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    PUNK ROCK Words and photos: Jon Cass

    / #VW-Golf-II / #VW-Golf-Mk2 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk2 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Syncro-II / #Volkswagen / #VW-Golf / #VW-Golf-Syncro-Mk2 / #VW-Golf-Syncro-II / #VW-Typ-1G / #VW-Typ-19E / #Volkswagen-Golf-Typ-19E / #Volkswagen-Golf-II / #VW-Golf-Syncro-II / #VW-Golf-Syncro / #Volkswagen-Golf-Syncro-Mk2 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Syncro-R32-Mk2 / #2016 / #VW / #VW-Golf / #Volkswagen-Golf

    PE teacher Chris Perry might be in his mid-50s, but he is still very much young at heart as his Fiat Punk grey #VW-Golf-Mk2-Syncro proves. It’s timeless on the outside and bang up to date underneath.

    This magazine has been around for two decades now and to those that remember it at the beginning, that’s a scary thought! The target audience has always been varied, but more often than not, the feature car owners tend to be amongst the more youthful generations.

    Now, Chris Perry, being a PE teacher by profession is a youthful 56, but he obviously still possesses an eye for a cool car as his awesome R32-engined Mk2 Syncro proves only too well. Also, being in his 50s he’s seen the huge changes in the custom car scene over the last five decades that many of us won’t remember… oh and he has cheaper insurance!

    We’ll start with some name dropping on a notable scale though: “I lived in Lebanon when I was younger,” Chris recalls, “I went to the same school as Dom Joly and the Bin Ladens in the mountains overlooking Beirut. The streets back then were full of old American cars with fins and rocket ship styling and you couldn’t fail to notice them.”

    By his teens, Chris had moved to the UK. This was a time of epic movies such as American Graffiti and California Kid, where the cars are now remembered better than the characters. All this, combined with a plethora of modified model cars, custom car mags and family friends who owned a ’67 Camaro and a GT500 Mustang along with a Yank custom van would set Chris’ lifelong passion for modified cars in stone. “My dad also came from an engineering background so he was always a great source of inspiration and practical advice as he worked on his own cars,” Chris adds.

    Before he’d even learnt to drive, Chris had bought his first project: a sit up and beg Ford Pop he used to spy parked up each day he walked home from school. “I bought what is now rare Aquaplane speed equipment to fit to the flathead engine and a Bellamy front end to convert the beam axle to semi independent,” Chris recalls, “but before I had chance to fit it, my friend Steve put up his modified 100E for sale, I had to have it so the Pop became the first of many abandoned projects which for one reason or another I ended up selling.”

    A selection of modified Minis followed, then another 100E, this time with a 5.2 V8, a racespec MGB Roadster, a ’59 Impala and a Rover V8-powered Opel T Bucket. Hell, Chris could have held his own credible custom car show had these all been in his collection today!


    Fast forward to the hot hatch era when everyone wanted a GTI, and Chris’ attention moved towards Mk2 Golfs, though his first was a lowly 1.3-litre three-door with faded paint and a damp interior: “It made a great cheap runabout while I spent most of my funds on yet another Ford Pop project,” Chris laughs. A Helios blue 1.8GL came next followed by a J-reg big bumper three-door GTI, which actually turned out to be a B-reg in disguise. Yes, those were the days when Golfs were made to look newer than they were. How things have changed!

    Despite its dubious history, it served Chris well as did the black Mk2 GTI which came next, bought with various faults from a dodgy dealer, but once sorted turned out to be a decent car!

    Meanwhile, the final Pop project with its Dodge V8, Jag rear axle and custom suspension was finally complete, though a house move led to this being sold in the States where Pop prices were at another level.

    “The house move and restoration were taking up a lot of my cash and attention, but I still had a hankering for another Mk2 GTI,” Chris remembers, “this next one would be VR6- powered and although slightly nose heavy, the sound and performance made it a great overall package.” By now, Chris had become a selftaught expert in Mk2s, as you may expect after owning and rebuilding so many, but he had begun to notice a significant number of the more capable higher-power cars were of 4WD layout. Before long, a white five-door Syncro with Rallye running gear advertised in a neighbouring village had made it on to his drive, and the VR6 was duly despatched to a grateful new owner in Scotland.

    “The Syncro was really good fun to drive, but the colour, the five-door layout and an engine that chewed a piston on the M69 sealed its fate,” Chris remembers. “After a long delay replacing the engine and repairing a rusty floorpan, the white Mk2 found a new home in the North East.” The big bhp Syncro bug had by now bitten, though Chris was adamant its replacement would have three-doors, but not centre around a Rallye shell as he wasn’t so keen on the boxy arches.


    No sooner had he located a mint three-door GTI shell with fresh paint that he immediately booked in for it to be surgically enhanced. As luck would have it, a rare three-door G60 Syncro shell came up for grabs in York. “Shells of this spec hardly ever come up for sale, so I put a deposit down straight away and collected it from York,” Chris explains. “It had been imported years ago by a fastidious enthusiast before being sold to the last owner who’d had it laid up for three years minus engine and ’box. He’d planned a similar conversion to myself, but for personal reasons had to sell.”

    Initially, Chris planned a relatively simple 20vT conversion with Rallye running gear, he’d even purchased a TT Quattro Sport engine and Rallye rear diff to put inside, but the untidy look of many 20vT installations and his love for a decluttered bay such as those built by the likes of Troy Trepannier and Chris Foose made Chris want to take the project further: “Seeing a beautiful cream Mk2 with R32 transplant and smoothed bay on VWVortex sealed it for me,” Chris recalls. “I knew it had to have a Mk5 R32 and if the bay was being repainted it made sense to repaint the whole car in a colour of my choice.” And if he was to go to this extent, then his preferred small bumper look and a RHD conversion made sense too. Then there was that redundant dash from the TT Quattro Sport which also needed a new home.

    Although Chris had been happy to create his previous projects from start to finish himself, a demanding lifestyle, lack of garage and growing family led to the decision to have the necessary major work undertaken by a specialist. “I did a lot of research and read loads of reviews, but I wasn’t overjoyed by the quality of work carried out by the first specialist I used,” Chris remembers. “Some of the work had been done well, but then other areas had been bodged, such as the engine cover rubbing on the underside of the bonnet, remedied by tilting the R32 lump on a stack of washers positioned on top of the rear engine mount, consequently putting unwanted strain on the front mount.” Not ideal then, and its handiwork seemed to be taking an age too. So Chris decided to take the partly completed project to Matt at Dub Unit in Tamworth, where correct Vibra-Technics engine mounts were fitted and other imperfections ironed out. Chris’ chosen colour is a very retro Fiat 500 Punk grey which suits the 80s small bumper Mk2 styling perfectly, all applied including the underside after a full windows-out bare metal prep.

    Look closely and you’ll see that all unwanted holes have been welded up, the badges and trim have been removed and Audi 80 door handles have been neatly blended in. The battery and windscreen washer bottle have been relocated to the boot to free up more engine bay space and as much wiring and plumbing as possible is hidden out of sight. The seven-slat grille is both simple and stylish and the rear end has lost its badges, lock and towing eye. The custom rain tray up front made from a combination of LHD and RHD halves plastic welded together is another addition only die-hard Mk2 fans would notice.

    The engine itself centres around a lowmileage, hand-painted and detailed R32 unit running OEM management and fitted with a Mk4 engine cover, while the heat-wrapped six-branch exhaust manifold is mounted on to a modified and powdercoated Corrado VR6 subframe. The custom exhaust is now routed properly and finished in the style Chris always wanted thanks to Custom Chrome in Nuneaton.

    An abandoned 4WD Mk2 project gave up its rebuilt VR6 Syncro gearbox, which was fitted with a new clutch and a matching VR6 Syncro rear diff that was refurbished and painted. The fuel pump and petrol tank were removed, renovated and all new fuel lines have been run, whilst the tank was refitted with stainless steel straps. All suspension and steering components were then removed, renewed, polybushed and either painted or powdercoated in satin black. To help cope with the extra grunt from the R32, the brakes were then uprated with Audi S2 twinpot calipers on the front and Mk3 calipers on the rear with a matching larger master cylinder, servo and new Zimmerman discs fitted all-round along with stainless flexi hoses.

    To improve the handling and ride height, Chris chose a set of KW V1 coilovers, while his wheel choice retains the classic, uncluttered look in keeping with the remainder of the car.

    These are none other than Audi A8 winter wheels, similar in design to those fitted to the Golf Country: “I saw a set on a very low white Mk2 and thought they looked just right,” Chris explains. “I located this set in Yorkshire.” Once welded and redrilled to fit their new hubs, the A8 winters were sent off to Rainbow polishing in Birmingham to complete their shiny effect.

    Attention then turned to the interior where the cabin and boot floor were fully dynamatted before the TT’s dash with fully working climate control and TT pedals could be installed and all original carpeting and sound deadening refitted.

    Rare plastic Mk2 doorcards have been skilfully shaped to fit around the TT’s dash, while a custom aluminium golf ball gear knob sits on top of the stubby gearstick. With so much power to play with, Chris opted for more supportive seats, the front pair arriving courtesy of a low mileage Carerra that had been inserted into a lamp post.

    Meanwhile the standard steering wheel was upgraded to a Momo, offering a sportier feel. Since its completion, Chris has unsurprisingly enjoyed driving his R32 Syncro and loves the attention it receives, especially once the bonnet is opened to reveal all, that’s if they fail to notice the TT dash first! “In hindsight maybe I should have future-proofed the car by fitting a Haldex rear end as the new owner may want to take the forced induction route to have even more fun,” Chris smiles. By mentioning the words ‘new owner’, you’ve probably already guessed Chris’ R32 is up for grabs: “Although I have this one for sale, I fully intend to modify a few more cars yet,” he laughs. “At 56 I’m probably considered too old for the modified VW community but I cannot ever see myself not wanting to drive a modified car as I enjoy driving something different from the norm or, better still, something that is much faster than it looks and would like to own a hot rod again one day.”


    Just like the Ford Pops he was into in the ’70s during his late teens, the Syncro is a 25-year-old body shape fitted with a large engine and more modern suspension, uprated brakes and a custom interior. It just has the advantage of power assisted steering, climate control and four-wheel drive! By that, you could say Chris’ Mk2 is a bit of modern day hot rod then.

    Dub Details

    ENGINE: Mk5 #R32 engine, OEM management, six-branch exhaust, Mk4 R32 engine cover, cone filter, #Vibra-Technics engine/gearbox mounts, BMW E45 radiator with integral header tank, Spal fan, twin-box stainless steel exhaust, battery and washer bottle relocated to boot VR6 Syncro gearbox, new clutch, VR6 Corrado front subframe, OEM driveshafts, propshaft and rear beam with VR6 Syncro diff.

    CHASSIS: #KW / #KW-V1 coilovers, Audi S2 front brakes and master cylinder, Mk3 Golf rear brakes, new OEM handbrake cables, brake and fuel pipes, polished Audi A8 winter wheels redrilled for Mk2 hubs, 195/40/16 Continental tyres.

    EXTERIOR: 1990 Mk2 three-door G60 #Syncro shell, Fiat 500 Punk grey paint, new OEM front wings, arches rolled, side repeaters, roof aerial, rubbing strips, rear tow eye, rear wash wipe, rear badges and boot lock deleted, Audi 80 chrome metal door handles, new OEM chrome strip bumpers, single light seven-slat grille with OEM black badge, custom rain tray from plastic welded LHD and RHD spec repainted, new tinted glass, new OEM lights.

    INTERIOR: Audi TT dashboard with climate control, Porsche Carrera front seats, TT pedals. Momo steering wheel, Mk2 plastic doorcards shaped around TT dash.

    SHOUT: My long suffering wife Melanie, Matt and Dale at the Dub Unit, Greg Howell at Southam Bodyworks, Tim at True Paintworks, Vince at Stealth Racing, Dan at Turner Race Developments, Jason at the Lion Garage in Hinckley.

    Small bumpers, Audi A8 winter wheels and six-pot power. Timeless…
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