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Big-turbo Mk3 runs US-spec bumpers, air-ride, full cage and stripped interior. Words: Daniel Bevis Pics: Patrick Hille For Mitch van Werven, the act of building his dream car has been a life-altering journey of friendship and inspiration. And not just life-altering – this unmissably yellow GTI has some mind-altering properties too…
If we’re to believe the late- 1960s Donovan song Mellow Yellow, it’s possible to get high on bananadine. This is, of course, nonsense – you can no more experience a psychotropic buzz with a banana than you can brush your teeth with it or use it to hammer an IKEA wardrobe together.
A hoax recipe for bananadine was published in the Berkeley Barb, an underground counterculture newsletter in California, in 1967; it detailed how it was possible to extract a psychoactive substance from banana skins, which you could then smoke to achieve LSDlike effects. This gained some credence when William Powell, who thought it was true, reproduced it in The Anarchist Cookbook in 1970. In fact, the original feature in the Barb was a satirical piece questioning the ethics of criminalising psychoactive drugs; smoking banana skins may create a placebo high at best, but there’s no scientific reason why you could actually get stoned on bananas. You can’t.
That said, there must be some manner of mind-altering substance swirling around the city of Lochem that’s enabled the coming-to-life of this trippy little Golf. Lochem’s in the Netherlands, and we’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions there; suffice to say that this is one Mk3 Golf that dabbles in the more colourful fringes of our everyday perceptions of reality.
Still, we’d never suggest that this car’s owner, Mitch van Werven, was under the influence of anything beyond strong coffee and a pocketful of dreams throughout the Golf’s reinvention; indeed, the evidence seems to suggest that he’s singularly focused on automotive mischief rather than anything chemical. “Why spend so much time, money and energy on a car?” he grins. “Because we can, and we enjoy it very much. Some people go to the club, we go to the garage and build our dream cars.”
Stirring sentiments indeed, and the inclusive ‘we’ here refers to a disparate but close cast of characters who feature strongly in Mitch’s own everyday interpretation of garage life; Bernd, Joran, Stevie, Roberto, Thomas, Mike, Martijn, these are the personalities who’ve helped our protagonist mould and shape his vision from questionable base to yellow dream machine. “I bought this car when I was sixteen, back in 2009,” Mitch explains. “Back then I was working at a garage and this Golf arrived in part-exchange – a #1996 GTI 16v. I saw it, and immediately called my dad to say ‘I want this car!’ It had been really well used – 266,000 kms on the clock and plenty of rust, but I think the Mk3 is the best model of Golf. The original Dusty Mauve paint was bad, too, but it was an all-original, three-door GTI 16v, so I just had to have it.”
As tales of first cars go, it’s not a bad one – so often it’s the case that the best first car in people’s minds is ‘any car – literally any car’, but Mitch is clearly a man of principle and ambition. “The car owns me, not the other way around,” he laughs. “It’s taken years to get it to this point, and it’s not finished – project cars never are, are they? And having started the transformation back in 2010, it’s come a long way.” He’s not kidding. You’d certainly never look at the car and think ‘high-mileage rust bucket’ these days. What about that colour, then? Swapping purple for yellow is a proper Art Attack move. “Yeah, I’m not telling you what the paint code is,” Mitch smirks. “I wanted to have a colour that you don't see very often. Most cars nowadays seem to be blue, grey or black, so I chose a bright shade. Also, I just like yellow…”
Naturally there was quite a lot of work involved in shuffling the various skeletons in the Golf’s closet before it was ready for paint. The first job on commencing the project was to totally strip the car down to see what was what, then stalk through the thing with lethal force, like some kind of enraged sniper, mercilessly eradicating corrosion and letting in new metal to cover the tracks. While this was going on, Mitch and his crew also removed everything superfluous from the car, following an over-arching ideal of exploiting power-to-weight ratios once the thing was completed. The Mk3 Golf is by no means a lard arse, but there are always savings to be made. A gram here, a gram there, it makes a difference. And we’re not just talking about the bananadine here.
“I made the choice of which engine I wanted, and once I’d settled on the 20vT I went out looking for one,” Mitch recalls. “With some happiness I found another Mk3 that had already been 20VT-swapped, so I bought that as a donor, stripping it completely and selling everything I didn’t need.” The finished product in that shiny bay wears a Garrett GT28 turbo along with some fairly racy manifolds and a #Kdata #kdFi ECU to keep everything humming. And with the shell prepped and the engine spec’d, that sunglass-baiting paint shade entered the fray. “After the car came back from the paint shop, the fun could really start,” he says. “First we built the engine in the car and made it all work, then took it back out again to clean everything – and let me tell you that was a lot of work! The cleaning alone took over three-hundred hours.” And when he says ‘cleaning’, we’re not talking about a duster and a can of Pledge here – take a look at the fastidiously shaved, smoothed and slippery engine bay.
You could challenge a passerby to wedge a toothpick in there and they’d be confounded for hours. You could drop a handful of toothpicks over the motor and every single one of them would make it down to the garage floor.
“Together with my best friend Bernd, we put the car back together,” Mitch continues. “We drove across the whole country for parts; this was almost the best part of build, being with my bro, having fun and getting new stuff for the Golf. After we had collected everything we needed, we started really putting the car together and piece-by-piece it blossomed. Every step brought us closer to the final result, and after years of hard work we could finally do some shows. Last year was the best year for us – the car got a ‘Best in Show’, the offer of a PVW feature and a place on display at the Essen Motor Show. This was the point when we said to each other, ‘Yay, we did it’!”
From the genesis of the idea right to the very end, Mitch’s buddies were deeply ingrained in the process, and it’s this communal all-in-it-togetherness that made the build so memorable. Not that there is an ‘end’ of course, not really – he’s already talking about air-ride, new seats, another yellow repaint, and some serious engine mods too.
“I can’t honestly say I had a clear idea in my head of how this would turn out, back when I was sixteen,” he admits. “Sure, I had a lot of ideas, but I never thought I’d achieve this unique look.” Indeed, the project today sports a variety of disparate styling cues from across the scene; our American cousins lent some inspiration in the form of their bumpers and wings, while the Jetta nose is a nod to the old-school stables that are mirrored in the choice of BBS RS rims.
The fact that it sits this low on coilovers rather than ’bags assures credibility and bravado points, and the interior really is something else: that Wiechers ’cage in particular is a shimmering manifestation of the scaffolders’ art, brutally complex and frighteningly purposeful.
“I was influenced a lot by other Mk3s on the internet, but also just by mine and Bernd’s keenness to try out our own ideas,” says Mitch. “I guess I’d describe it as OEM+ with a race-car influence, but it’s its own thing, really. And the reactions it gets now are crazy; I like to take it out for a drive with my girlfriend over some nice roads, and the feeling of doing that in your dream car is cool, but then when you arrive at a show and people are coming over and saying they love the car – it’s the best feeling. I can honestly say that building this Golf was the best time of my life.” And we can tell by the sparkle in his eye that this isn’t just the bananas talking – this guy’s tripping off his little box on Wolfsburg dreams, and that kind of thing is thoroughly addictive.
With bright yellow paint, side markers and shiny BBS, Mitch's Mk3 has more than a hint of the US scene.
Left: Look closer at the weave and you realise this is indeed the real deal. Below: With 742bhp on tap no wonder Andreas is happy!
HKS Turbo Timer times the turbo and ensures all turbo related things are kept in time. Like the speaking clock.
Hardcore Wiechers Sport roll cage is not messing about is it?
Dub Details / #Garrett / #BBS-RS / #BBS /
ENGINE: #Rebuilt-1.8T 20v with #Garrett-GT28 turbo, rear-mounted exhaust manifold with 3” downpipe, H-profile conrods, kdFi V3 ECU, #Ross-Machine-Racing intake manifold, battery relocated to rear, six-speed manual
CHASSIS: 17” #BBS-RS-320 (front) and 17” #BBS-RS-350 (rear) with 185/35 Nankang NS-2 tyres. #Weitec-Hicon-TX-Plus coilovers and Audi S3 312mm front brakes
EXTERIOR: Secret yellow paintwork, US bumpers and wings, Jetta front conversion, ‘cleaned’ boot, smoked tails, shaved bay
INTERIOR: Stripped and painted, custom Wiechers Sport roll cage, Cobra Monaco Pro seats, Schroth harnesses, #HKS turbo timer
SHOUT: Bernd Nijdam, Joran Meijerink, Stevie van der Vaart, Roberto Polo, Thomas Kevelham, Mike Temminck, Martijn Maat – thanks to these guys, without them the car would never be completed
“I guess I’d describe it as OEM+ with a race-car influence, but it’s its own thing, really. And the reactions it gets now are crazy"
“Most people assume it’s a 3M wrap so it’s always good fun to invite them to take a closer look…”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.