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Modified Corrados are hard to come by at the best of times and tastefully tuned ones even more so. Thankfully, Declan Bowyer’s G60 is a good egg! Words & Photos: Jon Cass
It was only around five or six years back that VW’s striking Corrado seemed to be making a major comeback with an array of modified examples suddenly breaking on to the show scene. There was much whooping and high-fiving from Corrado fans all round, yet disappointingly, this trend has slowed down more recently. Thankfully it looks like at least a few are waiting in the wings. The vast number of stunning, fresh VAG builds at 2016’s Elsecar At The Races was truly mind blowing, yet it hadn’t gone unnoticed that there were barely any non-standard Corrados present still. There was one though, and boy did it stand out… as the two trophies from that day will testify.
Declan Bowyer may only be 27-years-old, but his passion for VW’s timeless coupe stems back to 2007 when he was just 17. “I went to my first Dub meet that year and there was a blue Corrado VR6 running Schmidt Modernlines with Porsche seats. From that moment on I knew this was the car to have,” Declan smiled. Yet, like so many of us, his driving career actually began with a classic Mini. “I learnt a lot from that car in the time I had it, even though it was eventually stripped and never fully rebuilt, “ Declan confesses, “I met my girlfriend, Carly at a VW show soon after and bought a Mk1 Golf GX.” The Mk1 was never going to be a show winner as Declan’s budget was very limited at the time. It was, however, lowered to the max and consequently more was spent replacing sumps than tyres!
“While I had the Mk1, I started looking around at Corrados, but I was still only 19 at the time,” Declan remembers. “I noticed new ones pop up on eBay and this white, ’92 G60 appeared for sale only two hours away from me, so I went over to have a look.” When a vendor is genuinely into his cars, especially the model you’re buying, that’s always a good sign and fortunately this was the case here. “He had other interesting projects on the go including a Mk1 Caddy with a V6 Audi lump in the back. Thankfully the Corrado seemed genuine, so I went for it.” Apparently it was also completely standard, still wearing its factory BBS RZs, complete with matching spare wheel and cloth seats, though this wasn’t in the best condition and the bodywork had began to show signs of rust; “I didn’t think it needed much work despite this, but I’m sure as anyone else with a G60 Corrado will know that they can soon turn into a money pit,” Declan laughs.
Initially things went well and Declan drove his new purchase around for around two years with no serious problems; “I didn’t plan on heavily modifying the car to start with,” Declan explains, “I just added a set of coilovers, a new exhaust and painted the wheels.” The Corrado was even driven to the Nurburgring where it performed pretty well, but shortly after things started to go wrong. “The head gasket let go on a trip back from Cornwall, but at least this gave me the excuse to remove the head and opt for a Stage 2 upgrade with gas-flowed, ported and polished head,” Declan smiles.
Attention then turned to the worn cloth interior, which would arguably have been a little downmarket even when the car was new. Luckily Declan’s partner, Carly had decided to remove some of the mods from her Lupo before putting it up for sale and amongst these were a pair of Porsche 964 half-leather seats, which really suit the Corrado. Declan managed to source a set of leather door cards, a rear bench and also added a black carpet with fresh Alcantara headlining to match. “Soon, after all the interior had been completed, I was driving along and suddenly the front subframe snapped,” Declan recalls, “I had to buy a new subframe, which I strengthened, but there had been a lot of suspension damage caused, too, so I bought a set of KW Variant 1 coilovers, a poly bush kit and wishbones. I then had everything powder coated and sealed to eliminate anything like this happening again.”
By now a pattern was emerging where modifications had escalated following disasters and more were yet to come. There was a brief reprieve before disaster number three struck, however, enough to give Declan time to sort the deteriorating bodywork. “I was still driving the Corrado on a daily basis and this was having an adverse effect on the paintwork,” Declan recalls, “rust was starting to appear in a few places and I needed to get it sorted before it got too bad.”
Luckily Declan had a friend that worked at Lexus who was offering to carry out a full respray. All Declan needed was to strip the car first to save time in the paint shop. “I remember it was winter time and I had to drive the car there in the snow with no windows in, which was certainly an experience,” Declan laughs. “I wanted to keep it the original Alpine white as at the time I had no intentions of spraying the engine bay.” The end result was flawless, but this also meant the Corrado was now too nice to remain a daily driver.
As 2012 came around it marked a return to the now familiar disaster zone when the G60 engine packed up whilst returning from Nottingham; “We’d just bought our first Royal Python snake (as you do – All) and were on our way home, so we had a few strange looks from the recovery driver as we tried to conceal the snake in a fabric bag,” Declan smiles.
The failure of the G60 at least meant Declan had an excuse to sort out the engine bay, which was by now letting the side down compared to the rest of the car; “I had to take the engine out anyway, so it was a now or never decision when it came to smoothing the bay itself,” he remembers. This would be the hardest part of the whole build taking loads of time and patience with all of the work carried out by Declan, his family and a few mates in his tiny garage. “I’d not carried out any fabrication work on this scale before, but as I’m a hands-on type of guy, I was ready to give it a go,” Declan tells us. “I’d studied other cars I’d seen at shows along with magazine features which helped a lot, but all the work involved and having to buy parts in from Germany and the USA meant the Corrado was off the road for two years in total.
Once all the fabrication work was complete, the bay could be sprayed by the highly respected, Tim Ansell at True Paintworks; “When it came back it blew my mind, but I then started panicking about how I was going to put an engine and all its ancillaries back inside without causing any damage,” Declan adds.
The damage to the original engine was unrepairable, so a second-hand unit was sourced and rebuilt from a bare block, complete with PG Stage 2 gas-flowed and ported head with Bar-Tek hydraulic lifter kit. It also benefits from 550cc injectors and looks the part with that custom G60 cam cover. The supercharger is a Stage 4 Jabba Sport item with 65mm pulley and Declan has also added a BBM induction kit, with a custom intake pipe, angled to exactly 90 degrees along with custom coolant hoses and a Mocal oil cooler. Some serious smoothing has taken place on the manifold and the custom intercooler set up includes a Rallye U-bend, custom hoses and top-fill radiator, while the exhaust system is now a Milltek Classic item with de-cat connected to a four-branch stainless manifold. “I‘m really happy with the result, especially the colour coding, which went just as planned,” Declan smiles. “The only aspect I’d change is the stock ECU (currently running an SNS Pro Digi-lag custom chip), as I could have omitted a lot of sensors and running issues, though these problems have finally been sorted out,” he said.
With the engine back in, thanks to a cupboard full of bed sheets to protect the bay, Declan then had to reroute the wiring underneath to retain that cleaned look. The ECU is now inside the cabin and the battery and washer bottle are located in the boot, while the ignition coil is mounted on the scuttle panel. “I then had to make my own length HT leads to the coil to keep that hidden and ran the vacuum hose for the ECU through to the inside of the car,” Declan points out, “I could then get rid of the coolant expansion bottle thanks to the top fill radiator I’d made.”
You can understand by Declan’s detailed explanation why the whole engine bay process took two years. In fact, given the amount of thought and money that’s gone into it all, we’re surprised it didn’t take him longer!
The final puzzle to solve was now the wheels… the make or break point of any modified car. “I knew which wheels I wanted all along; a set of dark grey, 16” Autostrada Monzas and it had taken four years to find some,” Declan recalls. “The dishes were refurbed by Ellie at Voodoo Motorsport and Slam Signs managed to reproduce the original logo in gold leaf to make them perfect. I couldn’t wait to get them on, but as ever this didn’t go to plan,” Declan recalls. “I had already upgraded the brakes to Ibiza Cupra R Brembo callipers and discs and had been advised these wheels would just bolt straight up to them. They did on the rear over my Mk4 brake conversion, but not on the front so I had to shave 10mm from the calliper carriers, which did the trick!” The result is tight, but it works perfectly and stops on a penny according to Declan.
Seven years of hard graft and a last minute fitment of an OMP steering wheel eventually saw the Corrado make a return to the road where it soon picked up a healthy stack of trophies, a reward for Declan’s efforts. “I’m really proud at what I’ve achieved along with some help along the way and what seemed like an endless string of disasters has resulted in a positive outcome,” Declan smiles. The Corrado may often be overlooked these days, but when you see creations like this spring out of the woodwork, it’s sometimes hard to work out why.
Porsche 964 seats always look at home in a 'Rado, don't they? Royal Python snakes (just out of shot), not so much...
"I’m sure as anyone else with a G60 Corrado will know that they can soon turn into a money pit”
"I had to take the engine out, so it was A now or never decision when it came to smoothing the bay"
Dub Details #Volkswagen
ENGINE: 1.8-litre four-cylinder G60 in smoothed engine bay with Stage 2 head, #Stage-4-supercharger with Rallye U-bend – painted in Toyota Demeca grey. #BBM fuel rail, pressure regulator, 550cc injectors, custom coolant pipes, custom intercooler set-up, BBM modified induction kit, smoothed inlet manifold – painted in Toyota Demeca grey, #Supersprint four-branch stainless exhaust manifold, #Milltek exhaust system with decat. Expansion tank deleted, battery relocation to boot, washer relocation to boot, custom wire tuck, #SNS 5.5 Digi-Lag ECU chip, custom silicone induction hoses, custom top-fill radiator, custom G60 cam cover, braided fuel lines, braided oil cooler lines, Mocal oil cooler with thermostat, MSD Blaster coil with Magnacor HT leads, Stage 2 carbon Kevlar clutch kit, #Walbro 226 fuel pump
CHASSIS: 7x16” (front) and 8.5x16” (rear) ” #Autostrada-Monza wheels painted metallic grey with polished lips and black barrels with Nankang NS2 tyres and 30mm 4x100 to 5x114.3 custom adapters. #KW-Variant-1 coilovers, poly-bushed front subframe, poly-bushed steering rack, poly-bushed wishbones, Mk4 Golf top suspension mounts, #Eibach anti-roll bars with poly-bushed mounts, Ibiza Cupra R Brembo front callipers (modified), 305mm drilled and grooved front and rear discs, Mintex front brake pads, custom front braided brake hoses, Mk4 Golf alloy rear callipers, #EBC Ultimax rear brake pads, custom braided brake lines, Porsche 944 brake fluid reservoir
EXTERIOR: Full respray in VW Alpine white, side strips deleted, badgeless grille, tinted headlights, carbon number plate light plate, 50mm front VR6 splitter, rear wiper deleted
INTERIOR: Porsche 964 half-leather Alcantara front seats, Corrado black leather rear bench and door cards, OMP 330mm steering wheel, black Alcantara roof and sunroof lining, black VR6 sun visors, leather handbrake lever
SHOUT: This has been a family and friends build and I couldn’t have done it without them. Huge thanks to Tom Justice, my brother Sean Bowyer, my mum and dad, Les Bowyer and Barbara Bowyer, my friend Joe Whitmore who apparently helped in some way, my fiancée Carly Dolman, Tim Ansell at True Paintworks and my friend Paul Cross, Ellie at Voodoo Motorsport and everyone who has supported me along the way, plus Chris Perry for helping to find the photo shoot locationStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.