Pipey McGraw

An interview with custom legend, Pipey McGraw

People Culture

Pipey (if we used his real name, he’d kill us) McGraw tells us why he does what he does and why he doesn’t care what the ‘purists’ think

Danni Bagnall: Pipey, how did you get into modifying cars?

Pipey McGraw: I’ve always been into cars. As a kid, I loved old muscle cars; big, old, brash v8s and the like. On maybe my 12th or 13th birthday my Grandad arranged for a mate of his to take me out in a ‘71 Boss Mustang. That was it for me. Completely sold. Everything that puts together a car has been figured out, researched and developed, by millions of humans from different backgrounds over thousands of years. From the metal taken from rocks for the steel and iron, to the chemistry in the liquid systems keeping pressures. The biology in comfort for the individual driver. And not forgetting the art in its aesthetic. So much science, technology and art has gone into them. And modified cars take that one step further; no two are alike, there are literally infinite possibilities. I bought my first car a year before I could even drive (a Mk1 Volkswagen Golf) and I’ve been building stupid cars ever since.

Pipey McGraw Golf Mk1

DB: Tell us about the crazy Mk1 Volkswagen Golf you built a few years back? Why THAT low?

PM: The Mk1 was probably the first out and out crazy car I had on the road. Tons of projects before it, but nothing to this absolute mental level. We started building this at the dawn of the age of air ride within the ‘scene’. It was apparent that if you wanted to sit on the floor you needed air. I disagreed. Getting a Mk1 Golf as low as mine was is a fairly big ask. So many body modifications are needed, so body-switching onto a beetle floor pan was a much better idea. Beetle pans are flat anyway, and having torsion bar suspension makes things a hell of a lot easier to lower. The car really did sit a whisker from the floor. It might sound easy, but undertaking this task was tough. Having a best friend who’s an incredible fabricator (Paul of Coltech Classics, in Poole) helped, though. And to top it all off, we ran a bridgeported Mazda 13b rotary engine in it. It really was a bonkers car, but so much fun. I drove the car the length and breadth of the country, and even across to France and Belgium.

DB: Who needs air, right?!

PM: Haha, exactly!

DB: You went on to buy a Volkswagen K70 after that, but didn’t exactly restore it to factory spec… What did you do and why?

PM: The K70 was purchased with the intent of being a daily… I should’ve guessed that wouldn’t last long. I got onto researching the model and found out that a K70 was roughly (7-inch narrower) the same wheelbase as a W8 Passat. I managed to find a W8 Passat for a bargain and just had to have it. The body swap involved a lot of cutting and squeezing to get it to go over, but we got there in the end. Paul fabricated tons of little bits to make things fit from brackets to braces etc – all the trickery you don’t even see. We had to weld in some Mk1 arches to widen it slightly, so we could get some wheels to fit. Seven weeks it took to take two separate cars to one car MOT’d and on the road. It looks like a boxy K70, but has the surprise of a 300bhp 4.0-litre monster underneath, that happens to sound eargasmic.


DB: Dare we ask; what’re your thoughts on the modified car scene?

PM: I love the modified car scene. It’s so vast and the majority of people into modifying cars properly are usually really nice. I love the infinite possibilities you can achieve with each individual build, and the stories behind those cars. In the last couple of years, though, I feel the modified ‘scene’ has lost what building cars is all about. People seem to just bolt on crap for ‘Instagram likes’, rather than build a car for themselves and for the love of cars. True craftsmanship seems to be dying and that’s a little disheartening. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some incredible people out there, building amazing cars. You’ve just got to look a little harder for them now.

DB: Obviously, your builds go against convention – and we love you for that – but what’re your thoughts on the ‘purists’?

PM: F*ck the purists *he says laughing*. I don’t build cars for other people’s approval. I don’t really believe in styles or fashion. These ‘scenes’ are what separate us; sticking to a certain style that has a gospel of dos and don’ts is not something I adhere to. I’m all about true expression of one’s self and that’s what I feel the ‘scene’ has lost. If you love cars, you love cars. There should be, and are, no rules to modifying cars. Do what you want to do and have a bloody good time doing it.

DB: We know you still have the K70, but we hear you’ve recently purchased a Jaguar E-Type shell?! What does the future hold?

PM: Well, the E-Type is another out of control build. In short, it will be body-dropped over a Westfield-style tube chassis. Engine thoughts include dropping a 400bhp 20b Mazda 3 rotor engine in it. I can guarantee it’ll be wild, and I can guarantee that it’ll upset the purists, but that’s all I know for now. Watch, wait and see, I guess…

DB: Cheers for your time, Pipey.  Looking forward to seeing the E-Type completed.


all photos – Henry Phull (Slam Sanctuary).