“Lara”: My love affair with the Mk2 Golf, and the car that started it all.
I don’t know what it was that made me go for the Mk2 Golf. I think that if I had to pinpoint a reason, it was probably a vague but distinct memory of my brother’s old one that he had when I was much, much younger. A car he claims to not care much about yet he has a framed photo of it on his mantelpiece. Go figure. But in 2013 when I was 15 years old, I decided it was about bloody time I got a car. And I don’t know why. because up till then I had never really considered one, but I became fixated with the Mk2 Golf. Those four lights, the square shape that is sort of reminiscent of the Delta… A lot of people ask me why I don’t prefer the Mk1 but personally I think the Mk1 is just a Mk2 with an eating disorder. Take from that what you will.
So, anyway, back to 2013. It was around April/May time, I think, when I began my search. My parents gave me the go ahead to start looking. I never quite understood at first why my parents wanted me to go ahead with buying a car at 15 (much less a Hot Hatch) but to be honest, looking back now, it was probably a good choice. It kept me away from smoking and drinking, because I couldn’t bloody afford to have both if I wanted to. But that’s the beauty of supportive parents I guess – they usually do always know best. So I started looking around for ages on the usual places – online classifieds and eBay (I didn’t bother with the paper. Who bothers with that anymore?). After a couple weeks of searching something came up, finally within budget.
A 1989 VW Golf GTI 8V in Tornado Red with 3 Doors. Perfect. It’s the combination that everybody dreams about on these cars. And the best part, it was only £600. I know this was before the sudden price hike on Mk2s, but even then that was staggeringly cheap. “We’ll ring in the morning” my mother said. I think she thought if I slept on it I might change my mind but that wasn’t likely to happen. I was pretty set on this happening. It turns out, maybe she shouldn’t have said that. Because the next morning when we went to call, the ad was no longer there. The car was gone. I genuinely could have cried. I think I actually did to be honest. But I didn’t give up my search. Which was just as well, because two days later, the advertisement was put up again. Now, to anyone with sense, this would say there’s something wrong with the car (there was) and that I should’ve looked for another one (I didn’t). I remember it very vividly – I was staying over at my sisters house and the advert reappeared, and I rang my parents in excitement. We rang the guy, he said the other person just didn’t show up. The next morning, we hopped in the family Fiesta (the Mk6 one, another car for another article) and drove the 90 odd mile trip to Buncrana in Donegal to buy this Mk2.
A Mk2 that I learned had used the wrong pictures taken from Google for the advertisement, had the wrong numberplates on it, and was a rust bucket. But hey ho, I was 15 and I bought it with my heart. And with that, I affectionately christened her “Lara”, after Lara Croft. Because like Miss Croft, this car will survive anything and will keep on living to fight another day.
So, over the next year, me and my dad worked tirelessly on it. I don’t think you’ll get father son bonding time quite like you will with restoring a classic car, unless you like football or something rubbish like that. But an insane amount of time was put into the restoration, and because I was still in high school my budget consisted of school dinner money not spent on school dinners. But don’t tell my parents that. And, as we didn’t have a garage at our house, it was done outside, in all weather.
But after over a year of work, the next chapter of this cars life began. A return to past glory. She looked good, she had passed MOT, she was on the road again. And after 6 months of having my licence, I could finally afford to get insurance on her. And I have to say, compared to my mother’s Ford Ka (not the horrible rust bucket Mk1, the horrible poorly built Fiat 500 based Mk2), it felt like a rocket ship. I understood quickly why hot hatches are hard to insure for 17 year olds. Thankfully, having built this thing from the ground up, I respected it enough not to be stupid. I save that for the track. But this begins the next saga of my Mk2 Golf Ownership.. “The Heartbreaker”.
One of the unfortunate things about driving a classic car is their tendency to… well, not work. Sadly, this car is plagued with that. The engine is cooked and it overheats and things go wrong all the time and I’ve had to be towed home more times than I’d like to admit. That’s where Lara also earned the name “The Heartbreaker”. My brother coined that phrase and I can’t take credit for it. Sadly.
But back on topic. Here in Ireland, we have an up and coming drag racing scene, over in Bishopscourt. I’ve been a regular competitor for all but one of the events of the Air Cooled Drag Day, and now am sadly retired from the sport. But I achieved what I set out to achieve, and that was to prove you can race and daily drive a classic car.
So what’s left with Lara then? Well currently she’s undergoing a complete rebuild. All of which you can keep track of on our site as time goes on.
Thanks for reading my writeup on the story so far, and I can’t wait to share more of Lara’s future stories.