The project began to look possible when I looked closely at the shape of the doors and realised that, although the front doors of each car were of different length, the shape of the front these doors was the same. I realised that the front door of a 4-door Fastback would fit straight into a Variant. The shape of many other parts also seemed to be the same and – vitally – the key dimensions of the wheelbase and so on were identical. VW appeared to have used common parts wherever possible. I reckoned this was going to make the job easy – well, at least possible!
There are basically two ways to construct a 5-door Variant from standard VW parts. You either take a Variant and put an extra pair of doors into it, or you take a Fastback and stick a Variant back-end onto it. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
If you take a standard Variant, you need to cut a hole in the side. Then you take a 4-door Fastback and, after removing the doors, cut out the rear door frame. You can then transplant this into the hole previously cut in the Variant and re-fit the doors. Repeat for other side!
The alternative is to start with a 4-door saloon, cut the back off the car and then fit the rear you have previously cut from a Variant.
The advantage of the first method was that I would have to disturb the shell of the vehicle relatively little. Granted, I would have to cut a large hole in each side of it, but the roof, floor, sills and – more importantly – the rear loading deck would be undisturbed.
The advantage of the second method would be that I would already have the doors I wanted in the sides. However, the roof would have to be extended, rear floor – the cargo deck – would have to be brought in and there was the small problem of the uprated rear suspension!
No, I wanted to disturb the basic structure of the car as little as possible, so the former method rapidly emerged as the only practical way of attacking the job. There were also other smaller details which had to be dealt with, too numerous to mention here. They had to be thought out in advance but you will have to wait and see as the story unfolds!
An impression of the finished article