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VW Golf GT TDI | Shed of the Week

Fast, frugal and eminently tuneable, there's a lot going for a spot of Golf as a winter Shed

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, December 13, 2019

Golf. It's either a good walk spoilt, or one of the most perfectly judged mainstream cars ever made.

The Mk4 Golf is yet to achieve the levels of love felt by the Mk1s and 2s, but 150hp 1.9 PD 'ARL' turbodiesels like this week's Shed are quite sought after. Why? Well, for a start they go pretty well. PH's ad bot has put the standard 150's torque figure at 320lb ft. It's actually 320Nm, which is 236lb ft, but that still makes it good for 0-60 times in the low 8s, with a 130mph+ top end and 50mpg+.

As an aside, it used to be thought that a red 'I' on a Golf or Bora diesel's boot badge meant low power, a red 'DI' meant medium power (130hp), and all three letters in red meant you had the full-fat 150hp motor. So why is there only a red 'I' on this car, which is claiming to be a 150hp? Because the general belief these days is that the badge letter colours were fairly randomly applied according to whatever letters were lying around on the workbench at the time.

Point two in the VW 1.9's favour is that for strength and reliability the unit is widely regarded as a kind of high water mark in the world of medium-sized diesels. Which leads us on to point three: tunability. Other companies are available, but Darkside Developments have dyno-tested one at 295hp and 381lb ft.

The trouble is, as anyone who has looked for a GT TDI 150 recently will tell you, low-mileage examples are now getting very thin on the ground. Cars at the sort of money being asked here (£1,295) will generally have considerably more miles on them than the 137,500 this one has. Only one previous owner makes our Shed doubly unusual.

The vendor tells us it has an unworn interior. We'll have to take his word for that because he's forgotten to take any pictures of it, but Shed knows from personal experience that the interiors of Mk 4s from the upper end of the range do stand up well to abuse. Even Mrs Shed's mighty buttocks failed to destroy the shape of the seat bolsters on an '02 TDI 150 he owned not so long ago.

A glance at the ad pics suggests a very straight looking and archetypally 'genuine' car as per the seller's claims. Rust has never cropped up on any previous MOTs, and it's only just passed a new test, which is good.

What's a bit less good, at first sight anyway. is the list of advisories. A 'slight oil leak from the engine' needn't be a major problem, depending on the tester's definition of 'slight'. Shed knows all about small weeps, what with most of his married life having been punctuated by them. A small weep from a 1.9's sump plug is not uncommon even with a new washer in place. A dod of blue Hylomar on the washer will sort that. Corroded brake pipes and misty rear dampers, so much so normal. 'Nearside rear tyre started to perish.' This sort of advisory always cheers Shed up because it suggests good tyre longevity which then suggests low outgoings on consumables.

Front tyres on grunty Golfs are a different matter. They do wear out quite quickly because of the torquey (and heavy) old motor, and because of the strong temptation to gun these 150s everywhere. The vendor talks about 'recent Dunlop tyres' but doesn't specify how many of them he's got or where he's had them fitted. We can deduce that at least one of them is not on the back because the slightly depressing 'Windforce' legend appears on the offside rear. Given that one of the MOT advisories was for wear on the inner edges of the front tyres you'd like to think that the 'recent Dunlops' would be up front. Maybe there are three of them. Who knows, apart possibly from a PH tyre geek who might give us the benefit of his tread recognition skills.

What else can we glean from this ad? It's been decoked, which Shed takes to mean cleaning the EGR valve and maybe the intake manifold. EGRs recycle dirty exhaust gas back into the manifold, which over time results in a manifold that looks like Mrs Shed's chip pan with a couple of years' worth of burnt fat in it. A spot of degreaser and an Iwo Jima-style attack with the blowtorch will get that done, and then you can follow the crowd by blanking off the EGR. A manky manifold or EGR is one possible cause of clouds of black smoke under acceleration. Another would be a faulty mass air flow meter, or a split in the boost pipe. It's all fixable.

Going back to golf, Shed once took Mrs Shed out to the local course to try and convince her that it was a lovely sport rather than the total waste of time she considered it to be. Needless to say, it didn't go well. Mrs Shed was less impressed by the stiff shaft on his large-headed driver than he hoped she might be, and she stormed off in the cart after Shed's revelation that the legendary American player Arnold Palmer always got his wife to kiss his balls for luck.

Once he'd recovered from the shame of extracting his cart from the water on the first, Shed asked the village postmistress to play a round with him. He finished three strokes under on the par-72 course. Looking back, he probably shouldn't have told Mrs Shed that he felt a lot better after his 69.

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