The market is quickly changing for the MK1 and MK2 Volkswagen Golf platforms. For years, these were considered the affordable way for younger enthusiasts to get into the Golf and GTI fraternity. As the cars age and parts become increasingly more rare, keeping one on the road becomes more of a real commitment rather than just a hobby. When Milltek Exhaust decided to develop a new Classic Line for these beloved platforms, Managing Director Steve Pound saw it as an opportunity to build the MK1 GTI he had always wanted.
We often hear about the long, painstaking journey to find just the right car with which to begin a project. Hours or scouring the Internet, traveling miles to see a potential car only to be disappointed. Steve's story is nothing like that. "I think this one was meant to be, really," Steve says with a laugh. "It was advertised on Club GTI, and by Tim Moll, who's a proper chap, a serial Mk1 owner, and a racer to boot! He's a real enthusiast, so I knew it was worth a trip over." The trip Steve is referring to was a mere five miles in length. At the end of the road was the '83 Campaign Edition GTI you see here. It was a bit rough, but it was complete and more importantly, real.
Many of the Campaign Edition cars you'll find on the used market are standard cars that are misrepresented as the real deal. The limited production cars were built with option code S707 and were built with a selection of parts not found on any other model, in this combination. Most notable on the outside were the Pirelli P-slot wheels that, while similar, are slightly different from the later P-slots found on the MK2. The MK1 wheels have larger Ps while the word "Pirelli" is also stamped into the center cap.
Besides that, real Campaign Cars were delivered with a sliding sunroof and green tinted glass. On the front, the dual round headlight grille featured foglights in the inner positions rather than the traditional driving lights. The gas cap was apparently different as well, but rumor has it, several of the Campaign cars "lost" theirs before delivery.
Inside the car, there was the traditional four-button GTI wheel, but in this instance, leather wrapped. The traditional golf ball shift knob sat between the cloth seats and much attention was given to the golf tee-shaped lock pins, until it was discovered they were in fact the same units as a base Golf. Mechanically, these cars are nearly identical to other GTIs from 1983. Under the hood was the 1.8L K-jetronic fuel-injected four-cylinder that had recently undergone a bump in displacement from 1.6 liters with an increase in bore and a longer stoke crankshaft. All the 1.8L GTIs were rated at 112 bhp and 109 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. Performance was impressive by standards at the time, sprinting from 0-60 mph in just 8.3 seconds and topping out at 114 mph.
That's all fine and good, but the car Steve found has a surprise under the hood. Old-school VW fans will recognize the significance of the name GTI Engineering and will appreciate why the RE1900 engine in this car is actually more sought after than stock. For those of you who don't recognize the name, GTI Engineering was founded in 1978 and quickly became the go-to source for building both street and race Golfs in the U.K. After years of success in the British Saloon Car Championship, critical and public acclaim, the company was recognized as an Official Audi/VW Conversion Specialist. Records indicate that the engine in this car was originally built for a MK2, but sadly, that car has been lost to time.
The car was brought to longtime Milltek partner, KPM Racing. Right away, Steve knew that this was going to be more restoration than project build. Not only did he have his own vision in mind, but after looking around he thought it would be most representative of what his customers were doing. Not only would this define the way he built this car, but also Milltek's new Classic line of exhaust systems. "The classic market has really grown up in the last few years," Steve says seriously. "These cars are now being put back to standard or OEM+ appearance, and our research tells us that people want refinement, quality, and fit for these cars now, coupled with performance gains and a civilized tone. For that reason, we completely re-tooled and redesigned each system for the Classic range in order to achieve those outcomes."
KPM went right to work on straightening out the body. Years of hard use had taken their toll on the car and the crisp Giugiaro-penned lines weren't looking as ruler-straight as they once did. As with any car this age, rust spots had to be attended to before applying the base coat of the factory Diamond Silver. Three coats of clear were lovingly applied and polished, giving the paint a depth that no MK1 ever left the factory with.
The drivetrain was found to be in great shape. A basic service was done before Milltek went to work designing the exhaust system. At the time of the photo shoot, the car wore twin muffler, single-outlet cat-back in full stainless. Steve says it provides a "sporty tone without being ostentatious or sounding overtly modified." He considers this to be an aftermarket for grown-ups, which let's be honest, is who can afford to restore one of these cars. "It's interesting to see the improvements we can make with these older cars. We are applying the latest optimization processes, material use, and design philosophy to these systems, using technology that just wasn't available for period systems—and the results really are fantastic to live with." By the time this is published, Milltek may also be offering both an exhaust manifold and downpipe for most applications.
For the chassis, Steve went with more trusted names and stayed with period-correct choices. You won't find two-way adjustable coilovers here. Thankfully, he never considered airbags. Instead, he went with the proven combination of Bilstein dampers with Eibach springs. To help the car maintain geometry, Powerflex bushings were used in place of the factory rubber pieces.
The interior of the car didn't need much more than a good cleaning. The driver-side seat needs the side bolsters repaired, but other than that, everything was in place and functional. Even the MFA, Multi-Function Actuator, system in the instrument cluster worked.
Steve says he absolutely loves this car. "It's the car I wanted when it came out, even down to the color, and it looks superb in our fleet alongside the UR Quattro that we have and my five-door Mk2. It's not concourse, but that's not what I wanted. This car was built to use and enjoy, and I didn't want to be cocooning it in a workshop, when I should be out thrashing it. Isn't that what a GTI is really for? I set out to create an original-looking car, with period tasteful mods. With KPM's help, and thanks to Tim selling me a great car in the first place, I think we have achieved that."