MK1 88 Golf GTI Convertible

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I bought this 1988 MK1 Golf GTI convertible for Lisa as her daily driver it was tucked away at the back of a garage in Southampton and had been sitting for a while. First things first was to give it a service usual rotor, cap, leads, oil & filter change etc. While this was done the rocker and sump gaskets were also changed and red paint applied to both as they were looking a little tired. I still had a slight hesitation on acceleration which was resolved by replacing the vacuum pipes and it run like a dream. Later on we noticed the fuel pump getting a little noisy, the fuel filler neck rusting out is a known issue but this one had already been replaced but as the pumps and filter were unknown I changed both along with the fuel filter.

Come winter when we had a bad bout of snow I hit the curb damaging the nearside wishbone and drive-shaft after an expensive toe home I set about replacing the drive-shaft, both front wishbones along with all new bushes for the front suspension parts. I had also noticed the strut was damaged so purchased a set of coil-overs and managed to find a set of 15″ VW sport-line BBS alloys with near new 175/50 cooper tyres. The combination made one hell of a transformation the whole car was a lot tighter and drove as if on rails although I don’t think I would go with the coil-overs again probably lowered springs.. In time for it’s next MOT new rear drums, shoes and hand brake cables were put on and the plan was to spruce and clean up the interior but with a new arrival on the way Lisa decided she needed something a bit more practical so it was sold on.


Engine Valve Adjustment

You use these guides at your own risk, if you are unsure consult a professional.

The VW firing order is 1 4 3 2 ….. number 1 as you are facing your engine is top right, number 2 bottom right, number 3 top left, number 4 bottom left. Valves should only be adjusted with engine being stone cold. The recommended gap for a stock engine is 0.06 inch, you should consult your engine builder on performance engines.

Tools Needed;
13mm spanner,
Flat bladed screwdriver,
New valve gaskets,
Feeler Gauge 0.15mm / 0.06 inch,
Spanner/Socket for your alternator/dynamo pulley nut (sizes vary),
Plastic gloves, Rag, Tip-ex and pencil are optional.


1.) Remove the distributor cap so you can see the rotor arm and look for the notch on it which is usually at the 5 o’clock position when facing the engine. With your spanner/socket attach it to the alternator/dynamo pulley and turn it so that your rotor arm is in line with the notch on the distributor and the crank pulley is at top 12 o’clock position, there is usually a cut or mark on it if you have not got a degree pulley, this should be lined up with the seam of the engine case this is top dead centre (TDC).

*If you are unsure that your pulley is at top dead centre then remove number 1 spark plug and put something long down there i.e. pencil and holding it firmly turn the alternator/dynamo pulley feeling the piston go up and down, when the piston is at top and the rotor arm is pointing at you this is likely to be top dead centre (TDC). I would mark the crank pulley with tip-ex once you have found it and also mark the 180 degree point if you haven’t done so already.

2.) Remove the right hand valve cover by pushing the bale down with the flat bladed screw driver until it is clear of the cover, then remove the cover, you may get a some oil spillage.

3.) Looking at the right head face on you are adjusting number one which is the inlet and outlet valves on the right.

4.) Using your 0.15mm / 0.06 inch feeler gauge slide it between the valve and check that the gauge slides through with a little resistance, if not then undo the 13mm nut slide the feeler gauge in and either loosen or tighten as required with a flat bladed screwdriver until you can only just about slide the feeler gauge through. Leaving the gauge in there, keep the tension on the screwdriver and tighten the 13mm nut up, then move on to the next one.

5.) With number 1 completed get up and go back to the crank pulley, turn it 180 degrees anti clockwise so that the TDC mark is now in the 6 o’clock position. Now go back to the head and looking at it face on number 2 which are the inlet and outlet valve on the left adjust these as in step 4

6.) With number 1 and 2 completed clean up the head and valve cover of oil and the old gasket, put the new gasket in the valve cover, place it on the head and push up the bale back on. (Some do some don’t if you want to put a very thin layer of sealant on then do it on valve cover side of the gasket only)

7.)Go to the left hand head and remove the valve cover by pushing the bale down with the flat bladed screw driver until it is clear of the cover, remove the valve cover you may get some oil spillage.

8.) Now back to the crank pulley turn it 180 degrees anti clockwise so that TDC is in line with the case seam this is number 3 cylinder. Looking at the left hand head face on number 3 is the inlet and outlet valves on the left adjust these as in step 4

9.) Number 3 now complete get up and go back to the crank pulley, turn it 180 degrees anti clockwise so that the TDC mark is again now in the 6 o’clock position, go back to the left hand head looking at number 4 inlet and outlet valves which are the 2 on the right as your looking face on adjust these as per step 4.

10.) Clean up the head and valve cover of oil and the old gasket and apply the new gasket to the valve cover, then refit the valve cover and push the bale back on give it a check with your hand make sure its all secure. All valves are completed so go back into the engine bay and put the distributor cap back on.

11.) Make sure you have cleared away all your tools there are no oil leaks and start your engine, stand back and admire your work.

Type 1 VW Engine Static Timing

1500SP Dual 34 FRD Dellorto’s

You use these guides at your own risk, if you are unsure consult a professional.

To time your engine statically you will need a 19mm & 10mm spanner or equivalent, a flat bed screwdriver and a timing light (Simply a wire with a 12v bulb in the middle and crocodile clips either end).

  1. Unclip the distributor cap from the main body of the distributor and locate the notch on the rim.
  2. Using the 19mm spanner rotate the generator pulley clockwise until the crank pulley notch/mark is lined up with the crack between the two halves of the crankcase and the rotor arm is pointing somewhere near where the notch is on the distributor body.
  3. Place the distributor cap back on the distributor body ensuring its clipped down properly and place your static timing light to same connector as the thin green wire on the coil, the other end should connect to a good earth.
  4. Loosen the 10mm nut on the distributor just enough so the distributor will turn, now turn the ignition to the first point (Don’t start the engine!).
  5. Rotate the distributor until the timing light turns on, now turn it clockwise until it turns off and then slowly counter clockwise until is just turns on, keep doing this till you get it right i.e the light just comes on, then tighten up the 10mm nut on the distributor and check the light comes on at the right place just to ensure you haven’t moved it while tightening the 10mm nut.
  6. Turn off the ignition, you have now completed statically timing your engine.

*** This is the starting point to get your engine going, you should now fine tune with a timing gun/light. As an alternative if you then measure 11mm from TDC that gives you 7.5 degrees and 46.5 mm gives you 30 degrees. Mark them with tip-ex and you have your rough timing marks. ***