Up until not that long ago consummate displays of inspired engineering, exquisite detail and superlative style almost never wore British number plates, not in water-cooled VW circles anyway. Mind blowing motor swaps, mid-mounted madness, even twin engined Dubs … English pioneers have been there and done that. Flawless finishes, exotic interiors and creative custom bodywork are all almost old news nowadays, supreme stance… yeah we’ve got that down too. The challenge in UK Dub history was always getting the trifecta, the hat-trick of engineering, detail and style all in one motor. The Germans and the Dutch mastered it early and with annoying regularity, ever since the 80s and 90s names like Jorg Dangel, Ktech and Marco Häeger were pushing out superbly detailed show and go machines that sadly we had no answer for.
Everybody’s favourite uncle, Mr Denton was an early English custom water-cooled standard bearer, cars like the now legendary Rhubarb and Custard Mk2 proved it was possible to build the ultimate in VW awesomeness on British shores, but that mind blowingly magnificent masterpiece was a UK rarity. “That early Euro stuff was a real inspiration,” admitted thirty something Rocco restyler Richard Linster, aka Chill Winston. “Tom Gunnewiek’s Mk1 Scirocco, Jörg Ballerman’s Mk1 Golf, Mario Bläbig’s Mk1 Golf… all that stuff was built to such a high level, I just wanted to build something in that class of cars.” Winston’s sublime Scirocco shows just how far the UK Dub scene has come; the Manchester masterpiece joins a small but growing band of beautifully built and lavishly finished cars that can hoist the flag high while lapping Lake Worther. “I was looking at cars like Jamie Fagen’s Jetta and Jay Mac’s Mk1 and telling myself I could do that… if I really worked for it.” It’s taken the better part of seven years for Winston to transform the car from average to awesome and admittedly a few more pennies than expected, but given that he runs his own painting and decorating business, over budget and overdue were only to be expected. Winston admits that his debut days in the car fettling game weren’t so much Achtung Baby as Ohh la la.
“I used to be big into Renaults,” he confessed sheepishly. “I cut my teeth on that stuff, after owning fifty plus Mk1 Clios and a few 5 Turbos, some of which were quite well known and got into magazines I drifted into VWs.” Finding that more and more of his friends were buying and modifying Dubs Winston got curious and was soon sucked in.
“My first VW project was fitting a GTD engine in a ratty Mk1 Caddy I picked up,” he told us, “that was followed in quick succession by a string of small block Mk1 Golfs, which led to me small blocking the Scirocco and turboing it using knowledge from my Renault 5 Turbo days.” Winston wasn’t letting the newer stuff off the hook without a little makeover action either, a collection of Mk3 Variants and a Mk4 estate got a good seeing too as well.
“I remember seeing a picture of a mk1 Scirocco in a Haynes Manual years ago, I had never seen one before and I just fell in love with the shape of the car,” Winston told us, “I think since then I’d always wanted one and was really just waiting for the right one to come along.” Unfortunately the route to ‘the right one’ included a couple of wrong ‘uns: “I was straight on eBay but I was a fool and bought the first Mk1 Scirocco I could lay my hands on,” he recalled, “It was a red 1979 GLi that had a ton of missing parts and also needed a lot of work.” Throwing good money after bad our man then bought another coupe, a blue 1978 GLS hoping it might act as a donor for the first. “When I picked up the ’78 it was just too good to break, so I was stuck with two Sciroccos that both needed resto work. I was torn because I only really needed one Mk1 in my life and didn’t have the heart to break either one.” The obvious solution was of course to buy another Scirocco… the third time’s the charm, right? The Edition 38 classifieds turned up a likely looking ’1979 GLS: “ I worked out that if I sold both my Scirocco projects and the parts I had collected I could afford to buy it,” explained Winston. “This ‘1979 was a much more soild base to work from and only needed minor niggles to finish it off. Lucky for me a Scirocco Register forum member bought both cars and most my parts.” A couple of grand later Winston was the proud owner of a T-reg 1.6 automatic that actually ran… sometimes: “I tried to get it through its MoT but it cut out on its return and it missed Edition 38.”
Job one was to get the damn thing running, to this end the 1600 was binned and an unsuspecting 1300 was corralled and dropped in. A little help from a G40 donor and some homebrewed shenanigans saw a turbo strapped to a custom made manifold which got things rolling. “An engine for this car has always been an issue,” Winston explained, “over the last seven or so years I’ve had a few engines lined up for it but only a couple have actually made it into the car for one reason or another. I can never make up my mind on what to go with. Well the car as it stands has never run,” he continued.
“Wiring issues left me trailering it about the tail end of the 2017 show season. It has been quite a controversial subject. The plan is to change the engine up a bit but the end goal is to make it more performance based. I needed a show car six years ago but now not so much.” The present set up is a 1.4 HK/ABD mix and match affair. “It took me a couple of years of searching to find that VW Motorsport cam cover and it’s probably the only reason I went with the small block motor in the first place,” joked Winston. “The Jenvey 150mm air horns just make the whole thing perfect.” The throttle body engine may of had its software issues which have stopped it turning a piston in anger, but resting in the smoothed engine bay the highly detailed lump is a true work of art nevertheless. “The engine and the bay were all done in house by me and good friends,” enthused Winston, “All the welding and fab work was done by my friend’s dad Glyn (#glynfab) and good friend Arun (#arunfab). Without them this project would not have been possible, they are both owed shares in the car.” While Glyn handled the body restoration work, Arun went to town reshaping the engine block and its accessories. The result of the trio’s efforts is an engine… and bay that can give any Euro contender a run for their money and then some.
Getting the car to sit just right and look every bit an old skool Euro refugee was in truth on the cards even before the coupe was purchased. “It had to be low,” insisted Winston, “I didn’t really care what it took but the ride height had to be perfect.” To this end much of the work on the project revolved around mocking up the wheels as high up in the shell as possible, then ‘simply’ fabricating the floor, chassis and suspension around them. The jewels set on all four corners of this custom crown are a quartet of impossibly rare French Mad’In wheels, apparently the rollers have been in Winston’s stash for years and the Scirocco was deemed worthy to bring them out.
“It took hours of work to get them looking like that,” he assured us, “I’ve got over forty hours in polishing the lips alone, not to mention the time blasting and redoing the centres.” Rather than a collection of a few mods, the chassis appears to be one big custom enterprise: “It’s had a lot of chassis work to get it this low,” confirmed Winston. “It’s had huge driveshaft notches cut and welded in, the engine has been raised two inches, the wishbone mounting points have been jigged and raised two inches, the subframe, driveshafts and wishbones were narrowed so I could pull in the wheels in the right fitment…”
Despite having a comprehensive and elaborate air-ride setup the install is literally invisible: “Everything, including the custom tank and compressor, even the battery, are hidden behind the rear door cards,” revealed Winston. “The manifold is tucked in behind the dash… it’s all there, you just can’t see it,” he winked.
The bodywork is an inspired blend of bold colour and subtle simplicity, a time honoured old Euro treatment that brings out the classic timeless lines of the stylish coupe. Months of painstaking restoration work went into reworking rust ravaged metalwork before any creative custom crafting could begin. “The bodywork has hundreds of hours in it,” Winston assured us, “every panel had to be perfect, including the underneath and the interior floor, any and every unused hole throughout the entire car was welded closed and smoothed over… we lost count when we got past four-hundred hours.”
The attention to detail and extent of work done is staggering; shaved and smoothed engine bays are almost common place, but shaved floors and smoothed interior roof bracing, smoothing the tailgate on the outside and the inside… that’s going the extra mile. “I’ve carried the engine bay theme inside the car,” explained Winston, “filling all the holes but keeping the factory shapes.
Arun was a saint coming over and welding everything up. He must hate me… I hate myself for doing it,” he joked. Adding character and a rare flare to the exterior treatment is the choice to convert the front end to the seldom seen base model rectangular headlights, looking akin to a Mk2 Ford Capri front, the front lights as well as a host of other earlier vintage Rocco parts contribute to give the coupe a very distinctive look. “When it came to paint it was a choice of four early Mk1 colours,” explained Winston, “the Bright yellow L11C made the cut in the sample book and it was deffo confirmed seeing it in the flesh on a Mk1 at the Wolfsburg museum. I’m guessing not many were sold in that colour as that’s the only time I’ve seen it.” Changing from a subdued stock grey hue to a retina roasting bright yellow was a brave move that had more than a few shaking their heads. “As soon as they saw it roll out of the paint booth everyone changed their minds and loved it.”
The elegant simplicity of pure classical design extends into the interior; this is unadulterated minimalism at its best. The carpet and headliner have been ditched, with everything that remains being basic and beautifully uncluttered. Lowback Recaro buckets and a basic Momo tiller give the cabin a feel of unpolluted purity that should be the hallmark of any Mk1 VW. It’s not difficult to imagine the undiluted visceral pleasure of driving this beast, the uncomplicated essence of a hotrod; loud, fast and dangerous. The painstaking hiding of wires and cables, secret out of sight panels cleverly constructed to declutter or even switchgear redesigned to blend better and more invisibly, all mere details in a concept skilfully executed. The plan was to build a car that could be just as awesome as all those memorable Euro greats of the past, a display of excellence in engineering, detail and style flying the colours of the United Kingdom… Mission accomplished.
ENGINE: 1.4-litre HK/ABD hybrid four-cylinder 8v with GF camshaft, VW Motorsport valve cover and inlet, KWL Motorsport pulley, Weber Alpha throttle bodies, smoothed engine and gearbox, Omex 500 ECU. Arunfab throttle body flip adaptor, dizzy delete, inlet vacuum delete, custom Mk3 style mounts, custom exhaust and thermostat pipe delete. Jenvey 150mm trumpets, stainless four-branch manifold, custom alloy radiator, Vibratechnic engine mounts, GTi fuel tank and pump, Weber Alpha fuel pressure regulator
CHASSIS: 8×14 and 8.5×14” custom Mad’ins with 155/55 R14 Federals, Glynfab 15mm a side narrowed wishbones, Arunfab 25mm a side narrowed rear axle, 10mm a side narrowed driveshafts, S1 Suspension custom low air struts, Still Static G23 top mounts, Wheeliams track rod flip kit, HRP bias pedal box, Willwood master cylinders, 6n2 polo GTi front and rear brakes, full length braided brake lines, Arunfab drop plates and Clio Williams chrome wheel nuts
EXTERIOR: Arunfab 2″ wishbone raise, Glynfab 2″ chassis leg notches, Captive top mount bolts, Captive bumper bolts, Glynfab Captive wing toppers, engine raised 2″ and tilted, aerial delete, front and rear wiper delete, bonnet vent delete, delocked door handles NOS, debadged tailgate, all unused holes welded up 400ish, square front lights and grille. 1976 Rocco front wings, chrome bumpers, window chrome, rear window surrounds, front panel, front indicators, rear lights, rear lock, clear glass and metal petrol cap. Arunfab stainless filler neck, Glyn fab steering strengthening bracket. Sprayed inside and out by Chad at JH Pro paint
INTERIOR: Momo Jackie Stewart steering wheel, Recaro ST replica seats, 1976 Rocco seat belts, door cards, handbrake and seat belts. 1975 Golf gear gaiter. Smoothed boot cards, Arunfab stalk and ignition delete, switches modded to run stalks, Autopilot v2 behind dash, all interior holes welded up, wiring and air lines run through sills, fuel and brake lines run through sills, hidden compressor and tank, hidden battery in rear 1/4s, Glynfab floor work
SHOUT: Arun, Glyn, Josh, Nic, Leah, Carl, Chez, Adam Calvert, Micheal Dean, Jordan Fox, Tom Taylor, Ben (Polomon), Marshall, Bryan (Stocks), Stefan Clarke, Jon and Chad at JH Pro Paint, Oliver Willis, Rob (Germany) and the Scirocco Register
“After owning fifty plus Mk1 Clios and a few 5 Turbos , some of which were quite well known and got into magazines, I drifted into Volkswagens”
“Without them this project would not have been possible, they are both owed shares in the car”
“Any and ever y unused hole throughout the entire car was welded closed and smoothed over… we lost count when we got past four-hundred hours!”