ABF 2.0-litre engined 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco GL Mk2 Typ 53B
Having taken a gamble with a cheap project car, Bobby Mahi found a trusted pair of hands when it came to bringing this show winning Scirocco to life – he built it himself.
Words: Alex Grant
Photos: Ade Brannen
Volkswagen Scirocco Mk2 could be the prettiest we've featured yet. Just look at the damn thing!
MAKE, DO AND MEND
Bobby Mahi doesn’t do things the easy way. It’s a quirk of the Volkswagen scene that the Scirocco is hardly a common sight at shows anyway, and you’ll find fewer still with the sort of world-class attention to detail woven into this one. But the expanding collection of trophies it’s earned since it broke cover last year isn’t hung on the hard graft of a household name bodyshop. The mile-deep gloss of its Sonoma Green paint, and the painstaking restoration beneath it, are his own work – and he’s not your typical bodywork expert either.
“I’m a policeman, so I’m not in the car trade at all, but I’ve always said I could paint a car,” he tells us. “My friends didn’t believe me until I got my first opportunity with this one. All the bodywork was done by hand, around a full-time job, and I painted it in my unit with some old curtains around me – I don’t have a spray booth. It’s the first car I’ve ever painted myself, and I let it speak for itself…”
«I was flicking through the Internet and this Sonoma Green RS-6 estate caught my eye which was stateside»
As first attempts go, this was a lot more ambitious than a surface-level colour change. The Scirocco was an eBay impulse buy four years ago, joining an ever-changing collection of 80s and 90s water-cooled Volkswagens that began with his first car – a Mk1 GTI – and it was a gamble. Originally an ’84 GL, the previous owner had got part way through fitting a Mk3 GTI 16v drivetrain before the project had stalled, then a house move years later eventually left him with no room to pick it up again. For £400, plus a portion of chicken and chips for his mate to recover it from York, it was too tempting to pass up.
“I’ve always had early stuff – these were the cars that were around when I was growing up in the ‘80s, and I love the shape of them – but I hadn’t had a Scirocco before this one,” he says. “With an eBay special buy you just don’t know what you’re going to get until you get there. It was in bad shape and a non-runner, the engine had been plonked in, but the parts outweighed what the car was worth and most of it fits on a Mk1. So if I broke it, I’d have bits in storage for my other cars.”
It took several years before the project got moving again and, determined to learn, Bobby remembers spending hours reading forums, watching YouTube videos and shadowing friends with bodyshops to pick up tips. That information download set foundations for a three-month process reviving every contour, swage line and detail by hand, removing rust, dents and redundant brackets while carefully preserving spot weld indents and manufacturing marks. With no bodykit to hide under – especially within complex shapes around the wheel arches – even the slightest imperfections would mean re-starting sections from scratch. And yes, Bobby went to the same effort with the paint you can’t see, too – it’s green under the carpets. “I wouldn’t normally change the colour, because I like what these cars come with, but this one didn’t have the standard engine or seats, so I decided to go for it,” he continues. “I was flicking through the internet and this Sonoma Green RS-6 estate caught my eye which was stateside, so I put it into YouTube to see what it looked like in the light. Then I got a local paint shop to mix the colour for me and painted a sample first, then a wheel, and knew that’s the colour I wanted. My friends said to go for something else, but it’s my colour, and I think it suits the car.”
That RS-6 inspiration didn’t stop at the green paint. A self-confessed hoarder, Bobby uncovered a Kamei mesh grille among his various parts stores, figuring it could be a nod to the Audi’s honeycomb nose, and the modernisation process was almost as laborious as the metalwork. All of the Scirocco’s plastic trim parts, from the bumpers and number plate plinth to the washer jets and wiper blade hinge caps, have been sanded back to a smooth finish and are painted gloss black. And if the rear lights look a little different to normal, it’s because they’ve also been taken back to a smooth finish before getting tinted red and lacquered. Every classic line is preserved, but sympathetically brought up to date.
With the Scirocco very much off the road, the internet offered opportunities to cast the net even further. The North America-spec quad headlights were a direct swap with a VWVortex user and included larger side markers in place of the Euro indicators Bobby shipped Stateside – they’re also wired up to switch on with the side lights. That small detail was part of a full custom loom, fabricated by his mate Tal to relocate the battery to the boot, while adding fuses and hiding as much wiring as possible within the coupe’s structure.
Sadly, previous owners hadn’t been anywhere near as thorough, he explains: “The car came with Audi A3 pepper pot wheels and someone had done a five-stud conversion, but not very well, at all. They had used Mk3 hubs and modified the wishbones, welding on the hub end from a Mk3 and another section because it was too short. It was dangerous. I’ve gone back to the original setup with drilled flanges, so you can run this car either with 4x100 wheels or 5x100 without adapters.”
Changing back to Scirocco parts required a re-think of the braking system ready for more modern performance. Being based on Mk1 Golf chassis parts, the G60-spec brake upgrade required specific adaptors to mount the calipers, and the arches were cut back and seam welded to avoid scrubbing once coilovers had been wound down to a more aggressive ride height. The Audi A6 winter wheels – subtly spaced by their 5x112 adaptors – were as spontaneous a purchase as the car they’re mounted on, and arguably an even bigger bargain.
“I’ve had the wheels longer than the car – I’m a bit of a wheel hoarder, and the uglier they are, the better,” laughs Bobby. “These were on German eBay, so I put in a cheeky bid and won them for £72 delivered to the UK. The trouble was, I didn’t have anything five-stud to fit them to until the Scirocco came along. I’ve had them diamond cut, then the tyres came from a mate in Scotland. Those only cost me £60 including delivery – they were the right size, and only had about 100 miles on them.”
Parts hoarding had served up some interesting options for the interior, too. The tombstone shaped Mk1 Scirocco seats were lifted from a long-gone project car, too tired to re-use as they were but ripe for retrimming. So when a tartan-trimmed Singer Porsche caught his eye at a show, Bobby set about hunting for similar threads that could tie in with the Mk2’s colour change, eventually landing on the homepage of Harris Tweed. Impressed by the quality of the samples, it felt like a natural fit for a project which had become obsessive about the tiniest details. Every component is there by design. Bobby bought his own kit to fix the Singer-esque stud pattern into the wool centres of the half-leather seats, then matched them to the Wolfsburg steering wheel, window winders, wheels and chromed Mk2 Golf top mounts in the engine bay. Each nut, bolt, washer and vaguely visible gasket has been painted, chromed or polished, and there’s a full Alpine audio system tucked in where you can’t see it. Singer inspiration went a little deeper than material choices, apparently.
The Scirocco’s previous owner had at least put extra power within easy reach. Bought as a non-runner with no history, the engine was an unknown until Tal helped bring it to life, popping, banging and obviously good enough to be worth a full rebuild. Sourced from what must have been a low-mileage Mk3 16V donor, the block has been re-honed, fitted with new rings, shells and washers, then paired with a lightened and balanced crank, pistons and conrods at AutoSprint Engineering. Up top, the rebuilt head features modified cams and carbs from a Suzuki superbike, re-jetted by Bogg Brothers to match the engine then painted to match the body.
Bobby fared equally well with the transmission. Switching to Mk3 parts meant swapping to a Corrado G60 cable-operated shift tower and adding a hydraulic clutch setup, with the reservoir hidden behind the dashboard. Body-coloured and paired with matching green driveshafts, the gearbox is mated up to an AutoSprint Enginering lightened flywheel for sharper responses on the road. Bobby has yet to give it a dyno run to find out what it’s putting out but, from that wool-trimmed driver’s seat, the Scirocco has become a full-bore assault on the senses. “It’s a great car to drive,” he smiles. “The handling is really good, it gets the power down and there’s a nice throaty sound from the throttle bodies. It has a four-branch manifold and I’ve put two silencers in the exhaust system, so it’s not loud – I wanted to be able to hear the engine roar.”
Having de-cluttered the bay before paint, Bobby’s dedication to details continued unbounded as the powertrain made its way back under the bonnet. The Scirocco has custom brackets to hide the radiator, fan and oil catch can under the front panel, mounting the chromed Mk3 alternator more neatly and hidden the coil under the brake servo bracket. Even the brake lines didn’t escape untouched, swapped for stainless steel then chromed, at the master cylinder end, then routed through the chassis legs to keep them out of sight. You could stare for hours and still miss details – even if they’re part of the most visible elements of the powertrain. “When I looked at the engine, I knew I needed something that hadn’t been done before,” he says. “I came up with the idea of a finned rocker cover and brainstormed it with my mate Brad at 53Fab for fabrication. It’s a stock cover with the fins welded into it, but it was a lot of work to get it perfect. The fins match the speaker grilles on the rear shelf, and they’re grooved in instead of having a blob of plastic covers. Then I wanted the lines to match the lines in the bodywork where the engine mounts are. You don’t notice it unless you know it’s there.”
Of course, the finished project would struggle to go unnoticed. Even the most detailed social media build thread couldn’t highlight the attention to fit and finish when it rolled up for its first outing at Early Edition last year and came home with its first trophy. Silverware has been a recurring theme since, with the curtain-draped roots of that show winning bodywork not only getting the nod of approval from enthusiasts, but from some of the UK’s best painters too.
“My next project is already mapped in my head, and I’ll be doing the bodywork again because I’ve missed painting,” he laughs. “So I’m just enjoying the Scirocco for a while, then I’ll sell it and move onto the next project. I don’t have a unit at the moment otherwise I would probably have built another car by now – but for now, I’m just taking a breather and gathering parts. It’s going to be something that hasn’t been seen before…”
After a build like this, that’s hardly surprising. The Scirocco might have missed out on some of the Mk1 Golf’s hype with enthusiasts, but Bobby’s hard graft and willingness not to be put off by the impossible has set some new benchmarks in terms of what’s possible. It’s a learning curve that’s unlikely to deter him from the hard-to-build next time around – but where’s the fun in doing things the easy way?
“My next project is already mapped in my head, and I’ll be doing the bodywork again" “There’s a throaty sound from the throttle bodies"
DUB DETAILS 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco GL
- ENGINE: 1,984cc, four-cylinder, 16-valve from Mk3 GTI (ABF), full rebuild with lightened and balanced crankshaft (including clutch and clutch plate), lightened and weight-matched pistons and conrods, Camshafts centre-lined and reground to Schrick 276’ profile, Custom fabricated finned rocker cover with Audi R8 oil cap and chrome motorcycle studs, colour coded Suzuki GSXR 1200 Bandit carburettors re-jetted by Bogg Brothers to match engine spec, K&N cone filters, AN6 braided fuel lines throughout, Dubpower 10mm high performance HT leads, Bosch Super Four spark plugs, 4-into-1 manifold with titanium heat wrap, 2.5-inch custom exhaust system with oval tip, Creation Motorsport oil breather blank with AN6 adaptor and line, hidden oil breather and catch can mounted on radiator support bar, polished and chromed Mk3 Golf alternator with re-drilled bracket, custom tucked wiring loom with fireproof airline wrap, hidden aluminium radiator with 12-inch slimline fan and custom brackets, aluminium header tank, T-bar clamps and black silicone hoses throughout, custom fireproof boot for steering gaiter, Custom fabricated bonnet stay, chrome bonnet hinges, battery tray, header tank and horn brackets deleted, CDA 02A gearbox, rebuilt Corrado G60 shift tower and cables, AutoSprint Engineering lightened and balanced 6.5kg flywheel, hydraulic clutch pedal conversion with black stainless steel lines to slave cylinder, clutch fluid hidden under dash
- CHASSIS: Pro Sport Maxx coilovers, chromed Mk2 Golf top mount covers with motorcycle chrome spiked studs, front and rear strut braces, 9-inch brake servo, Ford ST stubby master cylinder shaved to fit Mk2 style fluid reservoir, Corrado G60 front brakes with Epytec solid brackets, with re-drilled 5x100 hubs, Mk2 Golf GTI rear brake disc conversion with 5x100 hubs, custom handbrake cables, Goodridge hoses, all brake lines chromed or hidden, 16x7 ET45 Audi A6 (C5) winter wheels with diamond cut faces, flush alloy valve caps, smoothed centre caps and nut covers painted gloss black, 165/45 Nankang NS-2R tyres
- EXTERIOR: Full body restoration with aerial and badge holes deleted, Audi RS Sonoma Green paint, detextured number plate tub, bumpers, roof gutters, door handles and wiper caps all painted gloss black, Kamei mesh grille, US twin square headlights with custom sidelight wiring, rear lamps smoothed, tinted red and lacquered, Zender rear spoiler, arch spats and mirrors hydro-dipped in body-coloured carbon fibre effect
- INTERIOR: Mk1 Scirooco ‘tombstone’ front seats upholstered in leather and Harris Tweed with custom studded centres, door cards, sun visors and rear bench trimmed to match, leather roof lining, Mk1 three-spoke ‘Wolfsburg’ wheel with matching window winders, Alpine head unit and upgraded speakers, custom polished rear speaker covers
- SHOUT: Tal Rahman, my best mate, for his mechanical and wiring expertise. Brad Mckee (@53fab) – for making the finned rocker come alive. Ben Hudson (@bhperformanceuk), for being a tuning god. Reeves Metal Finishes for the chrome work. Nathan (@nathansrestoration) for help with rocker painting. Adam (@ADMpolishing) for metal polishing. Nutters Birmingham for supplying all my stainless steel bolts. Dean & Phil at John Griffiths Tool & Co Engineering for putting up with my last-minute demands. Joey Ribbons @jrsdubgarge – paint expertise guidance and positive encouragement and Matt (@mccbodyrepair) for the paint expertise guidance and positive encouragement. And of course, Sunny, the best MOT tester in the world, Tom @dreadnoughtcustoms, Jason at D.Wilson and Harewood House for photoshoot location
- FOR SALE: With another project looming, the Scirocco is open for offers. Check out @special_agent_fox on Instagram for a full build thread, or call 07960 889910.