It takes a special kind of madness to buy a brand new Golf R, then immediately modify it. But life’s too short to worry about dealer stamps…
“If you don’t turn around and look back at your car after you’ve parked it, you’ve got the wrong car.” So says Christiaan Van de Vyver, the vein of swagger that courses through this down-low modified MK7 VW Golf R, and you have to agree that he’s on to something. There are cars that thrive and flourish on the passion of their owners (the majority of the modified cars that you guys drive, for example) which will always elicit a cheeky over-the-shoulder glance as the driver walks away.
Then there are cars that are simply functional and devoid of emotion – say, the base model 1.0 Corsas bought your local dealer – which are merely appliances. Lock it and leave. And it’s because you’re of the former persuasion that you’re reading this magazine.
Now, this effervescent passion comes from the personalities that we bestow upon our cars, through the effort that goes into making them unique. Of course it does. But you can give yourself a real leg up if you start with a badass project base in the first place.
That’s not to say there’s no merit in making something retro-fabulous out of a rusty Nissan Bluebird or a putt-putting Trabant (in fact, that’s kind of awesome), but the angle that Christiaan’s taken is to start at the top of the tree, then shoot for the stars. He bought himself a brand new Mk7 Golf R fresh from his local Volkswagen dealer, then immediately started tearing into it. Which is a pretty bold approach. Sod the warranty, eh? You only live once.
The Golf R, in case you haven’t heard, is the Donald Trump of Volkswagens, in that its sharp suit is undoubtedly premium and impeccably tailored, but everything inside it is just spit-on-the-wall insane. Where the R differs from the Donald, however, is that the Golf does genuinely wield credible power; we’re staring down the thick end of 300bhp here, and that’s warrantied factory shove. Well, it would be. If Christiaan still had a warranty. But like we say, sod that.
“Why do it? Ah, it’s an addiction,” he shrugs, nonchalantly, in that effortless way only the Belgians can. He’s tapping into a rich cultural heritage of what the continental Europeans charmingly call ‘tuning’, of course, with down ‘n’ dirty making way for, er, down ‘n’ clean in the land of waffles. “I’ve spent about €9,000 on it on top of the original purchase cost, and that’s showing no signs of slowing down…”
Christiaan’s not showing off here, simply demonstrating the depth of his passion. He started his modifying career on a 2010 Scirocco – not bad for a first car, right? – and, impressively, he’s keen to clarify that all the work carried out on the Golf was down to himself and his mates. On a brand new car, particularly of this calibre, that takes a bulbous set of grapes.
“The wheels are my favourite part of the car, for sure,” he tells us. “I drove all the way to Northampton to get these Rotiform SCNs, and they’re the only set like it in Europe.” It was undoubtedly worth the journey, the copper finish of the forged nineteens sitting beautifully against that factory ice-white finish. But of course, rims are just half the battle… while your #thighgap might win you points on Instagram, no-one wants to be seeing a thick slice of fresh air between your arch lips and sidewalls.
My friends and I fitted the Air Lift Performance suspension setup too,” Christiaan continues. “We had it finished within a couple of weeks, and the car’s still my daily driver. How much do I use it? Well, put it this way – it’s six months old and it has 14,000km on the clock so far.” We’re guessing they haven’t been gentle kilometres either. I mean, you wouldn’t shell out for a 300bhp uberhatch and not wring its neck at every given opportunity, would you?