I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of a Volkswagen Golf guy.
It’s kind of ironic, because I’ve evolved into such a Porsche nut in the last couple of years, and we all know that brand’s history. Many of my friends – close friends, actually – are hardcore VW guys, too. But I guess I’ve just never really understood the mantra behind them; I never felt the pleasure of the über-slow, front-wheel drive hot hatches that everyone seems to rave about. Not that I haven’t driven one or anything, and I don’t doubt the testaments over how fun they are to drive or anything of that sort either. I’m sure they fit the fun bill quite well, actually. But have you driven an E30?
Aside from that, the other thing that turned me off VW Golfs – at least here in the States – was that execution on most builds was almost always cookie cutter. Every game-changing showstopper I’ve seen, whether it be new or old, has always been peak iconic when done by someone in Europe. That’s partially due to all the cool options and trim packages that Euro-spec cars had versus the US ones, but also because the Europeans just have a special love affair with the humble Golf.
A few months ago though, I saw a video of something quite spectacular on my Instagram feed that began to change my perception of VWs. My buddy Jon posted a video of a couple of Golfs, one being a Caddy, and one being a Rabbit, making heaps of noise and smoke in a small parking lot.
I was probably as mind blown as you guys are from seeing the opening image in this story, because these two little monsters were rear-wheel drive, and the noises coming from them were totally unexpected as they continuously bounced off their rev limiters, while burning through their rear tires. I immediately thought, ‘those are not supposed to do that…’
So I messaged Jon and asked what was going on. His response is what ultimately led to this story, so here we are. For the first time on my end, a story about some wicked Volkswagens that weren’t very cookie cutter, from this side of the pond.Rick’s Rabbits
Rick Case started out like most young adults entering into the world of automotive passion, lusting after the newest and shiniest cars. But as the years passed by, he developed his own niche in the realms of vintage VAG vehicles, and eventually went on to own over 100 cars over the course of two and half decades.
The older survivor cars are what resonated most with him, and Rick saved many from facing the gruesome death of the wrecking yard. Eventually though, as it usually goes, Rick decided to keep a couple of projects for himself, but the ethos in mind for both builds were traditional American sleepers. Cars that you’d never think to give a second look, but that packed a heavy punch underneath their scars. And that clearly worked out.
Both the Caddy and the Rabbit started out as distress calls; they were on the verge of dying when Rick came to their rescue and made them what they are today.
The Caddy was the easier project of the two, given that it’s pretty well preserved underneath the surface rust. The major set back for Rick though, was that a V8 swap hadn’t been done before to his knowledge. His solution was to gather a few friends and start from scratch. It ended up taking about two months to complete, and retains the original unibody, stock frame rails, stock shock towers, stock bed floor, and so forth. From a stand still it’s modest and not very intimidating, but the minute the ignition is turned, a different story is presented. The same can’t be said about the Rabbit, though.
While both cars were meant to be sleepers – and they surely are – the Rabbit is quite the beast underneath all that beautiful patina, though its current configuration isn’t its initial. The Rabbit started out as a diesel shell that was once used for autocross, and had since been left in a yard with no rear floor and no motor.
Rick’s first attempt at the car resulted in a rear-engine, rear-drive setup using a 2.9L 12V VR6 turbo engine. While that is quite the setup in itself, it turned out to not be as fun as Rick had initially planned. Heat management in the cabin made it tough to drive the car, and most importantly, the weight in the back on top of the rear axles made doing donuts a tad bit difficult. So after a year or so of no fun, the VR6 motor was removed, and the car underwent its major transformation.
The end result is what you see here, essentially a Rabbit shell mated to a Miata chassis. Not as in a removed Rabbit body placed on top of a Miata though, but more so Miata subframes front and rear, with all of the custom fabrication needed to make everything synchronize properly together. It was a two-year project with lots of trial and error amongst a steep learning curve, but based on the photos and videos above I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I’m glad it happened.A New Perspective
After seeing these two beasts in person, and what they were capable of, I have to admit that I think I’m starting to understand the persistence of enthusiasts behind these little cars. They are cheap, they serve their intended purpose, and it’s clear that they can be molded into whatever you want them to be, so long as your passion and vision surpass your sanity.
With this story alone, I’ve learned to love and appreciate the spectrum of personalization that comes from the vintage VAG community, whether that be a crazy perfect restomod from Europe, or an outright all American-inspired sleeper that can do quarter mile burnouts on command.
Expect more on interesting VWs coming from my way in the future.
Rick’s 1980 VW Caddy
6.0L LS LQ4, 4l80e trans, Brian Tooley Stage 3 drop-in truck cam & valve springs, 8.1 marine injectors, 92mm throttle body, LS2-style intake manifold, shorty headers, full single 3-inch exhaust, custom tune, Ford Mustang 2 steering rack, Ford Explorer 8.8 rear end ( narrowed & custom drilled 4×100), Caltrac bars, custom DD torque converter, narrowed Corrado dash, Tanksinc under-bed fuel tank, 1.5 DOM tubing & plates to keep it all together, Speedhut gauge, Sparco seats, Jongbloed racing wheels.
Rick’s 1979 VW Rabbit
3.0L 12V vr6, stock crank, stock rods, forged pistons, ARP mains, rod , studs, big valve head, mild port and polish, springs retainers, Integrate Engineering cams, Bosch 2,200cc injectors, Walbro 450lph pump, Garrett GT3076R turbo, TiAL blow-off valve & wastegate, MicroSquirt ECU, custom bell-housing adapter to CD009, GKTech shifter, Ford IRS 8.8, Truetrack diff, 3.08 rear gear, Drive Shaft Shop axles, custom upper front & rear control arms, Wilwood front brake kit, Keisler front knuckles, SLP bump steer kit, modified larger front & rear sway bars, modified Mk3 VW brake booster, 24mm master cylinder, Wilwood clutch pedal & master, custom floor & firewall, narrowed S1 dash, Speedhut gauges, Sparco seats, Jongbloed racing wheels.