450bhp ABT-Kitted more door 1.8T 20vT BJX-engined Volkswagen Golf Mk3
It’s easy to think back negatively to all 90’s aftermarket styling, but if you’re selective about the parts you choose, then you can create a real head turner… as Matt Brampton has proven here with his Abt-kitted Mk3 1.8T.
Words: Si McNally
Photos: Matt Clifford
ABT-Kitted more door Mk3 1.8T – period perfect Mk3 with every ABT add-on
The Mk3 Golf has something of a reputation within the community as a bit of an unloved outcast. It’s seen as being a bit overweight, perhaps a touch bland, and a poor replacement for what is widely regarded as one of the best cars Wolfsburg ever created, the Mk2. Or it was, at least, until recently, when, so it seems, people are starting to realise just how underrated a car the Mk3 is. Not so much the mundane trim levels, but the “cooking” range toppers, such as the GTI 16v and VR6.
As with many of the builds featured in these pages, this black example started off as something simple, as replacement for another Mk3, quickly spiralling into what became one man’s obsession with hunting out some of the rarest parts ever fitted to the Mk3. But we’ll get to that bit.
Matt Bampton has had something of a love affair with the VW brand since childhood, when the blue Beetle convertible, that formed an integral part of the Boyz n The Hood Cast, made what would become a seriously lasting impression, even influencing his current dream car – a Porsche 356 Speedster. Well, loosely anyway.
Ironically, though, the 42-year-old’s car history started with something decidedly non- Germanic, a trend which continued throughout his 25-year driving career. His first car was a Fiat Panda, a Sergio Tacchini Edition no less, resplendent with bright lime green interior and matching side stripes. Snazzy. As Matt tells it, he ended up loaning that to his sister whilst she was at uni, inheriting an ageing but no less cool (ahem) Skoda Rapide, which famously broke down in Nottingham City Centre, resulting in him pushing it into a layby in front of a group of his college mates. Street Cred -1000.
Over the following years Matt owned a brace of interesting cars, including a Fiesta Zetec S, Astra Sri, Nissan Pulsar GtiR (running 450bhp), a drift spec S14 (which he later turned into a sleeper running around 380bhp), and, eventually, an 8v Mk3 GTI. It was this car that actually started Matt’s obsession with ABT parts, after he found a grille for a bargain £25 whilst perusing eBay for cheap bits to spice up the warm Golf. This led, in his own words, “to around 8-10 years of collecting and searching out the parts that make it the car it is today” once he’d started researching the ABT brand and its many shiny wares.
You see, back in the ‘90s, ABT wasn’t quite the household name it is today. We’ve all seen the flagship RS6-S models produced by the German tuner, pushing out obscene power figures, with price tags to match, as well as the dealer supplied kits for T5 & T6 vans, pushing the prices for what were once workhorses well above the reach of the average van driver. Back then, they were a big name in the tuning and styling world, for sure, but nowhere near the behemoth they are today. If you wanted a quality, OE style body kit for your Mk3 Golf, you had a few choices – Rieger, Votex, or ABT. Obviously there were others, but these were the big boys. The ABT stuff is probably the rarest nowadays, and therefore commands the highest value, but back when Matt started looking, the Mk3 was still a bit of an unloved stepchild. Not anymore, though.
After a few years of ownership, Matt really loved his 8v, but longed for something a bit… more. It’s not secret that the base GTI is a bit underpowered, but the 16v, with almost 40 more bhp, certainly fixed that. And, so, it was no surprise when Matt when on the hunt for a decent valver to replace his aging 3-door 8v. With this black 5-door popping up just down the road, it was a bit of a no brainer for the Nottingham-based lad, and it quickly found itself on his drive, with no clue what awaited it.
The ABF is widely renowned as being a pretty bombproof powerplant, which is one of the main reasons Matt chose it. However, just one day after collecting it, on the way back from his son’s prom no less, the bottom end decided it didn’t really need to work anymore, and let go in spectacular style. As you would do, Matt had that rebuilt, but before long the top end decided it too no longer needed to function as intended, and gave up the ghost. As frustrated as you’d expect, Matt decided to look at other options, one of which was the ubiquitous 20-valve turbo. With a mate breaking a 9N Polo GTI, quicker than you can say “I actually forgot they made those with that engine”, the BJX beauty was coming home with him.
With the winter upon him, Matt took it upon himself to fit the powerplant at home in his garage. With pretty much every component required available off the shelf, and the Coke vendor (he works for Coca Cola, get your mind out of the gutter) handy with a spanner, it made perfect sense…
…until the garage door fell off, leaving Matt to complete the job in -4 temperatures, “painstakingly torquing up every bolt with only a car lamp and a few pairs of gloves to get me through”. Ouch.
But, it worked, and pretty soon the car was back on all four wheels, making whoosh noises and vanquishing far newer and pricier foe, thanks to the addition of a hybrid K03S, a set of Saab Red Top injectors and R8 coil packs, as well as numerous other bits. The spec is actually pretty impressive, so check it out. But what’s under the bonnet isn’t why you’re reading this here article now, is it?
The stance, ultra-rare components and that impressive interior are what really make this thing special. Let’s start with the body, because whilst the majority of components wear the coveted ABT badge, there are a few choice extras thrown in for good measure. What started as just a grille quickly led onto the following genuine ABT parts: side skirts, extremely rare RHD headlamps, front & rear badges, and that super divisive mid-level wing. Personally, we love it, and it’s about as ‘90s as it gets, but it does tend to divide opinion somewhat? Added to this are the Kamei lower vents that Matt has smoothed into the front bumper, at the same time as having the plate recess smoothed and blended. Genuine VW Motorsport bonnet vents- found their way into place, whilst the arches were widened and flared all round. The carbon skinned fuel cap and genuine Hella all red rear light clusters finish the outside off a treat.
If you’d noticed all those bits straight off, then you’re a better person than us, because those front wheels are something of an eye catcher. The wheels themselves are Rotiform RSEs, in 17x8” flavour, bringing a modern twist to the ‘90s look (we’re noticing a theme here), but those genuine Rotiform Aerodiscs up front are about as cool as penguin urine, and spotted on the streets of the UK about as much. As in they’re awesome and ultrarare.
I know we’ve used that term a lot in this feature, but we can’t overstate just how forged from purest unobtanium a lot of these parts are. The genuine ABT valve caps on every wheel are testament to that.
That Matt had almost doubled the car’s original power necessitated some larger brakes, so a set of Anniversary brakes found their way on to the car, complete with Black Diamond 12 groove discs and matching braided hoses. A complete set of PowerFlex bushes found their way under there too, meaning the handling was greatly improved from the Mk3’s notoriously boaty waywardness. Those of you with working eyeballs will have likely clocked that this thing must be on air. Either that or Matt doesn’t value his chassis or underneath bits very much. Well, obviously the former is the case, and this Mk3 is running a full complement of distinctly un-‘90s Airlift Slam Series Struts, with their dependable V2 management taking care of the complicated bits. When it came to the install, obviously Matt wanted to stick with the ABT theme, and the result is as simple as it is eye catching. We like.
That interior though is something pretty special. Matt wanted to stick with the whole Mk3 thing, and with the Anniversary being arguable the ultimate incarnation of the model, he wanted the ultra-rare (there’s that word again) seats to park his posterior upon. However, they’re not the most comfortable, and so a set of Mk4 Golf leather Recaro were sourced and trimmed in the not-exactly-subtle fabric by the geniuses at MJ Interiors. As you’d expect, the interior wasn’t to miss out on the ABT bits, and a stupid rare steering wheel (the only one in the UK no less) was sourced, along with matching gear knob and pedals. But how could Matt do something special with the rest of the interior without flooding it with colour? Well, aside from the red seatbelts, pretty much the whole thing is coated in lashings of black leather, diamond stitched and quilted. We’re talking headlining, door cards, and even parcel shelf here. A VR6 Highline donated its black A, B & C pillars to the cause, along with its lower glovebox, centre console, grab handles and light unit. Mk3.5 Cabriolet sun visors found their way in too, as well as a set of genuine Anniversary 16v silver clocks, as well as a TT rear view mirror and Mk3 Cabriolet chrome door handles. The crowning glory has to be the genuine pink Floyd edition centre buttons, along with the carbon skinned bits and US-spec OBD cover. Honestly, check out the spec list, because it’s wild.
We make no secret of the fact that we are enormous fans of Matt’s Mk3. It’s been on the radar for a while to get into the mag, but the stars never quite aligned. What do the future plans hold for Matt? Well, he’s currently building a supercharged Mini for his dad, so the Mk3 is safely tucked away. But he’s got “a real itch” to build a Porsche inspired Mk3. Can he bear to part with the ABT bits it’s taken him so long to find to do it though? Watch this space. Because I don’t think even he knows.
«If you’d noticed all those bits straight off, then you’re a better person than us»
- ENGINE: 1.8T 20vT (BJX) with K03s hybrid turbo, small port head, Creations Motorsport oversized TIP, VR6 clutch and lightened billet flywheel, BAM inlet manifold and throttle body (painted crackle black), BAM boost pipe (painted black), Saab red top injectors, four-bar fuel pressure regulator, 16v ABF gearbox, R8 coils and adapters, 3” MAF, RamAir filter, fully adapted and re wired engine loom and ECU, 16v anniversary clocks (85k), Vibratechnics rear engine mount and gearbox mount, full Powerflex uprated bush kit all round including front engine mount, painted bay, Creations Motorsport hoses, Forge bake servo hose, Forge catch can PVC mod, EVAP — SAI, Forge blanking plate, N249 and N112 delete, FMIC with black 65mm intercooler and pipework, custom stainless 3” downpipe and decat, Mk4 alternator bracket, Audi TT power-steering pump, modified Polo 9n3 GTI DBW pedal and throttle set up (to run a more tuneable wideband engine), new Mk3 coolant bottle, AGU cam cover modified to fi t with BJX bottom cover, full stainless straight through system with Genuine ABT exhaust tips
- CHASSIS: 8x17” (ET40) Rotiform RSE with 18” Custom Rotiform Aerodiscs up front, genuine ABT valve covers all round, 195/40 R17 Pilot Sport tyres all round, Anniversary brakes with red calipers, Black Diamond 12-groove discs all round, fully Powerflex polybushed all round with front and rear sub frame powder coated black, full V2 Air Lift air ride with Slam Series struts, Goodridge braided brake hoses, powercoated subframes
- EXTERIOR: Genuine ABT parts include (are you sitting down?) front grille, front and rear badges, side skirts, mid wing and RHD headlight conversion. Smoothed front bumper with plate recess delete, Kamei lower vents smoothed into front bumper, genuine Motorsport bonnet louvres, widened and flared arches all round, carbon skinned fuel cap, Hella all red rear lenses
- INTERIOR: One off custom Mk4 Recaro leather seats trimmed in genuine Anniversary cloth by MJ Interiors, custom diamond stitched headliner, diamond stitched parcel shelf and diamond stitched door cards to match the headliner & parcel shelf. Custom red seat belts all round, genuine ABT Sport black leather steering wheel (only one in the UK), custom black leather gear & handbrake gaiter with red stitching, genuine ABT gear knob, genuine Pink Floyd centre buttons, Mk3 Cabby chromed interior door handles all round, black Highline ABC pillars, black grab handles & light console in roof, black Mk3.5 sun visors, genuine ABT motorsport pedals, Audi TT Mk1 rear view mirror, 16v Anniversary silver clocks, Highline centre console and lower glovebox, Fisher CD holder, US-spec OBD cover, carbon skinned inner door handle surrounds and cluster surround, 52mm boost gauge and gloss black surround. Alpine headunit and uprated door & dash speakers/tweeters all round, ABT themed boot build with custom painted floating tank & hard lines
- SHOUT: My eldest boy Taylor for always supporting my crazy ideas, my wife and family for never questioning my commitment to the build. Paddy, Marcus, Rich &, Ash at PHDetailing. Andi, Steve, Nathan & Gordon for making the Wörthersee trip memories. Albert Van Baaran, Christian Wolf, Beni Marjanac for helping me to source all the parts and giving me advice. Dougie Flockhart for advice on the engine swap and pedal set up. Reece & Matt H for helping with the fabrication and engine set up. Tim Worthington is an absolute legend and helped every step of the way through all the long winters nights getting the swap sorted. Ryan, Amber, Pat, Harry, Latvian Dave, Tony and all the Dubclub family. So many more I could mention but you will know who you all are