This is a 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Syncro 4×4 that now benefits from a number of modifications, including a turbocharged 1.8 liter TSI four cylinder engine which sends power to all four wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Syncro is the much sought after four wheel drive version of the VW Vanagon, it resulted in a van with excellent off-road chops and many have converted them into camper vans for extended overlanding trips.
Fast Facts – The Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro 4×4
- The Volkswagen Vanagon was originally introduced into the North American market in 1979. The name is a portmanteau of “van” and “station wagon” – VW claimed that it had the room of a van, but drove like a station wagon to make it seem less intimidating to people who had never driven a van before.
- The Vanagon was offered in a variety of trim levels, from basic up to a more luxurious specification, and a Westfalia pop-top camper version was also offered.
- The Syncro 4×4 models were produced in low numbers between 1984 and 1992. The four-wheel drive platform was actually manufactured by Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Austria.
- These 4×4 Vanagons have become highly sought after due to the modern resurgence in van popularity due to the “Van Life” movement, a movement that continues to pick up steam.
The Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro 4×4
The Vanagon was the model name given to the Volkswagen Type 2 (T3) in the North and South American markets.
The name is a portmanteau of van and station wagon, this was chosen to play on the fact that VW was marketing the van as being as easy to drive as a normal family station wagon.
Volkswagen Type 2 (T3) was larger and faster than its predecessors but it retained their fundamental layout, with a forward control driving position, side doors, a large rear cargo (or passenger) compartment, and a rear-mounted engine under the floor to maximize space.
A few special versions of the Vanagon were offered, from the cheaper and more simple base model to the Vanagon L with its upgraded interior. The Vanagon GL was the top of the line model with more luxury accruements, and the company also offered a Westfalia pop-top camper version.
From 1979 to 1983 the Type 2 (T3) was fitted with the classic VW air-cooled flat-four engine with a capacity of either 1.6 or 2.0 liters. From 1983 onwards they received more modern liquid-cooled engines with sizes ranging from 1.9 to 2.1 liters.
Perhaps the most interesting version of the Vanagon was the Syncro model, it was fitted with a full four-wheel drive drivetrain developed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch. It had a slightly shorter wheelbase, increased ground clearance, and 48/52 front/rear weight distribution.
The Vanagon Syncro became popular with people who wanted a more off-road capable camper van, and many remain today fulfilling this role.
The Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Syncro 4×4 Shown Here
The van you see here is a Vanagon Westfalia Syncro, this means it’s the van model that’s been modified into a camper by Westfalia, and it rides on the Syncro 4×4 platform – resulting in a camper van that can go almost anywhere.
As mentioned in the introduction, this Vanagon has been through a series of upgrades including the fitment of an entirely new and considerably more powerful engine – a 1.8 liter turbocharged TSI inline-four.
This engine swap was completed in 2011 by Stephen’s Auto Haus of Sacramento, California. It’s fitted with stainless-steel coolant pipes, the battery was replaced in 2021, and the house batteries for the camper accommodation were all replaced in 2022.
The Syncro has the option for power to be sent to either all four wheels, or the rear wheels only through a highway-friendly 5-speed manual transmission. Front and rear locking differentials have also been fitted which will help greatly with off-road performance, and a stainless steel exhaust system with a Magnaflow muffler is installed.
This van rides on black-finished 16″ wheels which are beadlock-capable, they’re fitted with 235/70 BFGoodrich tires, and there is a Fox 2″ lift kit installed. The van also has Burley Motorsports front upper control arms, a T3 Technique anti-roll bar, and four-wheel disc brakes.
Inside, the forward part of the cabin has two Recaro seats with fold-up armrests, it has a Pioneer head unit equipped with Apple CarPlay, a backup camera, a Snap-On power inverter, and cruise control, power door locks, and air conditioning.
In the rear you’ll find seating for five, with two single seats and one long three person bench seat. The bench folds down to convert into a bed, and there is also a pop-top tent features a GoWesty rainfly, an insulation kit, and a bed extension.
Camping equipment includes an Engel 12-volt refrigerator/freezer, a swing-out table, window curtains, and power outlets. It also has a roll-out side awning, solar panels, GoWesty bumpers, auxiliary lights, and swing-away rear mounts for the spare tire and jerry cans.
The van is finished in maroon with a black lower body, and it looks to be in turnkey adventure-ready condition throughout. It’s now being offered for sale on Bring a Trailer out of Rancho Cordova, California and you can visit the listing here if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid.
Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
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