Story by Tom Duke // Photography by Tom Aiton
With the minimal tail lights scowling at you through dying light, seeing these cars in the twilight changes everything. Their movements are cat-like.
For me, stanced cars never clicked. Both the Fiesta and the Golf have a very stanced image: clean, low. In the first 15 minutes of our shoot, I followed the two cars to our location. I got a good chance to really see how these cars move on the road. The lowered ride height means the suspension has to be tight. This, with the fact that the cars are so lightweight, leaves a highly agile small car, which is mesmerising to behold darting along country lanes.
These days it is easy to ‘tut’ and roll your eyes at the sound of a tuned exhaust, but both George and Luke’s cars represent hard work and commitment. 1980’s budget eco cars don’t magically ping into classic fun-carts after a thorough wash and some paint polish. There is some serious work going on behind the scenes with these hot hatches.
Both George and Luke have gone the whole nine yards. George has completed a Zetec engine swap for his Fiesta. Going from the stock 1 litre to a (relatively) modern Ford Mondeo 2 litre. The swap has given astonishing results: the power to weight ratio is pure lunacy for a lightweight hatch with no driver aids. “You kinda need a bit of a straight road to actually use it, otherwise you’ll just kill yourself."
George modified the engine to use carbureted aspiration instead of the existing direct injection system, increasing the eagerness in power throughout the range.
"Motorways and dual carriageways are pretty fun.”
Both the cars are sleepers. Yes, they’re both lowered - Luke’s obviously so, but apart from the fact that they have both got tasteful un-stock wheels, you just wouldn’t know how fast they are just by looking at them. Both these cars would give an Astra with just a 'yobby-fart-pipe' for an exhaust way more than a run for their money. Now, around 150 horsepower by modern sporty standards isn’t a lot, but look rearwards of the Recaro front seats in Luke’s Golf and the next noteworthy feature will be the rear boot lid. These cars are seriously light.
Luke upgraded his original engine to a custom set-up. A 1.8 top-end from a GTi with the K-jet injection system and the bottom of a 2L VW 8 valve. “It’s a longer stroke, the engine sits an inch higher. So that is what makes it up to a 2 litre.”
The thing that struck me most about these cars is that if you want the clean, low look you’ve got to have amazing paint. Otherwise, you are wasting your time. George initially had some issues with his paintwork. “When I got it although the shell was solid. The paintwork on it was gone so I had to bare metal it and take it down to a shell.” After spending a winter in a shed removing the old paint George had it resprayed back to its original colour. “It’s got a really good shine. It’s quite nice at night as well because it just looks black, you can’t tell that it’s blue. It’s Midnight Blue.”
Luke and George have taken their cars very far away from how they came out of the factory in terms of power and handling. However, it’s not like modifications to these cars are changing the fundamentals of their design. Engines aside all George and Luke have done is to add some personality to their cars. Nice wheels instead of steels, a tweak to the ride height, some sporty Recaro seats and a place to charge your phone.
If you see them on the road - give them a thumbs up.