Keeping up with one's own family is not always easy. Sometimes one may wonder if the sole reason for the existence of the elderly aunts and grandparents is only to humiliate their younger relatives among their peers or embarrass kids with some silly questions elderly aunts always ask. But then family also means loving and inspiring people that enrich our lives. The two German cousins Jörg Leitner and Marco Müller most probably have some aunts that caused them some annoyance in the past too, but they also have each other. They grew up together as avid car enthusiasts, and since they were brought up in Germany, they had to become Golf fans.
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Marco's first car was a Golf Mark 1. Now, twenty-five years of modifying cars later, he's still on the Golf Mk 1 scene, owning one of the most interesting and best-executed specimens in the whole of Germany. And that's one big achievement. He was motivated for this purchase by his cousin Jörg, who by then had already put a lot of time and effort into his own Golf Mk 1, which he had owned since 2008. Now each of their cars is good enough to attract a crowd at every tuning show on its own, but wherever one of the Golfs goes, it is followed by the other, causing even bigger sensation.
At one point the two Golfs presented here were virtually identical, both boasting brown bodies kept in the cult style, with chromed bumpers, BBS RS and Ronal rims, hood bras, and all sorts of other details that were at the top around five years ago. The cult style still enjoys a strong following in Germany, so when the cousins decided to transfer their cars into another type of Golf, they caused some controversy among the tuners' fellowship. The final effect is nothing short of spectacular, though, and it will surely add popularity to the motorsport-related trend, already celebrating its peak of fame on both sides of the Atlantic. The cousins' plan didn't end with obtaining the looks of the period track Golfs, but involved building actual competition-spec cars that can be used every day as normal hatchbacks as well. They succeeded in that, and now this serious-looking pair is extensively used not only through the tuning gatherings season, but also in the daily commute, because Golfs. What's even more impressive is that both of the cars were rebuilt according to the strict rules of the German Group H historical racing homologation. This means that these two are regarded in their country as authentic historical cars, as indicated by the letter H at the end of their license plate numbers. This gives the cars certain privileges in everyday use and allows them to take part in professional track events, a fact that the cousins are happy to benefit from greatly.
As the Golfs evolved into their new phase, their style was set apart, reflecting the individual approach of each of the owners. Both sport identical BBS-inspired US-sourced rims (albeit with different wheel offset) and characteristic bolt-on wide bodykits, which, in fact, are original period parts from the '70s built by the German company KWL, but they are used for a different effect. While Jörg's red car stays in the stance culture, Marco's classy Kamei design gives the same shapes another meaning. The four-colored Golf is the older one of the two, as can be identified by the narrower early series Swallow-tail rear lamps. But still it wasn't meant to be an accurate reproduction of the historical white, yellow, orange and red Golf Cup racer that brought the German car accessories manufacturer to international fame. While the rear bumper was removed according to the motorsport fashion, the front one was retained and repainted to a surprisingly fitting orange hue. The body boasts some more tasty custom details the Germans are so good at inventing. Marco's car boasts many delightful traits that will make the Golf geeks droll like the Porsche-sourced period door handles and the rare collectible Herbst Tuning cylinder head, which gives an interesting look to the whole engine bay. The classic eight-valve 1.8 inline-four stayed, but it was given a series of modifications that allowed its power to rise from 112 to 181 hp and grow the torque up to 134 lb-ft. This was achieved by growing the displacement to 1.9 liter, introducing a more efficient fuel pump, more aggressive Schrick cams, and Supersprint exhaust manifold, fine-tuned exhaust system, and, finally, topping it with the Weber carburetors, a must have for European car fiends.
An older car with simpler dashboard, Marco's Golf interior looks even cleaner and more minimalistic than Jörg's. It's still the quieter and more civilized one of the two, with the stock glass windows and some partial sound deadening, but even with these, the driver is exposed to an extreme environment. The cabin is dominated by the thick attested steel roll cage, while the '70s-style stock dashboard complete with the obligatory vintage golf-ball gear knob contrasts with the modern suede finish Sparco wheel. The old seats had to make way for competition-spec Sparco buckets with Sandtler racing harness, and basically everything beyond them was deleted as part of radical slimming treatment. To let the car deliver what all the modifications promised, the suspension was swapped for the respected FK Static Silverline coilover set, and some more effective brakes were introduced, borrowed from the not too distantly related VW Scirocco 16V.
The red car owned by Jörg may seem to be a plainer and less extensive approach to the Golf tuning, but it's in fact an even more extreme take-no-prisoners project. It's a later car and maybe this is the reason why Jörg allowed himself to spice it up with much more modern inventory. The body maintains its serious competition-aimed spirit with the semi-slick tires, black finish that takes the place of the regular chromes, the small aerodynamic carbon side mirrors that used to be so popular among German tuner specials after their debut in Porsche 935, and thin polycarbonate side sliding windows. However, for Jörg, the aesthetics were as important as the feeling of authenticity. Hence, the new Hella indicators and the Fifft rear lights were blacked-out in a classic manner, while the front ones were swapped for the yellow lamps, originally destined for the French market and now highly desirable among the tuning society. The gold body livery doesn't mimic any period design but rather indicates its affiliation with the Sourkrauts crew (bringing sauerkraut to mind, not entirely accidentally), a popular German community that promotes tuners' way of life and sells its own awesome automotive memorabilia.
If Jörg's car body may send contradictory messages to the world, the interior sends a very clear one: a focused and heavily modified Golf. In went race-spec roll cage, Sparco steering wheel and tight seat comprised of Sparco bucket and Sandtler harness just like in the other car (but a sole one; the second seat is mounted only for occasional passenger rides). Out went basically everything else. It's a clear and lean arrangement, but certainly not a rough one, with the carefully appointed paint and exotic materials used throughout. The radical solutions like the bare carbon-fiber inner door panels, additional VDO gauges, and the clean rear compartment with the battery moved to the place where a spare wheel used to be located betray the car owner's perfectionist approach. As you would expect, asked about the audio system, Jörg replies that he doesn't need (or event want) anything other than the car's engine bark.
As for the powertrain, Jörg decided to go one step further than Marco. As in many of the Golf Mk1s tuned in Germany, the original 1.8 8V engine was swapped for the publically acclaimed 16-valve 1.8 KR-type motor first seen in Mk1's successor, Golf GTI Mk 2. This is a popular choice as KR is a well-known construction that is relatively easy and cheap to run, tune and fix, while it still maintains the characterful spirit of the original unit. The 1.8 engine saw further extensive modifications. Its displacement grew to 1920 ccm and a pair of twin Weber 45 carburetors made their way under this hood as well, doing much good for both performance and acoustic experience. Jörg's car is surely one of the best sounding Mk 1 Golfs, as he found even more decibels and grumble in this relatively small unit thanks to an exhaust manifold of his own design and the Powersprint exhaust system. All of the work resulted in the power going up to around 180 German Pferdestarke, which, together with the extremely limited weight, provides some seriously good track results. The car achieves the same 134 lb-ft maximum torque, but later down the rev meter (5170 rpm vs. 4500 rpm of the cousin's car). Needles to say, the set is complete with coilover KW V1 suspension with additional front strut tower braces. While Marco uses Scirocco brakes, Jörg uses the later and bigger 7-in. Corrado units.
When we met with this unusual duo during the last year's Wörthersee show (take a look at the European Car report here, we didn't have any track at our disposal, but the nearby winding mountain roads climbing up the Pyramidenkogel proved that these two are more than capable on the twisty stuff. It seems that no matter how you do it, the combination of light weight and high quality components always sums up in an involving and competent performance car that can put to shame some of the most respected and many times more expensive members of the supercar elite. Driving these cars hard, hearing their vintage engines roar and seeing how enthusiastically they respond would never bore me, but as entertaining as driving these two is, I found even more joy in seeing both of the cousins play with each other, running the Golfs down the Alpine trail in perfect synchrony. As Jörg claims, "When we're at the track, neither of us needs to look into the mirror. We've known each other for so long and so well that both of us know perfectly well what and when the other one will do."
In the months to come, Jörg plans to further enhance his Golf's performance, but only by using the original period parts to keep in line with the car's original character. On the other hand, Marco says his car is a finished project, but this may only be an excuse for him to focus on a wholly new project in 2016. No matter what the future brings, the Leitner and Müller cousins may count on each other's help and inspiration for further tuning efforts.