This Canadian Volkswagen fan has created the ultimate custom GTI

Ultimate Volkswagen Mk1 GTI

Many car enthusiasts live to seek out the thrills they had behind the wheel of a car when younger.  

However, Canadian Derek Spratt took things several steps further in the pursuit of the Volkswagen hot hatch from his youth. 

After thousands of hours in effort, and big sums of money, Derek believes he managed to create the ultimate Volkswagen GTI.

Living the dream

Ultimate Volkswagen Mk1 GTI

Derek’s story began in the early 1980s, as a 21-year-old college student in Ontario. Canadians had been able to buy GTI-branded Volkswagens since 1979, but these were low-powered versions with the same drivetrain as normal Rabbits. 

However, Spratt was one of the first to buy a North American Rabbit GTI, fitted with a 90 horsepower 1.8-liter engine. Although still down on power compared to European models, it at least gave the compact GTI some extra performance. 

The car would allow Derek and his wife, Cheryl, to create some amazing memories touring North America. One notable trip saw the Spratts take the GTI on a road trip from Vancouver to San Francisco, following Highway 1.

Creating the ultimate GTI

Ultimate Volkswagen Mk1 GTI

Derek would eventually sell the GTI, but turning 50 made him want to find another one. Incredibly, Derek was able to find a GTI with the same build date as his original, giving him a great base to work on. 

Rather than just reliving his youth, Derek wanted the car to “feel and drive like an original Mk1 but with modern capabilities.” He wanted it to “show that you can take an old car to the point where it operates like a supercar—without taking away the fun factor.”

Derek’s project would see him spend more than $140,000, with the it taking more than 12,000 hours. A 220 horsepower naturally aspirated engine, touchscreen digital dashboard, and heated seats were just some of the special features fitted.

Sharing the passion

Ultimate Volkswagen Mk1 GTI

After documenting the build in a series of online videos, the GTI was finally completed in 2018. Derek took his 85-year-old father for the first drive in the finished ride. He also recreated his journey from 34 years earlier, cruising Highway 1 with his eldest son.

Attendances at car shows and track days brought Derek’s GTI to a wide audience of fans. Enthusiasts from across the globe had helped source parts and offer encouragement during the construction of the car. 

Then, after years of work and huge expense, Derek decided to give back to the Volkswagen community. He sold the finished GTI to a young couple from Vancouver for a fraction of the build cost, allowing them to enjoy the thrills he had decades earlier. 

According to Derek, it was important “to sell it to someone who would allow me to stay connected to the car”, as the couple will still allow him to take it out for a drive. 

Derek is now working on converting a 1961 Volkswagen to run on electric power.

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