Building a McLaren V8-Powered VW Caddy Pickup Is Even Harder Than It Sounds

Did we mention it’s mid-engined? And uses Porsche suspension? And has parts from Lamborghini and Audi?

byJames Gilboy| PUBLISHED Jan 6, 2023 12:26 PM
Building a McLaren V8-Powered VW Caddy Pickup Is Even Harder Than It Sounds
Garage 68
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Refurbishing trashed supercars, or putting their engines in entirely different chassis isn't something just any vlogger with a socket set can do. It may look easy when YouTubers do it, but the pair of brothers installing a McLaren 650S's twin-turbo V8 in the middle of a VW Caddy are having to leverage all their ingenuity and connections just to make their project possible.

Putting a 3.8-liter McLaren V8 into a tiny pickup is a preposterous project to begin with, as both halves of the equation couldn't have more different origins. The M838T was designed to power McLaren's comeback to road cars after decades out of the game and produces 592-plus horsepower depending on spec. The VW, on the other hand, is among the smallest (non-kei) pickup trucks ever built, being based on the first-generation Golf. Its lightness makes it an excellent basis for a performance car, provided you're willing to put in the effort to make it one. And boy, have the two brothers of Garage 68 Motorsport ever done that.

One of the duo, Joel, explained to The Drive that they set to work using a Caddy bought off eBay and an engine from a burned-out McLaren 650S. That meant its wiring harness and some of the sensors were fried beyond recognition. Fortunately, Joel knew his way around the M838T, having worked on them in race cars, and tapped old contacts in the motorsport world for discarded parts. Fitting the V8 in the VW's bed—for this is a mid-engined build—wouldn't require cutting into the cab, but it would need a suitable transmission. That left them to sort through torched supercars for a second time, this time snagging the six-speed manual from an Audi R8.

Mating the two together required not just a bell housing adapter, but also another adapter to fit a Lamborghini Gallardo's clutch and flywheel to the McLaren crank. Assembly added a custom rear subframe to the mix, which was designed to take suspension from a Porsche 996. (Even then, they had to tweak it to fit around the V8's turbos.) By this point, the engine still hadn't been fired up, and there wasn't enough wiring left to use a McLaren ECU anyway. It had to be wired to a cutting-edge aftermarket setup that'd work with dual drive-by-wire throttle bodies, which finally brought it all to life.

That's pretty much where the truck stands now, though most of the work from here has already been planned. Garage 68 has a selection of spare parts for the engine, and a full front end from a Porsche Boxster that they'll raid for its suspension. (If you're gonna give a Golf-based truck over 600 horsepower, you might as well have the suspension to keep hold of it.) They're still on the lookout for "abandon ship" obstacles that'd be too tough or expensive to get over, but they're pretty much past the worst already. Guess you could say they came into this mad Caddy project in the right state of mind.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com