Blurring the line between a commuter and a track toy, the Volkswagen GTI is a versatile car but carrying bulky items such as plywood and a portable cement mixer has never been one of its strong points. However, at least one enthusiast glanced at the hardware store parking lot, looked at his GTI and saw a world of opportunity.
Although we don’t dabble in modified mid-1990s cars, we had to pull over and make a U-turn when this third-gen Volkswagen Golf pickup caught our eye from far away while running errands.
The owner, a mechanic whose resume includes jobs at Brabus and AMG, was nice enough to spend a couple of minutes sharing his car’s story. It started life as a bone-stock GTI and was carefully and safely turned into a pickup. The conversion was much more complicated than merely taking an angle grinder and sanding over the rough edges: The body and the roof were fully reinforced, a new rear panel with a pop-up sunroof was fitted, the headliner was trimmed to fit and the hatch was turned into a functional tail gate kept shut with clamps riveted to both C-pillars.
The car is fully street legal, a very complicated process for modified vehicles in France and a testament to the quality of the conversion. Save for aftermarket headlights, minor suspension alterations and larger rims, this bespoke GTI wears a low-key look that makes it blend in with the pack to an untrained eye.
If turning a GTI into a pickup sounds impressive, grok this: The car has been through seven engines and over twenty gearboxes. The most powerful setup was a heavily-modified VR6 engine that sent over 600 horsepower to all four wheels via a Syncro all-wheel drive system, and the current drivetrain is a 2.0-liter 16-valve four-cylinder mill with a slight power increase that transfers power to the front wheels only.