11th Hour Industries - '81 Rabbit Shop Truck Build
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    1. #1

      '81 Rabbit Shop Truck Build

      I think I've finally made enough progress on my bucket to start a build thread on it. First, here's a little background on my "shop" and what my plans are for the little diesel parts hauler/show(ish) truck.

      A few years ago I started 11th Hour Industries as a little side business working on peoples motorcycles/cars/etc. Since then I've developed and built a 2-1 intake manifold for 70's-early 80's KZ400/KZ440 motorcycles. I've made and shipped about 100 of them all over the world. I currently have an affordable alternator conversion in the works for Type 3 VW's that I hope to have 100% complete within a few months.

      Links to other work:
      Squareback Bodydrop/Bag Build
      Ironhead Sportster Build
      KZ400 Build

      Onto the truck!

      I picked up this '81 Rabbit Pickup about a month ago from a guy up in Maine (I'm from MA) on a bit of a whim. I checked Craigslist every once in a while but never saw one I was really interested in looking at until this one came along. After a spur the moment 3.5 hour trek up to middle-of-nowhere, ME I was on my way back with the truck. Thankfully she made the 190-mile journey without a hitch.



      Here's what I know so far:
      280k on the body
      Unknown mileage on replacement motor (I question whether or not it was truly ever done)
      Starts easy but feels sluggish, even for a non-turbo
      5-speed conversion (appears to be done correctly)
      Motor mounts are toast
      Shift linkage is very sloppy. Shifting was nearly impossible the first hour or so until I was used to it.
      Radiator has a leak bad enough to need a new radiator
      Radiator fan is on a switch for unknown reasons
      Reverse lights are on a switch for unknown reasons
      Seats are not stock. They kinda look like Worlfburg Scirocco seats (?) <--- clarification would be great if anyone knows what they are for sure
      Body is in great shape for a northeast car, with only minimal rust repair to do on the rockers

      The plan:
      Identify an other "-isms" the truck has and repair them
      Compression test and pull motor for whatever work I need to do based on how the numbers look.
      Rebuild entire front suspension and throw on some coilovers.
      Axle flip out back with Firestone 2500's over the rear axle (remember, this is a shop truck. I gotta be able to use the thing)
      BBS RMs with powder coated centers (I know this is "played" but they look too good not to!)
      Round front conversion (sorry, but I'm just not diggin the Westy front end no matter how hard I try)
      Recover seats in tan vinyl
      Solid rear glass
      Minor bay shave/wire tuck. Nothing too crazy here. Probably keeping the rain tray and brake booster.
      Full respray

      My day job is at a sheet metal fabrication shop (although I work in IT) so I have access to a lot of metal refinishing tools. I plan on powder coating as much as possible, and doing the paint work myself as well. If the stars align for me, I'll be making the trip down to SoWo in May. Hey, gotta give yourself some goals, right?

      You can follow the other crap I do here;
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      Last edited by PnZrFsT; 02-10-2015 at 10:27 AM.

    2. #2


      Interior is in good shape but will need the seats redone and a new carpet.




      Sport steering wheel, right? Has an Audi stamp on the back side and a Wolfsburg horn button.




      Fixing the electrical issues. I was able to resolve both the fan issue and the reverse wire problem pretty easily. The temp sensor was bad in the radiator and the reverse switch on the 5-speed had a different pinout than the original. Swapping the wires around in the connector made them work right away. Ignore the adjustable wrench on the injector! I swear I was only using it to measure the size to get the right size socket from the store.




      Picked up a set of BBS RMs that needed a little bit of refinishing work. I sent the the centers out to the sand blasters on 1/5/15 and hope to have them back and in the booth on 1/19/15
      Last edited by PnZrFsT; 01-29-2015 at 09:49 AM. Reason: Enlarged thumbnails a bit

    3. #3
      Ran a compression test and got some disappointing results.

      320 - 450 - 350 - 350

      Looks like I'm going to have to do a full refresh. I pulled the motor on 1/11/15 and will try and get the block and head off to the machine shop next week. I'll have them rebuild the head and check the bottom end. I'm hoping to get away with only having to do a re-ring but I'll leave it up to the pros to decide that. Once I get the block back I'll do the rest of the rebuild here at the shop.





      Complete mess, I know. And yes, I picked the head up off the ground

    4. #4
      Parts ordered or waiting to install:
      Complete front end rebuild including control arms, full tie rods ends etc from of WRD USA
      Late style radiator with integrated fill tank from BFI
      Motor mounts, full shifter rebuild kit, Bentley manual and a bunch of other misc little parts from MK1 Autohaus
      Bag brackets from ThorBros.com
      Left and right rocker panels from Andy's Auto Sport (Klokkerholm apparently shut their web store down)

      Parts waiting to get/WTB:
      Round front end conversion sheetmetal <-- planning on driving down to PA to visit the guys at AP Tuning once they get the fenders back in stock
      Raceland (?) front coils. <--- still can't decide if I want to cheap out on this or go with some ST's or KW's
      Carpet kit (from TMI) <-- will order this when the time comes
      Rubber seals for new glass <-- will order this when the time comes
      WTB: Round grille
      WTB: 1.6n/a upper and lower timing covers

    5. #5
      Member Blu_Hare's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by PnZrFsT View Post
      Shift linkage is very sloppy. Shifting was nearly impossible the first hour or so until I was used to it.
      Pretty normal. I recommend the USRT shift linkage or Missing Linkz.

      Quote Originally Posted by PnZrFsT View Post
      Seats are not stock. They kinda look like Worlfburg Scirocco seats (?)
      Agreed.

      Quote Originally Posted by PnZrFsT View Post
      Sport steering wheel, right? Has an Audi stamp on the back side and a Wolfsburg horn button.
      Yeah, or A1 Scirocco.

      Looks like a nice truck. In for updates!

    6. #6
      Got a little more work in this weekend. Stopped off at the Rebello's Upholstery in Acushnet, MA on Saturday to drop off the seats to be repaired and recovered. I'm usually the type to go the long route and do all of the work on my own, but in this case I felt that the seats were best left to a pro to redo. I'm sure I could come up with a decent seat cover, but I'd be miles off from what Jim will make for me.

      I decided to go with tan leather for the bolsters and a brown/tan tweed-ish fabric for the seat inserts. I had originally planned to go all leather but when I put the samples next to each other I changed my mind. It's definitely 80's inspired. Kinda reminds me of the seats I currently have in my daily driver.





      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      I also finished up getting the engine torn down to bring to Reid's Automotive in Whitman, MA. Not to much exciting going on here. The only strange thing I found was the key way on the shaft for the oil pump was a bit distorted. It looks as if the person who last worked on the engine used a woodruf key that was too small or something. I'm going to look into cutting a slightly larger slot in both the gear and the shaft to drop the correct size woodruf in. Aside from that, everything looked halfway decent.



      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      I spent a few hours yesterday wire-wheeling the passengers fender well and the floor. I was fortunate enough to not find any new rust in the fender area and only a few minor spots on the floor pan, coincidentally exactly where someone else had made some small patches. The damage there isn't bad enough to warrant putting in new pans, so I'll make a few small filler pieces and stitch them back in the right way this week. If all goes well I'll have the floors and both fenders covered in POR by the end of the week. In the picture below you can kinda see the area of the rocker panel that rotted out. I expect that the panels I ordered last week will arrive at the very end of this week and may possibly get stitched in this coming weekend.



      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      I still haven't heard back from the sand blasters yet. They're already at twice the quoted turnaround time at this point. I'm going to call today and if they haven't started blasting the wheels I'm going to get them back and do the work myself. As much as I don't have the desire to spend hours over the blast cabinet, I also don't want to wait forever.

      The goal for this week is to finish the floor and fender wells, get the new beam mounts welded (leaf springs are cleaned up and painted), pull the front and rear glass, and get the suspension removed. Depending on how much I'm quoted for the engine work I may order my coilovers as well. It would be great to have the truck at ride height this early on in the project.

      More updates to come later on this week!
      Last edited by PnZrFsT; 01-29-2015 at 09:49 AM.

    7. #7
      Quote Originally Posted by Blu_Hare View Post

      Looks like a nice truck. In for updates!
      Thanks!

    8. #8
      Member Blue-Civic-Hybrid's Avatar
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      Looking good, keep us updated with all your upgrades. I'm especially interested in the shift linkage updates.
      82 Caddy diesel (stock)
      95 Honda Civic (B18C1 supercharged)
      04 Honda Civic Type-R (UK car destroyed at Spa-FrancorChamps)

    9. #9


      Everyone’s favorite; rust! As with any 34 year-old vehicle from the Northeast region, there’s always something hiding below the surface. When I picked the truck up a few months ago, I was really surprised to see how little rust there was on the truck, but in the back of my mind I knew I’d find something hiding. Well, this is it! Passengers side rocker panel had some funky looking repair work on it and once peeled back, it was pretty obviously that the work was shoddy. If I were a gambling man I would guess this was accident repair. It looks to me like the truck was hit just behind the front wheel and sustained some damage to the a-pillar area. I found evidence that the windshield frame had been cut, pulled, and rewelded. More on that later...

      ————————————————–



      Here you can see where the patch panel was “grafted” onto the original. What you don’t see is that most of what’s here has been laid over the old panel and welded or slapped with fiberglass filler to fill the gap. Pretty crappy stuff.

      ————————————————–



      Luckily it appears that the damage, I mean “repair” work was confined to this area. The only other crappy work I found was in the passengers floor area. The filler panel that the previous owner made pretty much snapped right out of the hole you see above. Nice prep work and welding, dude!

      ————————————————–



      In order to remedy the situation, a set of rockers from Keypart were picked up. Fitment out of the box is about a 7/10, but for $27 a side I refuse to complain. This is a great start and includes most of the metal I’ll need to redo the repair work the correct way.

      ————————————————–



      Here’s where I’m at after only about 30 mins of cutting and trimming. I’ll obviously need to hand make some more filler metal in the a-pillar area, but I expected this to be the case. I don’t imagine this taking more than another few hours to have finished and in primer.

      ————————————————–



      View from the other side.

      ————————————————–

      Other Stuff


      I ordered coilovers on 1/20/15 and expect to have them sometime next week. Timing should be perfect. As planned, I assume by the end of this week I'll have both fenderwells stripped, primed and undercoated. This will allow me to bolt on all the new suspension components and get the ride height (roughly) set.

      I finally got the rims back from sandblasting. I'm carrying them over to the powdercoating booth as soon as I finish this post. Pictures will be up as soon as they come out of the oven. The lips are about 1/4 done so I need to get moving on refinishing them so I'm not stuck staring at a set of beautiful, but only halfway assembled wheels.

      Engine is at Reid's and is in good hands. I was quoted 1-2 weeks turnaround which is exciting. I have a feeling the rebuild will take me a bit of time, so having the extra time will really help. I still need to decide if/what I'm going to do during the rebuild as far as components. More than likely I'll go for a standard no-frills refresh. Long term reliability is the goal here.

    10. #10
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      Good work so far! Can't wait to see where it all ends up when you're "done" !! (Cause we all know they're never actually done)

    11. #11
      Quote Originally Posted by NOS85GTI View Post
      Good work so far! Can't wait to see where it all ends up when you're "done" !! (Cause we all know they're never actually done)
      Thanks!

      I'm on a real aggressive time table with this build. I'm hoping it means I actually get this thing "done" before the summer. Famous last words....

    12. #12
      Lil update:







      I got my rocker panels welded in over the weekend. Not exactly the most exciting stuff, but it's a step in the right direction. As you can see a decent amount of the metal here had to be formed by hand. The rocker panel only goes up a few inches from the a-pillar, but was a great start.
      ————————————————–




      The drivers side panel was in much better shape. I really only needed to replace a 4" wide section, but I figured I'd replace the bulk of what was there just to have the fresh metal. Once I cut the old rocker out I was able to clean the whole inner rocker out and get some primer and chassis paint over the spots I didn't replace. Everything over here looks rock solid.
      ————————————————–



      Got the first group of brackets sand blasted and ready for powder. We've got an order due by the end of this week for gloss black so I should be able to slip my parts in with them. All of this stuff is engine related so I've got a little bit of time before I'll need to install them. I'm going to try and get another 4-5 pieces done this week to get done at the same time.
      ————————————————–

      Other Stuff:

      • Decided to not repair the passengers floor. After digging into what was going on with the panel I've made the choice to buy a complete replacement for this area. Initially everything looked ok, but I quickly discovered that the floor has actually already been replaced and was pretty much welded right on top of the old rusty pan. What a disaster. This is going to significantly slow progress down on finishing rust repair but it's a no-brainer at this point.
      • While I wait on the floor section to arrive I'll focus some attention on the rear suspension. I'm going to finish welding in the spring perches, mount the air tank, valves, and new shocks.
      • Still about a week away from getting my block and head back. No real issue here. I've got plenty else to do.

    13. #13
      Minor/Not Exciting Update:
      • Block is currently being bored .020 over.
      • Head is done.
      • Powder is done on rims.
      • Axle flip is almost done. Just have to get another set of u-bolts.
      • Coilovers arrived.
      • Seats are about halfway done. Going to go check them out tomorrow.
      Last edited by PnZrFsT; 02-26-2015 at 12:32 PM.

    14. #14
      Member Blade3562's Avatar
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      What cam gear is that? Never seen one with that pattern before. You'd think it would be unbalanced.

      Edit: maybe it's a diesel thing I've only owned gas cars.

    15. #15
      Quote Originally Posted by Blade3562 View Post
      What cam gear is that? Never seen one with that pattern before. You'd think it would be unbalanced.

      Edit: maybe it's a diesel thing I've only owned gas cars.
      Pretty sure it's a diesel thing. VW stamp on the back with the letter "MWO".

    16. #16


      (Apologies for the blurry pic.)

      While I was away from the shop, Jordan got the passengers side suspension pulled and the inner fender area stripped down to bare metal. (thanks again dude!)
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------



      Dug out the rust from the window frame / a-pillar area. Same exact story as the other repairs. One of the previous owners just slapped a piece of metal over the rust and thought it was good enough.
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------



      I used the passengers side as a bit of a template to get the general shape right and did the rest with a little bit of bending in the vice and some hammer and dolly work. Overall not a bad fit considering this is all freehand metal work.
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------





      The most exciting thing to happen over the weekend was these two pictures I received from the upholsterer. He's made some progress on the seat bottoms and I think they look great. they definitely have the 80's look to them that I was after.

    17. #17
      Member SGLoki's Avatar
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      Looking good, keep it up!
      1% defined: Lone wolf, no club. Duct tape it yourself. It is broken down 1% of the time, and work is always 1% completed.
      2% defined: I'm too old to drive broken sh*t and VW people are cool. DBVW!
      Quote Originally Posted by nsindel View Post
      May I introduce Senor SGLoki -
      the man, the myth, the slamdancer...

    18. #18
      Member Blue-Civic-Hybrid's Avatar
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      That interior is gonna scream mullets and glam rock hair bands! You better have some White Lion and Poison ready to rock out with on your new seats!
      82 Caddy diesel (stock)
      95 Honda Civic (B18C1 supercharged)
      04 Honda Civic Type-R (UK car destroyed at Spa-FrancorChamps)

    19. #19
      Quote Originally Posted by Blue-Civic-Hybrid View Post
      That interior is gonna scream mullets and glam rock hair bands! You better have some White Lion and Poison ready to rock out with on your new seats!
      Hey now, I'm not going that 80's!

    20. #20




      Got both the driver and passenger inner fender areas done. Laid down some POR15, waited a few hours then put down a few good coats of undercoating to give some extra protection from the elements.
      ————————————————–



      Cut most of the passenger side floor out in order to fit the new Klokkerholm pan in. Time consuming and quite boring work. Another hour or two and the piece will be ready to weld in. Not surprisingly I found even more rust and rot hidden in the floor area from, you guessed it, old repair work. It appears that everything not related to previous repair work is completely solid. Really makes you wonder what this person was thinking when they did this work.
      ————————————————–



      My attention started to wander after working on the floor for so long so I decided to chip away at a few other small things on the list. I tackled getting the suspension ready to reinstall and had good luck. The rest of the front end was taken apart (basically pull all the crap off the spindles and throw it in the trash), the old wheel bearings pressed out (both were TRASHED), press the new ones in, install the control arm bushings, etc. I should be able to bolt the new suspension on and get the rough ride height set within a day or two.
      ————————————————–

      Other Stuff:
      • Seats are roughly 3/4 of the way done. Jim at Rebello's Upholstery has been keeping me in the loop with his progress and so far earned a repeat customer.
      • Engine is still at the machine shop being bored out. I assume they're waiting on the pistons to arrive before they do any of the machine work. Not the end of the world by any means.
      • Engine brackets are all ready to powder coat. I need to make a push to have these done ASAP so that they're ready by the time the block comes back. This is currently my biggest worry as far as timing goes.
      • Picked up most of the parts to redo the brakes, at least at each wheel. I'll end up doing the hard lines as well once the firewall has been cleaned up and painted.
      • I'm prepared to head down to PA as soon as the rest of the front end parts arrive at APTuning. Pretty much just a waiting game.

    21. #21
      Tiny Update:



      Finished the last of the sandblasting.
      ————————————————–

      Engine machining is all done! Calling Part Place Inc to get my gaskets, seals, bearings, etc ordered.

    22. #22
      Member SilentDawn's Avatar
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      Wow. Great work! I need this kind of motivation to get my Caddy done. Its currently sitting out on a concrete pad on its side waiting for floor pans and rockers under the bed. I sorta just left it there at my other house when I moved.

      Working lately on my 4D Rabbit has gotten me excited to get both that and my truck on the road. I REALLY want my Caddy to be driving, as I'm also a minitrucker.

      You're doing great stuff here. Powder coating, great metal work, having the engine gone through. Giving me ideas brewing...That's all anyone needs.
      ~~Silent Dawn~~ Chris O. | DarkWülf Performance Euro auto tuning and customizing East Coast, NC/VA
      (~)'10 VW GTI; K04(~)'14 Challenger SRT(~)'99 BMW M3; Dinan S/C(~)'96 VW Passat VR6; Turbo(~)'98 VW Jetta TDI(~)'87 Mazda B2000; FE3 swap; turbo(~)'81 VW Rabbit Caddy(~)'81 VW Rabbit diesel

    23. #23
      Junior Member corradoboy18's Avatar
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      You make it look so easy. Having good resources, the tools, and the knowledge helps out so much. Definitely subscribing to this thread. Look forward to seeing the progress. I am very interested in learning about taking care of the rusted areas. My Caddy doesn't have a lot, just a little bit around the bottom of the windshield. Best of luck with everything.
      "If there's a fork in the Road...take it." Yogi Berra

      VWs long gone in my life (from 1st-last): "92 Corrado, 67 Bug, "91 GTI 8v, '90 Corrado G60, '71 Bug, '93 Corrado (Pristine), '88 Scirocco 16v, and an '81 Golf 1.7L 3spd auto 4dr. All are gone, all are missed

    24. #24
      Quote Originally Posted by SilentDawn View Post
      Wow. Great work! I need this kind of motivation to get my Caddy done. Its currently sitting out on a concrete pad on its side waiting for floor pans and rockers under the bed. I sorta just left it there at my other house when I moved.

      Working lately on my 4D Rabbit has gotten me excited to get both that and my truck on the road. I REALLY want my Caddy to be driving, as I'm also a minitrucker.

      You're doing great stuff here. Powder coating, great metal work, having the engine gone through. Giving me ideas brewing...That's all anyone needs.
      Quote Originally Posted by corradoboy18
      You make it look so easy. Having good resources, the tools, and the knowledge helps out so much. Definitely subscribing to this thread. Look forward to seeing the progress. I am very interested in learning about taking care of the rusted areas. My Caddy doesn't have a lot, just a little bit around the bottom of the windshield. Best of luck with everything.
      Wow, thanks guys! It's great to hear you're enjoying my build and even better to hear that I may have given you some ideas/inspiration. I'll try and get some more detailed pictures and info on the rust repair as I move forward since it seems to be a popular topic

    25. #25
      All the parts to rebuild the engine are on order. Larry from Parts Place Inc helped me get a kit built and made sure I had all the right stuff for my build. So far they get a big

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