A Mid-Engine VW Caddy With a Turbo VR6 Is a Truck Full of Rad

Now this is an engine swap.

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Craigslist

The Volkswagen Caddy wasn't much of a cargo king, with US engine choices limited to a 1.7-liter gasser or a 1.6-liter diesel, neither of which crested 100 hp. It was an economy mini-truck based on Mk1 Golf/Rabbit bones and never truly destined for glory.

And it would have stayed that way for this dusty tan model, if it weren't for the turbocharged 2.8-liter narrow-angle V6 crammed into the bed and driving the rear wheels. This thing may not be able to carry much, but you can bet your wallet it'll haul.

Welcome to You Must Buy, our daily look at the cars you really should be buying instead of that boring commuter sedan.

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Austin Nigh

This outrageously-modified 1981 Caddy and immediately caught our eyes. I tracked down the person selling it, who put me in touch with the previous owner, who performed the engine swap.

"From the get-go, it was a vehicle that was never supposed to have a purpose," the builder, Trevor Summers, told me over the phone. Amazingly, Summers completed the physical build over a five-day vacation back in 2006, as documented in .

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Trevor Summers

The engine and transmission came from a B3-generation VW Passat; so did the entire suspension. The Passat's layout, with the front suspension and two of the three engine mounts all attached to the same K-member, made it easy to turn the sedan's front end into the pickup's rear end. Basically, Summers cut out the Passat's strut towers and K-member and slid the whole thing into a hole in the Caddy's bed, tying the former sedan front-end into the factory mounts for the pickup's rear-end.

Explaining it, Summers made it sound easy, though a quick scroll through the build thread proves this wasn't for the faint of heart.

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Photos from the original build, pre turbocharger.
Trevor Summers

Summers drove it for fun for a few years, then sold it to another local VW enthusiast, Austin Nigh, the current seller. Nigh rebuilt the cylinder head and, sure, why not, slapped a big ol' turbocharger on it.

"At wide open throttle it feels like it's being drawn and quartered," Nigh told me over the phone. Under the hood, where the factory had meant for the drivetrain to go, there's nothing but a radiator, a battery and a fuel tank. You can imagine what this does for the weight distribution. "It's pretty rowdy," Nigh told me. "It's best in a straight line. When you get into the twisties, it's a little bit intimidating. It doesn't have a limited slip, so it wants to break loose if you get into it, in addition to the front end not being all that planted."

Nigh hasn't dynoed the mid-engine Caddy since adding the turbo, but he estimates it's putting out around 380 hp at 16 lbs of boost. He told me, "I'm trying to find someone who's capable of handling the thing. It's like selling a gun, it's safe in the right hands but you have to find the right new owner."

Maybe that's you. Are you crafty enough, mechanically skilled enough, and just plain awesome enough to drive a VW pickup truck with a turbocharged VR6 in its cargo box? If so, .

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