1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro

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We’ve featured a few Tintop Syncros here before, and they present an interesting alternative to the more commonly seen (and voraciously desired) Syncro Westy. They lack the pop-top and its attendant hipness, height advantages, and sleeping space, but cut a slick line accentuating the box-on-wheels. The Syncro helps this out, lifting it up like the control cabin of an AT-AT in The Empire Strikes Back. Everything looks to be in order on this 95k-mile example, especially with new wheels, bumpers, and awning. It may be the 7-seat arrangement, making camper conversion a little more involved, but it could also serve as the coolest mountain shuttle out there.

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2008 Volkswagen R32

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One week ago today I enthusiastically wrote up one of my preferred daydream cars, the original MkIV R32. When it came out, the R32 was the superGolf I’d always dreamed of but thought only existed in Hans Dahlback’s shop of terror. The MkIVs obviously still entice me today with wide fenders, deep growls, and a VR6/6-speed/4Motion combo that makes them very special hatchbacks indeed. Where I caught myself was trying to make an argument that MkIV prices have fallen far enough to be a great performance bargain.

MkIV R32s are certainly accessible hot hatch performance, but it’s not a bargain if you can get the following model, 4 years newer with nicer equipment, a little more power, and lightning-fast DSG for the same price. This MkV R32 brings all of that and fewer miles while still ringing in around $15k. The MkV may be in the running for the least desirable generation of Golfs, but the features outweigh the generational spite. With 250hp, all wheel drive, and a very sharp interior, this is an even better performance value than last week’s blue R32.

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2004 Volkswagen R32

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The new Golf R is making some loud, non-diesel-related waves for Volkswagen. The best news is that with almost 300hp and state-of-the-art tech it’s a screamer in any and all conditions. The bad news is that it starts at $35k, $10k more than a GTI and nearly double the price of a base Golf. A friend was recently trading in his Jetta TDI and comparison shopping the GTI Performance Pack against the Golf R (a plan hatched before but spurred on by Dieselgate). He ended up laughing his way into the tartan seats of the GTI as the dealer’s available Golf Rs were nearing $50k!

For less than the basest of brand-new Golfs, you could have the R that started it all, the still sexy, still loud, still fast MkIV R32. You will certainly not be getting the kind of brand-new quality and warranty that comes with the newest model, but that could be forgiven as you joyously row the 6-speed manual and the Haldex 4Motion inspires confidence in any condition. And did I mention the loud factor? The VR6 has never sounded as aggressive as it does in this car with the bypass valves open. Today’s example comes from a Service Director at a VW Dealership in the lovely and fitting Deep Blue Pearl with O.Z. Ultraleggeras. The modifications are limited to reversible suspension upgrades and short shifter along with reinforced engine, transmission, and suspension mounts, combining for a package that sounds fun, strong, and well-chosen.

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1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Adventurewagen Syncro

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An old friend emailed me the other day for advice on getting his own adventure van. We ran through the whole gamut of options, from the classic Westy to Sprinters to Ford Sportvans to Transit Connects. We had some good discussions examining various priorities and rationales, and he had a hard time envisioning shelling out $35k for a nice 25 year-old van, even if Volkswagens are clearly the most stylish and sentimental choice. So, we looked at some other options and kept the discussion going.

Then this van came onto eBay, and I was right back in a puddle of Vanagonlove. The High Tops have grown (no pun intended) on me a lot recently with even greater sleeping and storage space than the standard Westy. They still have a small-van footprint, but bring big-van capability, especially with Syncro. This van has had some very interesting modifications, most importantly a turbocharged Ford Zetec conversion by well-known Van converters Bostig mated to a rebuilt transmission. You could spend days reading the aggressive arguments on forums debating the pros and cons of different engine swaps – 1.8T keeps it OEM+, Subaru has the most power potential, the Ford has the most parts availability, and then there’s the one guy in the corner shouting “911S! 911S!” I move on as soon as people start saying THERE IS ONLY ONE GOOD OPTION, as it seems like all can result in awesome vans as long as the work is well-done and holistic. All of this to say that I have no issue with a Ford engine in a Vanagon and see it as a reliable, reasonably efficient way to more power.

The other modifications are not nearly as contentious or involved as the motor swap, but they do contribute to creating a unique and attractive van. The interior has been swapped out for that from a top-of-the-line Carat, creating an OEM-plushness the Syncro never received. One of the coolest and most resourceful modifications is using the passenger-side jump seat mounts to hold the stove and fridge combo but leaving it detachable, so it can be placed outside the van under the awning when camping. Genius! Other aesthetic and mechanical bits abound, from the always-lovely (and trendy) South African grille and headlights to big brakes and Emu shocks. A very tidy and sorted package that, despite hot bidding even as I type, is way below normal Syncro Westy prices.

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1989 Volkswagen DoKa Syncro Turbodiesel

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Just a little late for Halloween, today’s examination of my new favorite eBay seller’s offerings is quite the pumpkin. Another low-mileage DoKa Syncro, this one also has a factory 1.6-liter turbodiesel churning out a whopping 70hp, 16 more than the naturally-aspirated 1.7-liter diesel. When you’re counting horsepower by the dozens as opposed to the hundreds, 16hp can make quite a difference! With just 37k miles, it should still be making close to that amount. The oil-burner is a nice addition to the real meat of this T3 that makes it exceptional: the 4WD and truck bed. No matter how many this New Jersey outfit imports, DoKa Syncros are going to remain extremely rare in the US. The color and condition are both outstanding, and the impeccable black undercarriage completes the Halloween (or SF Giants?) theme. As usual with this seller, there is no reserve, so have at it, people! You too could have the near-twin of Grandpa’s Adventure Truck.

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1990 Volkswagen DoKa Syncro

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Coming from what appears to be the same New Jersey importer/seller as yesterday’s Golf Country is another Syncro special, the beloved Transporter DoKa. This one eschews common add-ons like lights, bullbars, and bumpers for a unique aluminum rolltop utility body over the bed. The rest is just clean, straight, and like-new. Bucket seats up front give a slightly more comfortable look to the interior than the common work-truck bench seen in DoKas, and from the roof to the undercarriage and the under-bed storage bin in between. One thing I can’t figure out is the zippers in the headliner; any ideas, readers?

Overall, it’s as nice as T3 VWs come without too many frills but plenty of capability. With no-reserve, we should get an interesting look at how hot the market is getting for the now easily-importable DoKa Syncros.

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1990 Volkswagen Golf Country

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The Mk2 generation of the Volkswagen Golf holds some of my favorite Euro-only forbidden fruit. The proto-R Rallye Golf is a sexy little beast with flared fenders, all wheel drive, and a supercharged G60 engine. They sold 5000 of them, a remarkable number considering they were twice the price of a GTI. Even rarer than the Rallye is the Golf Country, an outlier whose influence could perhaps be seen in the Audi Allroads but really has no modern analogue. A revised suspension gave it 8.25″ of ground clearance with Syncro making sure traction was never a problem. Bullbars and skidplates give protection against rocks and limbs, including extra protection for the Syncro system. This all combines for a hatchback that’s even a little more rally-ready than the Rallye. The one unfortunate area of inferiority is under the hood, as the Country only came with the standard, naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter with 98hp.

This example is a recent beneficiary of the 25-year importation rule, though we don’t know exactly where it comes from. With just 25k miles, it’s about as nice as you’re going to find anywhere in the world. The only flaw I see is some potential scuffing/repair under the bumper on the right rear; otherwise the exterior and interior look outstanding. Many, including this author, think the 25-year importation rule is draconian and ridiculous, but the upside is that forbidden fruit like this excellent Golf Country becomes that much sweeter when finally available to us. With a very reasonable starting bid and a no-reserve auction, this is an incredible chance at some new-to-the-US rare.

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1990 Volkswagen Transporter DoKa Syncro

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I have been in Syncro heaven recently. It all started on the way to a hike in the Santa Cruz mountains last weekend. I forced my friends to pull over when I saw it to grab a picture, and ended up meeting the older owner of an incredible orange DoKa Syncro completely maxed out – Subaru swap, South African Headlights, diamond-plate bed, and an adventure tent on top (shown below for your viewing pleasure). The guy said his grandkids called it “Grandpa’s Adventure Truck.” Thanks for putting all other grandpas to shame, guy. He loved that I knew what it was at all, let alone the details – hooray for automotive pedants!

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After returning to Washington State I’ve seen more Syncros than I can count, including a nice DoKa in my hometown and several excellent Westies and tintops. They cruise around, looking like the great Northwest vehicles they’ve always been, but I’d bet a lot of money (not Syncro money, mind you…) that almost no one knows that they’re passing a $40k-60k vehicle.

Case in point, we have a beautiful red DoKa Syncro today with just 28k miles and a $55k asking price. Yes, just over 1k miles per year for this gem. It looks it too, with an immaculate interior and very nice exterior, although there are a few scuff marks to show that it has really been used. That use came from a Swedish fire department, again proving that European fire departments are amazing. It has a nice bullbar/Warn winch combo up front and light/rollbar/cage behind the cab. Not shown are a canopy and uninstalled South African grill, the latter of which would spruce it up a bit but isn’t necessary to look cool. The only think I’d say it’s missing is a top tent like Grandpa’s Adventure Truck.

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1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Syncro

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It’s been a while since we’ve seen the kind of Syncro Westy that can command the better part of a hundred thousand dollars. We’ve seen some nicely restored and modified examples, but even then they’ve struggled to break $40k. Well, folks, we caught a big one. Let’s see if we can haul it aboard.

Inside out and top to bottom, this Westy is mega. Starting with the mechanicals, there’s no Subaru imposter or rebuilt wasserboxer here – it’s a like-new, $35k 1.8T conversion putting out a very healthy 255hp with custom cooling and exhaust systems. Underneath you also get new suspension and a big brake kit, along with a rebuilt front differential and Porsche 930 axles. I especially like the dual fuel tanks for removing any range anxiety when you’re way out in the woods.

From there, we’re just looking at a no-holds-barred interior and exterior. Inside, there’s an entertainment system with a back-up camera surrounded by a custom houndstooth interior. It has everything a Westy lover dreams about, from the solar system connected to twin auxiliary batteries to an on-board air compressor and front-mounted Warn winch, though I’m rather confused as to why they put the Hella lights in a position where they’re blocked by the winch.

This van goes well beyond what is necessary to live the Van Life. It’s an exercise in how far you can go and how many dream-boxes you can check, but the resulting price tag is similarly fantastical.

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1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Hightop EJ22 Swap

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Here’s one of the best deals on a Syncro camper we’ve seen in a while (if not ever!) and it comes with a well-done Subaru boxer swap. These High Top campers are much more rare than their pop-top brethren, but it’s a pretty awesome look with more 4-season capability. Though listed with 290k miles, the engine was put in 20k miles ago and had a decent refresh at the time along with a rebuilt transmission. Clearly owned by a well-informed and diligent Vanagon enthusiast, this Syncro camper is going for about half of where most start. It’s caveat emptor with any swap, high-mileage car, or 80s Volkswagen in general, but anyone looking at this van should have a healthy level of project-excitement and an appreciation of getting this much Vanagon for a reasonable price.

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