In the two decades of vRS Skodas the UK has now enjoyed, it would be fair to say there’s never been a truly exceptional one. All have been decent, worthy, accomplished fast cars, offering a power-and-practicality-to-pound ratio seldom beaten, but precious few - if any - have ever topped wish lists.
Perhaps that’s not the point of a fast Skoda, but on seeing this Octavia 4x4 it’s hard not to think that this was what the original vRS should have been. Only it’s been made, not by a marque specialist, but by one dedicated enthusiast.
Any advert for an 18-year-old car that’s listed for just a few thousand pounds yet features 1,200 words of description already has the attention. That it’s for a Skoda Octavia estate only increases that - clearly somebody cares about it very much.
This is not just any old Octavia, though. Using a combination of three cars - the Cayenne Orange Octavia 4x4 shell, an MoT fail Octavia vRS and a similarly classified Audi TT - the seller has created what they’ve described as “my interpretation of the ultimate roadgoing, daily drive Mk1 Octavia estate”. Looking at the spec and the end result, it’s a statement that’s very hard to argue. It may well sell the car short.
Where the original vRS estate was 180hp and front-wheel drive, this Octavia - thanks to the 4x4 running gear and lightly tweaked BAM 1.8 from the TT - is now sending 250hp to all four wheels. Given how much lighter this car would be than a modern equivalent (the Octavia first emerging more than 20 years ago, don’t forget), that should be more than enough to be getting along with. The six-speed gearbox, clutch and flywheel have all been carried over the from the TT, too.
But this Octavia is so much more than a 4x4 with a bit more power - it’s a full overhaul. The Skoda now has a Blue Haldex controller to better manage power distribution, a TT steering ratio, Golf 4Motion springs, dampers and bars, Leon Cupra R brake calipers grabbing bigger discs, Audi S3 wheels and matching Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres. None of those vehicles are remembered as truly great driver’s cars, but the mods will surely sharpen things up a great deal.
The attention-to-detail goes way further than under the skin. That aforementioned vRS had its body parts harvested, resprayed and grafted on to the 4x4 for an authentic look - the steering wheel and headlining have gone in, too. It has heated Recaro leather seats from a Mk4 Golf, the smart aluminium pedals from a TT, retrofitted cruise control and an upgraded stereo system that is DAB and Bluetooth compatible. It’s perhaps the most PH amalgamation of parts that could be cobbled together from this era of VW, and a really intriguing project as a result. As the seller says: “It’s a little bit lairy, it whooshes and hisses and bangs and farts and is a real laugh to drive.” To have that in something as sombre as a Skoda, with a ton of supporting chassis hardware and service history, sounds like something approaching the ideal cheap, fast estate.
Of course, it’s not perfect. The car is approaching 130,000 miles and showing some signs of wear, though that’s surely to be expected. There’s a small problem with one of the headlights. And that’s about it. Some will whinge that it’s not factory standard, a Frankenstein mismatch of bits and bobs that might make it tricky to maintain, but nothing here is pinched from a truly exotic car. And nobody is going to mourn the demise of an MoT failure TT or Octavia. Particularly not when this is the end result.
And it’s £4k. This much effort, expense and commitment can be yours for not much money at all. An offer in the ad to take away the Blue Haldex controller and brakes means it could cost the next owner £3k. In the grand scheme of car buying, that’s an inconsequential sum of money - isn’t it?
With winter closing in rapidly, and the promise here of punchy four-wheel drive performance and Skoda practicality with a wealth of history behind it, the 4x4 vRS looks a canny buy. If the budget can be released for a new PH Sunday Service wagon, perhaps we can find out exactly how canny…
SPECIFICATION - SKODA OCTAVIA VRS
Engine: 1,781cc, turbocharged four-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 180@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 173@1,950-5,000rpm
First registered: 2001
Recorded mileage: 130,000
Price new: £17,995
Yours for: £3,000 (see advert)
(Spec for standard Octavia vRS)