Milltek Sport - Mk1 VW Caddy Project
In the first in a regular series of progress reports, the guys from LandSpeed talk us through a project they're undertaking for Milltek Sport, a Mk1 Caddy.
It really doesn't seem that all that long ago that first generation VW Caddys were abundant; so much so that you couldn't go for a drive in the countryside without encountering a handful of hard-working examples, normally battle-worn, covered in sheep mess and beginning to turn a little 'autumnal.' The last point probably goes some way toward explaining the relative scarcity of Mk1 Caddys nowadays, that and the fact that most lived very hard lives indeed – it turns out that Welsh mud, British weather and '80s Wolfsburg steel don't best bedfellows make.
What this does mean is that any Mk1 Caddy-related project is of interest to us, especially if the project in question centres on an engine swap. Again, this is nothing new – modified VW history is littered with examples of Caddies sporting engines of all kinds, often slung over the back axle and mounted in the flat-bed! The example you see here is somewhat less extreme but no less worthy, having been bought by Steve Pound (the MD of Milltek Sport) some years ago.
Milltek can claim to make some of the best engineered aftermarket exhausts money can buy, meaning Steve is surrounded by box-fresh examples of super and hyper-car exotica on a daily basis. Cars of this calibre would serve to take the sheen of a humble Caddy-shaped project for most, but not Steve.
“At heart I'm a VW guy, pure and simple,” chuckles Steve. “That doesn't mean that I can't appreciate more exotic, modern cars from various makes, but cars like the Caddy will always have a key place in my heart.”
Beloved it might be, but Steve's Caddy had begun to show signs of a life well lived, which is how it came to be under the care of LandSpeed, a specialist car care and restoration firm based in Nottingham. The good news was that Steve had opted to entrust the car to the guys at LandSpeed at an opportune point, just before the dreaded 'tin worm' had begun to take hold with a vengeance – and as anyone who's spent any length of time around VWs of this vintage will attest, they can and will rot with gusto. The pickup was dropped off at the LandSpeed workshop midway through last year and has been slowly take shape ever since.
Though Steve has owned the Caddy for some time not everything was known of its provenance, its paintwork being a good example. The coat of white the truck currently wears doesn't look at all bad (despite being of unknown origin), but there's every chance that it could be hiding a multitude of sins, any one of which could prove the Caddy's undoing if left in place. This explains why the LandSpeed team have opted to begin the project in dramatic fashion, stripping it down to a bare shell and sending it off to be fully dipped, stripped and e-coated. It's an uncompromising beginning to a project, make no mistake, but it ensures that no rotten elements remain. It's as close to a blank canvas as you can get.
Bodywork has thrown up more questions than answers at the moment, but that's not the case with the Caddy's running gear. Steve's example currently boasts a 2.0 16v, the ABF engine found in the Golf GTI. Correctly mounted up and sitting pretty it might be, but LandSpeed's technicians have since found issue with the manner in which it has been wired up. The previous owner (or someone entrusted to undertake the work by said owner) has opted to try to splice the ABF loom with the remnants of the OEM one, with predictably haphazard results.
“It's not the worst wiring job we've seen, not by a long chalk, but there's still plenty of work to be done if it's to actually run again,” explains Adam Hornby of LandSpeed. “There's not much that's more frustrating than messing around with someone else's pre-butchered wiring loom, which is why we've set out to solve the problem once and for all by buying a donor Mk3.”
This explains why LandSpeed now has a battle-worn Mk3 GTI sitting in its workshop, and also why Steve's Caddy now has a loom that's better rationalised. Adam and the rest of his team effectively modified the new, Mk3 loom to work within the confines of the Caddy, with all relevant wires suitably routed and plumbed in. The end result is a far more effective solution to the problem, both from a visual and a technical standpoint, especially as all redundant wires and sensors have been deleted.
What's next? Well the engine, gearbox and new loom have all been dry fitted and run successfully, which gives the LandSpeed team the all-clear to remove it once again, then strip the Caddy back to a bare shell. It's slated to be stripped in the coming weeks, and we'll make sure to keep you up to speed with the build.