- Post is under moderationNEW JACK HUSTLER
A lot of people talk about thinking outside the box when it comes to building a car, but few actually do. Jack Smith is someone who definitely walks the walk though.
/ #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf-1 / #Volkswagen-Golf-I / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Golf / #VW-Golf / #VW-Golf-I / #VW / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Rabbit / #Volkswagen-Rabbit-I / VW / #VW-Golf / #VW-Rabbit / #Tarmac / #Volkswagen-Golf-US-Spec-Mk1
“As soon as the old stock colour started coming up all my ideas about painting it Silver went out of the window”
“It would have been so much easier to import a full car myself, but with the money I already loaded into the car I thought I’d just build one”
“It’s something different and I can say that I built it, there’s a sense of pride in that... it's art to me"
Jack Smith’s Mk1 may look like a genuine #US-spec Rabbit… until you notice it’s right-hand-drive. And that’s just the start of the madness…
A lot of people talk about thinking outside the box when it comes to building a car, but few actually do it. Jack Smith is someone who steps right outside of it... Words: Tony Saggu Photos: Si Gray
To say Yorkshireman Jack Smith has eclectic tastes in automotive faire would be something of an understatement, with less than a decade on his driver’s license the twenty something Rotherham based paint sprayer has auditioned more style and makes of motors than most. “Me, I love building cars, the make and model or even the style isn’t as important as actually making the thing,” he told us. “It gets my mind working, thinking of things that not many people have done before, you know, taking something bland and making it something amazing." His latest metal massaging makeover takes the shape of a German born, English market, Americanised runabout with a petrol to diesel swap, newfangled technology and old fashioned looks... if you’re looking for predictable, keep walking.
“I actually started with a Renault 5 1.2 five door before I could drive,” laughed Jack, “My dad bought it for me so I had something to work on. That went matt black on lowering springs with some P slot wheels.” Once the 'L' plates had been discarded French fancies were replaced with a little German flair in the shape of a shiny Red 1.0 Mk3 Polo. The rims and springs added gave the car the right look until Jack introduced the coupe to a spot of unintended custom bodywork, “It ended up in the window of a local computer shop...” we’ll say no more. Sadly the lad’s luck didn’t improve much with the wrecked red Polo’s replacement, “Yeah, I had a white Mk3 1.3 Polo coupe after that, almost identical to the red one but with wider arches on the front,” he recalled. “That had a Corsa go into the side of it.” After the two crumpled coupes Jack tried his luck with a five door, another Polo, another Mk3, and tempting fate another 1.3. Thankfully the blue-hued saloon worked out well and was only given up when Jacks present project came along. “I’ve had a Golf, a Vento and even a bagged Mazda 3 along the way,” he told us, “I currently have a daily Lexus GS300 that is VIP inspired on Weds Kranze LZX and D2 air suspension with a fair bit of camber.”
Switch hitting Japanese gangster rides aside, Jack admits if he’s honest it’s the Dub life that pushes his buttons. “I think it all started from seeing people I used to ride BMX with buying and modifying them,” he recalled. “I found a German modified VW magazine while I was on holiday in Europe years ago, I couldn't understand anything in it but the cars looked pretty cool and I knew I wanted a piece of that, I started getting PVW after that and as soon as I could drive I bought myself the Polo coupe.” The latest Smith built sensation which you see here began like many makeovers with a chance encounter, “I wasn’t really looking to buy a Mk1,” explained Jack, “I had the blue Polo at the time and was pretty happy with it. My mate Ricky had bought it and done a bit of welding and other stuff so he could sell it on,” he continued. “Then it eventually just came up on a local forum that Ricky was selling it soon and at a good price. I didn’t need another car, but who doesn’t want a nice cheap Mk1? I put the Polo up for sale straight away and got on the phone to Ricky.” At seven hundred quid the antique '83 Golf was a steal, it had plenty of issues in all areas but the Yorkshireman wasn’t daunted. “It was pretty tired looking,” he told us, “and it had the typical MK1 rust problems. The paint was very faded paint and honestly it needed a good general tidy up to make it acceptable.” The car ran though, not too bad either according to Jack, the alternator was a bit dodgy but the car came with coilovers. “I had to take it for a MOT and there with a decent list of problems for me to fix,” he recalled.
A couple of hundred quid’s worth of parts and a spit and polish would have been the sensible thing to do, the resulting ratty but reasonable ride would have kept most Dub fanatics satisfied and smiling. A steady diet of Max Power, Revs, Fastcar and Redline magazines growing up had put Jack in a different frame of mind though, not to mention a couple of older cousins who had done nothing to take the edge off the custom car craving. “There wasn’t a chance of it staying standard,” laughed Jack, “ Initially I wanted to make it like every other MK1 you see at shows, it was going to be silver on polished BBS RS's, but when I actually started working on the car all that changed.” Job one, after the coilovers had been wound down to the limit and a set of Minilites from the old Polo had been bolted on, was to give the car a good clean and go over with a polishing mop to restore the righteous retro Pragus Blue. “As soon as the old stock colour started coming up all my ideas about painting it Silver went out of the window,” recalled Jack, “The blue is just perfect, it suits the car so well.” The next few months saw the car more often than not in pieces on the Jack’s driveway, the Mk1 was a sweet little motor but it was teaching young senior Smith a valuable if hard lesson... it was old, and old things break down and stop working a lot. “One of the biggest reasons the car looks and drives the way it does now is that basically everything needed to be repaired or replaced,” explained Jack, “if I was going to fix something anyway I thought I may as well make it better.”
Straightening the generally abused and rust riddled bodywork set the direction of the project and gave the car is final character. “When it came to the look I wanted It was mainly the US cars that got my attention,” revealed Jack, “The American lads were doing really low cars, with half the floors cut out and full of exotic custom suspension work. I knew I'd never go that far as it was out of my skill set, but I knew after looking at their cars that I wanted to make my car look like an American style VW.” The internet had taught our man that when it came to true US spec, there was only one direction he could go.
“The Westmoreland Rabbit,” he smiled, “Once I started thinking about it I realised I’d never seen a US spec Rabbit over here. Everyone was making MK2/3/4/5s US spec, but I couldn't understand why no one had imported or made a Mk1 over here. It would have been so much easier to import a full car myself, but with the money I already loaded into the car I thought I’d just build one.” It wasn’t long before Jack realized that giving his German built hatch the American look was going to take more than just slapping a Rabbit badge on the boot. The American built Mk1s have a look all of their own with more than a few US only exterior details and body panels. “Getting the parts was no joke,” lamented Jack, “A lot of the bits like the Hella rear lights, turn signals, side markers and the grill I got from Mexico via dodgy websites and ebay. The front panel was found on VWvortex after months messaging people who were breaking cars for parts,” he continued. “It a big piece to post over so convincing someone to do it took a while, finally someone decided to do it for me. I can’t remember his name but the bloke was a legend. He only charged me about $60 then $60 shipping as I only got the top half of the front panel to save on shipping costs.”
The all important and decidedly unique Hella Projector headlights were apparently liberated from some sort of Jeep and sourced through the Edition38 forums for a reasonable £90. “The front wings were a major headache,” recalled Jack. “The driver’s side came from #VW-Heritage over here and only cost £30 delivered, it was a brand new genuine wing. I couldn't believe my luck when I found that.” The passenger side 'fender' however wouldn’t be such an easy acquisition, “The other side I was really struggling,” he explained, “Everyone wanted $500 for shipping and I couldn't justify spending that much for one wing. It took a lot of hunting but after talking to someone on #VW-Vortex from a place called Old-Skool-VW we worked out a way to get around the postage.” Clued up VW heads will already know that the major difference between the German wing and the Pennsylvania panel is the leading edge around the US spec corner light. “He agreed to cut me a spare wing up and sent me only the front part which wraps around the turn signal,” revealed Jack. “He cut it just big enough to fit in a USPS Fixed Rate shipping box. I think this was also $60 plus $45 shipping. Once it arrived I had to figure out how I was going to graft it into a Euro wing.” A good deal of careful measuring, delicate cutting and skillful welding had the wing looking every part the perfect stock American example. While the welder was out the rear panel needed to be similarly cut and shut to house the long rear lights the Yanks like so much. Unsurprisingly Smith has strapped on a pair of Westmoreland issued bumpers fore and aft to complete his American auto adventure, the heavy girder style steel protrusions are normally the first US styling faux par to be binned by Stateside Dubbers, in favour of the slim and sexy Euro examples.
Toned down with matt black paint and pushed closer to the body with custom crafted brackets however, it seems Jack has made VW of North America’s design department’s bumper blunder a thing of stylish beauty. It’s no surprise, with our man being a painter by trade, that the reapplied Pragus Blue top coat is smooth, silky and to our eyes perfectly refinished, Jack though, ever the perfectionist, reckons he could have done better. “I’d like to go back and redo the bodywork,” he told us, “Since I've gained more experience in the trade over the years, I've got more of a eye for detail now than when I first painted it, I was only in an apprenticeship back then.”
Jack told us the original 1.1 under the bonnet was on its last legs, pumping out more oil than horsepower. “I got offered a 1.8 conversion and tried fitting that, but it would never run and no one could figure out why it wouldn't start,” he told us, “I got so annoyed and decided just to rip it all out and find a cheap engine to chuck into it. I saw a 1.6 #GTD for sale for £150, it had everything including the fuel pump and turbo.” Jack admits his experience with engine conversions is pretty limited, but dropping in the diesel was a doddle, “essentially its four mounts, a custom downpipe and about six wires,” he enthused. “Obviously there's a little more to it than that, I had to get a gearbox and some other stuff, but me and my mate Kyle could take it out in less than two hours.” Although originally the cheap oil burner was just supposed to be a temporary engine to get the car mobile, Jack told us it wasn’t long before the diesel started to grow on him, “I soon fell in love with it,” he smiled, “ turning the fuel and boost up made it really nippy and it was still stupidly economical.
The kinda reason I decided to keep it and refine it,” he continued, “I took it out a couple of years ago to clean it up and smooth the engine bay. It still makes me smile when you look in the rear view mirror and see a cloud of black smoke.”
Despite the nicely detailed diesel swap and skillfully executed body conversion, Jack reckons his favorite part of the build lays elsewhere, “It’s without a doubt the wheels,” he smiled proudly, “The Fifteen52 Tarmac348 wheels, I wanted them the day they got released but I couldn't afford them.” A good deal of overtime and skipping a few nights out with the lads, as well as selling his Fifteen52 Snowflakes had the prized rollers bought though, to up the ante a touch the boys at the legendary California style haus custom made the rims in two piece with brushed centres and polished lips for the Mk1.“The suspension is a Havair strut kit with paddle valve management,” continued Jack, “I think they were the only MK1 struts available at the time when I was wanting to get air for the car. To be fair I've had them a fair few years and it’s all still working fine, which is not bad seeing I used to use this car daily as well.”
Raising the turrets and giving the frame a little notching love helps the bags put the little Mk1 in the weeds, “The wishbone mounts and sump sit on the ground now,” he assured us. “The front struts have been drilled out to give me more negative camber and the rear suspension has some camber disks behind the stub axle to do the same at the back.” The dropped and diesel swapped hatch from oop north is certainly unique, not just in the land of dales and moors either, Jack’s built himself something very different from a familiar platform and we reckon you would be hard pressed to find a twin on either side of the Atlantic ,” he smiled, “Its art to me, creating something special out of something ordinary.” We think he nailed it.
1.6-litre Mk2 Golf GTD lump provides plenty of smiles with the 'boost and fueling would up." Looks sweet too!
Air install out back is simple but clean and nicely functional. Well, what more do you need really?
"Heeeeres Jacky!" Jack's plan to chop Si Gray up with an axe thankfully didn’t pan out. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy...
Old-skool Cobra buckets work brilliantly up front with rears trimmed to match.
ENGINE: 1.6-litre GTD from a MK2 Golf, ‘fuelling wound up, boost wound up’, Mk1 Series 1 radiator, front mount intercooler, custom solid boost pipes painted gloss black, Mk3 8v GTI rocker cover painted gloss black.
CHASSIS: 8x16” #Fifteen-52 #Tarmac-348 two-piece wheels, ET5 front and ET0 rear with 165/45/16 Nankang NS2 tyres, #Havair #air-suspension struts, paddle valve management with a five gallon tank, #Viair-380 compressor, raised turrets, camber holes extended on front struts and turrets, camber disks on the rear hubs.
EXTERIOR: Full repaint in the original Pragus Blue colour, late Westmoreland Rabbit front end conversion with #Hella Projectors, late Westmoreland Rabbit Long rear lights, Late Westmoreland Rabbit bumpers refinished in matt black, Rabbit rear side markers, GTI plastic arches, GTI A-Piller trims, #Zender three-piece spoiler, flared and cut arches, partially smoothed bay with the scuttle panel removed and hidden wiring.
INTERIOR: Renewed door cards, new carpet, 80's Cobra bucket seats with the original rear bench trimmed to match, boot build fully carpeted with tank and compressor on show with hardlines. Gloss black painted Mountney steering wheel with a chrome centre.
SHOUT: I would like to thank Cayla for putting up with my love for my cars, supporting me and helping me out with them. Big thank you to everyone at Rollhard, they helped me out massively last year, I couldn't have met a nicer bunch of people. Also a big thank you to the guys at Autoperfekt for keeping my cars clean. I would also like to thank Brad for the welding, Kyle and anyone else that's helped me along with the build process.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMk1 Caddy R32 Exclusive: the UKʼs hottest Caddy revealed!
/ #VW-Golf-I / #VW-Golf-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Rabbit / #Volkswagen-Rabbit-I / #VW / #VW-Golf / #VAG / #VW-Golf / #Volkswagen-Golf-R32 / #Volkswagen-Golf-R32-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Caddy / #VW-Caddy / #Volkswagen-Caddy-I / #Volkswagen-Caddy-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Caddy-R32 / #Volkswagen-Caddy-R32-Mk1
WALK THE WALK
With a day job that involves getting other people’s paintwork spot-on it is no surprise that north east Dub nut Paul Walker’s own project is beyond flawless. Words: David Kennedy. Photos: Si Gray.
I’ve got to say, it was DRIVE-MY that got me in to modified Veedubs in the first place,” 37-year-old Paul Walker explains. “I’ve always been in to cars and then one day I randomly picked up DRIVE-MY and, well, it all escalated from there really.”
We would like to take this opportunity right now to apologise for inflicting him with his Veedub addiction, something that has no doubt taken huge amounts of money from his bank account as he chases the high that is modified #VW ownership. Maybe copies of DRIVE-MY should have warnings printed on them like they do with cigarette packets these days. ‘Buying this magazine can be damaging to your bank balance!’. Or ‘modified VW ownership harms you and others around you’. That kind of thing.
“I had an Evo 7 that was just emptying my pockets and I decided enough was enough, it was time for a change in direction,” Paul continues. We’re not going to question how a Mk1 Caddy show car, especially one as good as this, could possibly be any cheaper than a Mitsubishi Evo 7… all we can be sure of is we’re very glad that Paul decided to make the switch because if he hadn’t we wouldn’t be looking at one of the finest Mk1 Caddys the UK has ever turned out.
The Caddy you see here wasn’t Paul’s first foray in to modded German metal ownership. Before the little truck he’d built himself a bagged and beautifully trimmed New Beetle which, although a very nice car indeed, must have been a bit of a shock to the system after a hardcore Evo!
“I’ve always been a fan of Mk1 Golfs, though, I mean, who isn’t eh? But good ones come up for sale so rarely that I started looking at Caddys instead,” Paul explains. “I made myself a promise, though; that I would keep it simple – just air and a nice set of wheels. It all went south when I started paying more attention to what some of the Euro Mk1 boys were turning up in…”
It’s probably worth mentioning that Paul earns his nine-to-five money as a dent man, or to give it the proper title, a paintless dent removal technician. This means that he is something of a perfectionist when it comes to cars and in particular, when it comes to the finer details. “I bought the car in 2014,” he remembers.
“I found it on the Edition38 classifieds but there was only one problem, it was in Portsmouth and I live so far north I’m almost in Scotland. This made checking it out in person difficult,” he continues. “Luckily the Kleen Freaks guys are like family and Adam Gough and Natalie Poulton, who live down that way, offered to go check it out for me, which was really nice of them.” With Adam and Natalie giving the truck the once over and confirming it was a good ’un, Paul bought it over the phone. “The guys got it right, it was in really good condition, which is pretty rare for a Caddy these days. I was always going to repaint it anyway so I was more concerned with it being structurally sound, which it was.”
The Caddy didn’t go home to Darlington straight away though; it went straight from the south coast to JH Pro Paint in Sheffield to have the Air Lift Performance air-ride, V2 management, and the custom four-link rear end fitted. “It was so low on its coilvers that I had to bag it immediately otherwise it wouldn’t have gotten onto my driveway, so it was a kind of a necessity as much as it was for looks,” he explains. Regular readers of the mag will need no introduction to the name JH Pro Paint. The Sheffield-based outfit is getting quite a name for itself in the modified VW scene for turning out more than a few awesome show-winning cars, not least owner Jon Hinchcliffe’s amazing everevolving Mk1 R32. “I’ve always been a big fan of Jon’s Mk1, so it’s fair to say his car was the inspiration for mine,” Paul grins. “It wasn’t until later on that Jon would become such an evil influence in my life!”
Two months later Paul had the Caddy resprayed at a local bodyshop, Autospray Darlington. “It was already white but I wanted it to stand out more so I had it painted in a muchbrighter, cleaner white,” he explains. “Thankfully as the Caddy was in such good condition it didn’t need too much repair work doing before it was painted.”
Next up was to sort out a pair of seats. “As I’m tall I wanted a pair of seats that would give me the most legroom, which the Vabrics would,” Paul continues. “Then it was a joint decision between me and the Mrs to do them in Harris Tweed, along with the doorcards, too, which I really think works nicely.”
Then Paul set about rebuilding a set of 15” #BBS-RS s, 8” in width and face-mounted before bolting them on the car ready for Ultimate Dubs 2015, where it went down very well. “For the rest of 2015 it pretty much stayed the same, other than a few bits of carbon fibre trim being fitted here and there. Stuff like the mirrors, A-pillar trims, window cranks, and the handbrake cover were all changed,” he recalls. “And then in June it went back to its second home at JH Pro Paint where, well, things got out of hand, I’ll admit.”
The Caddy came with a nicely-built 2.0-litre 16v in it which, while being a nice, dependable lump, didn’t quite tick the boxes for our man Paul here. We’re sure Jon’s show stealing Mk1 R32 had nothing to do with what was to come… “I’ll freely admit that Jon’s Mk1 was one of my main inspirations,” Paul smiles.
“After all, how could you not be inspired by that thing? But on a more personal note, I wanted a more-modern, less-revvy engine than the 16v. Plus, you just can’t beat that R32 soundtrack, can you?”
Over the next few months Paul and Jon spent so much time on the phone to each other that their respective partners though they might be playing away! But the lads had important build details to discuss and hard-to-find parts to track down. While Paul set about finding a suitable donor car, Jon set about pulling the old motor and getting to work on the bay. 74 welded up holes later, not to mention all the custom jobs that are required to squeeze the big six-shooter in to a tiny Mk1 bay, the whole thing was bare metalled ready for the next stage. That doesn’t really do justice to how much work was involved in getting the bay ready for paint, as anyone who has smoothed an engine bay will know. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are or how good you are at your craft, it’s a difficult, time-consuming and at times downright frustrating job. “It took Jon the best part of a month’s solid work to do the bay as it’s so time-consuming removing all the sealer and making sure every single millimetre is flawless,” Paul tells us. “Thankfully as the Caddy was in such good condition in the first place there wasn’t any major extra work to be done other than a few rust areas and the typical battery tray issues.”
While Jon was hard at work Paul found a suitable car and engine, shipped off a few odd bits to be colour-coded and got in touch with Andy Outhwaite from ACR to have a custom loom made up for the car and set about lengthening parts of the wiring to ensure it would slot easily into the smooth bay.
There’s no doubting Jon and the JH Pro Paint team know how to put out a top-level paint job and Paul’s bay is absolutely flawless from top to bottom, no matter how close you get or what angle you look at it from.
To break up the white, the sidestrips, arch spats, A-pillar trims and mirrors were all carefully reproduced in carbon fibre. We’re big fans of the carbon fibre strips in the bed, too, and the Volkswagen text has been reproduced on the rear wall of the cab, mirroring the text on the tailgate.
“I think the hardest part about the whole build, or at least the most frustrating anyway, was having to take the engine in and out about ten times to test fit everything and get it all right,” Paul reveals. “My wings are welded and smoothed to the front panel, so getting it all offevery time was a right pain, especially as we had to be so careful.”
Once the engine was in properly and the fuelling issues were ironed out, hearing that classic R32 off-beat burble was more than enough to make Paul forget all about any frustrations he had endured. “Oh, hearing it fireup properly the first time was definitely the best part of the build; you just can’t beat that noise, can you?” he says with a beaming smile. “I’ve had a few people say it’s too heavy an engine for a Mk1 but since when has a Caddy been meant to handle like a race car? They were built to carry sheep and stuff around! Some have also said that the Caddy is pointless as I can’t put stuff in the bed anymore but that’s usually the kind of thing people who don’t quite ‘get it’ would say…”
With people who do ‘get it’ the Caddy has gone down very well indeed. It debuted at Ultimate Dubs back in March (we got this shoot in the bag the day before), and since then Paul has taken it to Elsecar, Early Edition and Letstance over in Belfast, where it’s gone down an absolute treat.
It’s no surprise that Paul’s Caddy has had crowds around it at every event it’s been to so far. It is one of the best Caddys the UK has ever turned out, it’s just such a complete car. The amazingly clean engine bay is the star of the show but you don’t need to look too far to realise that no corners have been cut. It really is an incredibly complete car, not just for a Mk1 Caddy but for a Mk1 in general, and that’s no easy task these days with the level of Mk1s being as high as it is.
And yet perfectionist Paul isn’t finished yet. “Since the shoot I’ve put some Fifteen52 two-piece F40 Tarmacs on it so I can run bigger brakes, and I’m planning to transform it in to what I’m calling ‘the race Caddy’ over next winter too,” he chuckles. “Watch this space…”
Consider it watched Paul, consider it watched!
Dub Details / #VR6 / #Volkswagen-Caddy-VR6-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Caddy-VR6 / #BBS / #Air-Lift
ENGINE: Mk4 #R32 engine, VR6 #VW-Racing induction kit, #Time-Attack map, full carbon-skinned VR6 gearbox with #Wavetrac limited-slip diff, custom manifold and exhaust system, custom engine mounts and driveshafts, custom radiator, #Forge-Motorsport coolant pipes, full wire tuck and smooth bay, hidden battery under bed with positive and negative terminals behind driver’s seat.
CHASSIS: 8x15” #BBS-RS043 wheels totally rebuilt and face-mounted, #Air-Lift-V2 management with #Air-Lift Lift rear bags and #GAZ front struts, tank and compressors hidden under the bed, four-link rear axle with drop plates, G60 280mm front brakes with braided hoses.
EXTERIOR: Resprayed in bright white, carbon fibre sidestrips, arch spats, A-pillar trims, door mirrors, strips in the bed and strips on the front bumper, custom front and rear bumpers, Volkswagen script on the rear of the cab.
INTERIOR: Vabric half-back seats trimmed in ‘houndstooth’ Harris Tweed and grey Alcantara, Harris Tweed and Alcantara doorcards, flocked dash, Alcantara headlining and A-pillar trim, carbon handbrake, cover and window winders.
SHOUT: Jon Hinchcliffe at JH Pro Paint, Justin, Pete and Aidy at Autospray Darlington for my paint and detailing, Mike and Vick at Kleen Freaks for their backing, Alex Begley at Fifteen52, my good mates Anthony Warrior and Warwick French, and, most importantly, my wife for putting up with me while I did it!
If ever there was a face that summed up being obsessive about a car being absolutely spot-on, this is it. Paul takes the job of keeping his Caddy spotless very seriously, and who can blame him when the results look this good?!Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationACTIN’ CLASSY / #VW-Golf-I / #VW-Golf-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Rabbit / #Volkswagen-Rabbit-I / #VW / #VW-Golf / #VAG / #VW-Golf / #Volkswagen-Golf-1.8-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Turbo-Mk1 /
Sometimes building a car that will last the test of time is harder than building what’s hot right now. As it turns out, keeping it simple can be the biggest challenge of all. Words: David Kennedy. Photos: James Jetton.
Now is it just us looking at it from our point of view or has the #VW scene in general had a massive collective pay rise over the last few years that we don’t know about? Now it’s not that we’re jealous but it can’t just be us that’s noticed that many in the scene seem to have come out the other side of the credit crunch with more cash than ever to throw at their rides!
Not that we’re complaining, of course. The sheer number of amazing cars being built and shown out there has never been higher and the standards of what’s being executed are now almost verging on the ridiculous. Okay, so we might be feeling a teeny-tiny bit jealous but when you have to count the change down the back of the sofa to get enough fuel together to make it to a show and then you see the level of what’s being done to virtually brand-new cars and oldskool rides alike, well, it’s easy to come away wondering where you went wrong in life!
So every now and then we like to check out a car that’s a bit more, you know, real world. Now that’s not saying what’s been done to it is cheap or not done to the highest of standards, far from it, in fact. But sometimes we think it does us all good to show some love to a car that’s more achievable to the masses than the big money builds. Oh and while we’re here, if anyone wants to let us know where all this money that is flooding the VW scene is coming from, hook us up! Anyway, on to the car we’re looking at here: Chad Cronin’s Mk1 Golf.
“I got the Mk1 back in 2010 not long after H20,” Chad remembered. “I was working on a 1979 Scirocco but I was rapidly losing interest in it. We were at a friend’s shop and going through my plans for the ’Rocco and I admitted that I just wasn’t feeling it anymore,” he continued. “Jokingly I said I’d swap it for his Mk1 and we both kind of laughed. A few minutes later he came back and said let’s do it!”
While Chad might not have been feeling the Mk1 Scirocco he had been working on for the year prior to swapping keys with his buddy for the Golf, he was certainly relishing the chance to build a first-gen Golf. “I’d wanted a white Mk1 GTI with round headlights for as long as I could remember. I’ve always been a fan of the simple cleanliness of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s original design and since we didn’t get the original Mk1 here in the US, I thought it would be cool to make my own one,” Chad explained. “It was Danny Delic’s incredible 1979 Mk1 that really did it for me, though. I saw it at H20 in 2010 and just fell in love. That’s not to say I expected to get my car anywhere near the level his is at but seeing his was like seeing the perfect version of my dream car.”
November of that year saw Chad wheel the Mk1 Golf in to his friend’s shop and start pulling the Golf apart along with an 1989 Cabby donor. With good friend Kevin Hassel’s help the Mk1 had its rust treated, a new front core support welded in and the side markers taken off. While that was going on, the Mk1 rag-top gave up its rear beam, front suspension, brakes and, most importantly, it’s 2.0-litre 16v engine.
“The paint is the only area on the car that I regret really,” Chad explained. “Paint is definitely a get what you pay for kind of situation and I didn’t pay all that much. Still, lesson learned…” Worry not – the car looks fantastic in our eyes, Chad, and along with the small rounds lights, front grille, Euro-spec bumpers, OE clear glass and the aforementioned side marker delete, you would be hard pressed to tell it wasn’t a European car from the get-go.
A Newton Commercial carpet and headliner set were drafted in to bring the interior up to the same standard as the exterior, while up front between the A-pillars Chad slotted in the Cabby’s dash complete with a set of Mk2 clocks and a Momo wheel for good measure. Corrado front seats in leather finish the interior off a treat and compliment the OEM+ look of the car perfectly.
“I replaced the coils the car came on with a set of new ST Suspension coilovers which, along with the raised front top mounts allowed me to dial-in the car just the way I wanted it,” he explained with a smile. “I like to be able to drive my cars properly so I didn’t want to sacrifice handling for looks too much, so in went a Scirocco K-brace and a GoKraut chassis crossmember brace, too” he added.
Hitting the junkyard almost every weekend, hunting for Cabbies to pull parts off saw a CE2 loom being put together and the spares box at home gave up enough for a pieced-together Digi2 setup. With that, along with a whole host of other small jobs that go into even the simplest of conversions, the Mk1 was back on the road.
“Over the next two years I continued to make changes to the car as I drove it, such as new brakes and Euro-spec arches so I could complete the GTI livery I wanted, just little things here and there,” Chad explained. After a while, though, Chad decided he wanted a little more power under his right foot and started looking at options to get more out of the 16v that had served him so well up until now.
“It was around the end of 2013, I decided it was time to swap the Digi2 setup out for the far more advanced Megasquirt system I had planned originally,” he continued, “but I soon realised that buying the system didn’t really make sense from a cost point of view if I wasn’t going to go all-out on the 16v. My friend Matt had recently completed a 1.8T swap into his Mk1 and said it was really great. After talking a bit with him and looking into what was required I decided that for dollar-per-horsepower it was actually far better value than the Megasquirt, so I started looking for a donor car.”
When a donor vehicle didn’t come up, Chad widened his search and set about buying everything he needed separately instead. An AMU block, AWP internals and AUG head (got that?) were all picked up from the classifieds and brought together. “Evan Juhlin of Absolute Automotive rebuilt the head while I prepped the block,” he remembered. “Having no experience whatsoever with the 1.8T I decided that the smart thing to do was have someone much more competent than I assemble the long block for me, so I hauled all this stuff to Gerich Kadala at Apex Tuning who immediately went to work.”
With the block and head being given the once over and rebuilt to be good as new, Chad’s job was to track down a suitable turbo and manifold to put the T in 1.8T. “I was a little nervous buying a second-hand turbo but I had a budget to stick to so new wasn’t an option,” he explained. “I shouldn’t have been worried, though. When it turned up it was exactly as described and was perfect.”
With an 02A ’box in the car already, fitting the engine itself was a relatively straightforward job; everything just bolted right on up. “I had a real stroke of luck when it came to the engine harness actually,” Chad remembered. “VW were selling off brand-new old stock AWP harnesses for $100. I just wish I had bought a couple more really!”
With the AWP harness integrated in to the CE2 setup, the engine fired right up. “Hearing that engine fire-up was totally freaking awesome,” Chad laughed, “like, giddy, laughing awesome.” After a month or so of using the car locally to iron out any teething issues Chad hit the road for the 800-mile trip to SoWo in Georgia. The car performed faultlessly, as it did later in the year going roughly the same distance the other way to H20 in Maryland.
“Building the car in my garage has really been a treat. I actually work from home and my office/studio is directly above the garage,” Chad explained, “so sometimes when work gets especially non-productive I can take a break and go downstairs and work on the car. Of course, this can sometimes be a curse, too!”
Chad tells us the Mk1 is done now, save for perhaps a change of headliner colour and a limited-slip diff being installed, as he is now part way through a Caddy build that we wager is going to be just as sweet as his Mk1 is.
“I have to give a big shout out to my wife. She is incredibly tolerant of this weird obsession,” Chad smiled. “She will listen to me talk about things like which valve cover is better or how best to re-pin a connector. Without her support, and the friends who have helped throughout of course, the car wouldn’t be where it is today.”
And where it is today is in that special place of being a #Drive-My feature car in which you wouldn’t be too scared to take the keys and go for a proper drive in. Out and out show cars are all well and good, of course, but for getting out there and using a GTI like it’s meant to be used? We’ll take the understated option every time.
ENGINE: 1.8T, AMU bottom end, longitudinal Passat head, running AWP management with #Unitronic Stage 1+ software, #K03S turbo, Mk1 TT 1.8T downpipe with custom 2.5” exhaust, #02A transmission with 02J tower and #Diesel-Geek five-speed short-shifter.
CHASSIS: 7x15” #ATS-Cups with 185/45/15 tyres, ST coilovers with custom raised front strut mounts, 10.1” front and 9.1” rear disc brakes, Autotech 28mm rear anti-roll bar, modified Scirocco K-brace, GoKraut chassis crossmember brace, late-spec Cabby fuel lines, brake lines, pedal cluster and brake system.
EXTERIOR: Full respray in original #Alpine white, European GTI Livery, black Euro-spec small bumpers and metal rocker and body waist trim, all new gaskets and seals, OE clear glass, side markers deleted, H4 fluted crosshairs.
INTERIOR: New carpet and headliner from Newton Commercial, Cabby dash with Mk2 clocks, A/C delete, Corrado leather seats, Momo Classic steering wheel, full body harness rebuilt and converted to CE2.
SHOUT: First my wife Angela and my daughter Kate for their support and tolerating the hours spent in the garage. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the guys at Apex Tuning: Yareka Chilton, Kevin Hassell and especially Gerich Kalda. Also Evan Juhlin, Ian Nelson, Matt Halley and Steve Jolly.
OEM+ style 1.8T install is right up our street. Not too shiny, not too far away from how a Mk1 1.8T may have left the factory.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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This is how they do things Down Under; get the lowdown on Stuart French’s immaculate home-grown, road/race Mk1.
It’s refreshing to feature a car 100% built by its owner; and Stuart French is about as hardcore a Mk1 fan as you’re ever going to meet… Words: Tony Saggu. Photos: Andrew & Bernard Gueit (Hybrid Imaging).
Almost everything about owning and modding a Dub, or any other car for that matter, is a learning experience. Even before you press yourself into the driver’s seat and wrap your hot little hands around the wheel for the first time, there’s been an education in researching the specs, tracking down the perfect example, the subtle art of the deal… and the rest of it. There are plenty of mistakes to be made and lessons to be learned; surfing the learning curve, navigating the maze and picking up the pointers is half the hobby. Weird as it may sound, making the mistakes and learning from them is probably one of the most rewarding parts of turning a bucket of bolts into a track terror or classy cruiser. Buy a finished car and you’ve cheated yourself out of the essence of owning it, the journey can be way cooler than the destination.
“I can honestly say that the entire car is my own work…” declared Mk1-mad Australian serial Dub modder Stuart French proudly, “…from paint to powertrain and everything in between. I genuinely believe that’s what makes a project ‘special’ on another level. Slaving your ass off over a car every weekend and pouring most of your wages into it is a great way to ensure you respect the final product!” Stuart’s built not bought bad-boy is a lesson in balancing form and function in the perfect package and, as far as “respect” goes, it’s certainly got ours – in spades!
Stuart’s trip to the top began unassumingly enough, at the controls of a plain Jane four-door Mk3 Golf. The car was basic in every sense of the word; Stuart had attempted to add a few frills, but his teenage student budget didn’t stretch too far, keeping the jam jar barely above beater status. A little too much exuberance with the right foot one evening coupled with relative inexperience behind the wheel, saw the Mk3 pirouette gracefully, all be it out of control, across a slippery street into the arms of a waiting lamp post. “It was a pretty fullon accident,” recalled Stuart, “the car was totally smashed but thankfully no one was hurt.” After such a frightening finale to his daily driver, you might have expected the lad to search for something a touch safer and slower for his replacement transport. The insurance cheque found its way to a safer substitute; but slower? Not so much… “The money went straight into a SEAT Ibiza Cupra Sport 16v – the only car that came with an ABF 16v in Australia; we never got Mk3 GTIs here,” explained Stuart. “I’d always wanted a 16v after reading about them in Drive-My and on forums, and once I got my own, I got a bit carried away. I ended up modifying the ABF pretty heavily, with big cams, ITBs etc. It sounded epic and I was hooked.”
While the Cupra had the right engine room resident, Stuart was soon searching for something with a little more retro class; a 16v Mk1 Golf seemed the natural choice. “I’ve had two Mk1 16vs before this one,” Stuart told us. “One I built from scratch and the other I bought already built just to thrash on weekends. I’ve had over ten other Mk1s all told, all four-door which got broken up for parts, which is all four-doors are good for anyway, right?”
The current project is something of a blending of the two prior 16v Golfs to grace Stuart’s driveway and it’s a show ’n’ go machine that will beat the competition at the shows and then blow their doors off on the way back. “I had the race theme in my head for ages,” explained Stuart. “The only thing missing was a good base car to start a new project on. I wanted a completely clean slate to totally scratch-build my dream racer.” The Australian old-skool VW scene may not be huge, but it’s a close-knit community and the word soon spread that Stuart was searching for a shell to start on. “In South Hobart, Tasmania, there’s an old-skool VW guy, Ed Conacher, who was always the go-to guy for VW parts,” Stuart told us. “He had a heap of Mk1 shells at his house and he actually gave me my first Mk1 rolling shell nearly ten years ago. Well prior to picking this first one up all those years ago, I noticed a part-restored two-door shell with a nice roll-cage welded in. I’d asked to buy it off Ed a few times over the years, but he was adamant that he’d finish building it and wouldn’t sell it to me.”
Stuart’s not-for-sale story has an all too familiar ring to it, we’ve seen the plot played out all too often. “Eventually I heard on the grapevine that Ed had actually sold the shell to an old friend of his and that this guy, too, had given up on the build.” So Stuart swooped in, cash in hand. “I knew I had to buy it and didn’t care how much it cost,” he recalled. “It was, and is, almost impossible to find a good Mk1 two-door in Australia, especially one with a proper roll-cage already installed.”
Just over 900 quid in Canadian dollars bought what Stuart admits was an undeniable POS. The ’75 vintage two-door had deteriorated quite a lot since Stuart had first spied it over a decade earlier. “The shed the bloke kept it in was damp and dilapidated,” he explained. “The car was covered in dirt, rust and wall-to wall-bird shit. There’d been heavy panels and stuff stored on the roof which had created some nice dents, I knew these would be hard to fix properly.” A peek underneath didn’t reveal any better news: “He’d also dropped it on an axle stand, which had punched a hole clean through the sill. To make matters even worse, though, both captive nuts for the lower control arms had broken free and stripped; anyone who knows their Mk1s will be aware that this is a very fiddly job to repair.” Despite the carnage Stuart wasn’t complaining. He hoisted the heap onto a trailer and headed home.
Having picked up and perfected a catalogue of skills grappling with his first Mk1 project, Stuart was determined tackle all the tasks on the new car himself. “I always work with the notion that if anyone else can learn to do something as a professional, I can teach it to myself with patience and practice, and do it just as well,” he explained. The paint and bodywork alone swallowed up over a year’s worth of evenings and weekends, although Stuart admits his perfectionist streak may have added a month or two to the build time. The caged shell would be stripped back to the shiny stuff before any refinish work could start in earnest. The plan was always to finish the whole shell in a simple untinted pure white so a clean unblemished base was essential. “I started in the engine bay as I wanted this to be smooth and clean,” revealed Stuart, “but not with ridiculous panels welded in. I removed the rain and battery tray as well as all the brackets but I was very particular about maintaining the standard lines. I hate those Mk1s where there are sheets of metal welded over the original lines. That just robs the classic character of the car, which is the whole point of building an old car!”
Next up was the cabin, where countless hours were invested in smoothing the floors. Knowing full well that he’d be dispensing with the carpet, each footwell and the entire rear interior floor was relieved of its dents and lightly skimmed in filler, before being sanded to glassy smooth perfection. “I still don’t like wearing shoes when I drive it,” Stuart laughed, remembering how long it took him to smooth it all out! Thankfully the outer body was quite straight, with the exception of the rear panel; the original swallow-tail rear had been hacked up for bigger late model lights.
“I really regret not replacing this panel with a new one before painting it,” lamented Stuart. “It took me about 150 hours to repair the cut and beaten rear panel with fibreglass reinforcement and filler; all the while I was cursing the guy who cut it in the first place. Looking at it now, you’d never know the shell is really a 1975 model, but I can’t help thinking it’s a swallow-tail that’s lost its mojo.”
The underbody and wheel arches didn’t surrender without a fight either; both areas were taken back to bare metal, repaired and treated with anti-rust sealant and resealed in pure white stone-proof coating. The first paint job on the car suffered from dust contamination, and the cold Tasmanian winter played havoc with the air-dry process. “I had to strip it all back down to metal and re-do the entire thing. It’s one of those jobs where you hate life while you’re doing it, but you just have to remember that any problems will always piss you off in the long-term if they’re not fixed in the first place,” explained Stuart.
Of course, this car is so much more than just perfect panels and a pretty paint job; it’s the screaming 16-valve under the bonnet that completes Stuart’s story. Initially the nearstock ABF engine from his first Mk1 was stripped down and rebuilt into a Bahn Brennerequipped turbo powerhouse. “I went through a lot of hoops to get that setup going: wiring, software… only to find wheelspin and turbo lag weren’t what I wanted in a Mk1,” Stuart told us. “So after months of work I progressively sold off the turbo parts, with the intention of going back to N/A, where I believe the 16v belongs.”
The torque-laden turbo setup had bags of power but Stuart felt it was almost too civilised, lacking the high-revving raw boots and braces edge his road racer theme demanded. “I remembered reading about a Mk1 in Germany with a serious 2.0 16v installed that revved to 10,000 rpm,” recalled Stuart. “That was precisely what the project needed, but there are no good engine builders in Australia for proper watercooled VW stuff, so I knew I’d have to look in Europe. I spent hours searching for old F2 or similar-spec’d 16vs and eventually came across a strippeddown, full-house Van Kronenburg short motor on the Berg Cup classifieds. After weeks of frigging around with shipping and import problems, I bought all the parts, including the empty block. This was a pretty big gamble, too, as I didn’t know the seller and had to take his word for the condition of the parts.”
Fortunately the Dutch connection was a man of his word; after months of nail biting the goods arrived and Stuart reports that most of the parts were brand-new and came with receipts for all the machining work. All that had to be done was a quick re-bore job, as our man was intending to run bigger pistons, and a final buttoning up of the block. “The whole lot was assembled on the garage floor and matched with a custom Bosch Motorsport piggy-backed ECU which I sourced through work,” Stuart explained. Working as a corporate suit for Bosch obviously has its perks! “The throttle body kit is specifically designed for the ABF by dBilas, so I’ve had to retain all the standard sensors, as well as source some side-feed injectors to fit the stock ABF rail, also Bosch items,” Stuart continued. “They were originally designed for a JDM Nissan but they work a treat.” The entire powerplant is a mix of some pretty unique parts, including some aggressive solid lifter cams made by dBilas and other rare oneoffs, all produced in Holland at a massive original expense. “One of the big expenses with building an old VW in Australia is the freight cost associated with importing parts from Europe and the USA. Since starting this car, I’ve spent over $10,000 on freight and import taxes alone,” Stuart reveals.
In an attempt to get the best balance between looks and genuine driveability, Stuart splashed out on two sets of wheels: “The PLSs are mainly for looks, though I did like the challenge of making 9x16s fit under a Mk1. I also have some 8x14s HTN Rennsports with Avon cut slicks that go on the car for track days and hillclimbs.” The ride height is “sensible” according to Stuart.
Despite attracting a fair few critics for not being set on its sills, our man is sticking to his guns: “Why the hell spend a fortune on high-end suspension components if the car is going to run on its bump stops? As we all know, Mk1s have very limited wheel travel as it is.” The stance brigade may be content rolling low and slow, but with upwards of 260bhp on tap and barely 800kg to move, Stuart isn’t about to ease off the loud pedal of his handmade hot rod: “I built it as street legal race car, and that’s how it gets driven!” Watch the film for proof.
DUB TECHNICAL DATA FILE DETAILS #VW-Golf-I / #VW-Golf-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk1 / #Volkswagen-Golf / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Rabbit / #Volkswagen-Rabbit-I / #VW / #VW-Golf
ENGINE: SEAT Ibiza #F2-ABF 2.0 16v base engine, custom #Mahle 83.5mm 12.5:1 forged pistons, total swept volume: 2032cc, custom knife-edged and balanced billet crankshaft, Sauger gated wet sump, Lentz 159mm further lightened con rods, fully balanced assembly, ARP and Raceware hardware throughout, dBilas Dynamic head reworked with Ferrea valves (34.5 and 28.0mm) and ultra-light solid lifter kit with titanium retainers and springs, #dBilas-Dynamic 316in./304ex. deg. solid camshafts, dBilas Dynamic ABF-specific ITB kit with cast alloy air box and cold air feed, K-tech carbon fibre rocker cover, Piggybacked #Bosch-Motorsport & #Siemens ECUs, match-ported Eurosport headers, Schrick Gruppe A 2.5” stainless steel exhaust with single Powersprint s/s muffler, 02A/J gearbox with SQS six-speed gearset and Peloquin LSD, CAE Race Shifter with extra-tall shift lever, AP twin-plate clutch assembly, ultra-light 228mm billet flywheel.
Power: 267bhp @ 8435rpm (9200rpm hard cut) at the flywheel.
CHASSIS: Show wheels: PLS Evolution rims: 8x16” #ET22 front and 9x16” ET15 rear with Hankook K107 195/40/16 and 215/35/16 tyres. Race wheels: 14x8” #HTN-Rennsport-ET22 with Avon slicks, 1975 Mk1 Golf LS (Australian-built model, ex swallow-tail), 12- point chromoly integrated roll-cage, KW stainless coilovers with adjustable top mounts, #KW-ARB kit with custom rateadjustable rear outer mounts, solid-bushed rear axle – polybushes at all other points, #PMW ball joint extenders, PMW bump-steer elimination kit with modified spindles, seamwelded control arms with modified rear mounts, Eurosport four-point subframe at front, BFI front crossmember support, Wilwood Ultralite four-pot front brake kit with 256mm discs, Mk3 rear disc conversion, 24mm master cylinder and Cupra servo, rebuilt Autocavan brake linkage, Scirocco 16v handbrake cables, custom Goodridge full-length braided lines with on-the-fly bias adjustment.
OUTSIDE: Full inside-out bare metal restoration, resprayed in DuPont pure white with clear coat, seam-welded throughout, rolled and pulled wheel arches, de-badged tailgate, smoothed front apron and sills, rear panel modified for big tail lamps, deleted rain tray and smoothed engine bay, carbon rear wheel arch spats, carbon bumpers, carbon GTI splitter, tinted crystal tail lamps and front indicators, crystal crosshair headlamps.
INSIDE: SEAT Cupra 16v dashboard and instruments, 996 911 GT3 RS carbon seats retrimmed in red leather, carbon door trim, interior handle set and various other carbon details, OMP Corsica steering wheel, smoothed and painted floorpans, VDO white-faced gauges.
SHOUT: Michael Koordt at K-Tech, Gerjan Stroeve at Stroeve Motorsport, my girlfriend Lauren for letting me work on the car whenever, my mum for donating her garage whenever I needed it, all the team at Autocraft – especially Matty Porter, my late friends, Lo and John Zwollo.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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In an age of quick fix builds it’s nice to meet someone who’s been getting stuck in on the same car for years and years like Carl Levy has with his hot rod-inspired Mk1 Caddy. Words: David Kennedy. Photos: Nick Williams.
“I got in to VWs when I started my apprenticeship at a VW dealership,” Carl Levy started off. “It was inevitable after that wasn’t it? I was always in to my cars, I’ve got my dad to thank for that. He’s a real hands-on kind of guy, but it was when I started working at the dealership that my interest really focused you could say.”
You might think spending your nine to five turning wrenches on VW’s latest wares could put you off having anything to do with them at home, but for Carl it only fired him up more. “Four of the guys there had old modified VWs, a pair of Mk1s and a pair of Mk2s, so those lads hold a lot of the responsibility for this car,” he smiled. Carl eventually joined the fraternity with a tidy Mk2 Driver, his second car and the first to wear the VW emblem.
Under the guidance of his old-school loving colleagues, the Driver ended up running a 1.9-litre 8v engine on twin 45 Dellortos and then, when its sills gave up the ghost, that engine found its way in to another Mk2 that continued to serve him well.
“One of the guys from the dealership’s brothers owned a Mk1 Caddy pick-up and he brought it in one day and took me out for a drive one lunch break,” Carl remembered fondly. “I couldn’t even drive at the time and it was certainly no show car, but I pretty much decided right then that one day I would own one.”
Fast forward a while and Carl had sold the Golf and started looking for a Caddy, which, as anyone who has tried to buy a Mk1 Caddy before will agree, isn’t the easiest of things to do. With most of them being work vehicles from the day they rolled off the Wolfsburg production line you won’t find one that’s had an easy life that’s for sure. And of course, it’s a Mk1, so rot, rust and just general wear and tear is usually a bigger issue than is ideal. The third thing any potential Caddy buyer has to deal with is that, for some unknown reason, a load of them get modified by people who, how shall we put it? They like to do things their own way…
“I found it on eBay and it was relatively local down in Portsmouth so I decided to pop down to check it out,” Carl remembered. “The most important thing was I wanted a solid chassis, the rest of it wasn’t as much of a concern,” he added. “This one was solid but with the fiberglass Audi RS-style front bumper it had, the limo tints and some seriously dodgy wheels to name just a few of the tasteful things it had, it wasn’t much of a looker! It also broke down between me buying it and collecting it, so it actually came in to my life on the back of a flatbed,” he laughed.
“I had no real vision for the Caddy when I got it though, I just wanted a cool truck, I’m as surprised as anyone it came this far to be honest,” said Carl. One thing Carl was sure of though was that it would be a rolling project. “I didn’t want to shut it away in a workshop and build it over seven or eight years, never rolling it out until it was finished. There are so many builds that go that route and probably half of them will never see the light of day or the road again,” he reasoned. “Plus my budget wouldn’t have allowed it even if I’d have wanted to!”
After getting the Caddy running and roadworthy again, Carl set about making it his own. And surprisingly, now that it’s all done and dusted, he managed to stick to his plan of it being a rolling build too! We say surprising because we’ve lost count of the amount of people who say they’re going to do keep a build on the road while they work on it… and then five years later the SORN notices are piling up.
First on Carl’s hit list was the bodywork. The truck had been painted black already but it wasn’t a good job by any stretch. Add the holes left from the dodgy front bumper and it was obvious Carl was going to have to start from scratch. With budget in mind, he split the job in to two halves.
After doing as much prep work as he could himself, the truck was sent off to Elite Panel Craft in Wilton to get the front end sorted out, the holes plated up and a nice fresh coat of Diamond black laid down. On the second visit the GTI arch spats were smoothed and colour-coded, the seams between the rear quarters and the tail-lights were worked over and the bare alley bed was painted in bed liner. With a set of 13” Revolution fourspoke wheels, a nod to Carl’s love of all things old-school, he was happy to take in a few shows that year with the Caddy as it sat.
“In 2012 the interior got a full overhaul, it was time to rip everything out and start again,” he explained. “I had already decided on a black and yellow colour scheme, so all I had to settle on was what seats to go for.” In the end our man settled for a pair of Cobra Classics in black with yellow piping. Retro Retrims, a company who’s name says it all, sorted Carl out with a pair of custom-made doorcards to match the Cobras and while they had the material out, put together a pair of matching B-pillar trims and a complete headlining too. “The roof lining was probably the most challenging part of the interior,” Carl remembered. “All the glass had to come out as the roof lining has to wrap under the seals and be bonded. The roof lining also comes through oversized so had to be trimmed as we went. As the roof lining just sleeves over three metal rods, like an old Beetle or something, the tricky part is getting it even and taught without any sagging.”
When Carl bought the Caddy the engine was like the rest of the car; functional but something of a mess of mis-matched parts. A 2.0-litre 16v was matched to KJET mechanical fuel injection from a KR and a 2.0-litre Passat fuel pump but no lift pump from the tank to the fuel pump housing. This concoction of parts meant that it ran, but under any sort of load it’d misfire due to the lack of fuel getting in to the engine. After trying to sort things out with the fuel system from a 9a 16v and still failing to get it running right, Carl gave up and decided if he wanted to progress, he needed to take a step back towards his beloved carbs. A pair of twin-45s were picked up on eBay and a friend sold on the manifold he had to get them fitted up. Finally, the Caddy’s engine was behaving itself, well, sort of…
“It was pretty tired in general, cylinder three had low compression and the rings were shot,” he remembered. “I did what I could to keep it going for a while as I knew that if I was going to redo the engine it would mean pulling everything out and doing the bay at the same time which is no small job, so there were a lot of shows when the bonnet remained firmly shut,” he smiled.
Eventually though Carl realised that the bay was the last thing on his to-do list that needed ticking off so he couldn’t put it off any longer. At this point there wasn’t much left to do on the rest of the truck and the bay was severely letting the side down. As with everything else, though, Carl had it all planned out before he picked up a single spanner. “With most Mk1 bays, the first thing people do is cut out the scuttle and smooth the whole bay, finishing it in the highest gloss possible with a lot of polished and bling parts. I wanted the total opposite of that,” he explained. “I wanted a stealthy and aggressive look with just a few bright bits to really make it pop, kind of a hot rod thing.”
So rather than lose the scuttle, Carl decided to incorporate it in to the overall look of the bay by fabricating a covering piece for it. Inside the space went the Caddy’s ECU, ignition setup, TCI pack, coil pack, horn and alarm and much of the loom too. “Doing the bay was a complete step into the unknown for me, and a lot of it pushed me out of my comfort zone,” he admitted. “Yes, I’m a mechanic, so people would think it should be easy but unless you work for a very specialist company, you just don’t do this kind of thing day-to- day. I work for a small VAG specialist so the bulk of our work is standard service and maintenance,” he added. “You just don’t get normal customers wanting engine conversions, smooth bays and wire tucks!”
Once the scuttle area was all sorted, the battery tray was cut out and the battery itself relocated behind the passenger seat, the coolant reservoir was junked in favour of a top fill radiator and the washer bottle was also unscrewed and relocated. “I then lost the bulkhead brake linkage and servo by modifying the steering column and pedal box to run a G60 master cylinder off it on the advice of a friend,” Carl explained. “Then my friend Joe came over and helped me weld all the holes up,” he added before laughing, “and he only set fire to it once too.”
Carl stuck to his budget guns when it came to painting the bay and opted for a few cans of Montana graffiti paint. Being paint designed for outdoor use, it proved plenty tough and looks just fine and you would struggle to tell it wasn’t a pro job to our eyes.
“Sorting the wiring out was a nightmare. It was such a mess, me and my other half Becky spent hours and hours labelling everything up, tracing what went where and then extending what needed to be rerouted,” Carl added. “Just to make it harder for us I wanted every wire to be black too, which probably wasn’t the smartest idea in hindsight!”
Finally though, and with their relationship still intact, Carl was ready to put some power back in the Caddy’s bay. The original engine was too far gone so a second was picked up. This, too, was way past its best and uneconomical to repair so the hunt for a third motor was on. Eventually a very low mileage ABF lump was sourced from a friend that had left it sitting unused for close to a decade but with just 15k miles on it. “I took the ABF off him and stripped and rebuilt it, replacing the rings, shells and the oil pump etc even though it probably didn’t need it,” Carl explained. “Then I sent the head off to be skimmed, ported and flowed before getting it back and going over every little bit with 3M matt black texture paint, gold and a few bits in brown to make it pop, painting bits in our spare room and baking them dry in the kitchen!”
Carl’s favourite part of the bay is something that is, well, almost impossible to even spot unless you know it’s there. Deciding that the topmount linkage for the Dellortos was a messy solution, our man set about creating a one-off setup to allow him to run an under-mount linkage instead. Doing this involved creating a one-off reverse mount for the alternator, changing the belt and a whole lot of head-scratching and custom fab work.
“I’ve never seen this done before and people may not notice things like this first time they look, some people may never notice it at all, but when people do notice, it makes it all the more satisfying and worthwhile,” he reasoned.
“Someone once said to me one of the greatest parts of modifying a car is injecting a bit of your personality into it,” he continued. “I completely agree with that and as one of my other greatest passions is American football and I’ve supported the Jaguars since I was a kid and they became a franchise, I feel the little helmet I made in to a catch can is another of my favourite touches.”
Now as we bring Carl’s story to a close, we’ve got to level with you. There is so much to Carl’s build we haven’t covered here, the wheels, the custom bike, the wooden trims on the bumpers, the list goes on. And as much as we hate to leave a story half-finished, we quite honestly can’t fit it all in! You see, when we sent Carl a few questions on his truck we said, like we do to everyone, ‘put as much information in to your answers as possible, it makes for a better feature’. Now, we do this because all too often we’ll get answers back on a feature and we’ve got quite literally one-line responses to work with. Which as you can imagine, makes our lives pretty difficult! Carl though, well Carl went the other way, supplying nearly 7000 words on his truck – possibly under duress, we can’t be sure – typed up by his partner Becky!
“To be honest, a silly goal I set myself a few years back was to get a feature in PVW,” Carl smiled. “I thought it was pretty unrealistic at the time and didn’t see it ever happening, so it’s like a dream that it did and it’s probably my proudest moment with the whole build,” he added. “It’s like reaching the top of the mountain, and as a small fish in a very big pond and means a lot to me.” Carl, it’s been our pleasure!
Custom wooden inset on the front bumper is a nice touch and ties in nicely with the BBS’ centres.
Interior is a lovely place to be thanks to new Cobra Classic buckets and colour-coded Retro Retrims doorcards.
Carl’s other half Becky pulling off the ‘this photoshoot is bloody freezing’ look well…
“I wanted a stealthy and aggressive look with just a few bright bits to really make it pop”
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 16v #ABF , head ported, flowed, skimmed and diamond cut, twin-45 #Dellorto carburetors, custom stainless exhaust manifold going in to custom Torque Technic stainless exhaust system, Mk2 GTI 8v gearbox with 4+E fifth gear, Bugpack rear mount, #Midnight-Garage Stage 1 mount kit.
CHASSIS: 7.5” and 8x15” #BBS-RM wheels in 4x100 fitment, clay brown centres, polished dishes with gold bolts and centre caps, 280mm #G60 brake setup with Goodrich braided hoses, front coilovers, rear axle flipped with 1.5” lowering blocks and custom adjustable bump stops, rear camber shims.
EXTERIOR: Full respray in VW Diamond black, chrome front bumper, mirrors, wiper arms, grille trim and body side trims, tinted cross-hair headlights, crystal indicators, wing repeaters and rear lights, sliding opening rear screen, smoothed and colour-coded MK1 GTI arch mouldings, custom hand-built aluminium bed bike carrier, rear tailgate Pro Net, Flushed rear panel and fold away number plate.
INTERIOR: Retro Retrims black vinyl roof lining, B-pillar trims and doorcards with yellow stitching, deleted rear-view mirror and sun visors, Cobra Classic bucket seats in black with yellow piping, Momo Jaguar wooden steering wheel, Porsche #VDO voltage and oil pressure gauges.
THANKS: Firstly and most importantly my girlfriend Becky Hill. She has been there supporting me every step of the way, she has spent countless hours of her time off helping out and even down to helping me type this write up, Kleenfreaks and everyone involved for all the support, my bosses Martin Thomas and Mike Fealy at M&M Autos for all the support and use of the workshop, Nick Williams for wanting to do this shoot, Joe Mallet for his welding skills, the Bpc_retro gang and the ‘Causing a Scene’ crew, Andrew Monteith for his stainless fabrication skills, Nick Collins and Lewis Simmons for coming and getting their hands dirty and a massive thank you to all the awesome people we have met along the way – you know who you are!Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.