MODERN ROMANCE / #Volkswagen-Corrado-G60
Volkswagen Corrado G60 barn find Some say they don’t still exist but they do… How would you define a modern classic? Well let us save you the trouble; just take a look at Tony Saunders’ stunning Corrado G60 ‘barn find’. Words: Elliott Roberts. Photos: James Thomas Ford.
“It’s one of those supercharged versions, isn’t it?” said the unassuming bearded fellow stood outside the watering hole we’d chosen for today’s shoot. How this average-looking chap in his mid-50s sipping a glass of red wine knew anything about Corrados or, more to the point, even what a G60 was, was beyond us. And when he reeled off the fact it was a G Lader type ’charger blowing the 1781cc 8v we all nearly fell over. As it transpires, the guy was a veteran drag racer who, over the years, had run a number of supercharged bikes, hence his interest in the car when it was launched back in the late ’80s. Our point? Well, it never ceases to amaze us on photoshoots the amount of random passers-by that profess to have a soft spot for Volkswagens and often it’s the less obvious models that really bring back memories. These are normal people, too, not totally obsessed ones like you or I, or even Tim Saunders from The Phirm who unearthed this very car a couple of years back.
I remember being at regular #Drive-My
haunt The Phirm a few years back and spotting this totally bone-stock Corrado parked up in the yard. Why did the gleaming white coupé look so out of place? Well, other than being a bit odd to see such an original, unmolested Volkswagen at the #VAG
tuners – a place synonymous with seriously modified performance-orientated Dubs – I couldn’t get my head around how clean the car was for its age. It was absolutely mint.
As it turns out the car was another of head-honcho Tim Saunders’ ‘barn finds’, the lucky sod! At least that explained why he was looking even more smug than usual on that drab winter’s morning. “I went to look at an RS Turbo with a customer who needed it for spares, but unfortunately the car was absolutely rotten. However, when we got chatting I asked the guy what he was going to replace the car with. He said there was a while Corrado G60 for sale locally that he’d been thinking about,” said Tim.
Being local to The Phirm, Tim had already heard about the car but just not had time to look at it… until now. “We were so close it seemed silly not to go check it out. If I’m honest, it was more to do with the fact the guy said it was on #BBS
wheels. I know it’s shameful, but I just had this vision of it being sat there on a set of RSs, so I asked if they had small bolts around the edge and he seemed to think they did.”
Tim wasted no time getting over to the yard where the Alpine white coupé was. “To be honest it was more green than white due to having been parked under a tree, but as we approached it, the fact it was only on stock BBSs didn’t even bother me because I could see inside the arches were perfectly white.” If this was an original car then it was potentially a gem…
After speaking to the chap selling the car, all was revealed. It turns out the 1991 G60 only had one lady owner from new and the guy was selling it on her behalf. “He’d worked at the original dealership that serviced the car and dealt with the women there, so when he left and set up on his own, she’d continued to take the car to him for odd jobs,” said Tim. As we later looked through the service records and history for the car we soon discovered this woman was absolutely meticulous with the car’s upkeep. Seriously, she was obsessed! But we’ll get to that later. According to the guy selling it for her, even when she moved on to Porsches at a later date she still had a soft spot for the Corrado, eventually having a special garage built at her house just for the car.
It had only been at his yard for a short time so he could show people around it. “It was only when we started looking into the car’s service history that we appreciated the extent it had been looked after,” said Tim. The previous owner had been one of the directors of a private jet aviation company based near Heathrow, so although the car had 189k miles on the clock, they had largely all been carried out on the motorway. Looking at the car today it’s hard to believe the thing has cover 10k miles let along nearly 200k.
“I’ve seen enough cars over the years to know a genuine one and although it had been advertised for considerably more on the Corrado forums a while back, I think the owner was more keen for the car to go to a good home than making any money on it,” Tim told us. He thinks the reason it wasn’t snapped up early was that people had been put off by the mileage, which is still hardly high for a car of this age. “It also had the oil warning light on, which the guy hadn’t been able to sort, even after having an auto electrician out,” said Tim. A quick look under the bonnet and he soon spotted the oil pressure switch had been plugged into the oil temp switch; so after swapping them round the problem was resolved.
“The more I looked at the car the more I knew I had to have it,” explained Tim. “Inside the trim was stitch perfect, and after we struck a deal I drove it back to the workshop for a jet wash.” The rest of the lads couldn’t believe he’d gone to look at an RS Turbo on Saturday and rolled up in a Corrado Monday.
Having a good chance to finally sit down and go through the history in detail revealed more clearly why the car was as clean as it was. “The woman took it back for the smallest of problems. In fact, she didn’t take it back, she had the dealer collect it,” said Tim. There was one letter (among a huge pile) that really tickled him: “At some stage she must have hit a pot hole and there are numerous letters back and forth to the local council regarding the matter. It got to the point where she said if they didn’t pick up the price of the damaged wheel and tyre then she would also demand compensation for having the car collected and all the other bits.” Tim’s favourite part is the fact the cheque she eventually got sent out is still just sat there in the history file. “She never even banked it, it was more just a case of principle for her.”
Our particular favourite is a letter to Mansell (yes, that Mansell) #Madgwick-Motorsport
who sourced the car for her, stating she’d read a review on the new Corrado and would like to purchase one in white. That’s right, “either a 16v or G60 would be fine”, so long as it was white! One person’s loss is another’s gain, and in this instance it was Tim’s dad, Tony, that was going to benefit: “I wanted to give my dad something to say thanks for all the help he’d given me over the years with various projects and buying my first car. I knew he’d appreciate the Corrado, even if it wasn’t what he’d usually drive,” said Tim.
It’s safe to say Tony is as big a car nut as Tim and hoards classic cars like some collect stamps. Among the many classics parked in and around his unassuming semi just outside Crowthorne is a fully-resorted ’64 Hillman Super Minx and 1960 100E Popular (both of which have been featured in sister magazine, Retro Cars). Apparently the pair had been chatting about future classics. “Dad said he fancied something retro, but a bit newer than the classics he had at home,” said Tim. When Tim mentioned the Corrado his dad kept asking him questions about it. “I knew at this point that the car was right for dad, he wouldn’t shut up about it,” Tim added.
And it didn’t take the father and son duo long to get it to where it is today. Despite the car being very clean after an initial going over, Tim, being somewhat anally retentive when it comes to details, still wanted to sort a few bits on the car before he let his dad (also a perfectionist) even so much as see it. “Despite buying it relatively cheap I still sunk the best part of £2k into it just replacing worn parts with new genuine items.”
According to Tim it was so clean under the bonnet and the chassis legs came up so well that stuff like the bottles and clips all looked messy, so he bought new ones: “I replaced them all and even sourced genuine Jubilee clips, not the regular ones we use.” At this stage Tony was really keen to see the car, but Tim had the idea of giving it to him as his retirement present. “He’d worked at the same place for 39 years and with just two weeks till his retirement party I had my work cut out to get it finished and MoT’d,” Tim said. And in true The Phirm fashion, Tim ran it right to the wire…
“You know how they say you remember where you were when Michael Jackson died? Well, at three in the morning when that was announced over the radio I was down the paintshop with Chris mopping dad’s car,” Tim said. “In the car’s history the woman had complained about a noise coming from the passenger door. Well, they must’ve have damaged it while trying to sort the noise as it had been repaired, badly, so Chris painted that and the sill.”
The next day it was Tony’s retirement party, so all Tim had to do was fit a new screen, some rubber seals, new genuine badges and then get the car MoT’d. “I was 45 minutes late by the time I’d dropped the car at dad’s and then arrived at the party,” recalled Tim. Once back home from the party Tim remembered the moment he handed his dad the keys: “We’re really close in that we work well together and talk about cars for hours, but that was the first time we had a proper hug in ages. I don’t think I’ve know my dad to be speechless like that.”
Ironically, because father and son had been drinking at the party, neither could actually take the car out for a spin! “We just stood there admiring it, I think we were both close to tears,” Tim admitted. Tim got a call later to say that Tony had eventually persuaded Tim’s mum, Eileen, to drive him round the block. “I don’t think it was that enjoyable with mum grinding the gears, but he got the idea,” Tim grinned.
This wasn’t the end of the story, though, as Tony was keen to continue Tim’s good work, as he explains: “Tim had done such a great job with the car that I wanted to continue on the underside too.” Tony was conscious he wanted the car to become as close to showroom condition without reaching that concours level: “I didn’t want to remove the Waxoyl or go that extreme as I intended to keep the car useable so it could be used daily if need be.” When he says ‘daily’, it’s not like the car will get that much hard use, as Tony has something of a collection to choose from at home, but he’s still happy to use it in the rain. He was adamant the car doesn’t get used through winter, though, road salt being Tony’s ultimate pet hate. But when you’ve spent so long perfecting it, why would you? “I think we’ve both tried to get the car to the level where it will last another generation,” said Tim. “The Corrado was never built particularly well to start with, but I think we’ve got a good one here. I still can’t believe they were over £20k new, though. That’s more than the Rallye was.”
However, Tony claims it wasn’t all plain sailing. In fact, one of the first times he drove the car the infamous G Lader let go. As luck would have it, Tim happened to have a spare sat on the shelf (like you do) so it didn’t take much to get the car up and running again.
We must be getting old or something but to see a car of this age looking so clean and original, without being a trailer queen, makes us realise why we love Volkswagens. It’s been said a thousand times before, but had this been a Mk2 Astra or Mk3 Escort then it would probably rotted away years ago. The fact the car is finished in Alpine white just adds to the appeal for us. In any other colour it just wouldn’t have been the same.
Stepping inside really is like a time-warp; from the old-skool VW smell to the factory Blaupunkt stereo with its original key card (who’s old enough to remember those?), the car even has its original circa-1991 issue tax disc. To say Tony has grown fond of this car is an understatement. And while he’s obviously quite particular about where and when he drives the car, the best part is he’s still not afraid to give it a bit of right foot, as he demonstrates exiting one of the roundabouts close to his house – the instant power delivery and that unmistakable G Lader sound puts a smile on all our faces. Tony loves this car, you can tell. We wouldn’t like to call it his favourite, but you know what, we wouldn’t rule it out either. It might not have cost the earth, but he’s enjoyed lightly restoring it to its former glory and now being able to have some fun driving it.
One of the last things to get replaced was the exhaust system that had been blowing for some time and was really spoiling the whole driving experience for Tony. He didn’t really want to replace the original system with another mild-steel unit so after shopping around a bit came up with the perfect compromise: “I didn’t want an aftermarket unit that was too loud or that look out of place and the Jettex system proved to be the perfect allrounder.”
As it happens, Tony was fitting the system on the morning of our shoot (which explains why it was so clean and shiny for the photos) and he’s spot-on. Everything, right down to the back box, is in keeping with the car’s character and once Tony turned the key after fitment that all important sound filtered through to the cabin. “That sounds really nice,” said Tony beaming. Combined with the tailpipe, fit, finish and the way it sits perfectly in the rear bumper’s recess (after a little tweak from Tim) we’d say Jetex has got it pretty much nailed with its OEM+ range.
“I don’t have to worry about birthdays or Christmas any more as there’s now always something to buy dad, from new wishbones to the powdercoated rear beam he got for Father’s day,” Tim smiled. “I could tell you what I’ve got him for Christmas this year but that would ruin the surprise…”
Unlike the other classics cluttering Tony’s driveway, the Corrado offers all the character of a classic, but with mod cons and performance to rival a lot of Nu Wave machinery. Perhaps that’s the benefit of a modern classic, and also why a lot of manufactures are going all retro when it comes to styling and marketing these days. It’s safe to say they don’t make them like they used to and Tony’s supercharged ’90s coupé is all the proof you need.
SHOUT: The Phirm (08454 505760), Jetex Exhausts (01789 298989)
Jetex was the only aftermarket exhaust to fit the bill. Stainless over mild steel was a no-brainer.