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  • 1981 Volkswagen Caddy- Busted Knuckles: CaddyWagen

1981 Volkswagen Caddy- Busted Knuckles: CaddyWagen

A VW Mixup

Phil Gordon
Sep 12, 2019
Back in 1979 Volkswagen experimented with the pickup lifestyle by introducing the Volkswagen Caddy. Although it never really took off worldwide, the Caddy version was produced up until 1995. Although the model was tweaked in the '90s to resemble more of a van, the truck enthusiasts were impressed with the '80s version that had an open bed and competed pretty closely with trucks like the Ford Courier. Patrick Lee, of Akron, Ohio, has always been a bit of a VW enthusiast, having quite a few Volkswagen vehicles in the past. Although he never actually had a Caddy, it was something that always intrigued him.
Photo 2/5   |   1981 Volkswagen Caddy CaddyWagen Rear
The rare Caddy model wasn't anywhere to be found. In fact, the majority of these pickups had been scrapped due to rusting issues. Patrick's friend had a shell of an '81 VW Caddy in his yard with weeds growing through it. Patrick once asked him what he planned to do with it, and his friend mentioned he was going to scrape it for metal. Patrick offered $300 for the truck which was missing the engine and transmission as well as the front strut towers. It was the perfect start to build something so unique that most people didn't even know what it was.
Photo 3/5   |   1981 Volkswagen Caddy CaddyWagen Bed Engine
Once Patrick got the VW home, he wanted to see what it would look like on the ground. The floors were cut as well as the rocker panels. The body was now laying flat on the ground. "I actually needed to see it that low for motivation to keep the build going," Patrick tells Truckin. With VW parts situated throughout his garage, his goal was to mix and match adding his own parts to his new project. A '67 VW bug pan was used and extended 4 inches at the front bulkhead to make it work. In the rear, the swing arms were rotated and the rest of the pan was narrowed and notched accordingly.
Photo 4/5   |   1981 Volkswagen Caddy CaddyWagen Front
In other countries the VW Caddy is a right-side drive, so Patrick wanted to give the Volkswagen back its roots. He googled the images to see how it was done. They used the same brackets just welded to the opposite side, so they were cut and rewelded back on the right side to make the conversion. As most VW bugs are rear engine machines, Patrick was quite used to the engine being in the rear. Because the Caddy didn't have an engine or transmission when he got it, he used the VW pan which took care of making the Caddy a rear engine. He no longer had to fit an engine underneath the 18-inch high front fenders and hood compartment.
Photo 5/5   |   1981 Volkswagen Caddy CaddyWagen Interior
Although the Volkswagen Caddy is a "pile of parts and ideas" at this stage, as Patrick calls it, the game plan is coming together the precise way he wants it to. At most shows Patrick attends, he gets the general question, "What is that?" Patrick wishes to thank all his friends who helped him along the way with all his ideas: Brett Lillie, Chris Risher, Alex Barba, Chad Copeland and all his Dropt Out club members. A special thanks goes to his beautiful wife, Amanda, for not only putting up with Patrick's truck obsession but also supporting his every move. Although these pickups are virtually extinct in society, this VW Caddy will soon be seen in its natural habitat.
Inside the build
Year/Make/Model: 1981 Volkswagen Caddy Pickup
Owner and City/State: Patrick Lee; Akron, Ohio
Club Affiliation: Dropt Out
Chassis: '67 VW bug pan/frame extended 4 inches
Front Suspension: VW beam narrowed 3 inches
Rear Suspension: Stock VW with notched spring plates
Drivetrain:
Engine: Air-cooled VW 1600 dual-port engine
Transmission: Four-speed transmission
Body/Paint: Rear engine swap, righthand-drive conversion, body-dropped to doors
Wheels & Tires:
Wheels: 15-inch Empi Riviera
Tires: 15-inch Uniroyal

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