Guilt By Association
Aftermarket parts supplier The Performance Company pleads guilt by association as it influences people to modify their cars with not-so-subtle hints provided by its Caddy delivery van.
Would you paint your living room without first buying a tester pot to make sure you like the colour? Similarly, would you buy a new car without first giving it a thorough test-drive over a variety of roads to see if you feel at home behind the wheel?
There are countless industries offering this kind of try-before-you-buy service; unfortunately, the aftermarket performance tuning industry is not one of them. After all, how much use is a foot-long section of stainless steel tubing or a single spring in helping a customer to assess an exhaust or suspension system?
In these instances, the most effective means of evaluating a product is to see it in action. But while the common understanding of a demonstrator vehicle in the tuning market is something as unattainably radical as a Time Attack car, we like the alternative and much more down-to-earth approach illustrated here by The Performance Company (TPC).
By turning the Northamptonshire emporium’s always-busy delivery van into a rolling shop window, so to speak, literally hundreds of people from all walks of life have the opportunity to see the effect that aftermarket parts can have in improving the looks and performance of a vehicle – even something that was produced with more of a focus on function than form.
It is hoped that if people follow the logical line of reasoning that if a commercial vehicle can be made into a head-turner, the possibilities are thrown wide open when it comes to a more mainstream canvas. And the company these deliberators will likely choose to help them turn that dream into reality is the very one they saw delivering the parts. It’s not so much a subconscious influencing of a person’s thoughts; it’s a visual smack around the chops!
TPC’s third-generation Caddy is a 2011 model, one of the first to be face-lifted in line with the sharper grille and headlamp arrangement of the Mk6 Golf. Truth be told, the van was purchased second-hand primarily for its body colour, which happened to be a perfect match for the corporate red of both TPC and the German domestic appliance manufacturer that owned it for the first few years. The fact that the Caddy was the fuel-sipping 1.6 TDI BlueMotion variant was simply an added bonus that harmonised well with the van’s future use as a hardworking delivery mule.
It may not reside at the bottom of the Caddy range but the BlueMotion model is still very modest in its pretensions, wearing unpainted plastic bumpers, door handles and plain rubber side protection strips. So among the first modifications TPC applied was to colour-code the body, which instantly elevated the car into a much smarter-looking machine. Even the exposed nearside sliding door rail was beautified with a painted cover designed for the high-spec Caddy Maxi.
While touch parking is now a strict no-no, it is impossible for boxes to be loaded and unloaded from the cargo bay without sliding them across the floor. It remains a delivery van, after all. Protection was therefore afforded with the fitment of a made-to-measure ply and carpet lining kit from the specialists at Sportwagen Vanlinings. And if the load is too large to fit inside then it can always be strapped to the custom white-painted roof rack. It can’t just be us, but we think there is something inherently cool and ‘lifestyle’ about a modified Volkswagen with a tubular frame roof rack. We definitely prefer this Caddy with the extra scaffolding.
As well as being echoed in the vinyl livery, the colour white makes a notable reappearance in TPC’s choice of wheels. The scene-stealing 3SDM 0.05 in 9.5×18″ (ET40) specification is a fantastic mix of old- and new-school themes, blending the basic outline and sharp creases of a Ferrari F40 wheel with the aggressive fitment and subtle concave profile favoured by the contemporary stance movement. Conventional wisdom might suggest that the slightly amorphic box shape of the Caddy wouldn’t sit well with such a sharp-suited wheel but just one look at these photos smashes that conception.
With the wheels now creating five triangular windows into the hub area, TPC saw this as an opportunity to plunder its V-Maxx catalogue to improve the view with a bolt-on big brake conversion for the front end.
The bright red four-piston forged aluminium caliper is the eye-catcher in that respect, providing tantalising snap shots of perfect colour-coordination as the wheels turn. These calipers are equipped with high-performance Ferodo pads – which for the sake of the pristine alloys we hope have low dust characteristics – and clamp around grooved, carbon steel discs. Measuring a substantial 330mm in diameter, the Caddy is now too big for its boots in that it is impossible to return to its original steelies, or in fact any wheel less than 17 inches in diameter. Meanwhile, the weight impact of these capable discs is kept to a minimum through two-piece construction that features an ultra-light floating aluminium hub. Though strictly unnecessary for the mean streets of the Caddy’s delivery radius, TPC couldn’t resist completing the brake package with optional V-Maxx braided brake lines.
When it came to hanging this beautiful-looking unsprung weight, TPC once again returned to V-Maxx and specified the Dutch company’s popular height and damping adjustable Xxtreme coilover kit. In this application, technically it is only the front struts that feature coilover architecture, as the Caddy’s rear end is suspended on the sturdy pairing of leaf springs and separate dampers. Nevertheless, the V-Maxx kit has this covered by including replacement dampers and specially engineered leaf spring clamps that can be adjusted to deliver anything from a 50 to 80mm drop in ride height. The front end can plummet by up to 90mm.
Perhaps Volkswagen failed to realise the tuning potential of the Caddy within the aftermarket, but the suspension setup is such that any drop in ride height over 40mm pushes the anti-roll bar drop links too far out of alignment. So as a responsible supplier, V-Maxx also supplies shorter replacement drop links with the Xxtreme kit to restore these lateral connections.
With handling and braking performance now much higher on the agenda, TPC decided that it was only right to optimise the engine’s performance as well. Working from the front first, a CarbonSpeed TDI air box with Pipercross filter was installed to increase the diesel unit’s lung capacity. Then it improved its brain power by commissioning Motech Performance to upload its Active Map software into the OEM ECU. This reversible reworking of the coding is said to deliver a useful 30bhp and 40Nm increase in power and torque respectively – without negatively affecting Volkswagen’s acclaimed BlueMotion fuel-saving technology. When applied on top of the original 102PS and 250Nm maximum outputs, that represents a significant power advantage.
And where might this be felt? From the seat of the driver’s pants initially – which, incidentally, are cossetted by heated black leather recliners donated by a Volkswagen Touran – but perhaps more importantly, in the surprisingly swift turnaround between placing an order with TPC and that same smiling delivery driver ringing your doorbell with a box of aftermarket goodies under his arm.