Blending the past and present in the Volkswagen GTI BBS concept

The Volkswagen Golf GTI has defined the genre of  hot hatch for decades, and the new 2022 Golf GTI follows in tradition. But progress doesn’t have to mean losing sight of heritage– which is why Volkswagen and Philadelphia-based VW enthusiast Jamie Orr worked together on an enthusiast concept that injects a healthy dose of the past into the latest generation.

The inspiration for the concept was an enthusiast-built Mk2 version of the GTI, which supplanted the only U.S.-built generation of the GTI in 1984. The goal: To highlight what has made the GTI special through the years.

“I saw the Mk2, the concept was based on, at a show in 2019 and was drawn to the simplicity and strength of the build,” said Sean Maynard, Enthusiast and Motorsport Marketing Specialist for Volkswagen. “I had the chance to meet Brock Bickford, from Evansville, Indiana, and learned that this was a project that he has been building with his daughter since she was seven years old. It’s stories like this that give me a deeper appreciation for the VW enthusiast community.”

The Volkswagen GTI BBS concept. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

At 241 hp, the latest GTI offers more power than any previous generation, , with new driving technology that optimizes an already potent chassis setup, rounded out by a thoroughly updated interior. Though heavy personalization and modification are embedded into most GTI builds, Orr was so impressed by the stock variant that he wanted to let the car speak for itself.

“We wanted to maintain the soul of the Mk8, so we went with more traditional modifications.1 But we left the interior, body, and powertrain exactly as it came from the factory,” Orr said. “Take those wingback seats, with this striking red design – they are just phenomenal. Changing any of that would have been a shame.”

“We try to do most of the modifications to the exterior and leave the interiors stock on the enthusiast fleet vehicles,” Maynard added. “That way someone that might not have any experience with the Brand can still get a true feel for the vehicles.”

The Volkswagen GTI BBS concept. Disclaimer: Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale.

First, Orr and his team changed the wheels, giving the Mk8 a classic look with a set of BBS 19×9 Super RS – featuring the iconic BBS waffle and hex pattern – wrapped in Delinte 235/35/19 D7 tires.

Then, Orr lowered the car. “We started with a set of coil overs that H&R makes for the Mk8,” says Orr. “The rear fitment is stock, but I re-designed the fronts a little because I wanted to add camber adjustment, so it’s more of a custom mix of H&R components.”

Orr was particularly happy with the new exhaust from Borla, the first available for the new GTI, which “is just a step beyond” the stock material. Finally, he gave it the BBS retro red and black vintage livery with pinstriping running from stem to stern.

For the original Mk2, “Volkswagen used all the elements their customers loved about the first GTI and built upon them,” said Orr. “The Mk8 has a new body style and more power under the hood, plus a bunch of tweaks that make it the best handling GTI I’ve ever driven.”

The Volkswagen GTI BBS concept