Lately at Standard House we have had all sorts of requests to try converted VWs, particularly that fine little GTI Golf model, which starts life with 110 b.h.p. Some of these were accepted, but I have always felt that, with the exception of Autocavan who were, unfortunately, unable to take advantage of our early knowledge of their oversize competition Golfs, few of these tuners had any pedigree for what they were doing. Some of the turbocharged conversions were definitely not right; poor fuel consumption and exhaust manifold breakages not uncommon.
Richard Lloyd obviously felt very much the same way. I remember seeing him wheel out an almost standard GTI in British saloon car championship events of a few years back, and it wasn’t long (August 1978) before he established GTI Engineering at Silverstone.
For some time I had wanted to drive his 1.8-litre version of the GTI, especially allied to the ATS alloy wheels, Pirelli low profile rubber, converted brakes and Zender panelwork that he offers.
The chance came on the first day of May when Lloyd laid on a mighty impressive multi-car display of his wares, mostly as supplied to customers, but also a Milton Keynes-backed Audi 80 GLE 1800 and their own demonstrators. During the day I was able to drive a fabulous GTI 1800 to my heart’s content and briefly sample a tuned 1600, a 1.6-litre carburated pick up Golf. and a carburated 1800 five door Golf GLS, intended to do the GTI job for the family. It is very complicated to install the injected engine in a Golf not built for such a layout, primarily because of fuel tank return lines for the injection.
GTI aim to offer a service of interest to any VW or Audi enthusiast (I did wonder if they might go into RHD Quattros as a sideline, but this was denied) and typically varied from servicing, using London agents Wykehams if necessary, up to full race preparation: they ran class winning GTls for three years and tackled the difficult Audi 80 programme last season. This year TWR have the Audi programme and GTI have sensibly decided to step up their customer service, though Lloyd also finds time for a Canon Cameras Porsche 924 GTR he runs in this year’s World Championship.
I concentrated on an 1800 belonging to brewery heir John Greenall. Besides the engine it listed Bilstein sports suspension package (£330); 5 1/2 by 15 in. diameter ATS alloy wheels (£61) with expensive Pirelli P7 195/50 VR “road racing tyres” a Zender front spoiler, side “running boards” and wheelarch trims (£105 for all panels), plus GTI twin headlamp grille (which carried Hella inset lamps on the quadruple conversion) by D & W of West Germany (£54) and the GTI version of VW’s ventilated front disc brakes at £59.
Normally 79.5 mm. bore by 80 mm. stroke brings you a 1,588 c.c. GTI. In the 1800 conversion the bore is 81 mm. while an Allen crankshaft gives a stroke of 86.4 mm. (1,792 c.c.) and is allied to Cosworth forged pistons. Also included are 38 mm. inlet and 31 mm. exhaust valves, heavier poundage valve springs, baffled sump and a degree of handwork to gasflow manifolding and head: the clutch is also strengthened with replacement plate and thrust plate. Price £1,250 plus VAT and an installation charge of £180. All conversions run a 10:1 c.r., but on the 1800 Plus that I enjoyed so much there was also a GT 18 camshaft and a rather resonance prone big bore exhaust, not offensive but out of phase with the overall smoothness of ride and sheer 6,500 r.p.m. happy performance. Cost is quoted at £1,650 + VAT and £250 fitting. Exhaust and inlet valve sizes also go up further, to 38.5 mm. for the inlet and 32.5 mm. exhaust, coupled to further encouragement for head and manifolding. Recalibrating the Bosch K-Jetronic injection seems no bother compared to the dramas of tuned carburated cars, and again performance was totally without temperament.
That sums up the whole car. It was by far the best I drove all day combining a turn of Silverstone speed that was displayed as 6,100 r.p.m. and 120 m.p.h., plus acceleration that made my standard XR3 feel like a haycart. You could settle at 100 m.p.h. and listen to the awesome multi-component stereo, or wind through the lanes with the P7s rarely stretched to the limit of their enormous capabilities. Driven very hard, vvater temperature came up to 80°C, oil 100°C and the driver felt 100%!
GTI quote the normal 1800s as giving 108 b.h.p. at the wheels on 6,000 r.p.m., and 1800 Plus kits as 118 b.h.p., also at 6,000 r.p.m. with a 6,500 limit.
Quite honestly the GTI is such a good little car that it needs quite a comprehensive conversion, like the one I tried, to make a real difference. I tried a 7,000 r.p.m. 1600 on P6s and came away a Iot less impressed.
What will it cost? We’ve given some sample prices earlier, but the 1800 GTI I liked so much would be right in Porsche 924 territory at £9,500 or so delivered as a complete new car. It is worth the money, but I still enjoy my XR3 and wonder what wonderful conversion work lies in store for the new small Ford? — J.W.