With the help of the good dudes at Open Air Imports, I've imported an Italian-spec 1981 Golf GTI. To say I'm stoked about it is an understatement: this car rocks.

I saw the Golf reviewed on the Motor1 Italia TV channel. I don't speak Italian, but their coverage of the Golf's recent restoration and subsequent road test video was more than enough to keep me watching. Crazy enough, a couple weeks later an Instagram account I followed named @gulfblue.it had the car listed for sale.

From the start of bringing RML back to life I had plans to find (or build) a suitable demo car. There was no doubt in my mind that this seemingly pristine Mk1 GTI would be more than suitable. Using the Motor1 episode as a method to vet the car from a different continent seemed reasonable enough for me to contact Enrico at Gulf Blue and make an offer. 

Once a deal was reached, I hit up Nick at Open Air and he literally handled the rest of the process. Seriously, it could not have been simpler and Nick kept me updated on every step of the way. A slight hiccup in trying to get the car out of one of Houston, TX's ports was the only delay in the process, and this had absolutely nothing to do with Open Air or the importation process.

Now that the car is finally here in SoCal and I'm able to look it over as carefully as possible, I'm just as stoked as I was when I made the offer. The car has 181k kilometers, but to most people it looks like it just came off the showroom floor. It's not a true "nut-and-bolt" restoration, but all the important mechanicals have been rebuilt or replaced, and from what I understand the rust and accident-free shell only needed a simple glass-out respray in the original color. The interior is original, but again, you simply would never imagine it has seen over 100k miles of use.

Though not yet registered for use on public roads, I have found opportunities to drive the car in order to confirm it runs and drives as good as it looks: it does. It's amazing how 1.6 liters, 110-hp, and five very closely-spaced gear ratios can move 1,800-lb so quickly. The unassisted steering is incredibly sharp and full of feedback, and even the new stock-spec suspension is supple yet quite capable. Back in the early-'80s, and before we got our own Rabbit GTI in 1983, American car enthusiasts had to worship the Golf GTI from afar: now that I have one of my own I can see how much we really missed out on for far too many years.

Speaking of registration, this is proving to be a challenge. Due to the fact that this car came from VW with no emissions controls of any kind, registering it here in California is simply not possible. Though my daily commute has me surrounded by countless old pre-smog American cars and trucks, CA somehow sees my little Golf as some sort of environmental catastrophe in waiting. I know better than to try to fight CARB, so I'm currently looking at other options (and finding that California is doing all it can to crush those as well). I'll keep you updated on how this part of the story pans out.

So, what's the plan for this time-warp Mk1 GTI? As much as I enjoy the stock suspension, there's too much pitch and roll for my taste, and the ride height is more SUV than GTI in appearance. My good friend Chris Marion from KW Suspension NA has something waiting for me he says will take care of the 4x4 look.

Obviously, a set of RML wheels are in order, too, right? This isn't as easy a decision as you'd imagine, because for so many years my mind has seen the 13x5.5 steel wheels the Euro Mk1 GTIs came with as being integral to the "I finally got myself a Euro Mk1 GTI" ownership experience. Still, I bought this thing to help me market the 15" RML Snowflake, so those will be on it by the next update. But don't be surprised if at some point you see a 15" version of those OE steelies in the RML design portfolio.