Swapping a V8 into a VW Caddy is ballsy enough in itself, but this? This is just insane. Say hello to the Fly Garage V8 VW Caddy!
A lot of seasoned racers and supercar enthusiasts will tell you that the mid-engined format is the only way to go. Enzo Ferrari was famously averse to the notion, keeping his F1 cars front-engined in the early 1960s while all the teams around him swapped their motors to a new position behind the driver… until Ferraris started getting their arses handed to them on every circuit from Monaco to the Nordschleife.
Old Man Enzo soon changed his tune. In terms of balance, the middle of the car is simply the best place for the engine to be – just ask any Porsche Boxster owner, who receives the criticisms of snooty 911 drivers with a wry grin, in the knowledge that the mid-engined roadster isn’t effectively a massive terrifying pendulum.
But we know what you’re thinking. Why are we talking about mid-engined cars in a feature that’s very clearly about a retro VW Caddy? Well, you see, this is a Caddy of surprises. An unconventional Caddy. A Caddy of such weirdness that it inspires enough double-takes to snap necks. Look under the bonnet, for example, and you’ll find the kind of gloriously smooth shaved bay so prevalent on today’s Dub scene, and yet… there’s no engine in there. Hmm.
Amble round to the rear, and you’ll spot that the very essence of this machine has been rendered utterly pointless: it’s a pick-up truck which won’t allow you to carry anything in the load bed. Because the bed is full of engine.
Cast aside your concerns about practicality however, as it’s all been done with one principle aim in mind: to make this tuned VW Caddy absolutely frickin’ balls-to-the-wall awesome. And it’s fair to say that Poland’s Fly Garage have delivered on that aim with gusto – as you’ve probably spotted that it’s not just the stock four-banger that’s been relocated amidships. Nope, it’s a goddamned Audi V8 back there.
It’s all the brainchild of Adam Mucha, the driving force behind Fly Garage, and his keenness to always tick two major boxes with the cars he builds – yes, they’ve got to be paragons of offbeat and intelligent engineering, but they’ve also got to be so obscenely beautifully finished that you could seriously consider smearing them with cream and licking them clean.
With a retro Jetta build and a unique Mk1 Golf under his belt, Adam felt that the time was right to realise a lifelong dream of owning an old-school Caddy pickup, so he got himself online and tracked down… well, a pretty horrid example, actually. Loading it onto his flatbed in the inky blackness of a Berlin midnight, the rottenness of the Caddy led to the winch tearing the front end off. But this was no major setback, of course. Adam had big plans.
…or, to be more accurate, he had small plans that rapidly spiralled out of control. C’mon, we’ve all done it – you just get carried away, don’t you? He’d originally intended simply to do a straight resto on the Caddy and leave the asthmatic 1.6-litre diesel lump in situ, but it quickly became apparent that this idea was never going to fly.
Having assembled a variety of parts from the US-market VW Rabbit to give his resto a bit of a twist, he was one day suddenly struck by a lightning bolt. (Not literally, it’s a metaphor. He’s fine.) The realisation of creating yet another clean, smooth VW amid an endless sea of similar builds just couldn’t be countenanced. He had to do something to rock the boat a little.
The main hype about the extraordinary results of what happened next lies in the fact that, although the Caddy appears to be relatively mild at first glance, in fact there’s very little original left on it. It’s a full-on custom, a total one-off, positively bristling with unique ideas and off-the-wall solutions. Obviously this all stems from the sodding great bent-eight motor in the middle, but everything spirals outward from that in an endless stream of ‘if you change that, you’ll also have to change this’ issues.
The engine itself is a meaty 4.2-litre V8 from a C5-generation Audi A6, packing a custom dual exhaust as well as a neat air intake that repurposes the original fuel filler, and sitting in there with its native manual gearbox. This required a huge amount of custom fabrication, as you might imagine; it goes way beyond cutting a big hole in the bed and plonking it in, you’ve then got to make the thing work as a functional car.
All manner of brainiac solutions followed – the suspension, for example, comprises KW coilovers all round, with the front ones being Ford Ka items and the rears originally destined for an Audi A6. There are Opel Insignia brakes up front and Mercedes S500 units out back and, as you’d expect, the power’s now going through the rear wheels – which now happen to be badass Corvette sawblades.
The body is a work of genius too. You might not be able to spot it all, but there’s a full custom rollcage (the cabin bit is easily visible, but it also runs all the way along, hidden in the side panels), and some covert strengthening has been dialled in by grafting the sills and floor panels from a Golf Cabrio.
The roof panel was donated by a 3-door Golf – again, for strength – and, perhaps most visibly of all, the custom tailgate proudly boasts the Fly Garage name. Adam originally intended this to be an easy resin-cast affair, but in the end it didn’t match the fastidious standards of the rest of the build, so he’s punched it out of sheet steel and wanged in a third brake light from a Fiat. As you do.
What’s particularly cool about this build is that it’s been built to have the absolute life thrashed from it at any given opportunity. Adam may have expended countless, endless back-breaking hours ensuring that the finish is utterly flawless and clean-as-a-whistle throughout, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to be trailering it around Europe hoovering up concours trophies. Hell no!
This is a mid-engined, V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive Caddy, for goodness’ sake. And just one glance in the cabin will illustrate how damn serious he is: bucket seats, harnesses, a hydraulic handbrake, this thing’s been built for fun above all else. Can you imagine driving anything more insatiably deranged?
It’s the scale of the thing that’s so mind-boggling, the sheer effort. Every element of the car has been considered to an absurd degree, from the electric actuation of the retro-modded fuel filler to suck in more air when the car’s in motion, to the fact that he’s fitted the sawblades in a way that the Chevrolet boys would call ‘the wrong way round’, in order to hijack the spokes’ ability to channel more air to the brakes.
And as if Adam’s ostentatious use of this car on the road weren’t enough, he’s now talking about seeing how well it’d do in competitive drifting, an attitude that we heartily applaud.
Swapping a V8 into a Caddy is always going to be an impressive thing to behold. But the way this Fly Garage stunner has done it, throwing the engine in the middle and then entirely re-engineering the whole pickup to make it work, is little short of unbelievable.
Sure, the aficionados will invariably tell you that mid-engined is the way to go – but we bet they never saw this coming. And they won’t see which way it went either.
Fly Garage V8 VW Caddy Tech Spec
USDM Rabbit grille, headlights, bumpers and side markers, custom tailgate with third brake light and FLY GARAGE logo, hidden cage under side panels, Mk1 Golf Cabrio sills and floor panels, Mk1 3-door roof panel, de-locked chrome door handles, fuel filler cap modified as air intake, pop-out front windows, opening rear window, shaved engine bay holding fuel tank, radiator and battery on custom subframe, full body resto and respray.
Mid-mounted 4.2-litre V8 (from Audi A6), custom engine mounts, manual gearbox conversion, full 3” Turbo Works twin exhaust system, lightened flywheel, K&N oil filter, custom intake with Simota air filter.
8.5×16” (front) and 9×16” (rear) Corvette C4 sawblades, 195/40 Toyo (front) and 215/35 Hankook (rear) tyres, KW coilovers (Ford Ka front units, Audi A6 rear), custom rear subframe, adjustable front arms with camber adjust, polybushed throughout, Opel Insignia steering setup, Opel Insignia front calipers with 296mm discs, Mercedes S500 rear calipers with 280mm discs, EBC pads, braided lines, hydraulic handbrake.
Mirco WRC buckets trimmed in leather, Takata harnesses, smoothed floor, custom rollcage, Nardi steering wheel, MoMan gauges in Mk1 cluster, additional tablet gauges, headlining and carpets deleted, smoothed dash trimmed in leather, electric windows.
Words Dan Bevis Photos Conek Foto