For owners of right-hand-drive Golf, Jetta and Scirocco cars with the Mk1 floorpan, brakes are rather a sore point. Because RHD was something of an afterthought, RHD cars retained their brake servo on the left-hand side of the bulkhead and the pedal action was transmitted via a bell crank linkage system with no less than eleven pivot points! This was somewhat less effective than the system used by Ford with their Escort or by BMW in their contemporary cars, and left VW owners with a rather dead-feeling pedal and brakes that seemed inadequate for the car’s performance. Although you could take up the slack in the linkage, it soon loosened again and you would end up adjusting it every three months or so. Various solutions to the problem were tried. GTI Engineering would tighten up the linkage and fit Mintex M171 racing pads in the early days. This offered some improvement but the linkage would loosen with time and the racing pads, while they worked well when cold, unlike the Ferodo DS11s , would glaze-up easily in slow driving, made dreadful graunching noises when used hard and inevitably wore out the standard discs more quickly. At one point, GTI Engineering even tried grafting Ford Granada discs onto the Golf and these worked quite well but could only be used if you had 14in or larger diameter wheels fitted. It was also an expensive solution.
In 1985, the Italian brake manufacturer Tarox came on the scene with a replacement ventilated disc that was also slotted for better cooling and wear characteristics. With their own matching pads, this brake set worked very well and gave good stopping power, better pedal feel and superior fade characteristics. Tarox also make a set for the Mk2 Golf and, with the already satisfactory four disc Mk2 set-up, this gives a GTI exceptional braking ability.
Grafting the rear discs from a Mk2 onto an earlier car is not a straightforward task. The hubs are different for a start. If you can find a crashed Scirocco 16V, it is easier just to swop the rear axles and, of course, the brake proportioning valves have to be changed too.
While the initial idea was to get better pedal-feel and retardation by fitting larger discs to RHD cars, if LHD cars had satisfactory anchors with the same equipment, did it not make more sense to attack the problem at source? Autocavan certainly thought so and this British VW tuner sensibly brought out a stiffer, braced brake bar that fitted to the bulkhead and reduced the linkage pivot points to just two.
BR Motorsport’s Brian Ricketts came up with a large servo conversion kit that raised brake line pressure considerably and gave a vastly better pedal feel. He also developed a bigger disc conversion. With both these modifications in place, he effectively put paid to the old joke, ‘Why is a GTI like an Exocet? Because nothing will bloomin’ well stop it!’.
This did not mean that LHD markets were entirely happy with their brakes. When they uprated their engines, the American tuners sensibly looked for better stopping. AutoTech and APS offer big disc conversions for early and late GTI-based cars. Their latest kit uses the front discs from the G60 Corrado to stop the 170bhp turbocharged, supercharged or 2.0-litre cars they sell to clients. Buying a kit like this from these firms is very cost effective because not only do you get all the parts you need, and even Aeroquip braided hoses if you specify them, but, because of the quantities they buy from original equipment manufacturers, these tuners are able to offer the kits for about two-thirds the price you would pay if you assembled all the parts yourself from your local VW dealer.
©Ian Kuah. This article was published with explicit permission from author Ian Kuah