In VW circles there are plenty of specialists who ply their trade spannering and restoring the aircooled vehicles, but when it comes to finding a water cooled VW workshop, the choice becomes much smaller.
Dubbing Down South
We took a trip to John Mitchell Racing in Littlehampton, a small but suitably skilled business who are well versed with the more modern Wolfsburg export and often play with performance Audi’s too. From MOT’s and basic servicing through to full restoration and recommission these guys can help. If ‘Racing’ is not your scene, don’t worry. Whilst this is an area of speciality, they aren’t hell-bent on transforming you into The Stig and will happily look after your daily driver or family wagon as much as a sporty weekend track toy.
Departing the Main Dealer
I like to find out what led to someone buying a particular car, or starting a company and with the case of John he is very clear about the JMR journey.
“The main dealer life was no longer for me. I was aware that there were customers who felt disconnected and dissatisfied, never even seeing the Technicians who were actually working on their vehicles. Many were also looking for a different level of service, with a more personal touch and I saw an opportunity for me to provide that to people.”
Working from home
Having spent years serving at Volkswagen, then later Mitsubishi, John had built up a private client base of his own working at weekends from a large garage at the bottom of his garden. Following further frustrations with the day job, the decision was made to make the jump and John got searching for premises.
Landing in Littlehampton
After short search this particular unit came up trumps, ticking the necessary boxes of value for money, security and space, and things officially got underway as John Mitchell Racing in 2007. For many years John worked alone, but 3 years ago Ben joined him sharing very similar main dealer background and mirroring John’s opinions as to how a workshop and business should be run.
Built to blast
John’s personal project, an Ink Blue VW Corrado has been in constant development since 1992 and he has used it to test theories and build bespoke components that he later offers to his customers in their quest for increased performance or even reliability.
In its current guise, the 9A 2.0ltr 16V turbo engine generates 575bhp, which is transmitted through a 6-speed gearbox and custom 4wd transmission. The roof, bonnet and boot are all made from carbon and inside Porsche GT3 seats are the place to perch your posterior. Handling is taken care of by a quartet of KW Clubsport coilovers complete with the KW Hydraulic Lift System offering additional ride height for everyday road use and maintenance work.
“The original inspiration for the Corrado build was the Porsche 968 Clubsport,” John tells me. “I wanted a decent sports car, rather than a race car so there’s still a few luxuries like carpet and a full dashboard inside.” At the time of our visit, the car was off the road awaiting a new, bigger turbocharger, but the level of engineering and detail is astounding. The body kit is based on a Berg Cup item but heavily modified to offer an almost OEM level of fit.
Restoration and Futureproofing
John and Ben have some fabulous vehicles in the workshop for us to inspect. A low mileage Mk4 Golf R32 is up in the air, minus its chassis components as these have all gone to be cleaned and powder-coated, a preventative measure to keep the car in top condition for the years to come. Next, to it, an Audi RS2 is being revived after being pulled from long term storage. “We’ve not seen one of these for a few years, but now we have this in I have had a couple of enquiries from other owners wanting similar work done on theirs.”
Sat unassumingly in the corner is a mythical piece of metal. Rarer than a Golf Limited or a B32 Porsche powered T25, this is a Corrado Campaign – 1 of 6 specially built vehicles, given to high flying UK dealerships in recognition of their “Karmann built VW’ sales as part of a competition held between January and August 1992. They came only in RHD with an exclusive brick red leather interior, painted in Dusty Mauve and powered by a silky six-cylinder motor. This one is in for a complete overhaul.
Parked next to the ‘Campaign is a less than subtle matt purple Mk4 Golf race car belonging to John and Ben. The colour echoes their logo and is a nod towards a close partnership with KW suspension; John’s Coilover of choice for each build they produce. In a state of ‘almost finished,’ the pair hope to get it out on a circuit with some of their customers behind the wheel later in the year – if they could just find a few minutes spare to complete it.
The next step…
Whilst those in it for the money might see an opportunity to get more ramps, another Technician and turn the productivity up to 11, John and Ben are more than content with the set up they have created. “Working with owners to build the cars they want is what we are about. I dabbled with offering reconditioned VW parts and followed a few other paths over the years, but this is what we do best, so we’ll continue to do it…”