1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Hightop

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Following in yesterday’s rough-but-affordable Vanagon Syncro footsteps, we have an interesting DIY-Syncro Camper with a no-reserve auction. It started as a tinop Vanagon GL Syncro but has experienced many surgeries – cosmetic, mechanical, electrical – to make it a much more versatile and reliable van. The Subaru 2.2 is good for speed, the hightop is nice for headroom (there’s no bed in this one) and the Westy kitchen is a huge camping bonus, but what really catches my eye is all of the little aftermarket touches the seller has installed to make this van much less of a headache down the road. GoWesty relays, circuit boards, stainless lines and coolant pipes… these are details that increase confidence that this is a solid Vanagon bet. There are also plenty of less-consequential but still cool pieces coming with it, like insulated curtains, van shower, bike racks, awning, and good-looking Audi 5000 wheels. It shows some exterior blemishes, but nothing bad; they’re like an old climber’s sunspots on his nose and cheeks. This thing was built for adventure and reconstructed for even bigger ones.

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1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Tintop

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The seller of this van affectionately calls it “Big Ugly” after 15 years of rough and tumble ownership. There’s plenty of blemishes and rusty seams to make it not just a clever name, but if you’re not too worried about aesthetics this van has a lot going for it. A Westy kitchenette is installed and fully functional and it runs well. He says it needs a few coolant hoses and possibly other things he doesn’t know about, but if you purchase Big Ugly at the Buy It Now of $12,350 he’ll take it in and get them done along with up to $2k of any other repairs. Bidding is currently closer to $5k right now, so maybe some haggling needs to be done on the phone. Anywhere in that range, it’s a lot cheaper than 95% of the Syncro vans you see.

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1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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This Burgundy Westy has covered some ground – 156k miles in its life – but it’s been pretty much completely refurbished mechanically with some great cosmetic touches too. Outside, its been repainted in its beautiful original hue and has the perfect (if ubiquitous) GoWesty wheels. The South African grille is another popular mod, but the quad-round setup just looks so darn good. Inside, the front seats have been replaced with blue and grey cloth Recaros from a Jetta GLI that don’t quite match the rest of the just-grey interior but are still quite sharp. All seals and the tent were redone at the time of repaint (a few years ago). The engine and transmission were rebuilt and the suspension and brakes are redone. So yeah, pretty much everything. The market is strong for nearly-perfect, well-tended Westys like this, so the seller is probably feeling pretty confident in their $29.5k price.

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1991 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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Late-model burgundy Vanagons were the first to ever catch my eye, and even as I’ve spent the last several years exploring the many variations and degrees of modification available for this versatile van, it’s still the look I find most appealing. This 1991 model has steel bars instead of the clean fiberglass, body-colored bumpers available at the end of the lifecycle, ostensibly to protect your legs and engine from the natural weak points of the cab-over design. They may not be sleek but they don’t look bad, and it seems practical to protect where this guy has put most of his money – the engine. It doesn’t say how long into its 198k-mile life it received the rebuild, but the engine was redone into 2.2-liter form and apparently all engine parts were specially hardened before assembly. The original interior is in great shape for having covered almost 200k, and the upper bed has only been used once. This no-frills, all-business Westy is available for a reasonable $18,300.

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1981 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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I always wonder what people get out of selling advertising space on their cars, a topic Jalopnik provided a point/counterpoint to yesterday. If you really don’t give a damn about the appearance of your car, I guess it’s essentially free money. Company vehicles can be cool – I’m thinking old bakery delivery panel vans – but sometimes some dude just had to offer up his vehicle as a promotional platform. Something like that happened here to this 1981 Westy for Montana’s MOJO 92.5. Considering the recent trend of consolidating small radio stations into conglomerates whose names make me distinctly NOT love radio, I’m guessing Montana just lost one more station beloved by roofers and garbage men. I sure hope the window decals can come off easily, as well as the tiny logos swimming around in the black trimline.

Beyond the glaring weirdness of being a rolling billboard, it’s a pretty nice early Vanagon. GoWesty wheels are the most tasteful choice on the vehicle, which has such anachronisms as a “ceiling mounted DVD player!” Not exactly my type of van camping, but could be a plus if you like road trips but your preferred parenting method is screen hypnosis. The new interior looks well done if overly Halloweeny, but you’re not going to get away from that in this van. The houndstooth is nice and the appliances and cabinets all look outstanding. With a Lamborghini Orange paint job, is this pumpkin worth $23k?

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1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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We often speak of the value of Vanagons here, which has stretched upward to dizzying heights in some cases. It’s worth taking a deeper look at how conservative campers from the People’s Auto inspires such devotion. Today’s seller has touched every piece of this car and tried to do the best possible thing to make it immaculate and/or updated. Leading in with

I will try not to bore you with all the details of my restoration but here goes:

he proceeds to passionately explain rebuilding the engine, then removing it recently and painstakingly clean everything… just because. And this guy isn’t alone. The parts are available through amazing companies like GoWesty to have tinkering on your van for years, meeting all kinds of other people who also like driving a mobile personal campsite. His Buy It Now is big money, creeping towards some decent Syncros, but the fact that he can’t not share his excitement about making the perfect van is convincing. It’s cleaner than clean.

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Low-Mileage Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalias

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The strong market for Westfalias should surprise no one by now. What is surprising, however, is finding two ridiculously low-mileage Westies for sale at the same time, in nearly the exact same spec. They’re both late-model, white on grey Vanagons that are looking for high-$30ks. That’s starting to get into decent Syncro Westy territory – are they worth it?

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1980 Volkswagen Vanagon Adventurewagen

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Over the last year I’ve really come to appreciate the high-top Vanagon. With a very different approach and look from the Westy, it’s taking the VanLife game just a little further. This early 1980 model has covered less than 50k miles with its air-cooled 2.0-liter. There’s no explanation as to why it has only covered an average of 1300 miles a year, but it looks the part. The two-tone yellow is going to make you the quintessential ray of sunshine that comes when people see awesome Vanagons on the road. Inside, the redone interior is pretty amazing with a very early-80s brown and beige color scheme and as high quality of work as I’ve seen in any Vanagon. With reserve-on bidding starting at $7k, it’s nice enough to go much higher than that.

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1980 Volkswagen Vanagon Country Camper

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This new year, I pledge to do a LOT more camping. A boat trip to Alaska will guarantee an uptick, but here’s a new Vanagon variant to help lengthen those road trips. This 1980 2.0-liter Vanagon was converted by Country Home Campers, an outfit that did Westfalia-like conversions for some 30 years. It certainly looks like an 80s country home inside, with some nice wood paneling and faux-leather vinyl seats. The air-cooled four has been rebuilt and cosmetically it looks very clean throughout, if not beautiful. The camper top doesn’t reach as far as the Westy’s, allowing for a little moonroof action for those in the front seats. It may not be the most desirable Vanagon, but it has a lot of capability and a low, no-reserve auction.

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1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro

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As I fantasized the other week about rocking a Golf Country into the mountains, I didn’t really account for the limiting factors of a lifted hatchback. Yes, it can probably get you and a couple of friends over and through just about anything, but what about your stuff? Or your other friends? Hatchbacks are certainly known for utility, but when you start talking sleds, camp stoves, extra clothes, and maybe more than 4 people, you’re either going to have the biggest roof rack known to man or have to look at a bigger automobile.

Back, then, to most popular Syncro, the Vanagon! This isn’t a Westy, just a tintop, of which we’ve seen some decent examples before. An all-wheel drive tin box that can carry 7 comfortably, and this one has a burly cargo rack on top that can gather any and all snow toys you need. It’s not as fancy as some nor does it have the pop-top, but that cuts the price by over half. It’s not as immaculate as the Golf Country, with some general interior wear and a rebuilt engine and transmission a few years ago, but it looks pretty nice for 220k miles and sports some quality upgrades like Emu shocks and disc brakes. There’s plenty to do to make it cleaner and personalized, but it’s a great start on a van that could take winter adventures to the next level.

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