November 27, 2022

After greater than 50 years of Golf GTI, Chris Baird’s tuned Mk7 Clubsport Version 40 with 510hp exhibits the new hatch bloodline nonetheless has loads of methods up its sleeve…

Characteristic from Efficiency VW journal. Phrases: Alex Grant  Images: Ade Brannan.

As fortieth birthdays go, most of us might really feel a bit envious of the Mk7 Golf GTI. As a substitute of taking it simple, the unique efficiency Volkswagen stormed into its fifth decade with an uncharacteristic present of pressure. This was an anniversary marked by the GTI’s first season competing below TCR guidelines, and a bit of of that motorsport engineering propelling the 310hp GTI Clubsport S to a Nürburgring lap report a number of weeks after its headline reveal at Wörthersee. A reminder from Wolfsburg that the trailblazer might nonetheless lower it.

Edinburgh-based Chris Baird was in the fitting place to choose up on that hype. Because the GTI turned 40 again in 2016, he’d been taking a break from the constructing commerce to bask in a life-long love of vehicles. Working at an area Volkswagen showroom didn’t become the right match – it lasted a couple of yr earlier than he returned to operating his personal enterprise – however the Clubsport-branded residents of that forecourt left a long-lasting impression.

“My spouse needed a Tiguan R-Line, however I obtained fortunate discovering this one,” he says, smiling. “It got here up simply after I’d left Volkswagen, and at a very good value, so I believed I might maintain onto it for a number of years on a PCP and possibly lose three or 4 grand on it. I purchased it with out her information and satisfied her it was a very good automobile to have after it was on the doorstep. She wasn’t completely happy…”

Historically a giant marketplace for sizzling Golfs, the UK obtained a greater than its justifiable share of the 400 GTI Clubsport S manufacturing run, and the entire 150 right-hand drive vehicles offered earlier than they reached showrooms. Nonetheless, the Clubsport Version 40 wasn’t a lot of a compromise. Constructed as a numbered batch of 1,000 vehicles, it obtained most of its stablemate’s aerodynamics and efficiency – 290hp on overboost from an engine that was nearer to the R than the common GTI – however with out the aggressive track-ready weight discount. Sellers ran out of inventory inside weeks.

Carbon fibre wheel arch on tuned mk7 golf gti

Chris wasn’t unsuitable about recognizing a very good one. Regardless of having a few additional doorways, quantity 453 had been specced as near the Clubsport S because the Version 40 choices listing permits. A combination together with the guide gearbox, black roof and the identical Recaro wingback seats that saved Volkswagen take a look at driver Benny Leuchter pinned throughout that record-setting Nürburgring lap. They’re not a nasty method to spend £1,350.

It settled in rapidly. “I’ve had a Mk5 Pirelli Version and a Golf R earlier than this one,” he explains. “You do discover the shortage of four-wheel drive once you draw back – with the Clubsport you need to work it a bit tougher to keep away from wheelspin. Nonetheless, as a result of it’s about 100kg lighter, it’s higher for throwing round and, once you get that grip, it takes off actually rapidly. I might see there was potential.”

Front Recaro bucket seat in tuned mk7 golf gti

Three years of finance funds pressured some endurance into the mission. With a works van for day by day obligation, the Golf put in a shift as an out-of-hours runaround for Chris and his spouse till temptation finally kicked in in the beginning of 2020. Fuelled by a bit of encouragement from his mate Davie at Autohaus in Edinburgh, the Golf reached its third birthday with an APR Stage One package. Software program and a freer-flowing air filter unlocked 360hp and that all-too-familiar curiosity for going deeper, but it surely additionally began highlighting the GTI’s weaker factors.


“Lots of petrolheads need the guide, as a result of they need to really feel like they’re truly driving the automobile,” he continues. “Davie warned me that I’d most likely discover the usual clutch would begin slipping, and he was proper, it slipped continuously. I did a few hundred miles and it was principally a pointless train getting the map with out upgrading the clutch. However, with the RTS clutch and flywheel, I’m not getting any trouble even now I’m at Stage Three.”

Interior shot of modified mk7 golf gti

The guide ‘field has its work lower out. There’s no launch management possibility, nor mechanically assisted shifts of a DSG to assist ship that additional energy, and it wasn’t solely the clutch that wanted to be upgraded. The APR short-shift package tucked in below the centre console, helps keep away from motion whereas the Golf is doing its factor, whereas additionally providing tighter gearshifts and two-axis adjustment of the lever itself. A helpful improve which was dulled a bit of by the just about rapid arrival of lockdowns shortly afterwards.

This turned out to be a chance to develop these plans additional: “Out of the blue we weren’t going out, spending some huge cash on consuming, consuming, holidays and that form of factor,” he says. “That meant I had a number of quid to spend on wee ins and outs for the automobile, to see if it made a distinction. I’m form of the Quick and Livid technology, I’ve at all times been into my vehicles and I’ve had spoilers and exhaust and stuff on earlier ones. However they’ve by no means been to this extent.”

Tuned mk7 golf gti front wheel

Stage Two happened with the assistance of APR’s UK stockist, Superior GTI in Manchester, and Glasgow’s Ecotune to get all the things on to the automobile. Regardless of the pandemic-disrupted postal service, the summer season months put a line of deliveries within the path of the Golf, together with the uprated ignition coils, entrance mount intercooler, increase hoses and a full Milltek exhaust system. The Clubsport S may need had a 100kg weight benefit, however the injection of recent {hardware} gave Chris virtually 100hp extra to play with, although it didn’t fairly fulfill that all-too-familiar curiosity for going even additional.

It’s an indication of the instances that, with none inner engine upgrades, a five-door household hatchback can thump out 510hp on forecourt gas. Stage Three provides a re-worked model of the inventory IHI turbo, balanced, enlarged and flow-optimised by TheTurboEngineers, then paired with RacingLine’s OE-quality, 600hp-rated airbox with its chilly air consumption stretched throughout all the width of the grille. Customized Ecotune administration then takes care of delivering simple highway manners, whereas wringing out the total potential of each element as soon as that additional increase comes into play.

Plans for monitor use imply warning has been dialled in all through the tuned Mk7 Golf GTI construct. Though Clubsport fashions benefitted from the GTI TCR’s racecar’s growth programme, Volkswagen stopped wanting becoming its oil administration system. RacingLine affords an aftermarket equal; a baffled catch can with a breather plate that stops oil pooling on the entrance of the engine below heavy braking, which might trigger hunger points and vapours entering into the cylinders. Chris additionally opted to improve each gas pumps, as there’s actually no room for error once you’re pushing the boundaries of manufacturing facility internals.

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The smile on his face suggests the dyno-proven 510hp, 468lb/ft pay-off on this tuned Mk7 Golf GTI was definitely worth the effort: “I don’t suppose I can go a lot additional with the ability, the turbo is restricted to 535hp, but it surely’s like a 500hp go-kart the best way it goes round corners. With two-wheel drive and a guide, you’ve obtained to attempt to management that, or it spins in second and third.”

Rear shot of tuned mk7 golf gti

Pursuing lap data means Volkswagen hadn’t spared any expense both. The Clubsport GTIs share a entrance bumper optimised to enhance cooling airflow, with a entrance splitter, facet skirts and open tailgate spoiler to press every nook into the tarmac. Chris left most of that alone, including an ECS Tuning carbon rear diffuser and carbon fibre mirror caps much like the Mk7.5 GTI TCR. The bonnet and wings have been imported from Jason at Seibon – and stretch the physique about 10mm per facet, requiring spacers up entrance.

It’s a troublesome look, and masking that carbon weave was by no means on the playing cards: “Some people will hate it, and a few will like it,” Chris continues, with a shrug. “Lots of people don’t need to see a half-coloured automobile, some individuals suppose it’s a wrap, but it surely’s a very good speaking level both manner. Lots of people say they haven’t seen it earlier than.”

With regards to wheels, these RacingLine R360s aren’t only a beauty improve. They’re inbuilt a Mk7-friendly ET44 and are available at 10.9kg a nook – or about 2kg lower than what’s fitted on the manufacturing facility – and the Michelin Pilot Sport 4s are the identical 235/35 fitment because the Clubsport S. Nicely, if it really works for Volkswagen Motorsport, it’s not a nasty place to start out.

In fact, the draw back of constructing this tuned Mk7 Golf GTI throughout lockdowns is a decreased variety of alternatives to essentially discover that potential. Monitor time happened pretty just lately, with the Ecotune-sponsored German Invasion occasion at Crail Raceway not removed from Edinburgh. Already within the space for an in a single day keep together with his spouse, it felt like a helpful probability to find what the Golf might muster. It’s been a studying curve.

“I hadn’t been to Crail since I used to be 25. The automobile was operating Stage Three however I hadn’t actually pushed it correctly – on monitor, or quarter mile – so didn’t actually know the way to get probably the most out of it. However I believed I’d give it a blast down there,” says Chris.

“It was good enjoyable however, until the tyres are actually warmed up, it struggled to get grip in the beginning. My quarter mile instances have been mid to excessive 12s, a automobile like mine must be doing excessive 11s. There have been RS3s and Golf Rs topping out at a decrease velocity however getting quicker quarter mile instances. I had the best velocity however not the quickest time, it simply wasn’t getting the nice begin it wanted. As soon as it will get to 3rd gear it pulls like a practice.”

Predictably, that curiosity has fed again into different enhancements. The hard-working entrance wheels on the tuned Mk7 Golf GTI are actually wrapped in Nankang AR-1 semi-slick tyres to provide the Golf a greater an opportunity of placing the ability down successfully, and Chris added a stable dogbone mount to dial out any powertrain flex below heavy launches. It’s taken the weekend toy even nearer to the monitor machines that influenced it on the manufacturing facility.


“In case you’re used to driving luxurious vehicles, it’s a bit noisy. That efficiency mount means the engine and gearbox are bolted collectively for the monitor – so that you get various noise and vibration by that. There’s a prime one too however that’ll be even louder, so Al’s stated in case you’re not purely monitoring it then simply depart it alone,” says Chris, including that he’s not had a lot luck with attempting its touring talents both.

“Covid killed the highway journeys too. I used to be meant to be doing the Cannon Run from London to Amsterdam – it was purchased and paid for, then it was cancelled ten days earlier than the occasion as a result of Holland wasn’t permitting UK guests. Seemingly this yr it’s going forward however I don’t need to rely my chickens simply in case. I want to get again to Crail to see what distinction the semi-slicks make, however the climate hasn’t been nice for that but both.”

GTI bade on tuned mk7 golf gtti

The climate hasn’t stopped play completely, although. There’s a mildly modified 2018 Audi RS3 sharing the Golf’s driveway house, its four-wheel drive traction higher suited to all-season use north of the Scottish border, if not completely able to the uncooked aggression of its platform-shared housemate. It’s a pairing solely probably threatened by one other legacy of rising up within the 2000s – an unhappy want for one thing Japanese.

“I’d prefer to preserve it, but when somebody got here to me with a very good value, who is aware of,” he says. “Earlier than Covid I used to be taking a look at Nissan Skyline R32 and R33 GT-Rs, however with the costs as they’re now they’re out of my league. I’m not paying £40-50,000 for vehicles that have been low to mid twenties two and a half years in the past. So I’m going to place that on the backburner and hope the market crashes. We’ll see.”

Within the meantime, it appears the unique efficiency Volkswagen isn’t slowing down any time quickly. 4 and a half a long time into the GTI bloodline, and the VW Mk1 Golf’s legacy remains to be breaking obstacles within the efficiency stakes – and that’s one thing most of us can really feel a bit of envious of.

Tech Spec: Tuned Mk7 Golf GTI


1984cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged (CJXE), Ecotune Stage 3, Racing Line R600 air filter, APR carbon consumption pipe, APR turbo inlet, The Turbo Engineers – TTE535 Hybrid IS38 turbo, APR Turbo muffler delete, APR intercooler, APR silicone increase hoses, APR increase faucet, Forge blow-off valve, Milltek full race exhaust system and sports activities decat with black tip, APR ignition coils, NGK competitors spark plugs, Autotec high-pressure gas pump, Precision Raceworks low-pressure gas pump, Racing Line oil administration system, APR adjustable quick shifter and facet shifter, RTS clutch and flywheel, stable dogbone mount


APR -20mm springs, Forge 13mm wheel spacers (entrance), 19×8.5 ET44 Racing Line R360 wheels, 235/35 Nankang AR-1 (entrance) and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 (rear) tyres


Seibon DV-Fashion carbon fibre bonnet, Seibon 10mm carbon fibre extensive wings, ECS carbon fibre diffuser, carbon fibre mirrors, manufacturing facility black roof


Manufacturing facility Recaro Clubsport wingback seats, manufacturing facility alcantara steering wheel


Davie and the fellows at Autohaus Edinburgh, Al at Superior GTI, Ecotune Scotland