Feature: DM Motorsport’s Mid-Engined V8 Volkswagen Golf GTI

[photos: Si Gray]

If you’ve attended a Volkswagen enthusiast event, you can attest to the fact that so many Mk1s currently feature VR6, 1.8T or 16 valve power that, if you didn’t know better, you’d swear they came that way from the factory.  Luckily there are those among us who are against going with the grain, and set their sights much, much higher. Deciding to forego the relatively pedestrian ‘big three’ swaps that are oh-so common on the enthusiast circuit, DM Motorsport and owner Frederic Calve decided to create something a bit more… exciting.

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There are many hints that something isn’t quite right with this Golf. Whether it’s the extremely wide flares, full roll cage, or side exhaust exits peering out from behind the rear wheel wells, even the most casual of observers can’t help but stare.

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We got our first taste of this build last September at H20 International, after the white Golf had been offered a spot in our booth by a member of our staff. “Oh you’ll like this,” he assured us, returning to the tent with a huge smile.   Over the years, we’ve had quite a few of cars in our booth, but none of them ever sounded quite like this.

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Frederic hops out of the car like it some run-of-the-mill Camry, seemingly unaware of the bomb he just dropped in front of our tent. Like many other owners at the event, he immediately pulls out a spray bottle of quick detailer to begin cleaning off the previous evening’s grime. But unlike others in attendance, the car he’s wiping down has a 340hp V8 just in front of the rear wheels, and a roll cage serious enough to make a go at FIA certification.

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“We had a little fun last night” he said, picking clumps of Toyo out of the Mk1’s custom fabricated rear arches. We just stood around dumbfounded, until eventually one of us composed themselves long enough to form a question.

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As Frederic made his way around the car he’d point out certain elements, all carefully chosen for a specific reason, each unique yet purposeful. Deciding to start with the most obvious, he began to explain how this motor made its way into a Golf.

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After hearing the high pitched scream of Audi’s 4.2 liter V8 from a passing S4, Frederic decided that it was the motor he needed to have in his Mk1, so one was quickly sourced. Knowing full well that a motor of this size would never fit under the hood, Frederic’s friends at DM Motorsport began working on a subframe that would strengthen the GTI’s shell while providing the necessary mounting points in the rear of the vehicle.

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As Frederic detailed the engineering behind what we saw before us, it became quite clear that there’s much more to this story than just cutting the floor out, bolting in a V8, and wiring everything up. DM Motorsport and Frederic intended for this project to be a fully functioning vehicle rather than a static showpiece, so a great deal of attention was paid to ensure that it could be ridden hard and put away wet.

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With a clear vision of how the car would need to perform, the team at DM Motorsport went to work on the key part of their build- a subframe that would support the weight of the engine and increase the Golf’s rigidity while still allowing the V8 to be easily accessed for servicing. The fruits of their labor is a bespoke roll cage with an integrated rear subframe, allowing for the whole rear assembly to be dropped by removing just a few bolts and disconnecting a few wires. Those nightmarish chain guide checks suddenly don’t seem quite as bad anymore.

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For rear suspension, the team decided to raid the Porsche parts bin, going with the complete rear setup from a 996-generation 911 GT2 including the springs, brakes and control arms. By utilizing something that’s been proven on road and track around the world, the team was able to nearly avoid all of the trial and error that spring rates and damper stiffness can pose on a project this complex. The result is a car that’s not just quick but capable too, ensuring that it can handle whatever Frederic is brave enough to dish out.

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Stuttgart’s influence can be felt in the cabin as well, with the dash, seats, and steering column all being sourced from Porsches of multiple generations. It’s not simply for aesthetic purposes either, as the factory 911 buckets work wonders to keep Frederic and whoever is fortunate enough to ride shotgun firmly planted in all situations. Even the shifter has been upgraded to a CAE unit, which, while not exactly a Porsche factory piece, certainly looks like it could have been lifted from a 911 Cup Car.

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With 340hp on tap, the tires and brakes were in need of a major upgrade as well. To tackle this, wide BBS RS wheels wrapped in 245-section Toyo cheater slicks surround larger brake rotors and red Porsche capliers. Even with the new footprint necessitating custom-made fender flares, Frederic says that traction is still an issue. We’d say that it’s just part of the car’s charm.

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With the subframe, engine and assorted hardware taking up so much space in the boot, DM Motorsport ended up relocating the fuel cell to the front, while keeping the radiator, brake booster and other vitals underhood. This works wonders to add some much-needed weight to the front of the vehicle, and allows for increased fuel capacity.

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In this project, DM Motorsport’s talent and Frederic Calve’s vision came together to create the video game-style build we’ve all imagined at one point or another. While many of us have been discouraged from attempting or completing such a project due to a lack of time, skill, money or some combination of the three, this team was able to redefine what we thought possible. So what’s next for the build? When pressed Frederic said, “Maybe twin turbos.” I think they’re just crazy enough to pull it off.

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Check out our full gallery of the DM Motorsport Mid-Engined Mk1 GTI with shots from Si Gray, right here.