As Veronica finishes off the last chapter in her current book, she’s about to get started on the sequel. Let’s get ourselves up to speed.
Veronica is a 1984 Volkswagen Golf Mk2 Diesel. Veronica is the single worst car I’ve ever had. And I absolutely love her to bits.
The funny thing is, Veronica was never even mine to begin with. Take a step back to July of 2015, and my brother Dave was looking for a car. It had to be pre-1985 for reasons, and I said he should go for a Mk2 Golf, given that we sorta know what to look for when it comes to Mk2 Golfs (By that, I mean, I had recently bought a horrible Golf and knew exactly what not to buy). He found one on a local sales page on Facebook, and I said I’d go with him to look at it.
After a trip to Enniskillen (where, we found out later, is where the car is actually originally from) and a good look over, eventually we took her home. The temperature gauge didn’t work and there was no real history or anything, but it seemed to run okay and the body was A* standard. It was a tidy little car – but it never really captured my interest.
Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I didn’t like the car. But I was young and foolish, and as someone driving around in a GTI version of the same car with a loud exhaust, bright red paintwork and the tartan seats, and in comparison the slow and basic looking diesel looked bland to me. Thankfully, my tastes did change as time grew on. As per tradition in the household, the car needed a name – eventually he settled on “Veronica”, because it sounded good when you said “Veronica the Volkswagen”.
Fair enough. It stuck.
After a while, plans changed for him, and the car got parked up as he drove something else. The car was sold back to my dad, who also didn’t really care for the car and had no intentions of driving it. So for quite a long time, she lay parked up, stupidly with the windows down, exposing herself to the elements. That’s where I came in.
Eventually I moved her out from the cove in which she lay, as I thought it was an absolute shame for such an early and tidy Golf to be laying up at the side of the house. In hindsight, it likely would’ve been a better idea to leave it there. I had decided I was going to buy this Golf from my dad and turn it into a proper show piece – with the summer of 2016 impending, I had the time to do it. My main ports of call were the engine bay (which, while functional, was in dire need of a very good clean up) and the interior (which, having left the window open while it was parked, was literally a pond. But hey, at least it held water and didn’t leak it through rust holes… right…?).
After essentially locking myself into the poly tunnel (we didn’t have a shed at the time) for the whole summer, I gave my full dedication to making it look as good as possible. The whole engine bay was cleaned and degreased, sanded and painted. The engine and gearbox themselves had the same treatment. I’m more than confident in saying it truly was a showpiece. After all, 2 months of constant work… Wouldn’t it be a shame for that time to have all been for nothing? Yeah.. it would… Grits teeth…
After giving all of the rest of the car the once over and a good service and clean out, it was time to get it booked for MOT. I hate MOTs, having had lots of very, very bad experiences with a certain car (which earned itself the name “The Heartbreaker” due to it’s MOT experiences) so I booked it with baited breath. I was ready to get a fail sheet and see what work I had to do to it, but for the first time in my life I had a car pass it’s MOT for the first time. This is simply unheard of to me. I thought this would’ve been a good omen and a sign of things to come.
Having discovered this newfound confidence of a car that passed MOT first time, I was absolutely over the moon. I had a proper burst of motivation and decided to pay more attention to the outward appearance side of things. A damn good polish, reproductions of her old side stripes and new “Diesel” logos as well as new wheels and body coloured centres meant that Veronica really began to look the part.
Now, she was show ready. I was ready to do the rounds, do all the shows, really show her off to the world and let everyone see what 427 Motorsports could do. There were dozens of shows lined up for what was left of Summer, so I had a busy schedule ahead.
Two shows. I made two.
The curse of Veronica had began to set in.
The first show that I made it to was called Moynalty Vintage Show, something that I had never heard of but Rian was dead keen on making it to. He took his family in his Peugeot 309, and me and Conor headed off in Veronica. She actually made the trip and the day perfectly fine, with no real issues to report, bar some maybe questionable noises, but that became natural in her. Which, in hindsight, probably was a warning sign.
Plagued with reliability issues, she spent more time off the road having bits and pieces fixed than she did actually being driven. Things constantly broke on her – I think the problem was that she had spent so long not being driven much (her previous owner never drove her much either) that actually being driven was too much of a shock to the system and it all just fell apart. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself, despite the fact that it still happened two years later. It’s all about self preservation, here.
The only other show I made it to that year was the Legenderry show, which is held quite close to where my uni is. Again, me and Rian convoyed up, and we looked fantastic (the cars, I mean). The highlight of it was using my old car to rescue a modern car which had a flat battery. This would be the only time she was the one doing the rescuing.
Sadly, the issues continued steadily for the next few months – every week there would be a new issue, a new problem, something else to go wrong. Genuinely, the car spent more time off the road than it did on the road, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I was insured on my mum’s Fiat and that I had another car as well (despite it being nearly as unreliable), I really would’ve been screwed.
The engine deciding to give up just before that Christmas was the icing on the cake. I’d had enough. She was parked up for a month, before we decided what to do – which turned out to be the next mistake.
There seems to be a recurring theme within the Irish Volkswagen community, and it’s “stick a TDI in it”. Engine broken? Stick a TDI in it. Not enough torque? Stick a TDI in it. Brakelight bulb blown? Wouldn’t have happened if you had a TDI in it.
You get the idea.
Another recurring thing? Stick a Land Rover pump on it. Keeps it mechanical. Removes the computers and wiring and issues. Great idea in theory.
Load of fucking bollocks in practice.
To keep a long story short, after months of working in the rain, snow and shine, what we wound up with was a heap of a car that never ran properly, no matter who looked at it, no matter what advice was given (and followed), everything continually went wrong. It belted out more smoke than a 70s English pub (and not the good black kind of smoke), was noisy, rough and just was an all round nightmare.
But in it’s defence, it never really let me down. By the time it was actually really ready for the road, it was nearly summer again. Other cars had come and gone, and life was drastically different from what it was before – but one thing remained constant: Veronica was still a cunt.
Genuinely, after ages of still being a dick, she eventually caved in.
It was one faithful night in the middle of Summer 2017. Me, Conor and Cormac had just finished work in Dominos, it was 2AM and we decided we’d go out to eat at the local McDonald’s. I said I’d go home and grab Veronica and we could take her, for the fun of being out in the Mk2 after a day in the Subaru.
This was a mistake.
At 3AM, we were on our way home, and I noticed that she was making a weird noise. I did my usual thing of ignoring it and turned up the radio some more. At this point, I was so used to weird noises that it just seemed logical to leave it alone. But then the temperature gauge started to go off the scale.
This was especially odd. Not because it was overheating, but because the temperature gauge – up until this point – didn’t work. It wouldn’t read anything because it never worked. So when it decided to go off the scale, I properly shit myself.
We pulled over to the side of the road, grabbed the torch and had a look under the hood. Everything seemed okay. We opened the expansion cap, and what we saw was something that I can only describe as horrific. Where there’s supposed to be water, there was literal sludge. Brown sludge. It genuinely looked like diarrhoea;the car had, figuratively and literally, shit itself.
Fucked, then. We decided, for some strange reason, to stand at the side of the road and stare at the open bonnet for a solid 15 minutes. Nobody said a word, I think we had all accepted what had happened as a “Tomo is about to genuinely lose his shit right now”. When I don’t say anything, it’s probably best that you do the same.
At this point, a police car had driven past, and they turned around and came back to see why a group of young lads were standing by this old car with the bonnet up at 3 in the morning. One of the officers announced right away that he knew nothing about cars, and decided to not say much. The other officer however was very much interested, and when I showed him the state of the sludge we had just witnessed, he looked at me the way that you look at your child when you have to tell them their dog has just died and simply said, “I’m very glad I’m not you right now”. He meant it sincerely. I think.
We decided the best option was to absolutely horse it down the road and get it home, and break the news to my parents the next day. What came next can only be described as the “three engine week”.
Now I, for the most part, am quite a strong minded person. 90% of things, I can deal with. I try not to let things bother me too much, and do my very best to keep chill as much as I can. But never before have I had myself tested as much as I had during that week. Four nights of being out in the garage until five or six in the morning and everything going wrong was extremely testing. At one point I had genuinely left the garage in tears because I was just so, so frustrated. I would like to personally thank Cormac because if he wasn’t there helping, this simply wouldn’t have happened.
First, it had the TDI in it. Removing this was the first night’s job. We had been donated an engine, to try, with no prior knowledge of if it worked or not from the person who donated or from ourselves. So I had cleaned it all up, serviced it, checked it over and it seemed to be okay. Even painted up the rocker cover to have it looking nice, I was very proud of it. The second day, we got it mounted in the car, connected everything up and had the car back together – I was very excited for that turnkey moment of having it breath into life and all would be well with the world.
It didn’t. In fact, it started for about 20 seconds, if even, and then went bang. Catastrophically bang.
Hole in the block bang.
So that was the end of that. That night, I took it back out again, this time by myself.
The next day, after asking around on the owner’s club group, I managed to source another engine – this time one that was definitely working. After a road trip that day with my dad and becoming a few pounds lighter in my wallet, we were back home and I had one last shot at getting this thing to work before I gave up on it.
After wrestling with it until 2AM, it was ready to go – or so I thought. After the first turn of the key, a huge water leak erupted. The flange in the side of the block gave up and was leaking water out. I was so annoyed and had such little patience left in my system I just gave up and stormed out of the garage. I’d had enough. Someone else can look at it tomorrow. That someone else was Da.
Sure enough, being the master mechanic he was, he managed to make some kinda botch repair job the next day and it worked perfectly. This meant it was time for me to go out on my first test drive, on the car that hadn’t left the garage in God knows how long. It was, of course, going to go well.
No amount of extra spotlights that I didn’t even like in the end were going to make up for a broken drive. It just went bang on the way down the road. This car was surely going to be the death of me.
It became a running joke around everyone that I knew. Constant abuse over the car that was an absolute disaster, and the reputation of it still lives on to this day. It was so bad that I even bought an Egyptian “Good Luck” charm and hung it from the rear view mirror in desperation. It even became a meme, which was shared by the Reasonably Priced Used Car Memes Facebook page, which to me was a personal highlight.
Things were getting dire, and by the start of September of 2017, finally I had a car that could see the road.
The majority of the issues were sorted. I was still very annoyed at her for everything she had put me through, but then she became one of the most important cars I’ve ever owned. I learned more about cars in that one week than I’d ever learned, and it was a true test of my patience and willingness to keep at things no matter how tough they got. It’s probably why I rarely give up on things anymore, because I know that in the end, it’ll work out okay.
Once that whole ordeal was over, it was relatively smooth sailing. Veronica became more than just a car – she had truly become a part of me, because of what she’d put me through. I began to get more attached to her and, after she became the car to go and visit Elaine in, and the car that made me gain a new true friend, it drastically changed how I saw the car. It wasn’t just a car, it was what 427 Motorsports is all about.
Cars, really aren’t just cars. I began to see things from the outside world when I saw Elaine begin to get attached to Veronica – cars are loved by everyone the world over. They aren’t just hunks of metal that take us from A to B – they bring us closer together. Not only physically, but emotionally.
Veronica took me and Elaine on our first couple of dates, and on some of the most memorable experiences of our lives. We saw and did so much in that car, and I was able to see for the first time a proper bond between someone that previously had no interest in cars and, well, a car. I literally witnessed first hand the creation of a car person. Not your atypical car person, but one that truly sees cars as more than just machines. The type that you don’t see very often.
It even taught her how to drive for the first time, too.
Veronica breaking helped me see just how much of a true friend Cormac is, staying out to God knows what time in the garage regardless of what responsibilities he had the next day, because he didn’t want to see me stuck. The two of us will never forget the correct way to take out the drives and hoist out an engine in a Mk2 Golf – it’s practically ingrained in us now. We’ll get that road trip Cormac, and Veronica will be more than ready.
And, most recently, she helped me to gain a new friend, one who has been nothing other than an absolute godsend over the last couple of months, who just happens to be working on her as we speak. But I’ll get into that in a minute.
Veronica is special – not only because of the fact she’s a very early Mk2 Golf, or because she breaks all the time and needs special help or anything – but because through her own problems, she’s brought people together. She’s introduced me to so many new people, and brought me closer to the ones that I already knew. That’s the type of thing you can’t just purchase with your car when you get it from the factory. And now, after everything Veronica has done for me, it’s time for the favour to be returned to her. It was time for her to have a spa treatment.
After hearing about my issues that I was having with Veronica over the last while, a guy by the name of James got in touch with me saying to leave it up to him and he would sort it out. For a long time, I was on the fence about it, purely because I didn’t know if I could say goodbye to my baby. I’d never, ever sent any of my cars away to get work done before – we’d always done it ourselves, so even just the concept of it seemed alien to me. But after a while, and knowing how many things had still to be done to the car to have it right, I decided it didn’t deserve the slow and miserable death that I was giving it – it really needed to be taken away and sorted properly, once and for all.
And sorted properly it was. I basically said “take this car, and make it work”, and with that brief he went off and by god he did it.
After a few months of work, I got her back for the first time. A fully rebuilt engine, brand spanking new. All of the suspension changed – I had been driving her on effectively a broken leg for months. Looking back, if Veronica was a child I’d have had her taken off me for being abusive. And the engine bay was rewired – for the first time from the day she first came home 3 years ago, I was able to hop into it and drive without worrying. I’ve never done that before, and that, to me, is invaluable.
I took her on a drive to a place special to both me and the car, St. John’s Point, to have a mini photoshoot of her just being finished. The whole way there and back, not a single issue. James, you are a godsend, and I can’t thank you enough for everything that’s been done to this car.
So what now?
Well, this is the start of a new chapter for Veronica, and we have a lot of exploring and adventures ahead. Thanks to everyone who took part in writing this chapter – I hope to see you in the next one. This was a long article – to all of you who made it this far, I salute you!