Words & Photos by Henry Phull
This isn’t the typical kind of car that you’d expect to see gracing our digital pages here on Slam Sanctuary. It’s… how do I put it? Less ‘stancey’ than our usual spotlight features. However, Carl Shakespeare (or Shakey, as he’s more commonly known) has created a stunning example of a fast-road hatchback that we just had to showcase. Let me introduce his ’96 Mk3 Golf VR6, nicknamed ‘Lionel Racey’… It not only looks the part (subtle and understated), it goes and sounds like an absolute rocket, too, with a supercharger under the hood and a recent NOS setup. Considering the car’s purpose (driving fast!), it sits just right, too. It’s an impressive overall package, and after seeing it go through some significant changes during 2016, I bided my time and waited for the right moment to get this awesome VR6 behind the lens. That time finally arrived one late afternoon in the New Forest…
But let’s start with the owner himself. Head honcho at Studio Incar, Shakey actually works on all sorts of interesting cars on a daily basis, creating mid to high end custom audio setups, bespoke upholstery, and the occasional air suspension installation. Basically, most of the cars he works on tend to be full of the latest tech. However, he usually seems to go for a complete opposite approach with his own cars. Shakey likes to drive hard, with a lot of his more recent being semi stripped-down and static, as opposed to a ‘show-car’ approach.
Shakey has been into his Volkswagens since 2004, having owned countless Mk2’s, a Mk1 (which he actually hated!), an R32 and lots of Mk3’s already, including Vento’s and Jetta’s. In between the VW’s, he’s owned a whole host of BMW M cars, too… E46 M3’s, an E39 M5, E92 M3 and E36 328i, and although he has grown attached to BMW, he always seems to come back to the Volkswagen marque. “They just have an incredible following full of amazing people, you could genuinely try and ‘give up’ Volkswagen and you’d find it very hard indeed” he tells me… “Any VW guy/girl will have a long list of friends that they’ve completely forgotten are due to the marque and are now just best, close friends. It’s that and the VW lifestyle, it’s so much calmer than any other.”
So let’s get to the Mk3… Stuck without a project car for once, Shakey was left with his daily driver and wanted to get stuck in to another build, and at the time wanted something he could use on the Studio Incar trade stands. It just so happened that a customer and now good friend of his, Christopher Sukhram, had mentioned that he had a Mk3 VR6 tucked away in his garage. He told Shakey that it had been painted and had the arches pulled slightly, which were welded flat and smoothed inside (This alone would save himself a lot of effort in the long run).
The car had been driven home from the paint shop and garaged straight away – a whole seven years prior! So, with an ideal candidate sitting right there, he badgered Christopher constantly and almost gave up. Eventually, he finally gave in and sold Shakey the car. “It hadn’t seen light for many years, a quick oil change, so I turned over by hand and it then fired. Like any VW does.” he explains.
At first, the plan with the Mk3 was to build a demo vehicle for Studio Incar, with a whole host of audio equipment, sitting on air suspension. Well, that idea didn’t last long. As soon as Shakey got the car road legal, he drove it and realised that, just like the Mk4 R32, “It makes lush noises, but it’s mind numbingly slow!” he laughs. Almost immediately, he started pulling out the interior in an early attempt to make it fast and handle better. “It’s amazing how well the car started to respond to subtle stuff.” That was settled then – it was going to be a fast road car.
Having been painted and left untouched, the condition of the Mk3 when Shakey took delivery was rather good. However, there were a few imperfections, notably the paint on the doors which was too thin and had primer showing up in direct sunlight. Therefore Shakey had New Forest Classic Cars repaint the doors along with various other parts to bring the car up-to-date. With the car being built previously to Christopher’s taste in the late 2000’s, the modifications weren’t to Shakey’s taste, so he went on to source different bumpers, side trims and grill.
After stripping the interior almost completely, Shakey installed a Wiechers cage and Recaro Pole Position seats – for which he made custom subframes that allow a low-slung height with the side mounts and work with the stock front/back adjustment. At the same time, with the help of Sam Rutter, they created custom carbon fibre door panels (real – not wrapped or dipped).
Under the bonnet is purely the business end – it doesn’t get cleaned unless it’s being worked on!
They also added some stainless steel hardware for pull handles and stitched up the door triggers and grab handles, along with some mounts for a pair of Hertz He midbass speakers (Naturally, Shakey had to get some audio in there). A Volkswagen Motorsport gear knob was also sourced from Matt at Trimsport and he also decided to switch out the stock steering wheel in favour of a boat item, which he just loves the feel of – it looks the part, too!
The new goal for the VR6 was to gain as much power as possible, which called for some supercharging action thanks to the guys at VRT, who fitted a Rotrex C-94 charger. This took a little longer to fit as it had to be sent off to have the 12psi pulley changed out for an 8psi item (a little more stock engine friendly, but still not the safest). On it’s return, Ryan (one of the owners at VRT) heroically took his own supercharged VR6 apart to supply the parts for the build. A high pressure in-tank pump was also fitted along with a ported ECU. “When I got the car back it was like I had been given a completely different car, with the weight difference and the extra 100+ HP it absolutely rocks.” Shakey recalls.
In order to cope with the newly acquired power, Shakey decided to update the braking system with ECS tuning adapters and bells/rotors, along with Porsche 996T Brembo callipers (fully rebuilt and coated) running Yellow Stuff pads. The suspension was also uprated, with a complete bush overhaul (OEM where he spec’d, and poly everywhere else). Neuspeed braces were also fitted all round in addition to H&R anti roll bars. The Golf sits on a set of Spax RSX gas filled coilovers with height and dampening adjustability. There’s also the added camber and caster adjustment on the top mounts. “These aren’t a show car shock, purposefully so they won’t go mega low – but that’s not what the car is about.” Shakey explains.
Wheels are always a difficult factor on any build, and it wasn’t easy for Shakey to make up his mind. “I originally wanted 16” BBS RS, black on black, with some big profile tyres… However, I got linked to these and I love them!”…a set of 17″ OZ Superleggera’s, which were refurbished in Satin Anthracite by The Wheel Specialist Fareham, and paired to Yokohama S-Drive 195/40 tyres all round. The wheels are spaced 3mm up front to clear the brakes, and 8mm rear left and 10mm rear right for wider track and rear beam levelling. The result is a truly aggressive one, and works perfectly with the motorport-inspired look.
At this moment in time, Shakey seems happy with the progress of the car, but with a project like this, it’s all about the driving experience and getting the maximum thrill possible. In fact, the Golf is currently at Jtech Automotive having the nitrous set up properly – which will surely take the enjoyment factor to the next level, and beyond. “There are loads of plans for the car really” he explains… “Limited slip diff, more power, built engine, 6 branch if it is to stay supercharged… You know how it goes, but I do love this car to bits right now – it’s a rapid, noisy, smelly little thing that can hold its own when cleaned up too.” With the weather finally improving, I bet he can’t wait to get back in the car and enjoy it again for the rest of the 2017 season – I can’t wait for another ride in it.
More info on Carl Shakespeare:
More info on Studio Incar: