321bhp 1.8T 20V conversion Volkswagen Golf Mk3
The Mk3 Golf still gets a hard time when it comes to being the slightly tubby, ugly duckling of the family, but Jack Jones knows that fast is always cool. Words: Jimbo Wallace Photos: Tony Matthews Moving shots: KFRPhoto.com
It’s a lardy, boring, ugly beast. The worst Golf GTi that VW ever made. Possibly the most pointless Golf of them all. Don’t know why you’re bothering with that — should have bought a Mk2 instead. Just some of the insults we’ve seen thrown at Mk3 Golf owners over the years on various interweb forums and social media channels. Yet for 26-year-old Jack Jones that sort of ‘banter’ only spurred him on to build a track car that many of the haters would struggle to keep pace with nowadays. He’s the first to admit that it’s still fairly mellow in terms of what could be done, but as a full package that’s dialled in perfectly this is a focused, balanced and exceptionally well put together machine. You know that thing about power is nothing without control – well, Jack has got both in equal measure right now and he’s ready to challenge any preconceptions that surround bolting a fast Mk3 together. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be confident in your cars ability when you’ve joined the big wang gang like Jack.
«The boost builds really progressively, it’s not spikey at. Even exiting tight corners things remain controllable»
Jack bought his Colour Concept 2.0 8v GTi back in 2019 with the intention of extracting maximum go from it and stripping everything out in the quest for lap times. To hell with the limited edition nature of the vehicle and the asthmatic 8v lump, he knew exactly where he wanted to go with this project, even given the overlooked nature of the Mk3 as a starting point for maximum attack. “It was a pretty tidy car to be fair, had 115,000 miles clock and wasn’t even that rusty. My mate, who works for a Nissan dealership, sprayed the side of it for £150 and that’s how it has remained ever since – rust gone.” said the AA man from Oxfordshire, continuing, “Yeah, I’ve had some people say that it could have been a ‘collectors car’ in the future, but there’s no fun it now, is there?.”
Oh no, Jack’s plan involved a BJX code 1.8T 20v from a Polo GTi, an engine he already had in stock before he even bought the car. “Coming from a 417bhp Audi S3 (8v) the 8v Mk3 was a huge culture shock to me. but once lowered on some GAZ Gold coilovers you could almost go everywhere flat out,” laughed Jack. But it didn’t stay like that for very long, as he sourced the VR6 / ABF engine mounts required to launch the 20vt into the hole. A Trackslag 3.5” conversion manifold was also drafted in, “At the time it was only listed for a Seat Ibiza,” Jack tells us, continuing, “but it fitted perfectly and bolted right up. Running on the factory 9N3 ECU that James at OBD-works repinned to run the rest of the Mk3 interior electrics, while skillfully splicing the looms together, this conversion sounds like one of the most straightforward engine swaps ever, and it’s made even more impressive when you see the headline figures from the small frame K03 derived huffer. “321hp isn’t a lot by today’s standards, but in this it feels nuts.” mused Jack, “That’s probably because it tips the scales at just over 1050kg. It feels, and is, much faster than my old Audi, particularly as it’s so raw compared to the comfort and understeer of the Quattro.”
But how, pray tell, does one extract that sort of power from the traditionally chastised K03 turbo? Well, there’s an easy answer to that – enter stage left Benjamin Parsons from Littco (Devil Developments) and the hybrid phenomenon (k04 Turbine / Billet compressor wheels) that is the Littco L280 Turbo – this little puppy allows for levels of power hitherto unheard of in 1.8T ‘small’ turbo circles. Thanks to uprated Pro Race Engineering con rods this engine is capable of easily coping with around 19PSI without bending anything, breathes easy through a custom intake with a Ramair ProRam intake and just makes way more power than we’d ever expect from what appears, on the face of it, to be a relatively small turbo, “It’s been mapped to perfection by Ben as well,” muses Jack, “The boost builds really progressively, it’s not spikey at all so even coming out tight corners things remain controllable – the man is a wizard.” With 321hp and 305ft.lb this is a 20vt that’s not messing around, capable of scalping some very serious opposition as well thanks to the flow characteristics of a Toyo Sport intercooler, 2.5-inch exhaust system, 550cc Bosch Injectors and Forge baffled sump everything is optimised to attack any track. In fact, Jack has taken on almost all of them since, including Cadwell where he snapped a driveshaft having driven the car there, the infamous Nurburgring and even Shelsey Walsh where he smashed the hillclimb into submission. Sure, it might still look like a Mk3, but this thing is fit for purpose.
«It’s so direct now and the back end is completely soldered to the Tarmac»
“It's got a big wing on the back so it’s a proper car now,” laughs Jack, “It really does make the back end feel more settled though.” That BGW comes from Backyard Civics and it adds downforce to the back end that’s much needed to keep things planted and allow the Craner Curves at Donington or the Carousel at the ‘ring to be dispatched with reassurance. As Jack fires through the gears of a Polo 02R gearbox that’s been fully rebuilt with taller 4th and 5th ratios alongside a 3.6 Final Drive by Gas n Gears, this motor truly hugs the tarmac courtesy of a Quaife LSD and those 8 x 17-inch Team Dynamics 1.2 rims wrapped in Nankang 225/45 AR-1 semi slicks, “The gearbox makes the car so much nicer to drive, buttery smooth gearchanges and it’s not screaming it’s tits off at 70mph.”
Surprisingly it really can make use of all the that power as well, something most front wheel drives would probably struggle with, no doubt thanks to Jack’s continued quest for suspension setup perfection, “I started out with the GAZ Gold coilovers and got them dialled in pretty well, but the tyre temps were getting far too hot on the outer edge and they were wearing at an incredible rate.” Jack was forced into action with Superpro and Powerfl ex poly bushes throughout, Silver Project camber and caster adjustable top mounts and Eibach rear camber / toe shims to allow for 3 degrees of negative out back, “It’s so direct now and the back end is completely soldered to the Tarmac, you’d have be going really stupid to lose it in this car now,” explained Mr Jones. Of course there’s also an uprated 25mm rear Eibach anti roll bar to contend with as well as a chassis mounted 12mm Buffalo board front splitter to really keep everything roof side up – as with any track car power really is nothing if you don’t have the confidence to throw it around at ten tenths most of the time.
Offsetting the go with some woah is left to a trusty set of Leon Cupra R Brembo 4 pots that wrap around 323mm discs up front and to keep everything balanced when his size ten meets the middle pedal, Jack has also swapped on the rear Cupra brakes with 256mm discs using the later bolt on style hubs. Whilst perched in some Corbeau Pro Series race seats Jack also has access to a Wilwood bias valve to finely tweak his entry and exit options into the bends, and with any luck that half cage will never need to be relied upon, but as the saying goes — you only need a rollcage to work once to make it worthwhile. As his confidence has increased in the car so has the evolution of the modifications, ability supports ability if you will – it’s the natural state for anyone who wants to go faster. Yet talking to Jack he’s a properly humble petrolhead who’s built something exceptional that’s always making forward progress. It’s also unbelievably tidy and clean to work on, “the engine bay makes life so much easier when working on it,” says Jack.
“I’d like to do more track days overseas at places like Spa, and thankfully as lockdown eases that will become more possible"
As he straps himself in with those OMP harnesses, hands instinctively fall to an 02J shifter tower with a Creation Motorsport short shift bracket and an OMP WRC steering wheel ahead. Twist the key, watch the Stack boost gauge come to life and wait for the idle of the 2.5-inch stainless system to settle down. The office is open for business as the Vibratechnic solid engine mounts transmit a slight increase in NVH through the cabin, but as with any track car that’s soon forgotten once the fluids reach temp and Jack rolls out onto his favourite B-road for a quick blast, or heads off to virtually any European track for the weekend, “I’d really like to do more days overseas at places like Spa, and thankfully as lockdown eases perhaps that will become more possible.” For time being though, he’s just happy tinkering with his pride and joy and going everywhere as close to the redline as feasibly possible. Now that he’s had a taste of hillclimbing as well, who knows where he might end up.
Check out the Youtube video that his mate did at Donnington as well, even though Jack reckons the car was down on power that day, it’s clear it ain’t no slouch.
- ENGINE: 1.8T 20V Conversion (BJX Polo 9N3) – 321bhp – 305 Ft/lbs, Devil Developments remap, Littco L280 Hybrid Turbo • Pro Race Engineering Con-rods • Custom 4” Intake with Ramair ProRam Filter – Headlight Intake Ducting, Trackslag 3.5” Downpipe Into Custom 2.5” System • Vibratechnics Competition Engine Mounts and solid gearbox mount • 02R Gearbox With Taller 5th Gear – 3.6 Final Drive • Quaife LSD • VR6 Driveshafts • Short Shifter Kit • Toyo Sport Intercooler 600x300x76 • 2.5” Custom Boost Pipes • Bosch 550cc Injectors • Forge Baffled Sump
- CHASSIS: Gaz Gold Coilovers • SilverProject Adjustable Camber/Caster Top mounts • Fully Polybushed Superpro/Powerfl ex • Eibach Rear Camber/Toe shims • Eibach Rear ARB 25mm • Custom Rear Strut Brace/ Harness Bar • Custom 12mm Buffalo Board Splitter (Chassis Mounted) Wheels/Brakes • Team Dynamic 1.2s 17x8J • Nankang AR1 225/45/17 Square • Front Brakes — Brembo 4 Pots – Pagid RSL29 (Leon Cupra R) — 323mm • Rear Brakes – Leon Cupra R – Pagid – 256mm (Converted to bolt on style hub) • Fully Braided/Hard Lines • Transporter T4 — Non-ABS Master Cylinder (Bigger Piston) • Wilwood Bias Valve RBF660 Brake Fluid Interior •
- EXTERIOR: Jazz Blue Colour concept, Carbon fibre Bonnet, Headlight intake ducting, 12mm Buffalo board front splitter, speed holes drilled all over bodywork, Backyard Civics Rear Wing
- INTERIOR: Corbeau Pro Series Bucket Seats • Safety Devices Rear Roll Cage • Fuel Swirl Pot (Bosch 044 Pump) • Battery located in the boot • OMP WRC Steering Wheel With 70mm Boss Extension • OMP Harnesses • OMP Pedals • Custom 02J Shifter Tower Bracket • Stack Boost Gauge
- SHOUT: Massive thanks to @gasngearsltd For Repairing and Rebuilding my LSD, James at OBD Works for all of the continued help and anyone else who has helped along the way.