It has been said that “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” This observation holds true with ambitious builds in the automotive community, especially when you’re fighting on someone else’s home turf. While it may seem like a bit of an obvious challenge from the outside, those who have actually survived the whirlwind of building and completing a car with a deadline are the only ones who intimately know how difficult it is to succeed despite enormous adversity. Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting a few good friends from Black Forest Industries who experienced first-hand that scramble to accomplish a creative and demanding build amidst no small number of hurdles to arrive at a respectable accomplishment, but perhaps not the one they expected. 

Buried in a garage nestled in the Great White North sat this little B3 Passat waiting for a new life of adventure.

Like all builds, this B3 Passat Syncro Wagon started life as an idea in Adam Ligon’s head. As the owner of BFI, he has completed many personal and customer builds while leading a team of uniquely creative individuals with a penchant for improving VWs and Audis. Imagining a fresh new project that would be both impressive and rewarding, he had decided on a B3 Passat Syncro Wagon as the perfect canvas. That is if he could find one. Low production numbers and no U.S. availability meant the car would be hard to source in any condition worth putting together on a short time frame. This first challenge was only the beginning. Enter, Jamie Orr, the founder of Orchid Euro, who would provide crucial help throughout the build process.

After turning up nothing but rustbuckets and an example out of his price range, Adam reached out to Jamie to help him find the right car. The wagon he sent back to Adam was perfect, save the fact that it was the very same wagon he had already passed up thanks to that unappealing price. However, Jamie reminded Adam the car was listed in Canadian dollars. After some quick calculation, Adam realized this Passat was a perfect choice, both in cosmetics and cost. It seemed the car was right and this idea was quickly gaining solidity.

Road tripping an unrestored 1990 Passat is a great idea.

With a car chosen and arrangements made to retrieve it, Adam and his team began the tedious process of reaching out to friends in the community for support. The idea had quickly morphed into an actual game plan, one centered around building an incredibly rare wagon with the help of some well-known names in the business. A solid foundation had been laid for them to purchase, build, and road trip the Passat to Eurokracy back in Canada where the fruits of their backbreaking work would be displayed. 

The initial concept involved almost a full mechanical rebuild, save the block and internals, for this B3 to go from daily dad wagon to neck breaking vintage VW gray market goodness. Using the stock G60 supercharger, Adam planned to twin-charge the little 8v and swap on a cross-flow head, among other upgrades. To cool the supercharger and added turbo, air to water intercoolers plumbed into the charge piping would be required due to the limited space. Adam factored all that and more into his build plans to account for every variable he could. Those plans became tangible when the flight to Alberta was booked and everything began to unfold as the day approached for the team to depart. 

Unfortunately, as they so often do, those plans crumbled almost immediately at the airport. With five days to build the car, Adam and his team had budgeted more than enough time to finish the build and get on the road to attend Eurokracy. Those five days, however, were non-negotiable. That was the least amount of time they absolutely needed to accomplish their goals. When five days dropped to four thanks to everyone’s favorite airline, panic replaced optimism. In the moments of mad-dashing around the airport trying to find the fastest flight to pick up the wagon, they were forced to accept the reality that the build was about to be immensely more difficult.

In these instances, it is easy to give up. To make the call for a retreat in the face of an unbeatable enemy would not be considered cowardly, but the questions will always remain: could it have been done? Could I be the one to do it and achieve momentary transcendence from mortality to be immortalized in my accomplishments? Adam, Noah, and Michael, it turns out, are not tempted to back down in the face of such tests. 

Adam and his two accomplices jumped on the first flight they could to replace their original and landed in Canada only a day behind their original schedule. While they knew to lose that day was an exponential increase in difficulty, nothing worried them more than the whereabouts of the precious metals they had brought along for the build. They had shipped almost everything here to ECS, the exceptions being their custom-built BBS E73 wheels and tires that would be the finishing touches on the Passat. During their airport debacle, the wheels had been ‘misplaced’ by the wonderful airline company. No amount of pleading, arguing, or threatening had yielded results, so the trio was forced to make the trip without them. All the while, the team wondered if the wheels would even find their way back to them, much less make it to ECS in time. 

Already a day behind and missing four crucial ingredients to their recipe, Adam and his team were faced with the grim reality that they might not succeed. A lesser group of enthusiasts would weigh the odds and prefer retreat to failure. Adam, Noah, and Michael chose to redefine their definition of success. Rather than leave dejected, they picked up the Passat and drove through the night and next day down to ECS.

Only a day behind and lacking sleep, Adam, Michael, and Noah arrived with the little Passat to our facility. After a brief introduction, some pictures, and a quick hose-down, the Passat was on the lift already being stripped in preparation for an exhaustive week. With the plans already out the window, it was up to Adam and his innovative spirit to salvage what parts were still useable and quickly supplement them with the best options possible to have any hope of finishing the Passat on time… 

All photos provided by Michael Palcowski