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Who doesn't love a MK1 VW Caddy? When it comes to the beloved Volkswagen truck there are few around that are as clean and well thought out as FixxFest #15's Best of Show Winning build by Juan Ragusa (@jmragusa). This 1982 MK1 Caddy didn't look like this when Juan got it, but through countless hours of hard work and dedication, he built what can only be described as one of the cleanest Caddy's we've ever seen!  

Juan Ragusa's 1982 MK1 VW Caddy took home the Best of Show award at last year's FixxFest #15 and quickly became a crowd favorite among enthusiasts all over Florida. FixxFest #16 is right around the corner! Come out and see a ton of awesome builds like this one on November 16th, 2019 at Bradenton Motorsports Park! Visit www.FixxFest.com for more info.

First, a bit of perspective. This is what the Caddy looked like when Juan got it, a far cry from the show quality build it has become today. Faded and rusted paint, misaligned body panels, and plenty of dings and dents, likely received from its previous life of use and abuse. Luckily, Ragusa saw beneath the surface a huge potential, and he started the build.

After tearing down the car, it was fully re-sprayed with Lotus British Racing Green paint, a color that is just perfect for a super clean, subdued, showroom quality Caddy build. But while this car's color may not be super loud, the build makes up for it in the details; like a custom bed with exposed air-ride tank, and an immaculately upholstered interior. Just wait until you see the engine bay.

Holding this little VW truck off the ground are Air Lift Performance front struts, Custom 4-link rear suspension and Air Lift 3H management. Moving back towards the fully custom bed, a FLO Airride tank acts as the cherry on top of this beautiful and effective air suspension setup.

When aired out, the pristine fenders get cozy with a set of Carline CM2 wheels in 15x8.5 +15 in the front, and 15x8.5 +10 in the rear. These 3-piece wheels tie in perfectly to the classic lines of the caddy, with enough flair to accent the vehicle, without being overtly flashy or over the top. Then again, some three piece wheels on a beautiful specimen like this is pretty hard to mess up!

On to what is perhaps the most awesome part of this build; the immaculate 2.0 ABA motor with some shiny Weber DCOE 40's. This engine bay just about sums up the attention to detail and overall insane amount of effort put into this build.

Nothing forgotten about, nothing overlooked, each component thoughtfully picked and installed for what is undoubtedly one of the cleanest Caddy engine bays out there. Along with the polished and shaved ABA motor is a MS 6AL ignition system and a fully custom built exhaust system.

Much like the rest of the car, the interior on this build is a work of art! e3 Customs is responsible for the immaculate upholstery within the vehicle, with stitching and attention to detail that make this interior a sight to behold; comfortable, practical, and beautiful.

Giving the interior a modern feel and upgrade in comfort are a pair of BMW e90 seats, accented with green french stitching and Porsche houndstooth inserts to match the custom leather and houndstooth upholstered door panels.

The interior on this caddy is a masterclass on classic design with just enough modern touches to make driving the car that much more enjoyable. Other interior bits include a Renown steering wheel with white and green stitching, bluetooth head unit receiver, under-dash subwoofer, and a set of Pioneer speakers.

The exterior of the car features a ton of subtle enhancements that accentuate the Caddy's already beautiful body lines, including a European front-end, European front bumper, European trim, European rear bumper, and of course the custom built bed and bed-net.

Other performance bits include GTI MK2 brakes, Hawk Performance brake pads, and a custom master cylinder from Wilwood.

All things considered, this is definitely one of the cleanest and most well-built Caddy's around, with an attention to detail and commitment to automotive perfection that is inspiring in every sense of the word.

 

Keep reading below for an interview with Juan Ragusa about his build!

 

Interview with Juan Ragusa

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I was born in Argentina, moved to the States 18 years ago and I currently reside in Coral Springs, FL.

 

What was your first car? Have you always had an interest in euro cars?

My first car that I owned by myself was a 1988 Dodge Caravan, I received it as a payment for a job. The thing was in need of a full resto, I did the complete engine, body and paint and fixed up the interior, took the middle row of seats out and it was our “official party bus” for quite some time (also my daily). I’ve always been in love of VW’s. From the air-cooled ones all the way to late models. Always liked the looks and the community that surrounded the brand. My first VW was a 2004 Mk4 GTI in Red with black leather interior, since then I’ve owned pretty much every single generation GTI except Mk2 and Mk7.

 

What inspired you to build your caddy? Tell us a bit about how the build started, and what your initial goals were with the build!

I’ve always been a die hard fan of pickup trucks and also Mk1’s. What better way to mix my two favorite things than with a caddy? The idea was to find one in decent shape to do a mild restoration so I could use it to haul my Mountain bikes around. Took me 4 years to find one in decent shape (it was rough, but for what I could afford at the time it was a solid truck) once purchased I took it to my dad’s warehouse and started taking the thing apart. One thing let to another and I ended up with a fully built Caddy. On a side note i’ve never hauled one of my Mountain Bikes, lol.

 

Give us a quick rundown of the major mods to your car. What are some of your favorite modifications done?

Pretty much everything got an overhaul. Besides the common rust repairs and bodywork involved in a car this old I did a completely custom floor at the cabin. The engine bay is completely shaved and was finished in a textured black finish to accent the Engine. Bed was repaired and re-sprayed in bedliner for durability and I added the bedslats to give it more dimension. Suspension has been improved in every single way, the Eurowise 4-link setup and SCCH front suspension bits made the car handle like a dream being so close to the floor. The ABA with carbs was a challenge to get it dialed in but with the right tools and lots of patience it now works like a charm.

 

 

What are your favorite aspects of your car?

The Caddy as a whole is my favorite thing, I think my vision for the build came out even better than I would have imagined. If I have to choose one thing I would say the Air-Ride. It took the look of how the truck sits to a whole new level. I also love how the engine pops out with the polishing and the interior is something I enjoy a lot every time I sit in the truck, the guys at E3 customs did a superb job.

 

What were the biggest challenges you came across with your car, or any setbacks you came across? How did you overcome them?

Not having the space to work on it was the biggest challenge, the Caddy spent many months in storage until I could find a place to work on it. Having to do all the metalwork, body and paint in just a month of working after hours and on weekends was really tough. Putting it together at my in-laws garage was a challenge without many tools (I remember installing the engine assembly with my brother in-law with a few 2x4’s and lots of ingenuity)  but overall I’ve enjoyed every single second I’ve spent working on it and I still do.

How many years have you been to FixxFest? What are your favorite and least favorite things about the event? Do you plan on coming back this year?

Of course I’ll be there this year and I’m planning on attending the following ones for many years to come. My and my wife love FixxFest, the laidback ambiance with the sound of cars ripping the 1/4 mile track makes it something special plus I get to see lots of people I became friends with thanks to shows of this magnitude. Also I’m not sure if you know this but FixxFest was the first big euro show I attended with the Caddy. Paul was gracious enough to let me park at the EuroTripper booth for FixxFest 14. Maybe not winning the car Limbo was the reason why I decided to go on Air, lol.

 

Where do you see your car in 2-3 years?

I don’t have plans of changing much on the caddy, I love the way it is and I see myself owning it for a long time, I think as a matter of fact I will never get rid of it. Probably improving things here and there but who knows.

 

If you could own any car, what would it be?

That’s probably the toughest question for any car enthusiast. A Vw T5 on Air is something I dream about owning but sadly we can’t get it here in the states. The VW ID Buzz is something I will own for sure, I fell in love with it the first day I saw the concept.

 

Any words of advice when it comes to enthusiasts looking to begin their own build?

The most important is to have patience with the build, it takes lots of time and effort. Most people don’t realize my Caddy was 90% garage built, except paint (and interior upholstery) the whole thing was done in several garages over the course of a few years but with patience, passion, and dedication you can accomplish anything.

A great piece of advice is also to ask as many questions as you can, the car community (especially the euro car community) is always willing to lend a hand or give advice. Do your research (youtube is usually not the answer)  and invest in good tools if possible, it makes a world of difference.

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