Forum Fridays: Yet Another Mid-Engine Rabbit

We’re trying a new format today in which we scour through the forum to find impressive, hot, or otherwise interesting build threads to feature on the front page. To kick things off, we’re featuring the classic formula for greatness: stick an engine in the middle of it.

What a time to be alive when the thread name “Yet Another Mk1 Rabbit Mid-Engine Build Thread” could exist. Since time immemorial no layout has promised more exoticism, more performance, nor more snap-oversteer than the mid-engine rear-wheel drive. What could be better?

Unfortunately, VW hasn’t made many of those, so it’s up to brave people like wndrllama103 (thanks for cutting through the seriousness of my tone, Mr. wndrllama103) to make their own.

The build started nearly four years ago with an alright, if tired-looking, Mk1 Rabbit. Unfortunately for wndrllama103, although it looked okay, there was quite a bit of rot. But as he puts it, “on the plus side, I saved a Rabbit from the crusher.”

The idea, according to him wasn’t to race or even show the car, but rather to have something silly and fun. So he took a 1.8t out of a 2001 Passat and proceeded to shove into the back of his Rabbit. He started by cutting out the floor and then fitting a roll cage (safety second!).

From there, he robbed a Miata of its rear suspension “because (a) it’s proven, (b) has tons of performance parts and options, and (c) is only 1.5″ wider than the rabbit.” He then built B5 A4-style shock towers. It’s worth remembering that almost everything in this build was accomplished with an angle grinder, a drill press, and a Hobart welder. Which is a helpful reminder that cars are just nuts and bolts, so they shouldn’t be as scary as they often are.

That said, wndrllama103 (were there really 102 wndrllamas on the site before him?) did have a big(ish) garage and the use of a rotisserie to help him weld in new floor panels up front and make his own rear floor panels in the back. He admits that he might have gone overboard, though, saying that he should have just bought wheel wells instead of trying to fab his own.

But no time for regrets! The advantage of making everything yourself is that sometimes you’re really clever. Wndrllama103, for instance, added slots for casters in the rear subframe, allowing the engine to roll in and out (relatively) easily. Take note Volkswagen Motorsport.

From there wndrllama103 spent a bunch of time making a jig for the shifter linkage that turned out to be useless and trying to mount the intercooler to the engine, which also turned out to not be a good idea. But now that they’re in the car they both work fine (sorta).

From there he put some 7” round headlights in, threw a fuel cell in the hole where the engine used to sit, and tacked some exhaust piping to the engine. Some new fenders, a bunch of wiring, and some tuning and this thing was ready to touch the ground.

The project might not be done yet, but with some primer, and a few last minute details, it is at least roadworthy. According to wndrllama103, the Rabbit saw 1,500 miles over the course of the summer. It still needs a new clutch, flywheel, LSD, and new axles (and maybe even a bigger turbo), but there’s still time left before the spring when wndrllama103 plans to take it out on the road again. Keep an eye on how the project progresses by following wndrllama103’s thread in the forum.