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1980 VW Golf Cabriolet - Tuning Goggles

Europe's Finest Domien Courtens Has Created One Of The Coolest Mk1 Cabrios You're Ever Likely To See.

Greg Emmerson
Jun 18, 2010

There's an old joke that the best thing to come out of Belgium is the road from France to Germany, but you wouldn't hear us repeating that because it does a disservice to some of the great car builders that have emerged from there in the past 10 years or so.

Eurp_1006_01_o+1980_vw_golf+full_view Photo 2/10   |   1980 VW Golf Cabriolet - Tuning Goggles

The Dutch and Belgian enthusiasts have unique tuning goggles that turn outrageous ideas into inspirational reality. And Domien Courtens from Deerlijk is no exception.

By trade, Dom is a butcher, and some VW purists may accuse him of chopping up this Rabbit with scant consideration for its classic status. However, we'd jump to the defence of this 21 year-old and suggest that faded obscurity was the inevitable conclusion for this VW Cabrio if Mr Courtens hadn't stepped in.

What he's produced is a fascinating mix of styles. It has everything, from old-school Weber carbs, to the '80s-style Berg Cup skirt kit, hot rod billet wheels, shaved bay and retro interior to the blinged-out gold-plated engine and wheels. It represents the history of tuning in one car!

Eurp_1006_02_o+1980_vw_golf+deep_berg_cup_style_spoilers Photo 3/10   |   Deep Berg Cup-style spoilers were fabricated from fiberglass and candy red lacquer applied to black paint for extra shimmer

What's more, the owner rolled up his sleeves and got involved in the build, calling on JV-Tuning for bodywork and mechanical jobs, plus Custom Creations for the interior.

So where do we start? What's the standout feature? For us, it's probably that incredible engine bay, yet the interior is world-class. However, it's inevitably the exterior that creates the biggest first impression.

Like it or loathe it, nobody can ignore the bodywork with its deep skirts, clean lines, candy red over black paint and gold highlights. The car makes a dramatic visual statement but has the quality of execution to get away with it. Poorly executed, we'd run screaming from a similar-looking car but, when built to this standard, it has us drooling at the mouth.

The deep skirts started life as the original Karmann body kit. However, JV-Tuning got involved, smoothing and extending the bumpers to an extent that would look so wrong on a lesser machine. They also fabricated the side skirts to match, using fiberglass to sculpt the new lines.

Eurp_1006_04_o+1980_vw_golf+billet_specialties Photo 4/10   |   Gold-plated Billet Specialties wheel on amazing custom dash

Having added such bulk, the next job was to remove as much as possible. The major casualties were the door handles, wipers, indicators, side repeaters and badges. The front grille also lost its roundel and a pair of headlights, gaining single Hella crosshair lamps and a debadged grille instead.

Even the fuel filler was deleted; relocated to the rear panel, just above the light cluster but hidden behind the trunk lid. This is a unique variation on a popular theme we've not seen before. To top it all, the filler cap was gold-plated, matching the wheels, steering wheel, cam cover, transmission and strut brace.

Why gold? "It was unique and very easy to clean," Domien casually informed us. It certainly creates a "wow" factor few cars are able to rival.

Since regular paint wouldn't do, the black topcoat was treated to a candy red lacquer to give the Rabbit a sheen our printing fails to do justice to. It's difficult to capture the effect with these indoor photos, but sunlight predictably brings it to life.

Like a John Player Special Lotus F1 car from the '70s, the owner contrasted the deep black panels with polished gold wheels. In this case, billet-style AC1 wheels from German company HTN fitted the bill. They were supplied with gold-plated centers and deep, polished lips to grab your attention.

Naturally, they were fitted with some super-skinny 165/45 fronts and 185/45 rears for the characteristic European stretched look.

Once you've been hypnotized by the exterior, the engine bay will draw you in further. The 2.0 16v motor was transplanted by JV-Tuning, but not before a pair of 45DCOE Weber carbs had been bolted to the head, complete with pancake K&N filters.

Once you've been hypnotized by the exterior, the engine bay will draw you in further. The 2.0 16v motor was transplanted by JV-Tuning, but not before a pair of 45DCOE Weber carbs had been bolted to the head, complete with pancake K&N filters.

Eurp_1006_06_o+1980_vw_golf+rear_bench Photo 8/10   |   Front seat is actually a rear bench

The black carbs and polished filters contrast the gold-plated cam cover, transmission casing and strut brace, all of which are showcased in the smoothed bay that was painted in Beetle beige. And rather than line the engine bay in fiberglass, what you see is the original metal bereft of the battery, coolant and washer bottles as well as most of the wiring. In fact, the bay was transformed into a work of art you can simply stop and admire.

And speaking of art... the interior almost defies description. The quality and opulence are there for you to see, but the innovation is perhaps harder to spot. Let's start with the obvious stuff - the front seats are actually a rear bench, which has been immaculately trimmed in cream leather with panel-stitched alcantara centers. The rear seat is identical in both form and finish, while the door cards repeat the color scheme and stitching patterns.

While Custom Creations undertook the upholstery, the dash and center console were fabricated by JV-Tuning "to create something unique - I love anything unique," Domien enthusiastically confirmed.

Wrapped in alcantara and featuring hot rod-style pinstriping, the dash is exquisite. But with only fuel and temp gauges in the console, how does the driver know his speed? "I use the GPS on the Kenwood head unit," he laughed.

Eurp_1006_07_o+1980_vw_golf+fuel_cap Photo 9/10   |   Check out the gold-plated fuel cap relocated under trunk lid

The Billet Specialties steering wheel was sent to a German company for gold-plating along with the other products previously mentioned. "If you try to paint parts gold they look fake, and I decided it would be a shame to spoil the car with gold paint. So I had to drive a few hours on several occasions to deliver the parts to Germany, but the results were worth it," Dom said.

While gawping at the interior, you might miss the fiberglass floor that was built to create a retro-style flat floor. You probably won't see the air ride controls on the base of the front seat either. Then there are Rockford Fosgate speakers in the front footwells, which are powered by the same amp (hidden in the trunk) that powers the 15'' Rockford sub.

The trunk is another thing of beauty. The simplicity of the design and texture of the alcantara produce another jaw-dropping moment. And remember, the amp, battery, two air compressors and a 2.5-gallon tank are all concealed within that tiny space as well.

Yes, of course the car has air-ride. How else could he use the vehicle without smashing those fiberglass spoilers? The ability to raise the car over obstacles is what makes it possible. And this is certainly one of those dedicated show cars that merits air-ride and utilizes it fully.

Clearly, Domien has created a show queen, and its occasional use reflects that status. So while the gearheads might have a problem with it, this car is as focused as a dedicated track weapon or drag car. The only difference is the owner chose to concentrate on a different aspect of VW ownership, and for his single-minded determination and total inspiration, we salute him!

Eurp_1006_09_o+1980_vw_golf+gauges Photo 10/10   |   1980 VW Golf Cabriolet - Tuning Goggles

1980 VW Golf Cabriolet
Owner: Domien Courtens
Location: Deerlijk, Belgium
Occupation: butcher

Engine: 2.0 liter 16v with 45DCOE webers, K&N filters, gold-plated cam cover and transmission casing, smoothed bay painted Beetle beige, deleted battery and tray, coolant and washer bottles

Drivetrain: five-speed manual

Brakes: Rabbit GTI brake conversion

Suspension: BSS air suspension system with two 350cc air compressors and 2.5-gallon air tank, gold-plated strut brace

Wheels & Tires: 15x7'' front, 15x8'' rear HTN AC1 wheels with 165/45 R15 front, 185/45 rear Federal FD1 tires

Exterior: original Karmann body kit with smoothed and extended bumpers, badgeless Hella grille with single crosshair headlights, deleted indicators, side repeaters, door handles and wipers, gold-plated fuel cap relocated to trunk, debadged trunk, car painted candy red over black base

Interior: front seat converted from rear bench trimmed in leather and alcantara with matching rear seat and door panels, fiberglass flat floor with built-in speaker pods in footwells, custom dash and console trimmed in alcantara, homemade shifter, gold-plated Billet Specialties steering wheel

Audio/Visual: Kenwood KVT-627DVD head unit with screen and GPS speed monitor, Rockford Fosgate component speakers in floor, 15'' Punch T2 subwoofer in trunk, concealed amp in custom enclosure

Thanks: JV-Tuning

By Greg Emmerson
1078 Articles

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