Carl Levy reckons any proper car build should be a life-long love affair. And if we take his mind-blowing, long-term modified VW Caddy project into consideration, we think he might be on to something…
How often have you followed a dream car build for months, if not years, on a forum or social media, only to find the owner ‘reluctantly selling’ the car the moment the final bolt has been put in place?
To many, the art of building an internet-breaking motor is enough to satisfy them so that they don’t even witness the car turning a wheel before they’re onto their next hit. Not for Carl Levy, though, who believes a modified car is more of an extension of the owner’s personality; growing up and adapting at the by their proud owner’s side.
If Carl’s decade-long, hot rod-inspired modified VW Mk1 Caddy build here is a window into its owner’s soul, then, what does this say about Carl? Well, with its beautifully finished and well-thought-out styling, along with a heap of old-school tuning methods where many would have instead turned to modern alternatives, we’re guessing he’s a pretty classy character.
One moment chatting to the fella tells us our hunches were spot-on: Carl is a super-cool guy who is clearly proud as punch with what he’s managed to achieve. But how did it all this Dub lovin’ begin? “I had a Mk2 Golf by the time I was 18,” he begins the tale. “I was working as a VW mechanic, and by the time I was finished with it, it was running a 1.9-litre 8V engine on twin 45 Dellorto carbs…” A promising start, then… “I eventually broke the Golf, and got another Mk2 which I rebuilt the engine on,” Carl continues. It was around this time he decided to fulfill a life-long promise he’d kept since a kid: to buy a Mk1 Caddy. “After being taken for a drive in one as a teenager, I knew I had to have one one day!”
Back in 2008, the second Mk2 was promptly put up for sale, and a nearby example of Wolfsburg’s most iconic pickup on eBay was paid a visit by Carl and his mate. “My main objective was finding a solid chassis,” he explains. “The mechanics and cosmetics weren’t a major concern.” Handy with the ol’ spanners and with intentions of changing up the car majorly anyway, we can see Carl had got his priorities right here. That’s why after winning the car in a last-minute bid, and the owner telling them it wouldn’t start shortly after, Carl wasn’t concerned in the slightest.
Carl outlines his clear plans for the rather ropey Caddy once it was finally in his hands. “I wanted a pretty retro style, with hints of the American truck and hot rod scene,” he reveals. Rather than rush into anything serious, however, this would be a rolling project with no deadlines, no loans and no corners cut. Doesn’t that sound refreshing in this day and age?
First up, the exterior. “I could fault every panel,” Carl laughs. “There were also holes from where a questionable front bumper had once been fitted.” The solution? “I spoke to the paint shop that we use at my work, and we came to a deal where the car was done in two hits to stagger the costs.” Another level-headed idea to not blow the bank there, Carl.
Eventually, a Diamond Black-shod beauty of a shell was once again in Carl’s possession. Our proud owner has since added touches such as those hot rod-inspired graphics, wooden bumper inserts and GTI arch mouldings, not to mention that custom-made matching lowrider bike in the back, protected by a genuine US ProNet rear tailgate. Winning!
Next came the inside. “The interior got a full overhaul,” Carl modestly puts it. “It was time to rip everything out and start again.” What was it going to be, though, a full-on, race-inspired cabin? Something more classy than that, actually… “I wanted to keep it retro, and loved the black theme with yellow accents,”
Carl justifies the reasoning behind the iconic Cobra Classic pews, with the rest of the interior painstakingly custom fabricated to match. To top it all off, some colour-matched Porsche gauges, sitting in a custom console pod, along with a wooden MOMO steering wheel from none other than an old Jag, mean the end result isn’t dissimilar to stepping into a ‘60s rockabilly bar – and we love it!
Up until this stage, Carl had been rollin’ around on some diddy 13” Revolution four-spoke rims more commonly found on old Minis. “I think it looked super cool on these wheels, but I couldn’t get it low enough on them without some clearance issues!” Carl laughs.
Aiming to add two inches to the diameter on each corner, he stumbled upon some BBS RMs for sale in Ireland. “I took a bit of a gamble on them, as I wasn’t sure on their offsets or sizes, but I think the Caddy sits pretty nice on them.” We couldn’t agree more, Carl, especially now they’ve had a nice dosage of Clay Brown paint slapped onto them.
But the main part of the car Carl likes to discuss is unsurprisingly the engine bay. With a 2.0-litre 16v lump already in the Caddy when it was sold to him, Carl was optimistic from the start. When it turned out that it was not much more than a mis-match of VW’s parts catalogue, with not much working in harmony with much else, it was time for drastic action. “Ever since I had my first set of twin 45 Dellorto carburetors on my Golf, I was in love with them,” Carl reveals his passion for a bit of historic air and fuel mixing. “I decided this was a good excuse to go back to some carbs.”
The original engine still wasn’t playing ball, though, so eventually he sourced a slightly more modern ‘ABF’ lump, originally from a Mk3 Golf, which took much better to the carbs and other mods he threw at it. And doesn’t the overall product look simply stunning? The uncluttered ‘bay and matte paintwork are what sets this car apart and help it win awards at the many shows its attended recently.
What you’re looking at here is a glance into an ongoing project that shows no signs of stopping yet. But just how has Carl kept the relationship healthy over the last eight years? By sticking to a ‘drive it in the summer, work on it in the winter’ philosophy, he’s managed to keep it fresh enough to remain exciting and bang-on-trend whenever it makes an appearance, along with never getting to the stage where his bank manager is threatening to come round his house and repossess his pets.
OWNER: CARL LEVY
TECH SPEC: VW CADDY
2.0-litre 16V ‘ABF’ Mk3 VW Golf engine; twin 45 Dellorto carburetors; ported, flowed, skimmed and diamond-cut head; custom stainless steel exhaust manifold; full custom Torque Technique stainless steel exhaust system; Midnight Garage stage 1 engine mount kit with Bugpack rear mount
Mk2 Golf 8V GTI four-speed gearbox with ‘E’ overdrive gear
7.5×15” (front) and 8×15” (rear) staggered BBS RM split rims with Clay Brown centres and polished dishes; gold bolts and centre caps; front coilovers; rear axle flipped with 1.5-inch lowering blocks and custom adjustable bump stops; rear camber shims; 280mm G60 brake conversion; Goodridge braided brake hoses
Re-sprayed in VW Diamond Black with American hot rod-inspired door graphics; smoothed and colour-coded Mk1 Golf GTI arch mouldings; Chrome front bumper, mirrors, wiper arms, grille trim and body side trims; tinted crosshair headlights; crystal indicators, wing repeaters and rear lights; sliding opening rear glass screen; custom hand-built bed bike carrier; ProNet rear tailgate net; flushed rear panel and folded-away number plate
Retro Retrims black vinyl roof lining, B-pillar trims and door cards 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 guages
Firstly and most importantly my fiancé Becky Hill. She has been there supporting me every step of the way, she has spent countless hours of her time off helping out; Kleen Freaks and everyone involved for all the support, for being a great company and for just being awesome people; my bosses Martin Thomas and Mike Fealy at M&M Autos for all the support and use of the workshop; Neil Sterry for doing the photos; Joe Mallet for his wedding skills; Andrew Monteith for his stainless fabrication skills; Nick Collins and Lewis Simmons for coming and getting their hands dirty; I could go on forever with this… so also just a massive thank you to all the awesome people I have met along the way – you know who you are!
Words Tom Wilcox Photos Neil Sterry