One of the cruellest realities in life is that when something is done right it often seems as though nothing was done at all.
People are far more likely to notice what’s out of place than what has been painstakingly put into place. In the realm of show cars, the Volkswagen community perhaps best represents this builder’s paradox.
Unless you are steeped in all things Volkswagen, it’s easy to miss some of their most sought-after modifications. The top dogs in the VW show scene are equal parts nipping and tucking as they are applying otaku levels of OEM+ obsession. Mopar fans are often credited for knowing the complete catalogue of oddball factory options, but many Volkswagen Auto Group enthusiasts could easily give them a run for their money.
Hours of careful planning, vehicle purchasing, parts-hoarding, and sanding and polishing often amounts to what can dismissively be written off as ‘wheels and a drop’ by the uninitiated. At first glance, Chill Winston’s ’79 Scirocco could be labelled exactly that.
Take the photo above. If you don’t know Sciroccos – early Siroccos more specifically -then you might miss all that’s gone on to make the car look as tidy as it does. That simple-looking front end is a combination of no less than three cars and countless hours of work.
Winston, who was originally set on a car-building path by his uncle, switched from Renault 5 GT Turbos to Volkswagens because it was the direction the majority of his friends were heading. He settled on Golfs initially, a Mk1 at first with later generations to follow. A Mk4 Golf was in his stewardship when he came across a Haynes manual for a Scirocco. The unique and uncluttered lines of the model drew him in.
The repair manual made the Scirocco seem rather straightforward, so it seemed like the perfect platform to take over the top, without going over the top.
From The Floorboard Up
Let the record show, I never ever thought I’d start a feature with the floorboard of any vehicle. The interior sure, but the floor? Never. Winston’s attention to detail in this area is almost that of a madman. Given he’s owned nearly 30 Renault 5 GT Turbos in his lifetime, Winston’s Volkswagen friends – who are not fond of the French-built cars – would argue he was always a little crazy.
Shaved engine bays have become a bit of a requirement for any Volkswagen that even so much as dabbles in the show circuit. Wanting to have a proper go at things, Winston decided to tuck and shave everything in his way from the core support to the tail panel.
While the car was torn down for complete restoration, Winston had his friend Arun set about smoothing over every redundant hole, no matter where it could be found. Once that was done, out came the sanding block for hours on end. Winston is surprised the friendship survived, because “painstaking” is the only way he can describe this laborious process.
“Staying motivated throughout was very difficult… one of the hardest parts of the build,” Winston stated before admitting it was worth it for what he wanted to accomplish. The end result is far more aesthetically pleasing than any floor has a right to be.
Covering well over 400 hours’ worth of work with carpet just to hide wiring would have been absolutely blasphemous.
The solution here was instead to run all the various harnesses required to make a car work under the Scirocco or through its rocker panels. This leaves the interior looking stunningly clutter-free from all angles.
Don’t for a second think anything is hidden by the headliner either. Because like the floor, the roof was welded, shaved, painted and polished. The same goes for the underside of the hood.
Factory pieces that remain inside are the best of the best from the various Sciroccos that Winston bought and flipped to fund the build. The clock is from a 1976 model, whereas the dash is from the chassis year of manufacture, 1979. The shift boot however comes from an early 1975 car. The seats are aftermarket and the steering wheel is a Momo item.
The black interior bits play off the freshly-sprayed Volkswagen ‘Bright Yellow’ paint. Winston’s grandmother indirectly helped pick the colour for the car. She’d always felt green cars were a bit unlucky, so Winston chose a yellow that ever-so-slightly crosses over into green under certain lighting conditions.
As I said in the intro, do everything right and most people will not notice you did anything at all. There are two rather important components to this car that are so very cleverly hidden away they don’t look as though they are missing. The first is the ignition. Any trace of a keyed ignition has been completely eliminated.
More importantly, there isn’t a big red button that says ‘START’ in its place. Instead, the ignition is run via repurposed factory switches. As there is no rear wiper on the car, that switch operates the ignition. Turning the wiper on is what would be position ‘1’ in a keyed ignition and holding it down, which previously would have sprayed washer fluid, sends power to the starter. Very clever.
The ignition kicks over a tiny-but-tidy 1,300cc Volkswagen engine. At one time the car did have a larger 1,600cc engine installed with a turbo alongside, but Winston really had his heart set on the VW Motorsport cam cover that would only fit the 1,300cc motor. Also, the form factor of the motor proved a little bit more helpful to the car’s end goal of driving as low as possible.
Out the front of the engine is a supercharger plucked from a Polo G40. Along with the supercharger came a switch to the G40’s splined belt drive system. Winston went into his dwindling Renault GT Turbo stash for the Solex carburettor and fuel pressure regulator. The distributor and ignition are from a Saab.
Still retaining faint remnants of his fingerprints at the time, Winston saw to it that both the engine and transmission casings were also smoothed out and painted.
Winston confesses that being a displaced Renault GT Turbo enthusiast led to the inspiration for the Scirocco’s wheels, which are actually another sleight of hand.
Their appearance mimics cast Ronal Racing wheels, but they are actually billet aluminium, made by a fellow enthusiast during Covid when the price of billet was shockingly cheap in the UK. They are a one of two, with likely no others set to ever be produced.
The car has worn much smaller wheels, but currently these custom beauties measure up at 17×6.5-inch. Narrow 165/35R17 rubber has been stretched to fit.
From the beginning, Winston set out to build a car that was as low as possible while still being drivable. He had the Scirocco on air for a brief spell, but it now gets on rather well with a static setup.
AST coilovers set things on the right path, but the stance is far from a remove-the-lock-rings-and-call-it-a-day sort of affair. Driveshaft notches prevent binding and a raised wishbone and engine prevent fouling the ground. The subframe and driveshafts were also narrowed to allow a track width that permits the wheels to turn, as they reside well within the fenders.
When the Scirocco was initially completed a few electric hurdles kept it from being driven. “I took a lot of stick for it not running,” Winston mentions, continuing that making the Volkswagen roadworthy became priority one after winning Performance VW magazine’s ‘Volkswagen Of The Year’ title.
Despite looking as though it could never run due to lack of vital components, the Scirocco does run and drive thanks to Chris at Garage 87 who helped the car through a few teething pains once it was finally time to make it operate as it should. It does get driven now, but Winston can usually be found behind the wheel of his Mk5 GTI, a car that is bordering on archaic among today’s modern vehicles, but light years ahead of the technology that remains in the Scirocco.
The Scirocco is kept in running order at all times, though as you could imagine, driving it can be a little nerve-racking for Winston considering its perpetual cleanliness.
I must admit to being a little taken aback at just how much detail Winston managed to shoehorn into such an unsuspecting little car. Less is most definitively more in this case.
In an ‘it takes a village to’ manner, Winston would like to thank all his mates who worked on the car with him, including Josh, Arun, Gyln, Nic, Garage 87 Chris, Ian at Air-Cooled Electrics, Rick Scho, Polomon, Marshal, Bryan, Stefan and John, and Chad at JH Pro Paint who laid down the colour.
After poring over it for a better part of a decade, Winston is warming himself up to the idea of parting with the Scirocco after the 2023 show season. For him, it’s served its purpose of testing just how far he could go with a custom car build.
I’ll end this feature with one more parting shot of the interior and that floor, before asking if you’ve figured out what the key missing item from this car is, and where it’s been relocated to. Winston’s own Instagram might offer a hint or two if you’re really stumped.
Photography by Rick Schofield