I can’t imagine that many people plead with their parents not to buy them a car. But I tried everything to stop my dad from buying a dirty, unloved Mk1 Golf that I knew next to nothing about.
We were sitting in the car outside the local crash salvage yard. The original plan was to find a post 2000 Polo with some light crash damage and give it a quick spruce up for what would be my first car, but it was the Golf that my dad saw and was determined to get.
I was 17 and naive. I hadn’t seen many mk1s on the road. To me, it resembled a box on wheels and looked so antiquated that I would rather have got the bus. We took it for a test drive around the block and the square dash and big steering wheel were alien compared to the modern dashboards I was familiar with.
Still, after much frowning and failed cajolery, my old man was bargaining for what now looks like the deal of the century. Advertised for £150 with MOT no tax and a broken thermostat, It was delivered to our drive on a flatbed a few days later for just £140. Not at all wise to what a bargain this was, I now had a 56,000 mile mint condition 1983 Golf GL with no welded metal and the original paint job.
A new thermostat, cambelt and coolant flush later and it was ready to go. That was in 2006 and any embarrassment I felt towards the car soon fizzled away when I passed my test. Getting out and about proved it was far from clapped out. It was nippy and light and the skinny tyres were tremendous fun. The big block 1.5 litre JB engine was by far the most powerful out of all the cars at school and won the traffic Iight drag races with ease. It may not be a GTI, but it can still give you a massive buzz. Yes, it dips and rolls and the brakes are non-existent as with all mk1s, but you’re involved in every motion and thats what’s so appealing.
In 2007 the car went on its first holiday in our possession. We drove it from Essex to France and back again in a day and the car managed to put up with near 11 hours on the road without so much as a hiccup. Since then, its been all round the country, including a holiday to the Isle of Wight and to various VW shows such as Ultimate Dubs, GTI International, the Mk1 Owners Club annual gathering at Gaydon and London Volksfest.
After using it everyday to drive to school, it was time to take it to uni. The car was used to get me back and forth every week and I clocked the magical 100,000 miles over that time. It only ever let me down once when the CVJ gave up completely and we coasted to the side of the road with a teeth clenching metallic rattle. But I can’t even really blame the car for that, as it had been graunching for 7 months and I hadn’t even bothered to get it looked at. Unfortunately whilst at uni, some kids hurled a rock from a bridge at the car when I was heading home. Luckily it missed the windscreen, but has dented the wing and bonnet badly. I was devastated, but its a fairly easy fix and this is on the to-do list, as is refurbishing the steel wheels.
The modding bug did bite in the form of Wolfsburg door pins, green indicator lenses, chrome exhaust tip and illegal VW plates. Thankfully, I saw the light after my school days and chucked everything non-original in the bin.
Coming from a scrap yard, the car had no history with it. This was never an issue for me, as anyone could see it was an honest example, however I wanted to know more about the car. I sent off the relevant form and a £5 cheque to the DVLA and a few weeks later, I had a list of the previous owners’ addresses.
Some door-knocking later and I had spoken to the previous owner on the phone. It turns out the car had been kept in the same family from new and was part-exchanged. It’s thoroughly missed. I’ve promised to take the car back at some point and show them how it’s getting on.
I’ve moved away now and don’t see the car much. My dad takes care of it and kindly keeps it on the road, giving it a good run every couple of weekends. I now have a mk2 GTI 16v which is infinitely faster and more refined. Still, there’s nothing quite like getting behind the big old steering wheel of the mk1.
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