Bought the car really cheap - £400 and knew it had some issues:
Brakes were bad - needing a new master cylinder. I was feeling lazy and got a mechanic to fix it.
Someone had replaced the timing belt without replacing the tensioner (doh) - making loads of noise so got the mechanic to sort that too.
Performance was poor - but I knew this was a tuning issue. There were loads of vacuum leaks and the rocker cover breather was blocked up - goes really nice now.
Needed a damn good service - oil was black. I put Magnetec oil in, because I do a lot of short trips. Fitted trick blue HT leads, new cap and rotor, triple core spark plugs. Fitted blue silicon Samco water hoses and matching blue silicon vacuum hoses throughout. While we're on the subject of engine detailing, I've got a spare rocker cover and timing belt cover which I'm going to get chromed for a bling bling engine bay!
Clutch is heavy - very heavy, and does slip a little. I've got used to it, but will have to sort it at some point in the future.
Speedo is unreliable - sticks and responds slowly. This is a drag when slowing for speed cameras, or when you come up on the back of a police car. These cars can hit 120mph stock - so again I need to sort this out in the future.
I love these cars. You don't see many driving about - but they're easy to buy very cheaply (eBay's a good place to source them).
It's a proper little sports coupe with German engineering and reliability thrown in.
Steering is absolutely pin sharp, the wheel just uncoils effortlessly in your hand coming out of the apex like the car knows where you want it to go.
Handling is lively yet predictable. Power slides are easy (be even better with a Quaiffe LSD, maybe in the future!), and it corners nice and flat even with my old worn suspension.
It's a well balanced light weight little car, easy to chuck around even without power steering - hand brake turns are easy too. Also, it's narrow - good for punching through gaps in city traffic.
The 8v GTi engine gives out 112hp - this doesn't sound spectacular, but it's a light car and the engine has lots of low down torque - giving good acceleration. There is a well trodden path of engine mods developed by the Golf brigade and many after-market bolt ons and performance enhancements.
Interior is a bit cheap and bland - but hard wearing. Cracks forming around the windscreen demister vents are normal - never seen a roc without them. Some leather interiors around if you're lucky.
Avoid electric windows - they're expensive to repair, and in a car this old - they will need repaired - they also add weight. Think twice before buying a car with a factory sunroof. They're heavy, extremely complex and always leak.