July 3, 2022

Joseph Mann had two instructions in thoughts for his now dubbed Harlequin Skoda Fabia vRS makeover: right down to the bottom, then off into the stratosphere in a glimmering disco freakout of LSD-tinged technicolour desires…

Function from Quick Automotive. Phrases: Dan Bevis. Pictures: Dan Sherwood.

Scorching hatches work to a confirmed method. The entire level of them is to mix practicality and day-to-day usability with tactile agility and amusing ranges of firepower. It’s an idea that has endured for generations; when producers began dipping their toes into these aromatic waters again within the Seventies, it grew to become instantly obvious that they have been on to a winner, and lovers have been scooping up and cherishing these items ever since.

The place issues get just a little extra peculiar is when car-makers begin to distort the enjoyable/practicality steadiness. The thought of creating a fuel-efficient sizzling hatch, as an illustration, is one which’s saved designers and engineers scratching their heads for some time; at this time such issues are simply achievable with the likes of Ford’s three-pot EcoBoost motor with cylinder deactivation and what-have-you. However again within the Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s, it was diesel energy that saved popping its head over the parapet. And sure, there have been diesel sizzling hatches earlier than the Skoda Fabia vRS of 2003, however this was the primary solely diesel sizzling hatch with no petrol different.

In opposition to all the chances, it rapidly grew to become a little bit of successful. In essence, the Skoda Fabia vRS is an train in how a automotive might be higher than the sum of its components. On paper, it doesn’t sound all that thrilling; actually, who would need a self-styled sizzling hatch that was packing a unclean oil-burner beneath the bonnet? And a peak energy determine of simply 130bhp? Which will have been a formidable quantity when the 205 GTI appeared within the early Nineteen Eighties, however the Fabia is a Twenty first-century automotive. You may see why some individuals initially turned their noses up at it. Oh, however how incorrect they have been… 130bhp wasn’t the entire story by any means, because the vRS’s key quantity was a meaty 228lb ft of torque, obtainable from simply 1,500rpm. For those who saved it within the candy spot between about 1,500-2,700rpm, this perplexing heavy-hitter had the power to depart loads of extra credible rivals with egg throughout their faces. Certainly, it’s so torquey that the traction management cuts in relatively greater than you would possibly like if you’re hustling it alongside nation lanes, however there’s nothing to cease you switching that off and getting right into a little bit of mischief. What you get on your cash is confirmed VW construct high quality, a playful chassis, far more usable energy than you’d ever count on, and a shocking quantity of sensibleness too. It’s not costly to service, it’ll return 55mpg on a protracted motorway run, it’s low-cost to insure, and it’s proper on the backside of its depreciation curve so it’s not going to lose you any cash when it comes time to let it go.

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For all these causes and extra, that is why Joseph Mann discovered himself signing on the road for a Fabia – the one you see earlier than you right here. In fact, it regarded just a little completely different then to the way it does now… however earlier than we get into all that, let’s have just a little dig into the back-story.

“My historical past of proudly owning modified vehicles goes again to once I first handed my take a look at,” Joseph explains. “My first automotive was a gold Mk1 Ford Focus, which got here fairly customary till I began taking part in round with it! Again then Max Energy and cruises have been a giant factor, so I used to spend my Saturday nights down Southend seafront admiring all of the builds that have been occurring. From the Focus I then went onto a traditional Subaru Impreza which had a half-and-half paint job – it was such a stunning import and I consider it was an ex-police one as effectively. I did a lot to that automotive!”

Following that was a Mk7 Fiesta ST, maybe his magnum opus, which Joseph owned from when it was simply 4,000 miles previous. Some fairly wild stuff occurred within the 5 years that he had it, from a pearlescent pink paintjob to a full retrim and audio construct, plus air-ride over Fifteen52s… which was all enjoyable and video games till it received written off. And with an enormous gap in his pocket, Joseph wanted to interchange the ST with one thing reasonably priced. A automotive that would offer some hedonistic thrills, but additionally be low-cost to purchase and comparatively frugal to run. So yeah, you may see the place that is going. The thought of a Fabia vRS fitted the invoice completely.

“I discovered this automotive on a Skoda Fabia Fb web page for £1,400, and immediately knew it was the one I needed,” Joseph remembers. “Nevertheless, the situation actually wasn’t the very best – the bodywork was fairly terrible and it had scratches throughout, together with a good few dents and loads of stone chips. The wheels had a number of kerb marks to them, the inside wasn’t the cleanest and the seats weren’t nice both so all of it wanted a great scrub-up – however I couldn’t complain because it was a fairly low-cost value! On the plus aspect the spec was good, because it had the induction package and had already been mapped. It additionally had the larger Octavia brakes and a few model new decreasing springs fitted.”

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Harlequin Skoda Fabia

All in all, a fairly first rate start line on a funds. Though as we’re about to find, budgets are malleable issues when the artistic juices begin flowing. You see, with a such a protracted and illustrious profession of doing offbeat and inventive issues to vehicles, there was no method that this little derv runabout was going to be staying in that rough-and-ready situation. It was making Joseph’s eye twitch. And it was inside simply the short while that developments began to
manifest themselves.

Wheels maketh the automotive, as has lengthy been established on this parish, so the primary transfer was to accumulate a recent set of Fifteen52 rims for the Harlequin Skoda Fabia vRS, plus some 10mm spacers for the entrance with a view to neatly fill out these chunky little arches. An air-ride package was then purchased from Offset AutoHaus, together with fittings from these good individuals over at Solely Charged Dubs. And with the haul of loot turning into a considerable pile, Joseph needed to formulate a plan of motion. With out additional ado, he packed a suitcase and hightailed it over to his mate Daniel Kenny’s home, the place the fellas put aside a full two weeks to provide the Fabia a correct makeover. All the pieces was stripped down and the air-ride put in, side-stepping a number of hurdles with air strains being too near the exhaust and entry factors brushing wheels, and earlier than lengthy it was all safely positioned and dealing appropriately. With that taken care of, the 2 guys together with Daniel’s dad set about sprucing up the bodywork prepared for wrapping, which required limitless quantities of filling, sanding and repeating, till lastly the Skoda was prepped for its disco facelift.

“The wrap was the toughest factor,” Joseph laughs. “I couldn’t discover a single color I preferred, so I ended up with 32 wrap samples! I used to be doing edits on my automotive to see if I preferred a selected shade, however nothing was fascinating me till I began riffing off the Harlequin design and tried modifying a number of colors collectively.”

Harlequin Skoda Fabia

The Harlequin concept will most likely be acquainted to most readers; basically, in 1995 Volkswagen launched a particular version Polo with its panels variously painted in Flash Crimson, Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Inexperienced and Chagall Blue – the way in which they achieved this was to take completed vehicles in every color and swap the panels round, and it’s change into a cult hit. We’ve seen the home-built Harlequin remedy on every little thing from Mk3 Golfs to Passat CCs. Nevertheless, most individuals have a tendency to stay to these authentic 4 colors, whereas Joseph had one thing extra super-freaky in thoughts.

“I made a decision I actually preferred the multi-colour edit, and acquired an entire bunch of super-gloss metallic colors from CSK Wraps,” he says. “Daniel and I, together with one other mate, Kirsty Rushbrook, set to work on the wrapping aspect of issues, taking it one shade at a time. As we received midway by way of the method, we determined to make a number of adjustments to the scheme and lowered the variety of completely different colors from 9 down to 6.”


It’s a really impressed concept, and one which’s had crowds buzzing across the Fabia at reveals ever since. Joseph receives loads of consideration and reward for it whereas he’s out and about too; it might have a present automotive end, however that is nonetheless his day by day driver for commuting and errands and every little thing else. Throughout Essex and much past, jaws drop and telephones flash; younger children love the rainbow vibe, older of us quiz him in regards to the Harlequin affect, it actually does carry just a little color and vibrancy into individuals’s lives.

Harlequin Skoda Fabia

Certainly, we’ve received so caught up within the rainbows that we haven’t even addressed the ‘sizzling’ ingredient of this sizzling hatch… sure, with a PD150 turbo, straight-through exhaust and a wholesome remap, it’s placing out a meaty 188bhp – up 45% over inventory. However the actually chewy quantity is the torque determine; 292lb ft is a hilariously surprising outcome, the quantity you’d discover in a Mk3 Audi TTS or a Mk7 Golf R. The diesel slugger is a drive to be reckoned with, for positive. Nevertheless it’s all wrapped up in such a pleasant, fantastic, fairground-fabulous bundle that the efficiency all the time comes as an enormous shock.

In fact, shocking efficiency has all the time been the Fabia vRS’s modus operandi. What Joseph has accomplished right here is to take that stealth and warp it into one thing so in-your-face it stretches the very material of your retinas. A missile streaking by way of a rainbow, spreading pleasure and good cheer wherever it flies.

Tech Spec: Harlequin Skoda Fabia


1.9-litre PD TDI, PD150 turbo and head bolts, Airtec air filter and silicone hose, 2.5in straight-through Jetex exhaust system, remapped to 188bhp / 292lb ft


6-speed handbook


Air Elevate Efficiency suspension with V2 administration


Octavia vRS 312mm entrance brake improve


7.5x16in Fifteen52 Deltona wheels with 205/40/16 tyres


Wrapped in assorted super-gloss metallic shades from CSK Wraps, entrance quantity plate recess smoothed and flushed, de-badged and smoothed bootlid, RSP Shops lowline package, smoked entrance and


Half-leather Octavia vRS entrance seats, enhance gauge, double-DIN Pioneer SPH-DA120 head unit, boot construct inc. air tank and 2x JBL subs wrapped in wavy black material, flooring re-laid in matching material, hand-made Air Elevate controller holder in ashtray  back lights, wiper delete, LED fog lights, shark fin aerial, bonnet vents, wind deflectors