Last summer, I bought the most extravagant birthday present I’ve ever bought in the shape of a Mk1 Audi TT 225 ‘BAM’. The car in question was to be my girlfriend’s new daily driver, and while I knew of a few things needed fixing, £950 was handed over to my friend, and the deal was done.
On the to-do list was a new alternator, a new turbo, as well as a new cam chain and comfort control module, but no matter. I gave the keys to my girlfriend and then whispered in her ear “the car needs work, so you can’t take it home yet, but please keep smiling for the pics to hide your disappointment”. And so the keys were taken back straight away to allow work on the BAM to commence.
What followed were multiple weekends spent with my friend Gareth (CT’s resident mechanic) pulling the engine out to get the work done. What we didn’t realise at the time, however, is that the TT 225 BAM Quattro is the world’s most disgusting car to work on for a few reasons:
Space - there is none under the bonnet, so unless you’re a child with a mechanics’ degree, you’re screwed.
Complication - this is a car with a cam chain and a cam belt, which means double the ‘fun’.
The requirement of ‘special’ tools - even to get the driveshaft off, I had to buy a new Torx set for the bloody thing.
Everything is just shit - no matter what you do, and no matter how good you are, the TT will fight you every step of the way. Nothing, and I mean nothing is easy when working on a Mk1 TT, so if you’re looking for a project car to learn on, do not, I repeat DO NOT make it a TT. Seriously, it’ll make you hate cars, and even writing this sentence is making my blood boil, so I’m going to sto….
Anyway, after six weekends, £1000 in parts, broken tools and a friendship one swear away from becoming a horrendous crime scene, the car was fixed and the keys handed back to my girlfriend. And she bloody loved the thing; power on tap, the feeling of safety because you sit low in a cocooning cabin, and heated seats - oh, how she loves heated seats!
Fast forward three months, however, and issues were starting to creep in; the coolant light would illuminate despite there being plenty of fluid, and then the windscreen wipers failed while my girlfriend was driving through the Blackwall Tunnel, meaning that she had to pull in and wait out the rain for an hour. Never mind, I pulled the wiper motor unit out, pulled the wiper arms apart and re-greased them. Easy fix.
And then, one month after that, the rear brake started binding to the point that any long journey (more than 30 mins) would result in the car noticeably slowing itself down and the handbrake lever refusing to budge. So that was on the list of things I needed to fix too.
And one month after that, the real trouble started. A phone call from my girlfriend revealed that the car was making a horrendous noise from the front “under the bonnet” and that something didn’t feel right with the steering. After instructing her to drive the four miles home carefully, and upon checking the power steering reservoir, my fears were confirmed - either the power steering pump was knackered (easy fix) or the steering rack was a goner (game over).
And would you believe it, it was the steering rack that was pissing out fluid, which is a subframe out job to replace. Which raised two questions:
Do I have the patience to pull the subframe out again to do the job?
Will the subframe bolts ever come out seeing as though they’d been Loctited in only a few months ago?
The answer to these questions were ‘hell no’ and ‘I don’t have enough love for this car to find out’, so I called Gareth, told him the good news and his reaction was the same as mine - “It’s time to throw in the towel and know when to stop”.
Which is exactly what I did, and after a difficult discussion with my girlfriend (which resulted in actual tears), the decision was made to get rid.
And so there ends my sorry saga with the Mk1 TT 225 BAM, a car that’s brilliant when it works, but a nightmare to live with when it doesn’t. Happily, the car was bought by a fresh-faced car nut named Ben who’s pulling the engine for use in his Mk2 VW Golf (a popular swap).
He’s already got to work on the project, and has informed me of a couple more issues that I didn’t know about, one of which means that me getting rid of the TT was 100 per cent the correct decision. For starters, the radiator was leaking (more expense to come for me, but of no concern for Ben because it’s not being used for his build), but most worrying was the fact that the rear crash bar has clearly been hit in the past, so perhaps a very lucky escape!
With the TT now a donor car and the power steering fluid stains still fresh on my driveway, I’ve since bought my girlfriend a new car with a third of the power, triple the fuel economy and (touch wood) 100 x the reliability. Her 2012 VW Up (High Up) is a truly cracking little car thus far, which you can read more in a week or so.
Until then, though, let this story be a lesson to you all to know when it’s time to call it quits on a project car!