If you’re a car enthusiast, chances are you probably like the Volkswagen Golf GTI—or at least can respect its excellent performance-to-value ratio and everyday practicality. Full disclosure, this author owns and loves a MkVI example—but also admits to being fully outdone by Derek Spratt, who in 2011 bought himself a MkI GTI and spent seven years, more than 12,000 hours, and roughly $140,000 turning it into what he calls the “Ultimate ’83 GT.”
That sure is a lot of love. You can, of course, purchase four current-generation MkVII GTIs for that kind of money (and still have some left over), but Spratt didn’t want something new. He instead wanted something perfect. On his website, Spratt cites MotorTrend as part of the reason he bought a previous GTI, a 1982 model, in the first place. That GTI purchase made Spratt one of the first GTI owners in Canada back then, but he sold that car in 1987 and had been longing for more than 20 years to replace it. So, in 2013 with a bit more cash in his pockets, Spratt thought the time was ripe for a revisit of his glory days. He scored this ’83 GTI and set about creating his ultimate Rabbit.
He says the idea was to make a “cost no object GTI,” and boy did he ever. With a little help, he built a 2.1-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that makes 220 horsepower between 7000 and 7400 rpm even with a catalytic converter and air box/filter installed; remove the cat, and Spratt says there’s another 20 horses lurking under the GTI’s carbon fiber (not kidding) hood. Given that Spratt’s GTI weighs about 250 pounds less than a normal GTI, or about 1,800 pounds in “track” configuration, with a few nonessential bits removed, performance is lively. Allegedly, the little classic hatchback will scoot to 60 mph in fewer than 5.0 seconds, thanks to that supercar-rivaling power-to-weight ratio.
Spratt removed weight, but he didn’t exactly gut his VW. He added a number of modern niceties like power windows, forward and rear facing cameras, adjustable heated seats, and even a push-button starter. The result of all his toil is one of the cleanest and more original resto-mods (restored and modified classics) we’ve seen.
If you’re interested in Spratt’s build and want more details on the seven-year-long build, the owner documented everything about the car on his website. He recorded everything he did to the car in painstaking detail, and even produced a 122-page PDF detailing the build. There also is his YouTube channel and more than 180 videos covering the GTI, including the lengthy summation clip we’ve added here. So, what’s next for Spratt and his Volkswagen? After finishing the build, he sold the car to a young couple from Vancouver to share his passion with others.
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