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1988 VW Caddy - Marty Pants

A mid-engined, Volvo turbo-powered, RWD 1988 VW Caddy widebody racer isn’t something you see every day!

By Claes Nilsson/, Photography by Claes Nilsson/

While most people can’t assemble an Ikea bookcase, some individuals rise above the rest, creating a masterpiece with their hands. Marty Cronvall from southern Sweden is the latter – a skilled fabricator with a humble approach and simple hardware who has created greatness. Transforming a beat-up poor man’s workhorse into an awe-inspiring street machine that would look at home next to a Group B rally car.

As a truck mechanic, Marty had all the technical knowledge, along with a knack for brute functionality and no-bullshit construction.

His building technique was especially cunning. While big car companies use CAD-software with advanced modeling, Marty kept it simple, developing the chassis mock-up in Lego so he could get a feel for the construction.

Armed with a Lego Technic-kit he constructed a plastic framework to evaluate the rigidity and function of the proposed chassis. Bending and flexing the prototype, he made changes until he thought a functional, real-world frame was ready to be built.

Steel tubes were laid out on the garage floor, measured, cut and welded to match the scale model. Armed with an electric saw and TIG-welder, he cut up the body of his ’88 VW Caddy and integrated the tubular chassis. A car was born.

Originally, the plan was to build a Golf truck – a GTI with a flatbed in the rear and lots of performance. It had to be unique, fast and (most importantly) a Volkswagen. But with a Volvo 240 rear axle in the garage, power slides were a major component in the plan.

Built to play on the drag strip, capable of time trials and drifting, but street-legal, the demands on this project were enormous. But as work progressed, it took a turn for the unexpected.

Volvo power
Having previously built several VWs, Marty found the small engines fragile and hard to tune. Being a Swede, he had access to an infinite number of Volvo engines, so this was deemed a much better choice.

After all, the parts could be found almost anywhere and everywhere in Sweden. Plus the favored 211hp B5204T engine from the Volvo 850 T5 was well documented, thoroughly built and very easily tuned.

As a result, a donor Volvo V70 was purchased and gutted to harvest its powerplant. But problems arose when trying to fit the turbocharged five-cylinder in the stock location.

“Fitting the engine up front was a tight fit,” Marty explained. “I’m quite tall, so there wasn’t room for my legs with the five-cylinder notched under the firewall. So I took a step back and decided to put it in the back, subframe and all!”

‘‘Taking the transverse-mounted, front-wheel driven, subframe-equipped Volvo engine and putting it in the back actually required ...

This was a stroke of genius. Taking the transverse-mounted, front-wheel driven, subframe-equipped Volvo engine and putting it in the back actually required minimal modifications. It also improved weight balance and made it possible to use the stock transmission, essentially making the Caddy a mid-engine supercar.

Bolting the subframe into his tubular chassis, the project started to look more Le Mans than Wolfsburg. And by putting a Porsche steering rack in the front, the Caddy got even more exotic.

Finding some rust during the teardown, Marty simply cut the roof out and replaced it with a custom composite panel, shaving top-heavy weight. He also created a thin fiberglass rear hatch to lighten the car further. And there’s still enough room to fit a few bags of cement in the rear if Marty should ever need to!

For now, the engine remains stone-cold stock, with the exception of the stainless steel exhaust needed for this one-off installation. And while 211hp is plenty of horsepower for this lightweight, rear-wheel drive machine, the owner is itching to play with the turbo and software…

Simple sophistication
As Leonardo da Vinci said, “sophistication is the ultimate form of simplicity.” Just as simple and cunning was the construction of the rear chassis bracing, which tied together the engine, shock towers and chassis.

The process involved creating a rope web to connect suspension points before replicating it in steel tubing for a triangulated rear chassis with supreme stiffness.

By Claes Nilsson/
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