Europeans love to modify their small hatches, and it's arguably the Germans and Brits leading the way when it comes to wild projects. Due to the sheer number of rides coming out of these nations, we tend to forget about other nearby countries. Belgium and Holland, for example, have been known to produce some stunning vehicles. So has France - not a big surprise since its three major automobile manufacturers (Renault, Peugeot and Citron) each sell their fair share of sport compacts.
French tuner fans participate in a variety of monster events, including the Paris Tuning Show (held indoors during the winter, it welcomed 148000 spectators in 2005) and GTI International (an extravaganza catering to all brands and gathering 7000 vehicles and 70000 visitors last year).
The local scene understandably features an interesting assortment of French cars, with a mix of Italian Fiats, Spanish Seats, British and German Fords, etc. Truthfully, not all are in the best taste, just as we find on the US sport compact scene. Yet Volkswagens seem to be the exception, as owners typically prefer tasteful mods with the emphasis on performance rather than gaudiness. The 1990 Golf on these pages certainly follows this pattern.
The owner of the car, Marc Ibanez, spent four years wrenching on his hot hatch, which started life as a GTI 16S Edition One - basically a special edition 16v. You have probably noticed the grille from the legendary Golf Rallye. Lacking its factory logo, it now welcomes a bser-style strip above the headlights, with a chrome Jetta molding below. A G60 Edition One supplied the side skirts and fender flares, since fatter wheels would later replace the stock rollers. The clean door handles come as original equipment on Audi 80s, but Marc had them chromed, along with the door lock mechanism. For an uncluttered appearance, the rear VW emblem and the window spoiler are gone, while a GTI script from the "Anniversary" Mk4 GTI now rests under one of the crystal tail lights.
Marc wanted to avoid scrutiny from the local gendarmes, as the French laws frown upon modifications, but cops are less likely to bother you if you behave and drive a clean car. For that sleeper look he therefore elected to cover the body in pearl grey, a VW factory color very much in the spirit of the French VW tuner scene.
For the same reason, don't expect to see 20" chrome spinners on this ride. Instead, 17" TT wheels fit the bill perfectly, especially after being polished inside and outside. In the front they hide 332mm (13") AP Racing discs with polished four-piston calipers and chromed hubs. They complement the Mk3 VR6 discs in the back, once again on chromed hubs.
In order to stick to the asphalt, the Golf relies on 195/40-17 Pirelli P Zero Nero tires, Neuspeed front and rear sway bars and KW coilovers that, incidentally, lower the car about 3.3"
Over the years, Marc grew tired of the 16v motor, even though it developed a decent 140hp. Instead of messing with it to gain a few ponies and possibly sacrifice reliability, he located what many consider the holy grail of VW tuners: a VR6 powerplant. After passing over a few of the common 2792cc units, he ultimately hit upon a Europe-only 190hp 2861cc VR6 from a Corrado. Thanks to a few hi-po goodies (6-2-1 header, 60mm exhaust, Hi-flo air filter, etc), it now delivers about 215 ponies at the crank.
Our handyman also pirated a few other components from the same car, including its five-speed gearbox, A-arms, axles and power steering. We should comment on the beautiful finish of the motor and gearbox, which received some paint, plenty of chrome and hours of patient polishing.
The cockpit is reupholstered in black and blue leather, from the desirable Recaro Edition One front seats to the custom door panels. Take a look at the one-off rear seat, too, made to resemble the Corrado's. The pilot peers through a Momo Team steering wheel at Mk3 VR6 gauges with grey faces. Many Golf tuners will drool over the hard-to-find Votex center console with matching VDO instruments - oil temp, oil pressure and voltmeter.
Marc plans on further improving his ride with a turbocharger. However, another project also awaits attention: a Bora TDI wagon soon to receive the Ibanez touch. It will nicely complement his daily driven Mk3 Golf TDI, which features the popular Euro-look. Yeah, the man loves his Volkswagens, and we ain't gonna complain.
Tech Spec MARC IBANEZLOCATION: Le Blanc-Mesnil, France
OCCUPATION: Snail farm owner
1990 GOLF GTI EDITION ONEENGINE: Corrado 2.9 liter VR6 with Hi-flo air filter, polished intake manifold, Vibratechnics engine mounts, custom 6-2-1 header, 60mm stainless steel exhaust with DTM-style dual tips, plenty of chrome and polish
DRIVETRAIN: Corrado five-speed manual
BRAKES: AP Racing 332x32mm discs with polished four-piston calipers, chromed hubs (front), Mk3 Golf VR6 discs and calipers, chromed hubs (rear)
SUSPENSION: KW coilovers, Corrado A-arms, axles and power steering, Neuspeed front and rear sway bars
WHEELS & TIRES: 17x7.5" parabolic polished Audi TT wheels, Cult Society lug nut covers, 195/40-17 Pirelli P Zero Nero tires
EXTERIOR: Golf Rallye grille, bser strip above headlights and Jetta chrome strip below, Golf G60 Edition One fender flares and skirts, chromed Audi 80 handles, shaved hatch, Mk4 Golf Anniversary GTI logo, red/white crystal tail lights, Mk2 Golf CL tinted windows, metallic pearl grey LA7U respray
INTERIOR: two-tone leather upholstery by Espace Sellerie 3000, Recaro Edition One front seats, custom Corrado-style rear seat, custom door panels, 280mm Momo Team steering wheel, Mk3 Golf VR6 gauges with grey faces, Votex center console with three VDO gauges, chromed Mk4 Golf hatch strut
THANKS: Anthony and Magali, Taber, Chris and the team at Xtreme Tuning 94, Fabrice (chrome and polish), Bruno (VW Friends club), David (DSP), Eric, Loc (VW Paris Est) and wife Emilie