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    Bagged Volkswagen Polo Mk2 Breadvan running 200bhp tuned Supercharged G40-engine

    Posted in Cars on Tuesday, 23 October 2018

    The Polo breadvan might be a bit of an underdog in Volkswagen circles, but Lance Thompson’s 200bhp G40 super-hatch shows there’s plenty of untapped potential if you’re prepared to stick with it. Words: Alex Grant. Photos: Nick Williams.

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    STATIC CHARGE / #Volkswagen-Polo-II / #Volkswagen-Polo-Mk2 / #Volkswagen-Polo-Typ-86C / #Volkswagen-Polo / #Volkswagen-Typ-86C / #Volkswagen / #VW-Polo-Typ-86C / #VW /

    Home-built and laced with #PhD-level problems to solve, Jake Belfield’s slammed and carb’d Mk2 Polo shows anything is possible if you’re determined enough. Words: Alex Grant. Photos: Adam Walker.

    “It’s become a bit of an obsession,” Jake Belfield says. “No one had got an old Polo this low before so we had to figure out the answers for ourselves.” And we’re talking answers to questions tougher than the working life of a Volkswagen Group diesel emissions engineer. A combination of tiny wheel wells, underbody protrusions and archaic 1970s suspension make this sort of sillworrying almost impossible on a pre-1994 Polo, even with air-ride. With each millimetre it got closer to the floor, the Polo fought back even harder. Jake’s patience and do-it-yourself attitude is impressive…

    “I’ve suffered a ball joint lockout, destroyed CV joints, smashed sumps and because the gearbox sits low on Polos I’ve also ruined one of those… on a cat’s eye,” he laughs. “Most of the issues have been solved now, but I spent a lot of time jacking the car up and testing different things out to get it this way. But it sits the way I want it and it’s setup to drive okay at that height, too.”

    That hard work has paid off. Against the steel and-concrete backdrop of our photoshoot location, that square-edged contrast of chrome on-Tornado red pops even more than it did when it picked up our Sponsor’s Choice award at Edition 38 this year. From the ground (and car) - breakingly low ride height to the 145bhp bike carb’d engine in its smoothed bay, and even that classic interior, everything just works. Yet, for the two years this project took to build, suspension gremlins have been one of many jobs which have done anything but work. That ongoing struggle was never the result of some carefully hatched masterplan either.


    Although the 25-year-old Staffordshire-based plumber has had a long line-up of Volkswagens – numerous other Polos and a modified G40 among them – he initially just wanted a runabout for the summer. “I picked this up from Telford on the way back from Ultimate Dubs in 2013. The paintwork was every shade of red you could imagine, it had dirty grey standard seats, a lowering kit, P-slots, and most of the rest of the interior had been ‘retrimmed’ in some horrible beige suede material. It was a cheap car, though, so I wasn’t bothered.”

    On the upside, that meant there was nothing to be too precious about. “It was so much fun at the start because it didn’t owe me anything, so I wasn’t scared of doing whatever I wanted to it,” he says, adding that the factory-fitted 1.3-litre carb engine didn’t even make it to its first MoT. By the time it first hit the ramps under Jake’s ownership, it was getting there under the power of a 1.6-litre eight-valve engine from a Mk4 Polo, running bike carbs. He’d also taken an angle grinder to the springs and rollers to the arches ready for its new 15-inch BBS RZs.

    This didn’t last long and, after hauling it around for its first show season, the Halfords paint sampler bodywork and DIY stance had outstayed their welcome; so too had that engine. But rather than making things easy for himself Jake opted for something a little less plug ’n’ play… and then added even more complexity on top.



    “There’s always the temptation to put a G40 in a Polo – they are amazing and go straight in,” Jake says. “But I thought I’d at least give the 1.4 16v AFH engine a go, just to see what all the fuss was about. They’re cheap and easy to source and you can’t argue with the bang for your buck you get from one of these.”


    As much as it might sound simple, given that the block is broadly the same as what’s fitted to older Polos, it’s not a straightforward conversion. One of the engine mounts has to be modified to make up for the lack of a power steering pump, the oil pickup shortened to fit the shallower (and less vulnerable) Mk3 sump and anti-roll bar mounts (based on parts from the Polo G40 Cup racing cars) are needed to clear the exhaust manifold as well as to correct the caster/camber angles after a heavy drop. A matching flywheel and starter motor, specifically from a late Mk3 Polo, are also required to make everything work without more fabrication and cutting.

    Jake had initially turned down the offer of a pre-built AFH bottom end with the 1.6-litre GTI internals but the lure of more power without the need to source additional parts was too strong to resist. As was the noise, and power, offered by the Keihin carburettors mounted on a homebuilt inlet manifold. He even built his own exhaust system – including modifying the manifold for extra clearance – before shipping it off for a rolling road session to make the most of its new-found capacity.

    “There was enough advice online to help me get the engine in easily enough,” he says. “But it wasn’t that simple getting it running. I had a few problems with wiring and it wasn’t starting when it was hot, which plagued me for a while. Then I had a leaking crank seal, so I had to pull the engine out twice to sort that. But the 1.6 bottom end just gives it that bit more kick. I’ve never looked back, it’s so much fun to drive.”


    The big change, visually, was the start of what’s become a labour of love since. With the Polo in bits and attention being poured into rectifying bodge jobs from previous owners, Jake took the opportunity to swap the Polo’s chopped springs for a set of TA Technix coilovers and a set of OZ Turbos before the show season, then spent most of last summer fighting the car to get it closer to the road. This wasn’t a job for off-the-shelf parts. “Rear coilovers for pre-’94 Polos don’t go low enough and the spring rate is really soft, so they aren’t really worth it,” he explains. “So I used 6N rears which have a better, heavier spring in them. But they need some spacers at the bottom and I’ve come up with a custom top mount for where it mounts up to the body to get them fitted nicely.”


    The Polo’s front suspension, with the hub attached to the strut, meant choices were a bit more limited. Not happy with the ride height even with the front platforms fully wound down, Jake swapped to shorter 300lb springs, then built his own lowered top caps and mounts to shed another 15mm of ground clearance. It’s a setup he’s since replaced with solid, camber-adjustable top mounts because it still wasn’t low enough. But even that wasn’t the end of it: “It did the trick but also caused a lot more problems. We spent most of the summer getting it right. And these cars have scarily thin chassis legs, so I had to notch them, then plate and strengthen everything so it was up to the job. I’ve had to modify the engine and gearbox mounts to raise them, too.”

    All of which sounds like a lot of commitment but with the Polo getting plenty of his attention, and Jake getting a truckload of inspiration when he took it to shows, he was hooked. As last winter rolled in he had two choices: sell up and start again or finish what he’d started. “I went to a lot of shows that summer and looking at the Mk1 and Mk2 Golfs with the super-clean styling I knew I had to have something like that,” Jake says. “So I kept the car and went crazy on it. By that point I knew how I wanted it to look. It was just a case of putting the hours in to get it looking nice.”

    In his case, that literally meant putting his own hours in. Jake spent most of last winter manifold for extra clearance – before shipping it off for a rolling road session to make the most of its new-found capacity.

    “There was enough advice online to help me get the engine in easily enough,” he says. “But it wasn’t that simple getting it running. I had a few problems with wiring and it wasn’t starting when it was hot, which plagued me for a while. Then I had a leaking crank seal, so I had to pull the engine out twice to sort that. But the 1.6 bottom end just gives it that bit more kick. I’ve never looked back, it’s so much fun to drive.”


    The big change, visually, was the start of what’s become a labour of love since. With the Polo in bits and attention being poured into rectifying bodge jobs from previous owners, Jake took the opportunity to swap the Polo’s chopped springs for a set of TA Technix coilovers and a set of OZ Turbos before the show season, then spent most of last summer fighting the car to get it closer to the road. This wasn’t a job for off-the-shelf parts. “Rear coilovers for pre-’94 Polos don’t go low enough and the spring rate is really soft, so they aren’t really worth it,” he explains. “So I used 6N rears which have a better, heavier spring in them. But they need some spacers at the bottom and I’ve come up with a custom top mount for where it mounts up to the body to get them fitted nicely.”


    The Polo’s front suspension, with the hub attached to the strut, meant choices were a bit more limited. Not happy with the ride height even with the front platforms fully wound down, Jake swapped to shorter 300lb springs, then built his own lowered top caps and mounts to shed another 15mm of ground clearance. It’s a setup he’s since replaced with solid, camber-adjustable top mounts because it still wasn’t low enough. But even that wasn’t the end of it: “It did the trick but also caused a lot more problems. We spent most of the summer getting it right. And these cars have scarily thin chassis legs, so I had to notch them, then plate and strengthen everything so it was up to the job. I’ve had to modify the engine and gearbox mounts to raise them, too.”


    All of which sounds like a lot of commitment but with the Polo getting plenty of his attention, and Jake getting a truckload of inspiration when he took it to shows, he was hooked. As last winter rolled in he had two choices: sell up and start again or finish what he’d started. “I went to a lot of shows that summer and looking at the Mk1 and Mk2 Golfs with the super-clean styling I knew I had to have something like that,” Jake says. “So I kept the car and went crazy on it. By that point I knew how I wanted it to look. It was just a case of putting the hours in to get it looking nice.”


    In his case, that literally meant putting his own hours in. Jake spent most of last winter preparing the Polo for its trip to the bodyshop, stripping it back to a bare shell and tackling the engine bay bit by bit after work. It’s no half job either and involved cutting the firewall cut out and smoothing it, while the battery, heater matrix and fuse box which once lived behind it have been relocated or deleted altogether – something Jake says was a massive challenge given the lack of space behind the dashboard.

    All of the redundant holes and brackets, the mass of wiring and the washer fluid bottle were removed, and the top-fill radiator meant there was no need for an expansion tank. Jake built all of the blanking plates, new brackets and custom wiring himself before grinding it back to bare metal. The single shade of Tornado red was applied by nearby bodyshop ARG Refinishing over bodywork now clear of its rub strips, plastic arch extensions and dents in the arches caused by catching tyres. It’s one of only a few jobs Jake hasn’t taken on himself.



    And, with all that obsessing over ride height, it would have been a shame not to update the wheels. The Coupé’s latest lot, an already refurbished set of BBS RSs, turned up in Leeds needing only smaller dishes on the front to get the staggered look he was after. Jake reckons it was a welcome change from the long list of headaches elsewhere.

    The finishing touch was the interior. “I’ve had a few sets of seats in it but I’ve always wanted an Eighties race theme. I did look at the usual Recaros but nothing worked as well in my head as the early white-striped sports seats from a Coupé S. They’re hard to find, but a friend down south happened to have this interior in his garage, with the black carpets. Nothing compares to that classic OEM style, and I’ve never seen another set as good as these.”


    And the car’s worked hard since. We clocked Jake and the Polo earlier this year and, in the meantime, it’s made the trip over to MIVW as well as getting a front-of-house space on our stand at Edition 38. A car good enough to cut it with builds from the best in the business, which speaks volumes for Jake’s attention to detail. “I’ve been impressed, it’s really usable and it gets punished as well as polished,” Jake laughs. “Due to being quite low I’m limited to how hard I can drive it but I had this set up properly and on the rolling road it made 145bhp, so the difference between this and my old G40 was massive. It’s quite smooth whereas the G40 was pretty aggressive. But I’m still a sucker for a supercharger.”

    So, given that Jake’s now nailed it, is it time for a change? “Getting all the love, trophies and now this feature was something I never set out to do,” he replies. “I’ve managed to drag it from a cheap runaround through the ranks to what it is today and I’ve still got lots of ideas – mostly involving lots of money.”


    Based on past experience, we reckon that means he’s due plenty more evenings in the workshop. This might not have been kick-started by well-laid plans, but a lack of willingness to give up has put Jake’s Coupe among our favourite cars of 2015. We reckon it’s an obsession that’s definitely worth feeding.

    Dub Details

    ENGINE: #VW-Polo-6N-16V ( #AFH ) engine conversion, 1598cc #VW-Polo-6N2 GTI crank, con rods and pistons, Polo Mk2 ignition system, #Keihin CVK 600 bike carburettors, custom inlet manifold, full stainless steel exhaust system, Polo #G40 clutch, starter motor, flywheel and five-speed 8P gearbox from 1272cc SPI Polo, polished rocker cover, Omex rev limiter and launch control, full wire tuck, fuse box relocated behind the dashboard, battery relocated to the boot, custom engine mount, firewall removed and smoothed, heater matrix removed and bulkhead holes plated, engine and gearbox raised 25mm, washer bottle removed, top-fill radiator.

    SUSPENSION: 7x15 (front) and 7x15 (rear) #BBS-RS wheels, 165/45 (front) and 165/50 (rear) Nankang AS 1 tyres, TA Technix coilovers with shortened 300lb springs (front), #Polo-6N rear coilovers, MaxRPM.de solid camber-adjustable top mounts, Mk2 Golf 16v calipers with drilled disks, #Polo-G40 Cup Car nylon anti-roll bar blocks, polybushed track control arms, Series 1 suspension ball joint extenders, notched and reinforced chassis legs.

    EXTERIOR: Arch trims removed, arch spat holes smoothed, single headlight grille, LHD-spec nearside rear light cluster, rear wiper removed, tailgate badges removed and smoothed, full respray in Tornado red.

    INTERIOR: Early white-striped Polo Coupé S interior, Polo Coupé S clocks with rev counter, black carpets, upgraded Alpine 6x4 speakers, #Pioneer TS-WX210A under-seat subwoofer.

    SHOUT: My mum and dad, Tom Whatley Auto Tuning for help with the engine, Ant at ARG Refinishing for the excellent paint job, Jord and the lads for any help throughout the build, AJ Walker for the shoot.
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    David Kennedy
    David Kennedy created a new group Volkswagen Polo II
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