1700bhp RS3-swapped Volkswagen Golf R Mk7
Dripping with carbon fibre and re-engineered for almost four times its factory horsepower, Tom Parker’s RS3-swapped Golf R is a luxurious daily driver with hypercar-baiting potential.
Words: Alex Grant
Photos: Ade Brannan
The four-figure horsepower club remains an exclusive one, but membership isn’t the headache it once was. Back at the turn of the Millennium and the dawn of blown VR6s and highpower 1.8Ts, hypercar-worrying horsepower in Volkswagen usually meant finding space for a couple of engines and removing pretty much everything that wasn’t mission critical. Today, Tom Parker’s boundary-breaking 1,100hp Mk7 is living, fire-breathing proof that it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.
«They see these 1000hp builds on the internet and think ‘I'll have one of them’. They don't realise it has to be forged and you're looking at £10k plus»
“I drive the car every day, and I couldn’t ask for a more perfect daily,” he tells us. “It’s basically a road-legal racecar, but with all the creature comforts inside. The idea was to build something a bit like an Audi RS6 – big power when you want it but without losing the luxuries – but in a hot hatch. I’ve always gonethe extra mile with my own cars.” Tom has spent his entire adult life treading that fine line between sensory-assault power figures and daily driver usability. The Sheffieldbased mechanic spent two years rebuilding his first car, a Mk2 Golf, from a bare shell before passing his test, and carried that experience over into jobs working at a local Volkswagen specialist garage. It offered some useful experiences; when the carburettor started acting up, Tom ditched the Mk2’s factory engine for a 1.8T and took the first steps towards what you see here.
Today, at 27, Tom runs his own Volkswagen workshop – TC Performance – with his Dad, and the Mk2 hasn’t stopped evolving in the meantime. Having adjusted to the 520whp of its stroked 1.9 20v turbo engine, there’s a 2.1-litre upgrade under construction which should push it up to around the 700hp mark. Quite the talking point for a business which, since it was founded in 2018, has become a local go-to for everything from basic maintenance work to bespoke performance upgrades.
“The Mk2 was my main car for years,” Tom continues. “Then, while I was putting the 500hp engine and cage in it, I bought a Lupo GTI to use for a bit. At the time, all of my mates were getting Focus RSs and Golf GTIs, but I’d always been into the older cars until a mate let me drive his Golf R, and it blew my mind. The grip and power is unreal for a standard car, and I always said I’d have one someday. So I saved for a bit, and bought one as a daily.”
With the raw aggression of the Mk2 tucked up in the garage, you’d forgive him for leaving something as well-rounded as a Mk7 R in close to factory spec, but that was clearly never going to happen. Tom lasted only four days before giving in to Stage Two upgrades, and only a month before the turbocharger had outstayed its welcome. Before long, the practical runaround was packing a full Stage Three performance kit with a TurboTechnics V5 and Aquamist, putting down 611hp and 740Nm torque.
Livelier commutes had an expensive downside, he says. “I kept blowing gearboxes up. I went through three of them, snapping input shafts and blowing clutch baskets to bits. The original plan was to swap to an RS3 gearbox, but those are £7,000 on their own, so I found a whole car on Copart for £15,000 and bought that instead. It was completely smashed up, with no seats and the engine arrived on a pallet because it had been ripped out.”
Despite the shared platform, the fusion of Audi and Volkswagen parts was no easy task. It took Tom three months to bring the car back to life, transferring the drivetrain then laying out miles of wiring looms on the floor, tracing and removing redundant features from the Audi splicing in elements from the Golf. It’s a process helped along by his Dad being a wiring expert and having MRC Tuning – who had built the UK’s two other RS3-powered Golfs – on the phone to fill in any remaining gaps.
“The reason only three of them have been built is they’re a headache to do,” Tom laughs. “With this car, I went from a nut-and-bolt mechanic to stripping a Golf R to a bare shell and re-wiring it from scratch. The engine, transfer box, rear diff and propshaft bolts in, no problem, but you need someone who can wire cars, knows how it all works and can code them to get it started, let alone working properly. I’m lucky to have the best people on hand if I need any help.”
Effectively an RS3 in Golf-shaped clothing, the result of that hard work was a foundation for a lot more horsepower than the factory four-cylinder could muster, paired with the strongest transverse-mounted dual-clutch transmission in the Volkswagen Group toybox. Naturally, both have had further upgrades to put that down reliably – including 1,300hp clutches and extra strengthening for the transmission, and a fully-forged engine to reduce the risk of expensive failures later on. For Tom, there was no room to cut corners: “The stock RS3 engine will take around 700hp if it's mapped right. People think, because it's an RS3, it's gonna take a million horsepower. They see these 1000hp builds on the internet and think ‘I'll have one of them’, but they don't see that you've got to have it forged, and it’s £10k and upwards to get that done. I didn't know that either, but I bit the bullet and we've created an absolute weapon of a car.”
Weapon is right. With the right hardware in place, Tom set about assembling a spec sheet potent enough to feel like it should require a permit. Cramming a TheTurboEngineers TTE777 hybrid turbo, boost pipework and RPC Motorsport inlet manifold into the Golf’s front end pushed the inline five up to 780hp by the time it rolled out of the workshop for the first time. And this wasn’t just about bragging rights; with a larger engine, it was much more driveable than the heavily-tuned factory four-pot too. Bare-bones re-engineering and a lengthy conversion process offered some opportunities to tidy up other areas of the car, too. The Audi RS Recaro wingbacks had been a lucky find on Facebook Marketplace and were revived with a blue diamond stitch to tie in in with the R’s dials. They’re now matched with a Hawkes Autoworks suede and alcantara trimmed dashboard, with inset carbon fibre from Exclusive Composites and refinished door cards too. While the engine feels like it’s been lifted from a racecar, the app-controlled starlight roofliner and materials inside would be just as at home in a Rolls-Royce. “I’m big into designer brands – when you work hard, you play hard, don’t you? My mate owns a printing company, so I mentioned to him about doing some Louis Vuitton style seatbelts and he was up for it. He told me didn’t matter if it was a T-shirt or a seatbelt, printing is printing,” smiles Tom.
“About four or five days later he sent them back saying he’d never do another set. They’re the hardest thing in the world to keep straight and get the print on right. I get asked all the time about them, I could have sold them about 1000 times.”
The insanity unfolding up front was creating some unusual additional issues. Tripling the Golf’s factory power output had left the analogue dials struggling to keep up, so they’ve made way for a full Mk7.5 digital instrument cluster. To add to the hybrid of electrical systems on board, Tyrone at Cartechnics UK helped code the Arteon buttonless climate panel and Tiguan 9.2-inch touchscreen into the mix, and the Audi R8 steering wheel isn’t just for show. Paired with an Ambrace control box, all of the buttons – including the starter – are fully functional. Bellmans Auto Electronics even converted it to a blue backlight, to match the instruments. As if that wasn’t keeping him busy enough, Tom had been keeping an eye on what others were wringing out of the RS3’s mechanical parts, and clocked several breaking the 1000hp barrier with the help of IROZ Motorsport’s full-frame turbo conversions. After a course of re-engineering to cram the IMS 850S the back of the bay, and new MRC software for the engine and transmission, the Golf took another step towards that goal – putting down just shy of 950hp and highlighting the need for further investments in the chassis.
You quickly get a feel for how far this was pushing every nut and bolt as you walk through the level of thought put into the spec. Front and rear Wavetrac differentials, supplied by Regal Autosport, help to put that power down, and the old big brake kit began to struggle to keep up with the abuse. In its place, there’s a full Audi R8 370mm ceramic brake conversion with custom two-piece steel discs at the back packed in behind 18-inch Protrack One wheels. Again, that’s no straight swap – the ABS module had to be reprogrammed to make everything work properly.
“The problem with adding so much power in a small chassis is the car was squatting and smacking the rear arches. KW spent two months sending springs back and forward form Germany, trying to find the perfect balance between stopping it squatting and it being too hard for the road. We went through about five sets and used an RS3 saloon rear spring with a helper against the bottom control arm so it doesn’t squat fully when I let my foot off the brake.”
Stoop to look under the Golf, and you’ll find most of it is far beyond even Audi engineers’ ideas for the platform. Performance versions of the A3 got the same aluminium subframe as the GTI Clubsport, but the Golf R missed out. Tom skipped a step here, opting for Verkline’s T45 tubular steel front and rear subframes to stiffen the bodyshell while also shedding around 10kg compared to anything Audi ever fitted, and paired them with a full set of the company’s rose-jointed bushes and its antisquat kit. It’s a full-works attitude to restoring some of the Golf R’s all-round usability.
“The grip difference was unbelievable,” Tom tells us. “People think it's gonna wheelspin all over the place, but it just grips, and grips, and grips – even if I launch it in first gear. These new tech four-wheel drive systems in these Audis are absolutely insane. I couldn't believe it.”
That’s undoubtedly helped by a targeted weight loss programme running in tandem with the extra power. Almost every bolt-on part, down to the wiper blades and scuttle panel, have been switched for carbon fibre, and it’s not just for cosmetics. The combination of a bonnet and wings from Exclusive Composites, 3kg-apiece doors and the one-off Seibon tailgate help keep the Golf’s kerb weight down to 1.2 tonnes – or roughly 300kg lighter than it was in factory spec. But it was the subtlest changes which turned that process upside down.
“The Mk7.5 front end was a real headache. I found one headlight in a breakers yard and bought the other one new, then I got a deal on a damaged bumper to match and supplied the parts to Tyrone to get it working,” Tom continues.
“The trouble is, the headlights are LED so suddenly you need these module boxes that are £700 each and a new wiring loom, and you’re coding online with someone in Germany. The cheap conversion at £2,000 ended up costing me £5,000 instead. Big stress.”
Of course, he’s not done yet. Not content with scraping just under four-figure horsepower, Tom has dialled up the boost even further with an IROZ Motorsport IMS950R turbo since our shoot and nudged 1100hp during tuning at MRC. It’s not a case of mechanical curiosity, but a machine built with summer trips to Santa Pod and the Nürburgring in mind and a good chance of some very unhappy supercar owners along the way.
“People think a 1100hp daily drive is impossible, but you build stuff right then it’s gonna last,” he says. “It’s wicked on fuel if it’s not in Race mode, it’s got seven gears for the motorway and the exhaust is quiet until you want it to make a noise. I’ll take my mates and customers out in it, and they think it’s going to be a full-blown rally car, but it isn’t. It’s just like a Golf R with a five-cylinder… until you press Race, then it really wakes up.”
Not a bad spread of talents for a daily driven, then. If the Golf R had made all-weather grip and near-supercar performance usable every day, then Tom’s pursuit of extra mile re-engineering has dialled up that concept to the point of white-knuckle excess. A boundary-stretching reminder that membership of the four-figure horsepower isn’t reserved for the race-ready.
“People think it'll wheelspin all over the place, but it just grips, and grips, and grips"
- ENGINE: 2480cc, five-cylinder, turbocharged (DAZA) from 2019 Audi RS3, Race Developments forged internals, IROZ Motorsport IMS950R full-frame turbo with external wastegate, TC Performance full 4.0- inch titanium exhaust system with oval tips, Aquamist meth injection system, custom 5in Golf R/RS3 carbon and titanium intake, supersize filter, custom 4in intercooler, TC Performance custom boost pipework, RPC billet inlet and runners, Bartek Motorsport oil cooler, JDY Performance sump, RacingLine oil, cooland and brake fluid caps, custom TC Performance loom, MRC Tuning TCU and ECU maps, Cortex Electronic Boost Controller, RS3 DQ500 7-speed transmission with strengthening plate, DCT Clutch 1,300hp clutches, IROZ Motorsport 1,700hp flywheel, Wavetrac limited-slip differentials front and rear, factory RS3 propshafts and driveshafts, carbon fibre engine cover
- CHASSIS: KW Clubsport V3 coilovers with custom spring kit, Verkline tubular subframes front and rear with anti-squat arms, anti-lift kit and caster arms, SuperPro anti-roll bars, Verkline rose-jointed bushes, Audi R8 370mm ceramic front brakes, custom 370mm rear discs with ceramic calipers, 18x9.0 Protrack One wheels, 245/40 Continental Sport Contact 7 tyres
- EXTERIOR: Seibon carbon fibre bootlid, carbon doors, Exclusive Composites carbon front wings, vented bonnet, rear diffuser, wing mirrors and door handles, Mk7.5 Golf R front bumper and LED headlights with carbon vents and splitter, Oettinger rear spoiler, carbon fibre side skirts, carbon fibre scuttle tray, carbon fibre wiper arms, carbon fibre fuel flap, tinted windows, black badges front and rear
- INTERIOR: Full Mk7.5 digital dashboard conversion with Arteon digital HVAC controls, 9.2in Tiguan touchscreen and voice-activated radio, full alcantara dashboard trim with blue stitching and carbon fibre dashboard inserts, Audi R8 flat-bottom carbon fibre steering wheel with functioning start and drive select buttons, Audi RS Recaro wingback seats with alcantara centres, blue diamond stitching and carbon fibre backs, starlight roof lining, carbon fibre door cards with Nappa leather, Louis Vuitton seat belts
- SHOUT: Doug, Mihnea, Sarah and David Lee at MRC for the mapping and working horrendous hours getting my car running, Richard at Exclusive Composites, Verkline, RPC, Iroz for the turbo kit and having wicked customer service, my mate Adam, Danny at DB Wraps for the PPF work, ZZ Detailing for making sure the paint was absolutely perfect, Tim Radley at Race Developments for forging the engine and always being on the phone when I need him, Hawkes Autoworks for the dashboard, Regal Autosport, KW Suspension, Tyrone at Cartechnics UK, Reyland Motorsport for the rear brakes, CLP Automotive and Darkside Developments for help with parts
«He'd been keeping an eye on what others were wringing out of their RS3s and clocked several breaking the 1000hp barrier»