A Free Barn-Find GTI, a Quarter-Inch Socket, and Determination
Owner: James Cope
Year, Make, and Model: 1989 Volkswagen Golf GTI
Location: Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK
Photographers: James Cope and Aneysha Wakelin
When I was younger I would build electric and nitro-powered R/C cars to pass my time instead of playing football like all the other kids. Then I guess I wanted to take what I had learned about R/C cars into a real machine. With R/C cars I used to make my own parts and learned a lot about suspension geometry and wheel fitment.
I found the GTI in a neighbour’s barn when I was sixteen, where it had been sitting for the previous six years. The chap who owned it said I could have it as he was just going to send it to scrap. So I took it on, and with little-to-no mechanical knowledge I often found myself breaking more than I was fixing but it was all a learning curve. At 16 I would work weekends at my local pub to fund my project, earning £36 a week. I built most of the car with a 1/4 inch drive socket set I got for Christmas.
The plan was always to do everything myself because I didn’t have a big pile of money! I dread even thinking about the amount of hours, blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into this. I’ve resprayed panels, learned how to weld, and now have good mechanical knowledge. I can’t express enough how much joy I get out of this car, it really has been my life for the past six years. A true labour of love!
It’s still an on-going project but it certainly has come a long way! (See engine photo of it was found, sitting in a barn) the wheels are from some form of old BMW, possibly E21. They are BBS Mahles 15×7 et13, which I imported from Poland. The aim has always been to build the Golf to as standard spec as possible, with a few personal touches.
I love everything about this car! It has 130bhp which may not seem like a lot but it weights 980kg so it really is a whole heap of fun. A lot of modern “hot hatches” really aren’t. Nowadays, it seems like they’re all heavy and turbo-charged, the GTI is just pure and simple. The car handles great, which is one of my favourite things, along with the low down grunt from the 8v engine.
Living in North Yorkshire, a place renowned for beautiful landscapes, I love getting up early on a sunny Sunday morning and blasting down my local country roads with the sunroof open, nothing comes close to the joy that brings!
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