The Golf Magazine/Futrell Autowerks Project 77 Follow Along



Words: Dean Futrell

Photos: Eric Asp, Dean Futrell

Tech Seen in Photos: Eric Asp



Chapter 1: Selecting a suitable (or not so suitable) car for restoration


Restoring MK1 and MK2 Golfs is beginning to be a popular trend in the Volkswagen community.  The old school look has never been stronger so selecting a suitable car to build on is an important part of the car buying process.  If you find yourself settling for second best you’ll quickly realize why its not the wisest decision once the body shop tallies up their labor bill pounding out twenty years of fender benders and cancerous rust.


Follow along with us as we take you through the average Futrell Autowerks car buying process.  Each year we build two-three ground up restorations, this years first project is what you see here; Project 77.


When Mike Tolliver a long time NW Volkswagen aficionado approached us to order some headlights for his then 84 GTI we quickly steered him toward finding an older car to base his project on.  In North America our Golf 1s, known as Rabbits only have the round headlights on 75-78 models, past 78 the cars were built in the United States at Volkswagen of America’s West Moreland , PA plant.  These cars had square headlights and as the years went on (1981 to be exact) the taillights got quite large.  Building a true old school car in the United States means you’ve got four years to choose from, 1975 (near impossible to find) through 1978.  Few things changed between the 1975-1978 cars, the 77’s and 78s are near identical, while the 75, and 76s share a two year only hood, unique door strikers and some other cosmetic differences.  75s also have the dipped rear license plate recess that Europe also had on 1976 models.


Once we had Mike convinced to build his project on an original round light car the search was on to find a clean specimen, a task that can sometimes be harder than easier, especially on the East Coast and in the Midwest, which see much harder winters than we do here on the West Coast.  We’re sure the search in the UK is equally hard as the winters have taken their toll as well on these 25 year old plus cars initially designed with point A to point B functionality only.  Rust is always the number one concern, replacement panels can be difficult to locate and often costly.  Rust repair can be very expensive and the repairs can also fail if the rust is not properly neutralized.


Accidents are the second most concern; accidents will almost certainly mean panel replacement or body work, which almost never stands up over time.  Cars that have had hard impacts in the front rear and sides will almost certainly have structural compromise causing the panels not to fit correctly or lead to new body work failure from panel fatigue.  Body work also means repainting, in the last few years paint formulas have greatly improved, any old outdated paint that has been applied will need to be removed adding to your body shop labor bill.


With those two major considerations out of the way (or at least in the back of your mind) the next items are how much of what is still intact on the car can be reused in your old school themed restoration; Are the door panels in usable condition will the color do in your planned scheme?  Is the dash panel intact?  Are the bumpers and their hardware there and intact (Early metal small bumpers are increasingly difficult to locate, their end caps even more so).  Are the body panels all intact and in usable/re-workable condition?  Are the seals in reusable condition?  Does the drivetrain suit your needs if it is to be used? 


These are all important considerations and should never be overlooked.  While in a perfect world one owner 75 Golf 2 doors would be for sale in every weekend paper, this is rarely the case.  Expect compromises but the less the better.  Be sure and thoroughly inspect the cars inner floor areas in the trunk for rear end collision, the passenger floor areas for rust, the front panels for collisions, the firewall for stress cracks and the area below the windshield for cancerous rust.  Weigh in what you find vs. your project budget and needs.


For Mike’s project we didn’t have to look farther than our own bulletin board, a customer had placed a clean white 1977 Rabbit 2 door there for sale several months back.  We called him up and asked him to bring the car by for inspection/evaluation (don’t expect sellers to be so kind, expect to have to drive around to inspect the cars yourself, we got lucky in this case).  The 77 proved to be a good car as a starting point, but it also had its compromises; the battery tray had rotted nearly completely away, there was small cancerous rust under the windshield, some extra holes had been drilled in various panels for bolt on accessories and the once flawless red door panels now hosted 5.25” Pioneer speakers (this was a shame because they would have been retained had they not been hacked up).


The car also had some additional features which could be carried over, the rear beam had been replaced with one from a Scirocco 16V so it had rear disk brakes and the rear sway bar. The motor had a “G” grind cam, a GTI center console with gauges had been installed and a lower front stress bar added. Despite the above mentioned compromises we selected this car based on the overall solidness, since the car would be getting extensive body and paint work.  A deal was struck and our project begins


Additional Notes: Other considerations as mentioned above can be the trim level of the car, some of the early cars in the United States had the chrome window trim around the door frames and glass as well as the smaller chrome moldings along the belt lines.  These items (except the chrome inserts) are no longer available new, so if they are desired on for the project finding a car with them intact can be a major advantage and buying point.  The moldings are all aluminum so restoring them to new status is an easy process as long as they aren’t beaten to death .

Don’t be afraid to bring a small pick tool and poke around on the floorboards and any other areas that look to be effected by rust, if your able to poke holes through the metal expect the larger part of the area to be terminal with rust cancer. (those might make nice filler or caption notes)


Chapter Two: The Tear Down Process


Preparing the car for the paint and body shop yourself can save you a lot of money and allow you to familiarize yourself with the disassembly which is  always a good idea especially when it comes time for reassembly and you’re handling rare – obsolete NOS parts!  Depending on how far you intend to tear the car down (bare rolling shell, or completely stripped, non rolling shell) it’s a good idea to start with the interior first. This will allow you to keep the car weatherproof should the process take a bit longer than you intend (usually the case).  With project 77 we planned on the teardown taking a week at the most so we gutted the interior first since we knew the car would be sitting outside at least a couple times before being shipped over to the body shop.  Most of the interior was tossed (we did hold onto the seats though).  If your reusing any of your hardware or accessories pack them up well in boxes keeping each items hardware close by in a labeled bag or container.


Next out was the drivetrain, since the motor configuration for project 77 has yet to be determined we kept the engine and its wiring intact and merely removed it along with the tranny and pulled the engine wiring, brake lines, and fuel lines away from the firewall for the paint process.  If we knew the car was going to get any kind of motor swap we would have completely removed and discarded the wiring since it would no longer be used.  With the motor and the rest of the engine bay accessories removed we removed the associated bracketry for the windshield washer bottle, battery, tray, and some other useless brackets.  This was done using a spot weld drill bit that makes removing spot welds a fairly painless activity, once removed what’s left of the spot welds can be grinded flush as shown in the photos (below, left or wherever the photos lie on the page, please note Eric Asp is the technician shown in the photos)  If the engine bay looks as though its never been cleaned take the time to clean it for the paint shop, again this will help keep your labor bill down to only paying them for the skills they possesses not run of the mill clean up work you and your friends can perform.


Since project 77 is to be a rolling chassis project the suspension, fuel tank, brake and fuel lines were all left in place.  Later we’ll remove some of these pieces and have them powdercoated or chrome plated.  The next step is the removal of the body panels and glass.  Unless the widow rubber is in exceptional condition remove the windows simply by cutting the seals and pushing them out. If the window seals are in reusable condition and they fit your theme (chrome trimmed or not) you can remove the glass without cutting the seals by carefully prying them out starting inside the car then working out to the corners to free the seal from the body, be careful and wear eye protection! 25 year old glass has a tendency to break easily.


With the glass removed the final step was to disassemble the doors, remove them, along with the hood, hatch and bumpers, The bumpers were discarded and they’ll be replaced with early metal European units.  The rest of the panels were carefully set aside along with their hardware in labeled bags.


The final step of the pre-body shop process was the clean up and prep process.  We gave the car a thorough pressure washing inside and out and also removed the pinstripe, this will keep the body/paint shop bill down to only cover the work that is absolutely necessary for them to perform.  As with all projects during the teardown we found more damage and rust than originally noted, this is usually the case and further reiterates why you want to spend the time to find the most ideal candidate possible. Budgets can be blown easily and usually are, if we had started with a far less than ideal car, these few things that showed up upon disassembly would have easily blown the budget.


With the car cleaned and ready for paint prep we went around the car with a marker noting what holes needed to be filled (US cars have sidemarkers in the front and rear that needed to be removed) and any dents/dings we noticed along the way.  This may or may not be helpful to the shop depending on how far they plan on stripping the existing paint down.  Be sure and note in writing the holes you do want removed or any dings you noticed that might be overlooked in the pre-paint prepping process.

The Golf Magazine/Futrell Autowerks Project 77 Follow Along



Words: Dean Futrell

Photos: Eric Asp, Dean Futrell, Rob Porter

Tech Seen in Photos: (our shop) Eric Asp, Body Shop/Paint Antonio Yorba (West Beaverton Autobody)



Chapter 2: The Black Hole

Ahh yes the paint and body work experience, often referred to as the most stressful and expensive part of any good project.  The body and paint shop can not only suck up your money, but they’ll take your car (along with your sanity) with it for extended periods of time (often many months). Fortunately for us we’ve been using the same shop the last few projects which means open communication and an easier experience.  When selecting a body shop for the first time, give them a small part to start with, perhaps something that needs a hole welded closed or a dent knocked out.  Ask them to repair/modify the part for you before dropping the car off.  If you’re satisfied with the work go with them, if you have your doubts (no matter how small they may seem) keep searching.


Also a note about side jobs, in the US we have a term called “side jobs” Side Jobs are paying someone who works for a shop by day to restore/paint your car after hours, usually at their house.  This is a bad idea, bad bad bad. It’s understandable to try and save some bucks but there are several elements to this that will come back to haunt you.  Some of the more not so obvious reasons:  The person is doing it as a side job in his/her spare time, in addition to working their full time job.  They probably don’t have all the proper equipment at their home, to perform the job as correctly as it could be done at a shop.  The really bad scenarios are, the work is substandard but the person does not want to warranty their work since it was a side job. You never get your car back.   Their employer finds out and terminates the employee for conflict of interest.

So in general spend the extra money have a shop do the work (licensed, bonded and insured please) you’ll appreciate this the first time you need something fixed, or if future work is needed.

As mentioned in our last installment the more prep work you can do in advance the better.  Paying a specialist at specialist rates to remove your wiring harness or unbolting a body panel isn’t a very wise investment and can quickly eat into your budget (and then some) So do what you can before the car is dropped off, and even once its there if they’ll allow you to.  If your not technically inclined or don’t have the time or space for a tear-down like we’re doing here contact a shop in your area to handle the job for you.  This is what Mike Tolliver has done with this project, he had us do the work because he didn’t have the time or the space to do so, he’s also utilizing our proven contacts rather than testing new ones on his own. 




There are pros and cons to having a shop take the lead on your project, we wont take the time to write about them here, but if the thought of dismantling your car as shown in these photos seems unfeasible, start looking for a shop you can trust to handle the job for you.


Depending on the level of work the car’s body needs (and of course your budget) the bodyshop may choose to paint over your existing paint job, or as you can see here, stripping the car to bare metal for the ultimate finish.  Bare metal prep is sketchy and this is about the best method you can use, some places will recommend acid dipping the body, others may recommend sand blasting the entire shell.  If you must blast the body, sand blasting is arguably the safest but hopefully the metal is in overall great shape, otherwise tiny pin holes, (or larger) will develop in areas where rust is present.  Acid dipping is the last method we’d recommend as it will remove paint and sealant from areas you can’t see and its only a matter of time before rust starts developing.  Bare metal where you need it is all we’d recommend, bare metal where you don’t need it (or cant see it) is going to lead to trouble down the road, in the form of car cancer “rust”.  In the end good old hand stripping with a high grade aviation stripper will provide you with the most precise stripping.


Once the paint surfaces are stripped panel massaging will commence, a good bodyman will knock the dents out with special hammers and dollies, a lesser bodyman may just lay down body filler and call it a day, we prefer the good old fashioned way of knocking the dents out as far as they can be, followed by a light coat of filler to remove any imperfections that may remain. Areas affected with rust should be cut out and new metal welded in place, this can be both time consuming and costly.  The alternative is to apply panel filler, lead, or fiberglass over rusted metal, but again its only a matter of time before this repair will fail (we call this a five year fix)


Another common trend we’ve noticed developing is the use of panel bonding materials to fill and shave holes rather than welding in plates.  Again, at best this is a five year mod.  In the United States our cars have running lights and  we’ve seen many shaved off using the panel bond method they usually start to shrink and “show” within six months, such a shame when it could have been done right just as easily the first time.


In the photos you can see the various stages of prep and construction, the body received a few modifications including deleting the rain tray under the hood,  smoothing the rear panels in the hatch and removing the rear seat back anchors.  Antonio Yorba at West Beaverton Autobody did a fantastic job of prepping the car and performing the few, but time consuming modifications we presented him with.


Over two hundred man hours were put into the body and paint on this car over the course of about four months.  The bill was a tad over $5500, plan your budget accordingly.  Black cars are hell for a body shop, and this car was no exception, the end results are staggering it is mirror smooth everywhere you look.


The Golf Magazine/Futrell Autowerks Project 77 Follow Along



Words: Dean Futrell

Photos: Eric Asp, Dean Futrell, Rob Porter

Tech Seen in Photos: (our shop) Eric Asp, Body Shop/Paint Antonio Yorba (West Beaverton Autobody)



Chapter 3: Re-constructing


While the car was at the paint shop the motor choice was made, and then changed. Initially a stroked 2.0L 16V motor with carbs was purchased by Mike for the car.  Once the motor was at our shop and we started looking at it, it quickly became clear the motor was not as advertised.  Ultimately the 16V was scrapped and a 1.8T from a 99 Passat was purchased. 

Not a bad trade off wouldn’t you say?  Since we now had a engine configuration we sourced the appropriate gearbox, a wide ratio 02K series box from a 95 MK3, the tranny along with a Peloquin differential were sent to our tranny builder Dave Baxter who meticulously rebuilt the tranny with the limited slip differential installed.  A Clutchnet Stage IV clutch disk and pressure plate should keep the power to the wheels and not burning up on the clutch disk itself.


While the number of 1.8T swaps has increased greatly the last several months there are a few important considerations to keep in mind when choosing a 1.8T for your MK1 swap.

The 97-99 motors will bolt directly into an A1 chassis, no modifications are necessary. The 2000 up motors got a relocated waterpump driven by the timing belt. This introduction meant the holes for the right side mount were now gone. So if you want a bolt in motor stay 99 or older. If you don’t mind fabbing up your own bracket 2000 and newer motors will usually give you less miles and higher output. 


We’ve also kept using the early drive by cable engines rather than the later drive by wire engines, again its just easier to do the swap with the earlier motors.  If you choose a later motor and intend to use it’s engine management your going to have to work around the immobilizers as well as fabbing up the right side motor mount bracket and the throttle pedal potentiometer.


While the early motors provide a easier install in terms of wiring and engine fitment they do have some limitations.  In the US the only motors that were drive by cable came in Audi A4s and Passat 1.8Ts these cars both had longitudally mounted motors.  To use them and make them look factory correct it needs some parts interchanged.  What we’ve found fits and works best is the MK3 4 Cyl accessory bracket, along with the alternator, water pump pulley, belt tensioner, oil filter flange, and crank pulley.

 The crank pulley will need to be milled down 5.4mm on a lathe for proper spacing with the other accessories. The oil filter flange will need to be tapped for the turbo oil feed line (12.25mm).  The tensioner adjustment bracket is also very close to the frame rail, so close in fact that we use a flat allen head bolt on the tensioner rather than a standard bolt, otherwise it would rub on the frame rail!  Lastly the transverse fuel rail and intake manifold fit much better than the longitudally mounted units so we switch those out.


Techtonics Tuning worked with us to design a 1.8T downpipe that fits perfectly in the MK1 chassis. Using the longitudally mounted exhaust manifold and turbo in combination with this production piece will take one less fabrication task from your to do list.  Techtonics’ 2.5” stainless steel exhaust system bolts right up to the downpipe to finish off the exhaust.


For the cooling system and intercooler we had one offs built for us by a local radiator shop. Eric fabbed up the intercooler plumbing.  The coolant lines are just regular 8V hoses that have been cut for fitment.  Since the car has no heater core it simplifies the coolant lines, except for the rear turbo feed, which we needed to have an adapter fitting made to downsize the coolant hose from the flange to the turbo housing.


As mentioned above we also used a gearbox from a MK3 4 cyl, these boxes are built tough and have fairly wide ratios which is exactly what you want with forced induction.  16V Scirocco axles and 10.1 brakes help keep the power going to the ground, and stopping on a mark.  H&R coilovers allow us to adjust the ride all the way down for shows and just high enough to clear the wheels for road trips. 


The body panels were re-installed on the car while the car was still at the bodyshop, getting all the fender gaps right can be a bit of a chore so we were happy to have the bodyshop do the honors for factory correct body gaps.  What remained was to install all the glass, side trim, bumpers, lights and chrome trim.  Eric, Rob & myself preformed these tasks over the course of about a week, total time was somewhere around 30 hours.  Getting the new window trim seals cut to just the right lengths is a trying task, best advice is cut long, then work your way shorter if necessary.


You might be wondering how we got all the new seals and chrome side trim, well we’re going to tell you this, and show you the interior installation in the next installment.  Stay tuned.


The Golf Magazine/Futrell Autowerks Project 77 Follow Along



Words: Dean Futrell

Photos: Eric Asp, Dean Futrell, Rob Porter

Tech Seen in Photos: (our shop) Eric Asp, Body Shop/Paint Interior Installer Drew Crum


Chapter 4: Final Assembly


So here we are in the final installment of Futrell Autowerks Project 77 Golf 1 Old Skool resto.  This is where we’ll finish up the exterior trim installation and install the interior.  These elements will make the project what it is, an old skool high end resto with a bit of bling.  From the previous installments you know we’ve got a ground up restoration with a stunning black paint job, subtle engine bay and hatch mods, a 1.8T engine, and the H&R coilover suspension to set the car all the way down on the BBS 15” splitties running Toyo 195/45/15”s.  So now what?  Well we aren’t going to stick a clipper kit on it or a wings west body kit, nope not here, pure old skool, here’s how we do it.


Factory Trim Level Bling, true old skool, the first few years of Golf 1 production featured small metal bumpers, high line cars featured chrome small bumpers, chrome door handles, chrome window moldings, and chrome side trim, that’s a lot of class for $2400 car in 1975!  Well unfortunately for us (and probably you) these parts are hard to get, most rotted away, lots were destroyed in accidents, and like anything getting old, more were simply thrown away to be replaced by later more modern looking parts (or ditched entirely for that shaved look).


Well there is hope, the bumpers are now being reproduced and you can find them on German Ebay as well as several German parts houses.  The side trim is available new from Volkswagen.  So what about the window seals?  Well these (along with the door seals) are a different story, they have not yet been reproduced (surely they will, but when is the question?) so you’ll have to source them out. 


You can start with Ebay (USA, German, and UK) they do show up there occasionally and usually at fan static prices, you can also check parts houses in Germany like , and then there is the little talked about classic parts division at the Wolsfburg museum in Germany.  Classic parts division is a Volkswagen/Audi restorer’s best resource, and is often untapped as they are not widely known to exist (until now).  You can reach Classic Parts at 0 53 6130 853330.  They have what is left of all the NOS parts in Germany.  If they don’t have what you’re looking for Ebay is your second best solution. 






For those in the USA looking for these parts, you to can try the above and check with VWoA and your local dealer to do a parts search throughout the US and Canada. This only works for parts that were originally offered in North America, but it’s a great way to find window and door trim. If all else fails contact us at Futrell Autowerks we keep most parts on hand, although we’re certainly not selling them at Ebay prices.


So while Mike’s car was being painted we sourced a set of early metal small bumpers, all new window seals, chrome side trim, & mirrors. The existing door handles, & door window frames were polished to like new.  The bumpers were re-chromed (both were NOS but the rear was just a standard black bumper), all the latches and hardware where also chrome plated.  The bumper brackets, along with a host of other parts were powder coated black to give them a more durable long term finish.  Its all in the details here, how far you want to take the details will depend on how much time and how much you have to spend. 


Drew Crum of Drew Built Interiors has been upholstering our cars for a couple of years now, Drew does great work and has a fine eye for detail.  We mentioned to Drew that Mike wanted to use more high end materials for the interior on this car so he swung by with his sample books.  What we decided on was a cashmere wool headliner, in a light camel color, leather and wool seats, with matching door panels.  Scott Thorsen created new door panels as well as modified the 1980 Jetta dash. Scott also built the rear seat delete and hatch floor.  The carpet was replaced with a pre-formed black loop carpet kit.


Working closely with Drew as he installed the carpet we were able to install the remaining wiring in the car which we upgraded to the 1990 up central Electric II system for reliability and performance reasons (old Rabbit wiring is haggard at best).  The battery was relocated to under the dash where the heater box previously resided.  We used a drycell battery from AMMP of America and Stinger line wiring connections.


Once the headliner was installed the side windows and windshield were re-installed.  Helpful hint if you’re installing the chrome inlay style seals; don’t stretch the chrome as you install it into the window seal, if anything attempt to bunch it up around the corners.  This will help the chrome lay flat and not stretch to short as you put the seal back on the window, and re-install it. (and yes you need to install the chrome on the seal before attempting to install it in the car).


To re-install the windows you just need a good piece of wire/rope and a couple mates to help apply pressure.  Feed the wire around the inner lip on the window seal, then starting from the top have your friends push the window into place while you pull it into the window frame by slowly removing the rope.  Wear eye protection and gloves while doing this.  Again the glass is old and you don’t want someone busting a side window in your face! Once the window is installed you might need to pull the seal into the correct position on the outside of the car, and lightly adjust the window for a proper fit, you can do this by tapping on it gently with the palm of your hand. 


Patience and caution should always be present when working with glass, again if your not comfortable with this, higher a pro, or consult a friend who has experience in this department.


For the rest of the exterior trim we bought all new plastic mounting clips, new bolts for the bumpers and doors and had the remaining hardware chrome plated.  When installing the side molding clips it’s a bit hairy as you have to push rather hard to get the clip locking pin seated.  We use a small piece of plastic and a quick impact from a hammer to get them into place. As you work toward the center of the panel, have a friend place his hand near the impact point to help prevent the panel from flexing on impact.  The bumpers re-attach with no special mods, as well as the lights, door handles and mirrors.  Above all take your time and use caution to avoid damaging any of the parts, or the finish.


That about wraps up our project 77 resto, this project was started in late December 2002 and completed in August of 2003.  Big thanks to our project build team; the Futrell Autowerks staff, West Beaverton Autobody, Drew Built Interiors, Scott Thorsen, & Techtonics Tuning.  You can view more photos and even some video on our website at Until next time, thanks for reading along. – Dean F