Insane $70,000 Volkswagen Syncro Westfalia

My last extreme Syncro Westfalia garnered many chortles as the $40k asking price overshadowed the thorough restoration. What’s the best way to convert the naysayers? Find an even more insanely priced Volkswagen van.

Today’s Vanagon is definitely more decked out, with solar panels, ladders, racks, rims, and the heart of a Subaru SVX. This interesting engine swap certainly accounts for a large portion of the seller’s expectations. While Subaru transplants are increasingly common in Vanagons for their power and reliability, people usually stick with the 4-cylinders. Clearly this Syncro is about going 5 blades, so he opted for one of the biggest engines Subaru ever produced, the SVX’s 3.3L flat six. 231hp should do just fine in place of the original 2.1L wasserboxer’s 95hp. Actually, it must make this thing downright beastly. With everything working (the previously-listed Syncro got nicked for no a/c) and 1600 shakedown miles on the engine conversion, this seems to be the real Vanagon for the megolomaniac.

1991 Volkswagen Syncro Westfalia w/ Subaru conversion for sale on eBay


From the clearly (and awesomely) demented seller:

Behold the Holy Grail of Syncro Westfalia vans made, the 1991…This van is a great example of a clean syncro westfalia with all the amenities. The van has been road tested for about 1600 miles from conversion completion, enough to work out all the kinks. Everything works on the van, power windows, locks, front and rear window washers, diff lock, decoupler, stove, sink, propane heat…Everything!
Below is a breakdown of all the items included in this build.

Many more photos at subagon.com

(5) 215 70 16 A/T BF Goodrich tires and wheels (powder coated black)
120 watt solar panel
2 stage custom paint (orley blue)
8′ Fiamma Awning
Propex Gas
Subagon Big Brake kit front
Subagon rear Disc Brake addition
built in inverter 1500 watt
cruise control
door alarm
drive shaft decoupler kit
rear differential lock
dual isolated battery
dynamat sound deadening material
rear bumper w/ hitch receiver, swing away tire carrier, fuel can carrier
fridge delete kit
front AC – rear AC
front bumper with bull bar
large 12v fridge
new interior
rock chip guard
svx motor install – 1996 with 50k miles
rebuilt transmission with taller 4th gear
old man emu suspension
2″ lift springs
tinted windows
truck mirrors
New rear cv joints – inner and outer
New 3 window pop top canvas
New Rear Flat sub woofer
Pop top Struts- (strongest)
Hijack lift mounted on front tube bumper
PIIA fog lights
Hot water heater and shower
Permanent Ladder
TDI Starter
Custom front skid plate / water proof lock box

Plus a bonus fun note from Subagon.com:

We built this van for a customer that spared no expense. He took the van on a few road trips and now wants us to build another one, the twin to this van but with a Subaru Diesel, a build that will land in a price range north of six figures.

Yes, that’s bonkers money for sure, but at least some rich dudes are spending their money in awesome and unique ways.

I know people will again question why anyone would spend this kind of money on a Vanagon. But honestly, I would much rather have this than a new Range Rover or X5 or Sprinter camper. Bespoke and thoroughly badass, the price is jaw-dropping, but so are the choices and execution. Next time you see any car on the road that costs $70k (and where I live, that’s >50% of the cars on the road), ask yourself if it’s cooler than this. Regardless of the car, I already know my answer.

-NR

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8 Comments

  1. This is not out of line for as extensive a conversion as this is. A Go-Westy full restoration with their updated water-boxer VW engine can get into $80K plus range.
    That said you are starting to get into the range of a used high end Sprinter conversion at that price.
    More comfortable, better fuel milage, and you don’t die in a crash. Something to be said about a newer rig.

  2. Awesomely demented seller is a great description, Nate. Yes, I think this is an insane level of investment for a VW syncro Westy, this vehicle probably makes more sense if you look at it as a purpose-built adventure rig. In that light, it’s probably (at least reasonably) price competitive at 70 large with other purpose-built adventure rigs. It seems like an impressive quality build with top-shelf equipment and features. If I was into this sort of adventure traveling, I might be wondering what I’d have to sell to scrape up the cash. Considering where this thing could go, it definitely makes more sense with a diesel.

  3. Hippie Rock Climber wet dream.

  4. Vanagon is the safest car of all American/European/Japanese cars of eighties, and a very safe one even today, according to IIHS’s death rates:

    http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr2604.pdf

  5. Based on this insurance lobbying agency IIHS report (so surely there isn’t any bias), you can’t say the “Vanagon the safest car of all American/European/Japanese cars of eighties.” You can say that “the Vanagon had one of the lowest death rates during the 1985-1989 assessment period,” but that still says very little about how safe a vehicle the Vanagon is (and more about it’s use history).

    That IIHS report focused primarily on death rates, not even the likelihood of getting into an accident or injured. Vehicle type, design and available safety features, were in some cases noted or categorized, but not factored into the assessment. Most importantly, most contributions from major influencing factors like what drivers typically drove those vehicles, how they typically drove them, how many miles/year they drove them, in what driving environment they drove them, etc., were not factored into the assessment (not surprisingly, however, IIHS chose to rehash the data to highlight young and male drivers though).

    So, when you take such an incredibly cursory view of the data, it’s not a big surprise that IIHS concludes that conservative family station wagons are good, and sports cars are bad. (I didn’t need any data, or even a crystal ball, to predict that IIHS conclusion.)

    The Vanagon may or may not be a reasonably safe vehicle, but this report doesn’t tell me that. I have no idea how it performed in crash testing or other appropriate assessments of safety. All it tells me is that if I were tooling around in a Vanagon between 1985 and 1989, the odds of me not dying in an accident were pretty good.

  6. @ Larry

    IIHS declares:

    1)Data of various eras are directly comparable, so that 0.6 for Vanagon is valid even today.

    2)Always, with few exceptions, 4wd drive cars are even better than the same car in 2wd edition, so SYNCRO must be even better.

    3)Factors, such driver type, are “adjusted” statistically by IIHS, so the results remain comparable even between different car types, (and drivers).

    4)Vanagon, in real life, is 62% better than estimated, according NHTSA’s crash tests, body type e.t.c., (IIHS, from the same document, “deaths much less than predicted”).

    5)Driving for more than twenty years 2wd and SYNCRO, (4wd), I can say that it is a very strong and safe car, using a special passive and active safety technology, very effectively even for nowdays standards.

    We are Syncronauts.

  7. If IIHS declares something, well then, it must be at least somewhat based on a fact or two somewhere, right? However, I don’t think you’ve read that report carefully enough – what you are claiming they declared isn’t really what they are saying (or can say based on the data analyzed).

    But, even if we assume for a moment that the IIHS assessment wasn’t based on biased, low quality data analysis, your original claim (“Vanagon is the safest car of all American/European/Japanese cars of eighties”) still isn’t supported by any of it. It says is fewer people died driving Vanagons in the mid-late 80’s. That’s it.

    While I’d be happy to waste some of my Friday afternoon tearing apart all the additional unsupported claims you’ve just made, that’s not really the point. You are clearly very into your VW Vanagon syncros. That’s great. I think they’re cool too, but if a potentially deadly accident was inevitable, there’s lot of other vehicles I’d rather be in.

  8. @ Larry

    Please, in order to be more specific, let me give some examples from real life.

    You see, here we have to talk briefly with limited ways of posting documents, photos e.t.c..

    Please, tell me are you feeling safer in the next two cars:

    http://i361.photobucket.com/albums/oo57/hellenic_vanagon/Oldsmobile-Cutlass-Ciera-3.jpg

    http://en.volvo-club.cz/graphics/owners/full/191_118_volvoupr.jpg

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