My First Car: VW Polo G40


It was 2001 and I wanted a Fiat Punto GT, preferably in black with anthracite wheels. It sounds silly now, but at the time I’d consider nothing less. Not even a yellow one. And so, when a friend spotted a rare Polo G40 slumped at the back of a grotty dealership in Harrogate, I really didn’t care. It was black but so what? But then the salesman began his pitch:‘Supercharged 1.3-litre with 113bhp,’(…I was curious). ‘One of only 500 ever made,’ (… interested), ‘As fast as a Punto.’ (… test drive?).

And so off we ripped, returning ten minutes later with the little Volkswagen sold. Sure, the driver’s seat was ripped, it had no service history and the mechanic at the local VW dealer advised against it; ‘too expensive to service the supercharger,’ he said. But by then I was hooked. Forget the Punto, ‘I’ll take it.’

The next night I picked it up with my dad. He wasn’t impressed. ‘Pah, a supercharger,’ he wheezed from the passenger seat, ‘I’ve told you before, there’s no substitute for cc.’To him forced induction involved cigarettes, not superchargers. I didn’t say anything, waiting instead for the road to clear before flattening it in first. By the top of fourth my old man had choked on his Camel and I’d made my point; 8.1 seconds to 60mph. It felt faster.

A shame then that the following week the exhaust fell off, the petrol tank collapsed and the rain flooded the foot-well. ‘Serves you right,’ my dad gloated, ‘too flash for your first car anyway.’ The first two faults the dealer fixed for free, but of the third he simply wiped his hands. ‘Not his problem’, he said, which was annoying, as the water leaked through a hole where the battery tray should have been. Leaking acid was the cause, but ‘not to worry’, the previous owner must have thought,‘I’ll just plug it with cardboard and waterproof the lot with an old carrier bag’. Genius. Until it rained. Which in Yorkshire is often.

For a while I just put up with it, lining the footwell with newspaper and sticking a fan heater under the carpets to blast the moisture away on weekends. But when a date complained of the water deep at her feet I had no choice but to find a fix. At the local backstreet bodge-jobber the man sucked his teeth. ‘I’ll have a go, but it’s pretty bad.’ And so when the car came back still leaking I wasn‘t one bit surprised. ‘More work needed’, he said. More money more like.

And that meant I didn’t sleep well that night. I was worried not only by the leak, but also by the cambelt and supercharger that would soon need attention as well. Best part of a grand I reckoned. Let’s face it; I’d bought a lemon. And so, after just two months of ownership it left me with that all too familiar dilemma - do I spend the cash and keep the keys, or do I clean her up and sell her on? The next day an ad went in the classifieds. It had to go. ‘Sold as seen’.

The first viewer redlined it from cold on the test drive. I felt like demanding the clown pull over and wait for the bus. Or the train. Whichever hit him first. Then a guy from London called. He wanted to know when he could come and collect it, no viewing necessary.

The next week I waited for him at the train station. It was a cold day, raining of course, and I stood there preying for a skinny kid to arrive, someone just as gullible and snivelling as me. But it wasn’t – he was a huge fella who was almost as wide as he was tall.

He spotted the leak immediately. ‘The carpet’s wet,’ he rumbled. I didn’t argue, I just stood there waiting for the pain to flow and my eyes to blacken. And yet the guy cared not one jot. Not about the leak, the ripped seat, nor the hole in the service history. It was to be his ‘project’ car, nothing more, nothing less. And so off he drove, him smiling and me relieved. ‘At last’ I thought, ‘I can now buy that Punto.’

Comments (71) Join the discussion on the forum

  • missing the VR6 02 Sep 2008

    Funny thing is I had a Corrado G60 which I bought as I couldn't afford a VR6, ended up spending enough to have bought a VR6 Storm just to keep it on the road!

    Not the best vehicles supercharged dubs

  • Altrezia 02 Sep 2008

    missing the VR6 said:
    Funny thing is I had a Corrado G60 which I bought as I couldn't afford a VR6, ended up spending enough to have bought a VR6 Storm just to keep it on the road!

    Not the best vehicles supercharged dubs
    Where as we've had 3 rallyes, and they've all been bullet proof!

  • blowy84 02 Sep 2008

    missing the VR6 said:
    Funny thing is I had a Corrado G60 which I bought as I couldn't afford a VR6, ended up spending enough to have bought a VR6 Storm just to keep it on the road!

    Not the best vehicles supercharged dubs
    i seem to remember you having a versace? leather interior in a mk 2 golf. am i correct?

  • pointer78 02 Sep 2008

    It's a shame that you had such a bad experience with your G40. I had mine from 53,000 miles right through to 197.000 miles on the original G-Lader serviced once at 120k (VW did not state a service schedule for what was effectively meant to be a sealed unit).
    There are some great examples still around and a cult following, sadly a lot of them have ended up being modified badly. It is quite possible to get 160bhp out of the engine with minor modifications, coupled with a 890Kg weight - this is a very quick car and is completely under rated.

    The G60 G-Lader charger is larger than the G40 (60mm as opposed to 40mm diameter inlet) and has a troubled reliability score. Mine was in perfect condition internally after 120k.

    I really miss this car and most things seem slow by comparison. As standard it is quicker than the G60 Corrado and the engine revs through the range so quickly, it easily keeps up with many larger engined cars on the road. I would have another any day, the bulkhead on mine also rusted through under the battery. Otherwise the bodywork was up to VW's usual standard, i.e no rust after 16years.

    Credit must go to VW for developing the ingenious G charger and not using an off the shelf twin screw type?!

  • hill79 02 Sep 2008

    properly maintained the G-Lader is (for its time) a reasonable unit, it just needs a rebuild every now and again to keep it running properly. Hardly ideal but if you're buying something older with a super/turbo charger you have to expect some extra expense!

    Getting back to the topic of g40's, its a shame Nathan's was a bit of a shed, lets hope the guy who bought it brought it back from the brink!

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