Back in the mid-80s, Volkswagen supported some young, up and coming rally talent by establishing the Volkswagen Junior Rally Team. At a time when the gap between club level motorsport and world level motorsport was widening at an ever increasing rate of knots – this was in the midst of the Group B era after all – it was Volkswagen’s bid to find the next British rally star.
The programme was said to cost the manufacturer in the region of £250,000 and provided an opportunity for four young guns to step up the rally ladder. Four identical Volkswagen Golf GTIs, each costing around £25,000, were built by David Sutton Motorsport and a driver from each of the UK’s ‘home’ countries was chosen after a highly competitive selection process.
Around 350 applicants applied when the scheme was announced in 1985 but in the end, only four were to get the opportunity to join the team. They were Simon Davison (England), Steve Davies (Wales), Robin Phillips (Northern Ireland) and Callum Guy (Scotland).
The drivers were each provided with a Group A Volkswagen Golf GTI rally car as well as a Volkswagen Transporter, service wagon and a trailer. They all contested the 1986 Marlboro National Rally Championship with the winning Junior driver gaining a ‘works’ supported entry at the 1986 Lombard RAC Rally.
The cars were professionally built by David Sutton Motorsport, each with identical specification. The 1.8 litre 8-valve engines outputted somewhere in the region of 170bhp with a top speed of 124mph and a 0-60 sprint time of around 6.8 seconds. The close-ratio five-speed gearbox came complete with limited slip differential and combined with Sachs suspension, the car had all the right ‘go faster’ bits.
It was a level playing field with some serious machinery but in the end, there could only be one winner, and that was Simon Davison. He gained the ‘works’ drive after a season that saw him rack up a couple of top 10 finishes with the Golf. Robin Phillips, who was co-driven by Bobby Willis, had been hot on his heels at the season midpoint but an accident towards the end of the year put paid to his hopes.
Prior to the start of that 1986 season, Davison had been the hot favourite in many rally gurus’ books. He had plenty of front-wheel drive experience, he was the reigning British National Group A champion, and he also had a drive in the 1986 British Open series with Nissan so he was enjoying a lot of seat time.
As expected, Davison duly delivered the results in the Volkswagen Junior Rally Team. In doing so, he also won the Group A title for the second year in succession…but what happened next?
After the Lombard RAC Rally, where Davison and navigator Nicky Grist finished 19th overall and fourth in class, Davison subsequently contested the 1987 Open Championship with his Golf GTI, as did Robin Phillips. Their cars had been upgraded from their 1986 guise and were sporting new 16-valve engines.
Davison continued to use C793 CYX throughout 1987 and it is this very special car that graces these pages. Now owned by Billy Miskelly, it was by pure chance that the Northern Ireland man came to own the ex-Davison machine.
“After the Junior programme finished, Robin Phillips decided to buy one of the cars,” Miskelly told Pacenotes. “At first, I thought he had bought his own car – when it was registered in Northern Ireland it was put on Northern Irish plates so it wasn’t easy to identify – but it turned out to be Simon Davison’s car. I only discovered that after I bought it!”
When Phillips bought the car, he used it at a number of motorsport events, including rallycross. Eventually he decided to move it on so Tom Lawlor became the new owner, and then Colin Burns, who won his class in the Northern Ireland Championship around 2000.
“I worked on the car and run it for Colin,” Miskelly revealed. “When he stopped rallying, he abandoned it for a while. Then he asked me to restore the car for him and after that, he decided to sell it, so I ended up buying it.”
Miskelly put the car into storage for a while until he received a telephone call from the Slowly Sideways group. He agreed to go to the Slowly Sideways event in Killarney and members of the group helped him check the history of the car.
“I didn’t even have the tax book for the car at that stage!” he revealed. “So I went to get the tax book and sure enough, it said Dave Sutton on it. Slowly Sideways did their homework and confirmed that it was Simon Davison’s car. So I returned it to its original registration number and decided to put the car back in the same colours that it used on the Manx where it finished fourth in 1987.”
“It’s as close to original as I can get it,” he continued. “The interior is painted white as that’s the way Colin Burns wanted it when he was having it restored but it should be black. That’s the only major difference but I’ve tried to keep it as original as possible. The Volkswagen gearbox in it gave me some trouble but I phoned Germany and they still had parts for it so I was able to rebuild it with the correct parts.”
“It has been a big learning experience. A lot of the parts are not from a standard Golf. It doesn’t have standard Golf suspension and some parts are from other VW models. For example, the hub carriers are from a VW Santana!”
The car still has its 16-valve engine (as opposed to the 8-valve) that Volkswagen used for the 1987 British Open Championship and these days, it leads a life of leisure. Miskelly, who now helps to run Drew Wylie’s Escort, takes the car to a handful of Slowly Sideways events as well as car shows, rather than risk damaging it in competition.
“Events are few and far between now,” he said. “I don’t want to wreck it but I take it to the odd show and Slowly Sideways event. I was in Killarney with it in 2010 and 2011, as well as Cork in 2011, and I’ve been to Lurgan Park two or three times.”
It’s nice to have something different and this is certainly no ordinary Golf. Remember, just four of these cars were built by Dave Sutton Motorsport, and aside from the unique mixture of Volkswagen parts, C793 CYX was the most successful of the four cars.
Sounds like Billy picked up a golden ticket when he agreed to buy the car! Feast your eyes on these stunning images…
Words: Jonathan MacDonald