The 1.8t engine is the best thing to happen to Volkswagen enthusiasts since the GTI. We've seen plenty of swaps into earlier cars, even a few buses and a Porsche 914, but few have had the obsessive, over-the-top attention to detail that Cam Waugh put into his Rabbit. It seems to take the best of show prize anywhere it turns up.

If this Rabbit were one of my cars, I'd have just made it run, sprayed it olive drab from a can and beaten on it till the body's last spot weld ripped apart. That would have taken Cam only till the end of October, though, leaving the rest of the winter in Regina, Saskatchewan, with little to do but watch NASCAR on SPEED and play hockey on the days it got above -30C. That just wouldn't do, so Cam set perfection as his goal, successfully disposing of another winter's free time.

Cam's first run at a Rabbit 1.8T was actually more our style, with an engine from a 1997 A4, gray primer and a 13.0-sec. 1/4-mile time. Unfortunately, it also had a little detonation that killed the engine. When it was pulled, cracks were found in the unibody around the lower control arms, and there was significant rust at the rear suspension mounting points-enough to make a new shell the best solution.

Six months of searching yielded a perfectly rust-free, running, $300, 1980 Rabbit. It was stripped bare and some parts sold, bringing the cost down to almost free. The front engine mount was reinforced with 2-in. tubing, and the engine mount and strut tower unibody structures were seam welded. A Honda CBR motorcycle fuel tank filler replaced the Rabbit's black plastic piece. Cam made a front bumper from a 1990 Cabrio top, 1992 GTI center section and 1995 GTI lower spoiler, all to fit a Porsche 944 intercooler behind the bumper. Rear door handles from a 1998 Jetta were adapted to the Rabbit doors and fitted with electronic lock solenoids. A more normal selection of aftermarket trim bits was added, too, before the shell was painted 2002 Acura TL Pearl Black inside and out by Auto Host Paint and Body in Regina. The windows were installed with Hawaiian White rubber trim made for an old Beetle restoration.

The interior displayed even greater unbalance. The first car had a MkIII GTI dash, but this one had to be better. Another MkIII dash was narrowed and shortened to fit the little Rabbit, complete with wiring, switches and fuse block. Cam added custom pods for gauges and the SDS EFI display and the Climatronic climate control system from a Mk4 GTI VR6 before covering the whole thing in black alcantara, similar to late-model Audi S4 trim. A tilt/telescoping steering column with the "switchblade" ignition key and Sparco Flash 3 steering wheel were wired to control the SDS EFI. Heated leather Recaro seats may be heavy, but are a good idea in Saskatchewan. A serious stereo was installed to round out the modernization program.

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