Ray Ditta’s infamous OG Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI Mk4 daily driver
Ray Ditta’s infamous OG Mk4 TDI daily driver isn’t simply the perfect example of a VW built around an OEM+ theme — the car and its obsessive-compulsive owner practically invented the term!
Words: Tony Taylor
Photos: Ade Brannan
Anyone who’s read car magazines for a while will be familiar with a handful of common tropes. Many of these car’s stories begin with comments like “I got crashed into and went nuts whilst it was in the bodyshop” or “I said I wasn’t going to mod this one…” My personal favourite is “I only took it off the road for a couple of weeks, but life got in the way and here we are 20 years and a couple of kids later”. This story, however, has a little twist on that theme. This car hasn’t taken 21 years to build because his family life got in the way, this car has taken 21 years to build, because it is family and I’ll be damned if Ray Ditta doesn’t take better care of this than most people do of their kids.
As you can imagine, Ray isn’t a johnny-comelately jumping on the “let’s buy a Mk4 before the prices go mental” bandwagon. No, Ray has owned this beauty from new. As Ray puts it, “my sons don’t know any other car, I’ve had it longer than both of them”, not something many can say when their kids are old enough to drive the Mk4 themselves. And, if all of that isn’t surprising enough on its own, the next piece of the puzzle might just blow your mind. This is Ray’s daily. Yes, that’s right. This Mk4 is responsible for ferrying the kids to school, commuting to work and doing the big shop. The mileage shown on the beautifully retrofitted dash display has the digits to prove it!
Now you know how long Ray has owned this car, you’ll be able to make some pretty fair assumptions about his age and how long he has been modding cars. Ray is legit old school. Those of us who have been on the scene for that length of time are likely to have been active in the world of online forums.
For the crazy kids reading, forums are online communities where like-minded people share ideas and help each other out. No disappearing snapchats, no 140 character limits, and no concept of spending mummy and daddy’s hard-earned shekels on air in the hope of getting an extra 1k likes on your Insta. Ray is one of those sharers. A valued member of online communities like uk-mkivs, adding detailed build histories, ‘how-to’ guides, and making those all-important connections from which all the best ideas and friendships are born.
One of those early connections was fundamental to engine choice when speccing a factory fresh Mk4. Ray considered the trusty 1.8T. However, Ray was given the gentle push he needed to go down the PD route. Looking back now, he is glad he did and even more glad that he offered the Golf up as an early guinea pig for the now legendary GT2260 turbo upgrade. Ray loves the way the PD delivers its gobs of power and has well over 100k miles on the uprated turbo (see, I said that it gets driven!) so it can now definitely be considered a tried & tested upgrade. Go in search of the uprated snail and you’ll quickly understand Ray’s ethos behind this whole build. At first glance, the engine bay appears stock, super clean and boxfresh. You have to delve a little deeper to find the mods. Ray is definitely a lover of OEM+. In fact, you should probably think of this car as OEM+Ç! Possibly the biggest compliment you could pay Ray is to look at the car and make the mistake of thinking that everything on it is factory.
Such is the quality of workmanship from Ray and the people he has worked with that even highly modified parts have been executed in a way that makes them look factory.
Take a good look around the outside and that statement could not ring more true. At first glance, there is no hero mod. Yet, Ray’s good friend and bodywork guru, Jonny Handley of Dynamic Per4mance, proudly points out that the passenger rear quarter panel is the only stock metalwork on the whole car, and that even includes the floorpan!
Grab yourself a magnifying glass and the subtle mods start to come to the fore. The Sprinter vent is something that we’ve all seen before. What sets this one apart is that the vent was a very early mod but when the front wings started to succumb to the inevitable tin worm (thanks to those crazy kids at VW and their random water trap wing designs) they were replaced with NOS panels from VW and Ray elected to have the vent worked back into the brand new panel in exactly the same place, and I mean EXACTLY the same, as a mark of respect to the history of the mod and the guy who had originally installed it for him.
Keep looking and your eye will be drawn to the front bumper. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was a US item, I did too at first glance, but that will draw a Ray-sed eyebrow (worst joke ever – All) as Ray patiently explains that it is the factory UK bumper tweaked to include the US Bora GLI lip and the US side markers repurposed as side repeaters. That’s probably also the first time that you’ll notice that those factory wings have had the side repeater voids blanked too. The Votex parts and winter pack were optioned from the factory. The debadged Bonrath grille was also an early mod that has been lovingly cared for over the years.
Naturally, a man with this kind of eye for detail couldn’t possibly leave the bonnet notch so that has been filled. Take another look over the front bumper and you’ll see that there’s no license plate. Don’t worry though, Ray won’t fall foul of PC Plod. Ray carries two lower grilles, one without a plate, and one with, just in case he finds himself in a random northern multi-storey car park for a photoshoot. Most modders fall into one of two camps. Either you wouldn’t do the mod that would remove the plate, or you do it and don’t care about the consequences of bumping into our boys in blue. Carrying two grilles and having the best of both worlds is the kind of solution that separates the men from the boys when it comes to building feature cars.
Head around to the driver’s side and take in the smoothed rubstrips and R32 skirts. In fact, Ray has a full, brand new, and untouched, factory R32 kit stashed away but loves the present bumper set-up too much to make the switch. I, for one, am fully onboard. I love the look of the R32, it’s an absolute classic, but the best place for R32 bumpers is on an R32. The world doesn’t need another rep and this particular Mk4 is sitting too damn pretty to start messing with perfection.
As you work your way up the from the rubstrips you’ll find a couple of mods that feel immediately familiar, the Audi TT fuel filler and late-spec Audi A4 doorhandles. But, they aren’t as familiar as you might at first think. Find another Mk4 that has been converted to an Audi TT cap and compare it to this one and you will see that this one just looks somehow better. That’s because, rather than simply put the Audi part in place of the VW one, this one has brought some of the Audi metalwork with it as well as being slightly repositioned so that the bodylines flow more smoothly. The cap itself has lost the familiar TT rivets and has been colour coded. As a little easter egg, pop it open to see the custom fuel and tyre pressure decal. There are dozens of hours of work and planning in getting that one single mod to be absolutely perfect and to match the overall vision for the car. That pales in comparison though when compared to the Audi handles. Ray and Jonny suggest that this may be the only Mk4 in the world with these particular handles and I’m not inclined to disagree. Most people go down the welltrodden path of fitting A6 handles. As Ray started to talk about using the doorhandles, my first thoughts were along the lines of “well, what difference does it make which Audi you raid for its handles?”, then I stood at the back of the car looking down the flank and then it made sense. The side profile of the handles is exactly the same as the profile of the wheel arches. Attention. To. Detail.
However, trying to be the first to do a mod, or the next-level mentality that drives you to find the handle that matches so neatly, aren’t the things that Ray is most proud of. Both Ray and Jonny get crazy excited when they talk about the positioning of the handle on the doors. The safe option is to fit the handles where the factory handles sat. According to Jonny, this makes them sit too low on the door and ruins the look. The reason that people don’t fit them higher is that they foul the glass and no longer line up with the lock mechanism. If you are more interested in perfection, rather than ease, the only answer is to spend 100s (yes, hundreds) of hours reworking the door skins, handles and lock mechanisms to make it all work and lord does it work! The positioning of the handles is sheer perfection, and they follow the level of the TT fuel cap exactly. It’s worth pointing out that each one of these body mods is all metal. No filler here. All filling work has been done with lead. It seems that Ray doesn’t do things easy, he just does them right!
A glance at this Golf’s sweet ass will show you an Anniversary bumper and a shortened plate recess, millimetre perfect for the plate naturally, a Mk5 boot handle hiding a Mk6 rear camera, neatly tucked under an Audi rear wiper conversion. Being an OEM+ fanatic, Ray insisted on keeping the wiper as everything should be there and everything should work. Speaking of everything having to work, few people would notice the Audi A6 rear parking sensors. Why bother swapping to A6 parts you ask? Simple, the visual parking system on the Audi RNS-E multimedia system wouldn’t have worked otherwise. Everything should be there, and everything should work.
All of that amazing bodywork is finished off in Audi Panther Black, a shade usually found on the RS6. Not only is this not the first new colour that this car has seen in its life, it’s not even the first time it has been Panther Black.
A spurious supplier happily sold a batch of expensive lacquer conveniently forgetting that it was subject to a recall and should have been destroyed. At first, it just looked a bit crap, then it turned to grit, then it fell off. Not exactly the look Ray was going for. Needless to say, it had to go back in so the bodyshop could start from scratch. This Golf’s windows have been 'out out' more times than Micky Flanagan! Now that the lacquer debarcle is a distant speck in the Audi S5 rear view mirror, Ray is left with a stunning paint finish that subtly flips through purples and browns under the photographer’s lights.
That perfect body is hugging the tarmac thanks to a stealth air install. The lines, tank and compressor are all hidden in the body so that the boot space remains usable. Family daily driver remember…
The arches sit achingly close to a stunning set of NOS OZ Fittipaldi wheels in perfect 8.5x18” ET43 fitment. They aren’t Rays only wheels, but you can’t deny they look pretty damn perfect. Tucked behind all four corners are Porsche brakes. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the wheels were specifically selected to suit the calipers, but no. The calipers were shaved and reprofiled by hand to match the contour of the wheel spokes before being refurbished with factory paint and logos. It might be an old cliché but you couldn’t squeeze a cigarette paper between the caliper and the spokes.
Now, anyone who says beauty is only skin deep has never seen a true show car. The interior of this masterful mk4 is one hell of a place to sit. Like the exterior, a quick look will let you know that you are somewhere nice but look harder and you will see an exquisite level of detail. A personal penchant for modifying dash displays and clocks has helped give Ray the skills he needs to really push the OEM+ envelope on this interior.
No aftermarket seats and cage here. This is a well curated collection of the best that the VAG stable has to offer. The dash, and US-spec centre console, are home to an Audi RNS-E, colour dash display and a set of 220mph R32 clocks. Sitting pretty in front of the clocks is a Mk7 GTi wheel. None of that is just for show, every function works as it should, with the very cool exception of the Mk7’s DSG flappy paddles that now control the cruise settings.
As you look around the dash you are hit by the perfect carbon detailing. A combination of pieces from both Project Carbon and C6 Carbon working well together with the weaves lining up in a way that would make you believe they were all formed from one continuous piece of carbon. Look down and the carbon detailing continues to the seat rail trims. Most people would be happy to run a bit of trim detailer over them. Not Ray, they are as lovingly finished as the rest of the interior. Speaking of those seat rails, they are just where the story begins when it comes to finding somewhere to perch your behind.
Ray has stripped a set of Colour Concept Recaro’s and expertly mated them to a set of electric, heated bases. It’s difficult to believe they aren’t a factory option. If you’d rather relinquish driving duties and live the VIP chauffeur-driven lifestyle, you’ll find the back bench a pretty spiffing place to be too. Not only are they heated, with door-mounted repurposed temperature controls, they also have VW factory child seat boosters retrofitted. Neither of those are what Ray is most proud of however. Pass your hand over the armrest, watch the drinks holder smoothly slide out and see Rays eyes light up as he tells you the history of sourcing and fitting one of his favourite mods on the whole car.
It’s that love for the drinks holder that sums Ray up perfectly. His delight in weaving together OEM+ parts and mods from a wide range of VAG parts bins, driven by his desire to have every single thing work exactly as it should is what has turned this particular Golf from one of a million to one in a million.
«Without Bally I don’t think the Mk4 would have been featured»
BALLY KUNDAL TRIBUTE
I would like to tribute this feature to my dear friend, Bally, who was taken from us too soon and whom I dearly miss every day.
I met Bally over 20 years ago through the forums. We became close friends over the years, especially when he bought his Bora and started to visit his in-laws in Leeds. Bally would always make a point to pop in to see me and the family, spending time with us. Bally was a big kid, with a big heart. He was always the joker too, putting a smile on everyone's face.
Bally would also do anything for anyone to help them. I remember having Olly (Olethalb) installing the air ride kit on the MK4 in London and I needed a lift to go collect my car. Bally was there straight away, driving from Milton Keynes to take me. He was such a good friend, always encouraging me and pushing me when I would be on a low. I am so glad to have been there for him too, talking to him daily. Without Bally I can honestly say I don’t think the Mk4 would have been featured and a massive tick off my bucket list, so I am eternally grateful. I miss him so much, as do so many other. Words can’t describe it and it’s silly but I still go to ring him, even now. I like to imagine him looking down from above, smiling and saying, “I told you so. Now get that Mk2 finished as well and stop messing about.”
«This Golf’s windows have been 'out out' more times than Micky Flanagan»
- ENGINE: Fully rebuilt 2005 Leon ARL 1.9PD. Passat B6 180 amp alternator, GTB2260VK turbo, Firad 80% injector nozzles, Rosten Performance CAM, modifi ed Volvo D24 inlet manifold with custom BSR TIP Allard front-mount intercooler, custom pipework. Powder coated black cat-back Milltek 2.5” 1.8T Anniversary exhaust with custom downpipe, Bobby Singh Racing (BSR) custom remap. ARL rebuilt gearbox with uprated forks and Quaife diff, Sachs SRE clutch and standard Sachs DMF. Forge short shift
- CHASSIS: New old stock 8.5x18” OZ Racing Fittipaldi (5x112 and ET43) with H&R adaptors and 215/40/18 tyres. Air Lift Performance front struts and bags with modified ARB droplink tabs welded Bilstein B8 Performance rear struts and Bagyard rear bags Full Accuair e-Level air management with I-level, Accuair 3 gallon tank and Viair 440c black compressor. 3/8 lines. Hidden install. Eibach rear ARB and R32 front ARB with shortened drop links Audi TT early cast wishbones and R32 hubs Superpro bushes. Porsche Oettinger 996TT front calipers with R32 334mm discs (front), R32 rear callipers (handbrake) and Porsche Cayenne Turbo callipers with Leon Cupra R front 323mm discs (rear) 4 pots all round
- EXTERIOR: Painted in RS6 Phantom Black Pearl, genuine sat nav roof aerial with VW Sharan stubby stem mast, genuine US Bora GLI front valance and 25th Anniversary 1.8T rear lower valance. Genuine five-door R32 side skirts, Bonrath debadged grille with notch smoothed. Smoothed UK front rubstrip with US-spec side marker rubstrip blended with genuine US-side markers used as indicators. UK rear bumper with custom short plate recess and Audi A6 visual parking sensors in rubstrips. Genuine new front wings with smoothed indicators and driver’s side fitted with Mercedes sprinter vent. Mk1 Audi TT fuel flap smoothed, with custom fuel and wheel pressure sticker based on the OEM design. Tailgate fitted with Mk5 handle/badge using Japanese Mk6 rear view camera. Factory xenon’s modifi ed with Morimoto larger projectors in 25th Anniversary style black shroud, custom R32 electric folding/memory door mirrors with Skoda puddle lights, carbon mirror caps, genuine rear US R32 lights with carbon details, Audi B8 A4 door handles working mechanically as factory
- INTERIOR: Bora lay-flat illuminated dash vents, S3 brushed mirror switch button, heated rear window switch with timer, modified heated seat switches to change colour when switched on, R32-style dash cluster with custom 220mph foils. Colour MFA centre screen and inverted displays, Mk7 Golf R FBMFSW modified to red illumination fully functional with stereo and cruise control. Audi 8P S3 RNS-E 193 stereo with Factory AM and Bluetooth, Dension DAB module, fully integrated Ampire DVB-T TV tuner, reverse camera/visual parking aid, 6.5” screens fitted in standard Recaro headrests, radio and door handle insert trims painted in Piano Black, custom passenger door handle to replicate US passenger spec with door lock/unlock switch, R Line gearknob with carbon trim, centre console trim and puddle lights, 2005 US-spec rear console, R32 brushed handbrake button, R32 glovebox with brushed lock barrel, carbon dash caps/seat rail covers, genuine Anniversary grab handles, seat belt cover, alarm sensors. Black sunroof, Audi S5 auto-dimming rear view mirror to fit onto factory rain-sensor mount, W8 interior light with illumination Black Onstar panel modified as garage door opener. Roof lining and door rubbers trimmed in BMW X5 factory black cloth material, custom boost gauge with Newsouth Performance gauge pod, custom build Black Colour Concept factory heated, electric and memory leather seats with factory under seat Skoda puddle lights. Heated factory rear child booster seats, custom heated switch surrounds in rear doors, factory Telematics front leather armrest, custom rear armrest with factory cup holders. One touch indicators, custom door pocket panel for Accuair controller, Passat tailgate and fuel switch and tank pressure display
- SHOUT: Firstly to my wife Shabana for putting up with my obsession and my two sons Khalil and Zain for always supporting my crazy ideas. Aamer Aslam for steering me towards VWs, Alan Fishburn for guiding me towards the MK4 PD and always being there as mentor along with Andrew Outhwaite. Sohabe Seyedi for the custom work on the bumpers, putting my ideas into practice, Bobby Singh (BSR) and Chris Crook for helping with the crazy GTB2260 build, Andrew Davison (North East Auto Tech) keeping the MK4 on the road. Ben Stonehouse always there to help, Yervant Bogosyan (DubTech Customs) and Bally Singh Kundal (Dub Club) for their support and never letting me throw in the towel with the build, Greg White (Greg’s Auto Services Ltd, Cyprus) for his support and providing the awesome rear brake kit, Jonny Handley and Fran (Dynamic Per4mance) for the fabrication and paint work, Prash Reddy (360 GT Plates) for supplying the numbers plates, David Clarke for custom OEM+ TT fuel filler cap sticker, plus so many more I could mention but you will know who you all are. Thank you to all my friends near and far for their support with the build over the years
«Without Bally I don’t think the Mk4 would have been featured»