I was ambling through west London the other weekend and came across a really odd scene.
Parked in a street just off Sloane Square were two Golf GTis that looked as if the last 20 odd years hadn’t happened.
The J-plater was a big bumper 16V, pretty much the last of the line. But the really odd thing was the lack of evidence that the last two decades had happened.
The car was completely intact, with the correct wheels and even the 16V logo’d side rubbing strips, which used to be the target of light-fingered big-bumper conversionists.
I glimpsed inside and it got even weirder. The original radio has survived and the centre console even held a boxed cassette.
The old spiral bound map on the back seat and the smart umbrella jammed between the parcel shelf and back seat took me back to the days when I used to visit London as a student and the roaring Sloane Ranger ruled the streets.
Amused by such a well-preserved time capsule, I wandered across the road only to immediately run into an F-plate 16V GTi, which was equally original. The period wheels and period alarm and immobiliser stickers in the side windows were a reminder of the days of rampant car theft.
For my money, the Mk2 Golf has hardly dated. It still looks crisp and modern. Back in the late 1980s, especially in booming Yuppie London, the Mk2 ruled the roads.
The young and upwardly mobile (as well as those from more ‘established’ backgrounds) wanted something tough and coolly understated that reflected their good taste. The GTi was the very antithesis of the wide-boy XR3i or the fragile 205.
It was small enough to belt around the middle of the city, but had the legs for long journeys at weekends. Simply everybody went away to the country at weekends.
The only other pukka option at the time was an E30-series BMW 3-series. I remember visiting Queens Club Gardens near Earl’s Court in 1990 and being amazed by the number of black, two-door, 318s lining the streets.
Our own James Ruppert worked at BMW Park Lane at the time, and will tell you how his job was not so much salesman as deposit-taker.
There’s a probably an undergraduate thesis in the late 1980s boom for mainstream prestige. Good quality and tasteful design was, to a significant extent, pushed into the mainstream by the Yuppies, whose affluent parents had been early adopters of all kinds of expensive consumer durables from kitchens to ski equipment.
The demise of the Mk2 Golf coincided with a pretty sharp recession, but once the country had clambered out of the trough in the mid-1990s, the mainstream designer boom really took off.
Seeing these two design icons preserved in time took me back 20 years to the original designer decade, when a Filofax, Church’s brogues, a pair of the (re-launched) Levis 501 jeans, a Sony Sports Walkman and a Mk2 Golf were de rigueur.