and stuffed the engine with uprated pistons, Carillo rods, stronger bearings, a steel head gasket, sturdier head bolts, and a bunch of other strengthening measures. Emerald injection and standalone management oversee the particulars, and the end result – topped off by a natty JPS valve cover and reinstalled by MAQ Racing – was good for 267bhp. Which was far more like it.
"It came back to me basically in kit form, so I could piece it all back together and add in the parts I’d been stockpiling"
While all this was going on, the body was receiving a lot of attention too. The shell was handed to Dave at DP Tuning, who went to great lengths to perfect the engine bay as well as widening the front wings and notching the chassis. The car then passed to a local painter, who sprayed it in a custom mix of browny-green. “Everything was going perfectly, and the car was starting to look great,” Kenny smiles.
“It came back to me basically in kit form, so I could piece it all back together and add in the parts I’d been stockpiling – such as lamps, windows, grille and bumpers, as well as a set of face-mounted zero-lip Gotti wheels. A little while later came the first test drive, and unfortunately this was not yet how it should be... the car didn’t drive right, the oil pressure was too high, it was a bummer after not driving it for two years. It turned out that the pistons were no good, but when these were replaced with new ones from an Audi TT, the car was re-coded and tuned and it now made 312bhp. Way above my expectations!”
All of this extra grunt meant that the gearbox didn’t last long, but this was replaced by a stronger GTD unit with a race-spec LSD, and with the running gear finally bulletproof, Kenny started chasing after the one element he needed to complete the scene: that killer stance.
“I went out looking for air-ride,” he says. “I found a setup in the Netherlands that looked good, so I made a deal. Also, by luck and after five years of searching for some, I found some Happich windows for sale about ten minutes from the air-ride seller, so the road trip was fully justified! I was also looking for some proper centre-lock wheels, and it was Stefan from PUC Polish who found me a set. It all came together in March 2019, when I drove the Golf back to Ultimate Dubs: its first time in the UK with the new look, and it ended up winning a trophy.”
And there we are, the story neatly goes fullcircle. That epochal first trip to Telford started a figurative fire under this Golf that’s been burning ever since. Following last year’s UD, Kenny then took the Golf to MIVW and Edition38, and even got a prime spot at Essen. “It was never intended to be a show car,” he muses, “but over the years it became more and more.” That’s a tale often told in the modding scene. Never underestimate the power of the car wash.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: Mk3 2.0-litre 8v crossflow, Garrett turbo, Emerald injection, Audi TT pistons, Carrillo rods, strengthened main bearings and connecting bar bearings, steel head gasket, steel head bolts, turbo cam gear and adjustable sprocket, JPS valve cover, uprated valve springs, custom intake, custom cooling system and expansion tank, standalone ECU, rebuilt Mercedes Sprinter intercooler, relocated battery, Mk5 Golf brake pump, ARP flywheel bolts, custom 2.5” exhaust system, GTD gearbox with race LSD
MAX POWER: 312bhp @ 6900rpm
MAX TORQUE 352lb ft @ 3650rpm
CHASSIS: 7.5x17” face-mounted BBS E50 centrelocks (zero lip), 185/35 Nankang tyres, Air Lift suspension with V2 management, Silver Project camber-adjustable top mounts, Porsche 944 front brakes with 310mm Alfa Romeo discs and custom air intakes, G60 rear brakes, notched chassis
EXTERIOR: Custom-mix brown/green paint, Happich pop-out windows, deleted rubstrips, greentint window glass, GTI spoiler, wider front wings, Porsche door handles
INTERIOR: Recaro A8 seats – retrimmed in black with red stitching (on electric Corrado frames), retrimmed Corrado rear bench and doorcards to match, BBS 3-spoke carbon steering wheel with custom red horn push, 25th Anniversary GTI handbrake and gearknob, black carpets, GTI black headlining, GTI black A, B and C pillars, Porsche glovebox lock, G60 dials
THANKS: “Thanks to my lovely wife Lore and my wonderful daughter Rinske, Joey at JRS DubGarage, Wim Plessers, Dave at DP Tuning, Frans at Thone Tuning, Dimi at Retrowheels, PUC Polish, JRS Automotive, Mark Rodway, and Robin Lagaisse.”
We've featured hundreds of Mk2s over the years. Some that stick in your mind, and others that don't. Kenny's falls firmly in the former club…