Cape Town - Nitin Bhikha is one of the biggest Volkswagen fans you'll meet in South Africa.
He purchased a 2.0-litre CLi 16V Jetta Mk2, restored it and ultimately donated the car to the VWSA museum in Uitenhage, AutoPavilion.
AutoPavilion, Place of Cars and Legends, as its known, was established in 2004 as a heritage centre to replace the existing museum that housed the automaker's older vehicles.
Bhika says: "The Jetta 2.0L Cli 16V, is one of my all time favourite Volkswagens. My uncle owned one when I was growing up, and I also had a poster of the car on my wall as a kid. The Jetta missile ad was also very inspiring."
Bhika, who happens to work at VWSA, says he bought the Jetta in 2012, similar to his uncle's model, and saw a lot of potential in it: "The previous owner neglected the vehicle, and being such a rare car, I decided to give it a new lease of life.
"I tried to get my Uncle's one back after tracing it 16 years later, but the condition of the vehicle was extremely bad and the cost to restore that car was going to be way too much."
Bhika is a VW aficionado. While he was attending school, he sent the local automaker a drawing he had sketched and that pretty much set his future at the company in motion...
Wheels24's Janine Van der Post chatted to Nitin Bhikha to find out more about this VW enthusiast and what made him give the car away after spending so much time restoring it. Details of the restoration are posted further below.
From left: Buyile Gqubule, VWSA AutoPavilion manager, Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and managing director of VWSA; and Nitin Bhikha, VWSA Employee and donator of the VW Jetta Mk2. Image: Motorpress
Wheels24: 1. What was the first Volkswagen you owned?
NB: The first VW I owned was a Velociti 1.6i. It’s a good looking vehicle, the Velociti had a very sporty character, and the wheels and steering really complimented the Golf 1 shape. Also it has a fun factor. Its quick, its light, it handles great, and it still has that old school Golf Mk1 GTi factor in the way it drives. It’s a really good drivers car. I also worked a lot on A1 CitiGolf projects at the time, and it was great to be able drive one of those cars at the same time.
2. Your love for VW started from a very young age. Did you always want to work for VW?
I always had a passion for cars, especially Volkswagen, as VW has always been our family cars. I use to draw cars from a young age, and always wanted to be a Car Designer. During Matric I sent VW a sketch of a car design and they advised me what to study. I then went on to study Industrial Design at Wits tech/University of Johannesburg, as that is the one of the routes into car design. As soon as I was finished I started at Volkswagen as a graduate trainee in the Product Engineering Design Division as they were looking for a car designer. This was a dream come true as I always wanted to work for Volkswagen.
3. You mentioned you were part of the design team for the VW Golf Mk1, what was your role within the team?
Yes, I had the opportunity to do Exterior Design, Interior Design and Colour and Trim for the Citi Golf range as well as the Polo Vivo after that. The last Mk1 Edition was special as it’s the last of the Golf 1 models after 31 years of production.
The Exterior Design side had a badge on the rear and sides which had an outline of the Golf 1, this was sketched to capture the timeless shape of the Mk1 Golf, and celebrate the last of the original Golf. The theme for the vehicle was to compliment the lines of the car. The car was offered in Black and Blue only, and has lower chromed side-stripes and a chrome pin stripe down the middle which really compliments the shape of the vehicle. Each car was also numbered for the last 1000 produced.
I was lucky enough to purchase one of the last ones, #571.
The interior featured partial leather seats, the golf ball gear knob with red numbering and gear gaiter, handbrake cover with red stitch, as well as red outlined seat belts, silver instrument dials, and silver pedals. Mk1 inscription on the carpets as well as silver scuff plates with a red line.
The interior featured a plaque on the dashboard with the Mk1 outline and the number of the vehicle.
The first project I worked on was the Citi Rhythm, followed by the Citi R-Line. This was followed by the Citi Billabong, GTS, and Wolf editions. The Mk1 was a nice way to pay tribute to the Golf 1 in South Africa as a final model. Innovation has been the hallmark of the VW Citigolf, and I got to work with a great team of engineers.
4. Your mother came up with the idea of donating the Jetta to VWSA, why would you donate your car after spending so much time restoring it?
Well, I simply did not have space for the vehicle and after all the work done, it just did not feel right to sell it to just anyone. There are not many VW Jetta 2.0L Cli 16v models left in SA, and this being one of the originals. I felt it should be preserved just the way it is, and who better to do so then Volkswagen?
So, it was my and my family’s way of saying thank you to Volkswagen for all the many great years. My mum said after we had decided to donate the car to Volkswagen South Africa: “Excellent! I am happy for the new home that we've known for 11 years”.
It's also for all the Mk2 fans to enjoy.
5.What are your thoughts on the VW Golf GTI Clubsport, and the new Tiguan?
They are both great Vehicles. The Clubsport captures everything the GTi has stood for over 40years. Its one for the enthusiasts. The Clubsport takes an already excellent Golf 7 GTi, and adds a new dimension. It also recorded the fastest time around the Nurburgring in Germany for a front-wheel drive car. The design package works well, the front bumpers are aggressive and link nicely to the side graphic.
...and the new Tiguan?
The new Tiguan is very advanced in its design, the proportions are very good and the surface treatment is excellent. When I was in Germany I worked together with the Exterior Design team in Wolfsburg, as well as the Colour and Trim team who were involved in the design work for this car. Oona Scheepers from South Africa is responsible for the Colour and Trim in VW Germany, and one of my role models. The Wolfsburg team have done a brilliant job on this vehicle. The attention to detail in every aspect is amazing.
6. Are there any current VWs you'd like to add to your garage?
Just earlier in August I went for a test drive in a Volkswagen Scirocco R and its still on my list.
Jetta Mk2 restoration details
• I got a set of original Jetta Cli 16V Alloy wheels with brand new centre caps and replaced the aftermarket ones which were on the car.
• Fitted brand new badges on the car, some very rare items. This includes: “Jetta”, “Cli”, “VW logo” and “16V” front and rear badges.
• Sourced a brand new set of original pin stripes for the car.
• New set of original blackout kits for the window B pillars.
• Bought new roof rail rubbers which extend from the front A post to the end of the roof.
• Had the roof, boot, mirror caps and rear spoiler professionally resprayed as that needed some attention.
• Changed all the window rubbers on the car. Removed the horrible mudflaps.
• Interior: managed to source the original national radio/tape deck that was released with the car.
Mechanical and drivetrain
• Brand new shocks, tyres, control arms, bushes, original Jetta cambelt cover, new rain tray, various new clips, feeder pipes.
• New boot lock as this was missing, new wiper arms, wiper blades, new numberplates and numberplate holders, and lights.
• Special clips from Germany for the light bulb holders, new reverse light switch, replaced all light bulbs.
• Power windows needed attention, all motors replaced in each door.
• The K-jet tronic system was setup properly and the cable shift gearbox was setup correctly.
• New injectors, oil pump, and both fuel pumps were put in. New battery. Clutch was given attention, and the handbrake was set properly. New fuel filler cap. New inner bonnet caps.
• Exhaust system had to be changed, a full powerflow stainless steel system was fitted with Viv•o GT look twin tailpipes. Being at the coast, stainless steel has a lot of advantages, and the twin pipes suit the vehicle, the only visual difference to the original. The tailpipes were still VW, so keeping with the OEM look.
Bhikha says the above-mentioned changes is all he can remember but there were many more small additional changes he might have missed.
The last service was done at VW Market Square at 138000km, and the car still has both original 16V keys, the one has the torch and 16V logo. The owners manual and service book is also kept with the car.