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OMG, this thing is fast

Volkswagen Golf Rallye G60 (1989)

04/04/2013 05:57 |  Comments: 

Editor

As typical of a long-serving automotive journalist he worked at nearly all of the major printed automotive magazines in Hungary before ending up on the internet. More of the new cartester type, he’s also an automotive engineer by profession. Although he’s the editor in chief
of the mother magazine, totalcar.hu, he loves doubling as a photographer – we sometimes
think he made a mistake when choosing titles. Has a wife and a small daughter.

What sort of a beast is that? A totally awesome one. Behold the Golf Rallye G60. Square headlights. Just 5000 made. Radical!

Árpád is a Golf Country collector by trade but he has this odd-one-out in his back yard. Amidst all his cars there is this Thing, pearl white in tone, sort of looking like a hatchback kitted out of a boy racer set. Boy racer? Nothing farther from truth. This is in fact a highly collectible Mk Golf Rallye G60, a model so rare I wasn't even aware of its existence until today.

Árpád is not a guy, however, who takes unmerited credit. ”All I have done is taint the lights amber,” he says. ”Apart from that I bought it like this.” Árpád has been infatuated with this car since he was a child. This specific one, #3636 of the lot, was cruising the streets of his hometown back in those days. He even got to ride in it once. Then the car, still with a factory black paintjob, vanished from sight. It wasn't until 2009 he found it again. It was for sale and Árpád bought it without hesitation. By that time it was looking like this: pearl white and all.

Volkswagen made exactly 5701 pieces of the Rallye Golf, a model that was called to existence to facilitate VW's entry in the World Rally Championship: they needed at least five thousand street cars for Group ‘A' homologation.

The Rallye Golf is basically a Golf MkII with lowered suspension, hunched wheel arches, a 1.8-litre G60 engine and all-wheel-drive. The series production model had 160 PS but it wasn't powered by the standard 1.8-litre G-supercharged engine since the 1.7x turbo handicap would have put it over of FIA's limit of 3000 ccm. Therefore Volkswagen shortened the stroke of the engine, thereby effectively reducing its displacement from 1781 ccm to 1763. So much for the regulation. In fact the two engines have different code numbers: PG stands for the original G60 engine and 1H for the homologation model. You are not very likely to find any of these engines at your local scrapyard.

What the hell is a G supercharger?

It is a mechanical supercharger, being driven by the camshaft rather than by exhaust gases (like a turbocharger). Mechanical superchargers rob the engine of some (actually, a rather substantial part) of its power, but will in return deliver extra air and extra power without delay or lag, as opposed to turbochargers.

The G-supercharger belongs to the family of volume displacement superchargers. They compress air along a complex spiral: the intake air is forced in between afixed and an orbiting spiral, and as the latter orbits around the former the volume of air enclosed in between them gradually decreases, thereby becoming more compressed. (this sounds pretty complicated but the video below should give you a good idea.) When this compressed air reaches the centre of the structure it is released towards the intercooler, and then on to the engine. The G superharger has a boost pressure of 0.8 bar, i.e. lower than that of a turbocharger. Iits manufacturing process was also highly complex, requiring a great degree of precision. This made the engine very expensive, and since the construction isn't very durable, intact surviving G60 units represent some considerable value today.

Because of the square headlights it it's easy to mistake the Rallye Golf for a Jetta. Some were even converted into one back then. But these lights are different from those of the Jetta or the Corrado, Árpád tells me. The car has leather/fabric Recaro seats and a few other extras. It is not an overly well equipped model, and for a good reason: as a car intended for a rally racer conversion, the less equipment mechanics needed to throw away, the better it was. This also explains the limited choice of colours: black, dark grey, red, green and blue – that's all.

Racingwise, however, it didn't really work out for the Golf. Ervin Weber did all he could at the 1990 World Championships, yet all he could boast of was a third place in a single run, which put him 18th overall at the end of the season. Volkswagen was number ten among manufacturers which is, well, pretty bad. Even the Bastos BMW team did better with their RWD M3. The reason for this failure? For one, the Golf Rallye wasn't exactly reliable. Also, regulations changed and allowed for a maximum displacement of 3.4 litres, which meant competitors could develop 2.0-litre turbos. The G-Supercharged engine, being smaller and all, simply could not keep up the pace. Lancia and Toyota dominated the scene, Volkswagen just wasn't in the game.

The SOHC, two-valve engine of the race car had a maximum output of 280 PS. The powertrain included a six-speed gearbox and of course all-wheel drive. Volkswagen's weight watchers managed to rid the car of 150 kg, resulting in a kerb weight of 1050 kg.

Successful or not, this series production versions are, by now, few and far between; the more authentic, the more desirable. This specific vehicle is not very authentic, I'm afraid, but that is only temporary. Árpád has all the original wheels, and also the 1H engine in decent condition, all waiting patiently in the back of the garage. And it's the engine that makes all the difference.

But then what moves the car now?

It has a lightly souped-up 1.8t engine, transplanted straight from an Audi TT. This is standard procedure among the Golf crowd since this engine fits in without a glitch. It was last dyno'd at 216 PS yielding some decent power-to-weight ratio in the 1.2-ton Golf MkII. In other words, the car goes like a cat on fire. And driving joy in a twenty-year-old car is completely different from what today's meticulously insulated, sterile hot hatches can offer.

The digital instruments borrowed from the Golf GTI had some flicker issues but I reckon the Golf Rallye covered the 0-to-100 in about 6 seconds (factory specs state the original engine could do that in 8.6 seconds). But accelerating from 130 kph is even more frightening in this MkII.

There is no wheel spin, just solid traction; you can't foil good ol' Synchro drive. Brakes, however, are not in the same league at the moment but Árpád will not be distracted by that minute detail. Why? Let's put it this way – if you had a car like that, would you want to be slowing it down, or rather use it to humiliate stuck-up drivers of high-powered sedans at the traffic lights? Right on!

Another thing about authenticity. Seeing how meticulously Árpád restores his Golf Country's, we wouldn't worry too much about this speciemen. His recipe is fairly simple but effective: take the Golf Rallye apart to tiny pieces, than put it back together like it's supposed to be. There is no other way. Until that's complete they take an air wrench to the H1 engine each week and crank it, lest it should get stuck.

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