In the past few issues we've found ourselves agreeing with the school of thought that suggests Cabrios are cool.
Ordinarily, we sidestep the soft-tops and head for the good stuff, but we've recently had to rethink this strategy. Probably our favorite example was Danny Ballester '95 Cabrio with a supercharged VR6 in a smoothed engine bay painted red to match the leather interior (et 1/11). Then there was Domien Courten's gold-plated Mk1 in et 6/10. And who will forget Marcio Da Costa's Mk3 Cabrio with its Mk5 GTI front-end conversion and 2.0T transplant (et 10/10)?
Since we're on a roll, we decided to celebrate the awesomeness of 22 year-old Pieter Van Hecke's Cabrio with its retro ground-effects styling, poked Porsche wheels and air suspension.
A fan of the Mk3 as a child, Pieter has owned the '95 Golf 1.8 since '06. A native of Sleidinge in Belgium, he bought the car with some mild mods but they weren't to his liking. So within a couple of weeks he'd got to work.
First, he got a set of Porsche Carrera 2-style wheels. He'd seen the polished 16" Artec S1 two-piece design online and it was an instant love affair.
Originally they were narrower widths but he swapped the barrels for chunky 9" front rims and 10s on the rear at a later date, stretching poor 195/40 and 215/35 Dunlops respectively within an inch of their lives.
The next job was a set of coilovers to improve the cars stance, and shortly after he got the windowless red roof. "When I bought the car it had a black roof and interior but I thought the dark red would work better," Pieter told us.
So once the dramatic red roof was in place, it was perhaps inevitable that the interior would follow suit. Entrusting the task to local company Deca, they wrapped the seats, door cards, dash and shift boot in a matching leather.
Of course, those seats aren't regular Golf fare. They're actually Porsche chairs, bought by the owner when his plan was originally hatched.
By the end of '06, our Belgian petroleum employee was finding his feet and over the winter he set about transforming the exterior. Initially, the work was relatively mild, but over the next year or two he grew more ambitious, creating the masterpiece you see here.
The bumpers, for example, are the stock parts, smoothed and then extended once the Kean Suspensions air-ride was installed.
With the front indicators removed from the bumper, a set of Mk4-style headlamps was installed. With their integral flashers, the surrounds were painted body color to blend with the badgeless grille.
Doing much of the work himself, the owner modified the hood, creating a minimalist böser-style fold over the headlamps to complete the very distinctive front-end.
With the VR6 chin spoiler scraping the dirt, Pieter altered a set of aftermarket side skirts to give him flat, ground-effects style panels on the side of the car. He also created his own very distinctive diffuser-style rear apron to conceal the rear suspension and exhaust.
While at the rear, several custom tricks were performed. He started by narrowing the licence plate aperture to exactly fit the small plate. He then removed the lock from the light bar above the plate.
But he wasn't finished. Pieter cut-down the tail lights, removing the indicator sections and wiring the reversing lights to blink when turning. New metal was then added to enclose the shorter lights and everything was painted the original silver color.
With its dramatic styling, it was perhaps inevitable that some form of air suspension would find its way under the Golf. Belgian company Kean was responsible for the hardware, which pitches the fat 16" wheels up into the rolled fenders. But with the air compressor, tank and even the controller hidden from sight, casual observers might be forgiven for wondering how the owner achieved such a radical stance.
With daily driving duties abandoned in favor of less numerous visits to shows, this Belgian Cabrio with its stock 1.8L 8v engine, trans and brakes clearly wasn't built for speed. However, Pieter has shown once again that with some guts and imagination, even the Golf Cabrio can be genuine showstopper.
1995 VW Golf Cabrio
Owner: Pieter Van Hecke
Location: Sleidinge, Belgium
Occupation: Total Petroleum
Engine: stock 1.8L four-cylinder 8-valve
Drivetrain: stock five-speed manual
Suspension: Kean Suspensions air-ride system
Wheels & Tires: 16x9" front, 16x10" rear Artec S1 polished wheels with 195/40 front and 215/35 R16 rear Dunlop SP9000 tires
Exterior: smoothed bumpers and side skirts, rolled fenders, modified hood, smaller license plate cut-out, trunk lock removed, tail lights cropped and indicators moved, de-locked door handles, windowless roof, color-matched headlight surrounds
Interior: Porsche seats, Raid steering wheel, full leather retrim, JVC head unit
Thanks: Kean Suspensions, Carrosserie Renvro, Paszenger, Deca