281bhp 1.8 20v turbo BAM engined 1983 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1
When Youtube star, Dan Chambers, realised his recently purchased Mk1 Golf GTI Campaign wasn’t going to be the quick fix he had hopedfor, he embarked on a full nut and bolt restoration with a 20v turbo twist!
Words and pics: Dan Sherwood
YouTuber Dan Chambers and his 18-month Mk1 makeover!
UNDER THE INFLUENCER
«I first got into doing Youtube videos back in 2019, when I bought a long wheelbase Crafter that I planned on turning into a camper van,” remembers 35-year-old Leicestershire lad Dan Chambers. “I’d had some issues with stress in my job as a shop fitter and my partner Abi and I decided to sell up everything and go travelling, initially just around the UK, but then further afield, and the Crafter was to be our new home for the next few years.”
The pair decided that Dan should have a go at documenting the build process with a series of videos that could be shared on Youtube, as a way to help him sort his head out and relax.
“We started our own Dan&Abi channel to host the videos and I kind of just fumbled my way through learning how to video and edit the work I was doing on the Crafter,” says Dan. “It was actually very therapeutic, and fun too, and the more I did the more relaxed I felt in front of the camera, so it all started to fall into place.”
Twenty-four episodes over four months of evening and weekends later and the Crafter was finally ready to become Dan and Abi’s new roaming home. Unfortunately, just one week later, another life-changing event reared its ugly head and the UK was plunged into a nationwide lockdown as Covid swept through the population.
“Lockdown put paid to our travel plans,” laughs Dan. “So we ended up living in the Crafter on Abi’s parent’s farm. We lived like that for the next 18 months, until we decided it was time to buy another home made from bricks and mortar again.”
Confined to a camper van for a year and a half can do strange things to the mind and soon Dan was in need of a new project to keep him sane, so bought a T5 transporter that he once again converted into a camper and would document its transformation on Youtube, but this time through his own channel.
“The T5 went well and soon after it was finished I sold it and started looking for my next project build,” says Dan, who left the crucial decision in the lap of the social media gods when he put up a post on his Instagram page to see what people would like to see him do next, and that’s when he was offered the Mk1.
“I’d always wanted to own a Mk1 Golf, as it’s the iconic model that started the whole hot hatch genre,” enthuses Dan. “So when this 1983 GTI Campaign model was offered to me for £4000, I thought it would be a good chance to do a few videos of me tarting it up, have some fun with it and then sell it on. However, things didn’t turn out quite as expected…” The Golf came complete with a ‘free’ Audi TT too, as the previous owner had originally planned to do a 1.8T swap with full four-wheel-drive conversion and the curvy coupe was the proposed donor.
“It looked pretty tired, but generally not too bad when I first viewed the car,” recalls Dan. “But my opinion soon changed when I finally got it back to my unit and gave it a more thorough inspection.”
Any thoughts of a quick refresh before flipping the Mk1 soon evaporated, as Dan realized the only way the Golf was going back on the road was after a full nut and bolt restoration. But, not being one to shy away from a challenge, and feeling it would make good content for his growing Youtube channel, Dan dove into the build with both feet.
“The plan was to restore it back to factory specification, so I sold on the Audi TT and a few of the other spares I didn’t need to help recoup some costs before getting stuck in and stripping the Golf to a bare shell,” Dan says. “Once stripped it was sent off to Faircharm Restorations in Leicester to be sand blasted.”
When the blasted shell returned, Dan could finally see what he had – or more precisely didn’t have – to work with, as almost every panel was riddled with red rot and in need of drastic repair work or complete replacement. “Right from the start, working with Heritage Parts Centre has been an absolute Godsend with this project,” says Dan. “They have access to pretty much any parts you’re likely to need for a build such as this, and I really don’t know how I would’ve done it without them.”
A whole shopping list of panels were ordered up and Dan made short work of cutting out the rotted parts and welding in the fresh metalwork, which included everything from the floors, inner and outer sills, inner and outer wheel arches, spare wheel well, scuttle, slam panel, wings, bonnet and even a full roof skin to name a few! It seems unlikely from that list, but there were a few panels that Dan managed to save, such as the boot floor, doors, rear hatch and the bulkhead, which were simply welded and filled as necessary.
“Once the shell was solid again, I had to decide what I was going to do with the powerplant,” remembers Dan. “The original 1.6 engine was an option, but I felt it needed too much work to get it functioning reliably again, so I sourced a 1.8T BAM engine from a 2001 Audi TT off Facebook marketplace for £500. Yes, as you can imagine, I was regretting selling the original TT, as it would’ve come in very handy at this point in the project. Doh!”
But Dan never intended to simply sling the modern motor into a standard ‘80s engine bay, as he had visions of a show quality shaved bay that would show off the engine properly. Hours of painstaking metalwork followed with Dan smoothing, welding, grinding and filling until all non-essential holes, seams and depressions were deleted, with even the arches getting some special treatment to allow some wider fitment wheels.
“Once all of the body modifications were complete, I sanded the whole car back to bare metal and primed it with epoxy,” says Dan. “The underside and wheel arches were then sprayed in Upol Gravitex stone chip, while the topside had several layers of high-build primer before I applied the top coat of Mars Red.” Once the car was re-assembled it went over to Mike at Shine Supply for him to work his magic with a full colour sand and three-stage machine polish to make the ravishing red paint really pop!
The shell now looking lush, Dan installed the TT engine with Trackslag turbo-back exhaust into the freshly smoothed bay, tucking the wires as he went and replacing unsightly items such as the brake servo and expansion tank with pedal-mounted brake cylinders with remote reservoirs under the scuttle, and a top fill radiator with slimline fan respectively. Custom water and intercooler pipes were also fabricated by PSH in Leicester and connected to a front-mount intercooler.
“With the engine fitted I moved on to sorting the interior,” he says. “I had a vision in my head, which revolved around a pair of Fiesta RS Turbo front seats that I had sourced. I sent them off to Ben’s Trim Shop to be retrimmed in Alcantara and black fabric, with the rear seats, door cards and headlining trimmed to match.”
While they were away, Dan installed a new black carpet from Heritage Parts and a black billet dimpled gearknob and window winders from Davies Motorsport Engineering to add a touch of class.
“When the interior came back from trimming I installed it straight away and it really lifted the look of the car, but made the untouched boot area look tatty,” says Dan. “I’d moved the battery to the boot and swapped it for a lightweight Odyssey item to save weigh and I’d also relocated the washer bottle too. So, to make them look tidier, I trimmed the washer bottle in Alcantara along with the boot opening. The wheel arches were also trimmed in black fabric to match. It looked much neater that way.”
To finish off the interior, Dan fabricated an MDF stealth shelf that replicated the original shelf to house a pair of JL Audio 6x9 speakers to add some musical accompaniment to the sound of the 20v engine.
“The car was originally finished for Early Edition 2022 and was sat on BC Racing coilovers and a set of BBS RS771 alloy wheels from a Mk4 Golf,” says Dan. “However, from the beginning, the goal was always to run it on air ride.”
“The BAGS kit retains the BC Racing dampers but swaps the springs for air bags»
So after the show, Dan got on the blower to Only Charged Dubs who did him a deal on a BAGS air ride conversion kit. He also sourced a secondhand compressor from a mate, a tank from Lowdown Transporters and a Airllen 5G air ride management kit from Transporter HQ. “The BAGS kit retains the BC Racing dampers but swaps the springs for air bags,” Dan explains. “I installed the conversion myself and fitted the tank and compressor under a raised boot floor in the spare wheel well to keep the boot space. It works brilliantly, and gives the Golf those show-worthy lows while giving good ride quality and handling.”
The final piece of the puzzle was for Dan to take the Mk1 to the guys at Devil Developments who, after a brief run on their in-house dyno, plugged the TT ECU into their laptop and tweaked the map.
“I was amazed at how much better the car drove after it had been remapped,” says Dan. “You’d think the engine would’ve run just like it did in the TT, but it was really jerky. However, a few tweaks to the fly-by-wire throttle and the way the boost comes in, has made a huge difference to the power delivery and the way it drives. And with 281bhp in such a lightweight chassis, it really shifts too!”
«Working with Heritage Parts Centre from the start has been an absolute Godsend with this project»
With the car finished and the build fully documented over 71 episodes on Dan’s now hugely popular Youtube channel, it didn’t take long before he was getting offers to sell it on. And one such offer was just too good to refuse. “I never planned on selling it so soon, but it means I can now move onto a new project, as I’m always looking for fresh content to add to the channel,” he says. “Through doing this build, I’ve not only learned a huge amount about restoring cars, including teaching myself how to weld, but I’ve also grown the subscribers to my Youtube channel to over 100k, meaning it’s now my full time job. It’s awesome being able to make cool car content for a living and I’m currently working on another T5 camper conversion and a Mk2 Golf van that’s sitting on a Beetle chassis, which should be fun!”
So while the Golf may be gone, this is far from the end for this particular influencer, as Dan’s rise up Youtube’s ranks of car content creators looks set to skyrocket. So be sure to stay tuned and watch this space, as things are just getting started!
«It didn’t take long before he was getting offers to sell it on and one offer was just too good to refuse»
- ENGINE: 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder, 20v turbo BAM engine from an Audi TT, front-mount intercooler, Trackslag crossover pipe, Fast Bunny Metalworks throttle bracket, oil catch can, top fill radiator, slimline fans, custom water and boost hoses, Trackslag turbo-back exhaust, Ramair filter, Epytec mounts. FWD, 5-speed O2A gearbox with O2J shifter and tower, G60 flywheel, VR6 clutch, hydraulic clutch conversion
- PERFORMANCE: 281bhp, 290lb ft of torque, dyno proven
- CHASSIS: 7x16in BBS RS771 from a Mk4 Golf with 165/40/16 Nankang Ultra Sport NS2 tyres, 15mm front spacers, 20mm rear spacers, BC Racing coilovers with BAGS air ride conversion, Airllen 5G management, polybushed all round, G60 280mm discs and calipers (front), Mk4 Golf discs and calipers (rear)
- EXTERIOR: Standard 1983 Golf GTI shell, full nut and bolt restoration with many new replacement panels, resprayed in original Mars Red, fully shaved and smoothed engine bay, all wires tucked, modified cable-less bonnet latch, arches trimmed and welded, smoothed scuttle panel, brake servo removed
- INTERIOR: Fiesta RS Turbo Recaro front seats and rear seats retrimmed in alcantara and black fabric, alcantara headlining and door cards, new Heritage Parts Centre carpets, billet gearknob and window winders, wheel arches in black fabric, air ride install in spare wheel well under raised false floor, lightweight Odyssey battery and washer bottle relocated to the boot, JL Audio 6x9s in stealth shelf parcel shelf
- SHOUT: Massive thank you to Heritage Parts Centre for all of the panels and parts, Breakwells Paints for all of the paint materials, Dodo Mat for the sound deadening, Tony’s Refinishing for all of the advice on painting, GT Air for the compressor & air tools, Ben’s Trim Shop for the interior, Shine Supply for making the paint shine, Devil Developments for the remapping, Rich from Maine Automotive, Simon from Lüxe Automotive, Only Charged Dubs for the great deal on the BAGS air ride conversion kit, Elliot Mewse for the Compressor, Lowdown Transporters for the tank and Transporter HQ for the Airllen 5G air ride management kit, my Wife Abi for supporting me with everything I do and finally, my YouTube subscribers for following along and allowing me to have my dream job building some amazing cars!