A DIYers Dream: 1983 VW MK1 Caddy Lays Frame on Gold BBS E51s

Photography: Jeroen Willemsen

  • A rare MK1 Golf ute provided the foundation for an ambitious DIY build.
  • No body drop here: this Caddy lays frame the hard way and is accented by a set of 17-inch BBS E51 Rennsport wheels.
  • Thom’s life-long enthusiasm for the VW brand helped propel his no-compromise execution forward.

A Caddy by any other name would be as sweet. Indeed, the moniker of the iconic Golf pickup we know and love today did vary — it officially debuted in the United States as a Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup — but earned its more recognizable “Caddy” badge when it was unveiled in Europe in 1982.

Regardless of its name, the charm of this VW wagon-ute-truck cannot be understated. Packing the handsome looks of the MK1 Golf from the front and the ability to, err, pack what appears to be a dozen wheels in the utilitarian backend proves to be a pretty awesome combination.

After speaking with Thom Hendriks about the build, it was clear that this particular example was destined to become exactly what it is today. But in order to tell the story appropriately, we’ll have to go back a bit further.


You see, Volkswagens were a part of Thom’s DNA. At only a few months old, he recalls memories of watching his dad wrench on his own VW’s in the garage: the sounds, the smells, the joy of discovery. But it was admittedly a VW-themed birthday card that made Thom realize that he could forge his own path into the Volkswagen world:

“On my birthday card were two larger Beetles (my parents) trailed by two smaller VWs behind — one for my sister and the smallest one for me. No explanation needed, right?!” Thom says.

As stories like this often start, the Caddy build began with a conversation. He actually met the previous owner at a MK1 meet six years ago when, at the time, Thom had a 1977 Golf G40. The seed was planted right then and there, but Thom had to be patient—he waited two long years before the owner finally sold the Caddy to him.


Thom insists that he is not a car mechanic, but he was adamant about one thing: he needed to build everything himself, including the engine. And so the next four years went. To prepare the car for laying frame, he built a complete four-link rear axle to ditch the factory leaf springs, a carriage to house the air tank and compressor, notched the frame, raised the oil pan, fashioned a 60mm exhaust for clearance, and routed both the diesel and brake lines through the car instead of under.

With the intangibles sorted, Thom set his focus on the more visually impactful bits. The rack he was especially proud of creating — it repurposes ten factory mounting points and can be removed in a matter of minutes for a completely different look. Aft of the G60 brake upgrade is a set of BBS E51 Rennsport wheels, which provided the perfect period-correct upgrade for Thom’s ute. The motorsport faces look absolutely killer when the car is lowered onto its haunches.


By sharp contrast, the rest of the body and interior were largely left as original, with little exception. Perhaps as an homage to the memories of what the platform should look like in some way — or maybe just to not steer the focus away from all the other work he’s done to make the Caddy what it is today.

I love builds like this. Not only because of all the blood, sweat, and tears but also as a heart-warming continuation of a family-born passion. But as much as Thom’s Volkswagen story is highlighted by memory, he plans to write many more chapters of his own. It’s already been to Austria and Switzerland before the engine rebuild, so time will tell where he will go next now that his Caddy is so well sorted. After all, cars are meant to be driven.

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