1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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Bordeaux Red Pearl has always been one of my favorite Vanagon colors, and today’s burgundy Westy looks just about perfect after just 113k miles. It’s a good sign when the only blemish the seller can think to list is a missing center cap on a front wheel, which are now the common, perfectly-fitting Mercedes rims. It has a brand new pop-top tent and some post-production Westfalia stickers (of which I’m a big fan) and all the camping gear is functioning perfectly. If you can afford it, this is about as nice a stock, mostly-original Westy as you’ll find.

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1985 Volkswagen Transporter

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Here we have a single cab Transporter that looks to be in great condition but is lacking some info after spending 15 years sleeping in a shop. The braking system is new and the cooling system has been gone over, which address two of the big worries when a car sits. The interior has a few worn out spots but the exterior looks very straight. Mellow beige and unpainted steelies help this SinKa look ready to get to work for decades to come.

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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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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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1984 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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Though sometimes a certifiably blah color, on certain cars brown can really hit the spot. See Steve McQueen’s 250 GT Lusso. The log-shaped Vanagon is no Lusso, but it’s the kind of color that helps it blend into its chosen habitat: the forest. Black Benz wheels and other details blend into the forest floor while a new-to-it wasserboxer of unstated mileage helps it get into the wild. Plenty of reasonable maintenance and replacements make it ready to go immediately, but small rough spots around the edges keep it from being anything more than a like-original, slightly dinged van. In the days of $100k Vanagons, how much is that worth?

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1989 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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The last Westy I posted was an exercise in extremes. Every mod imaginable and a 1.8T engine swap led to the van selling for the best offer, obviously less than the $110k asking price but probably not by that much. Today I present a counterpoint, a late-model, all-stock Westy with fewer than 50k miles. Silver on gray and about as close as possible to what you found on a VW showroom floor in 1989, this is a van that can keep chugging away for at least another 25 years and probably more. No racks, no lights, and no lift kit, yet it’s just as attractive.

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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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1991 Volkswagen DoKa Tristar Syncro

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We’ve seen all sorts of DoKas here, from ex-military workers to high-dollar Tristar examples. The Tristar package brought nicer upholstery and full carpeting, creating a more comfortable environment than the typical metal-and-floor mats worktruck interior. This DoKa also has Syncro, adding a few more items to its long list of capabilities. You could take on just about any light-duty work or off-roading in this truck, but you might be hesitant to put it in harm’s way due to the amazing condition. 70k miles total miles would be low on its own, but this DoKa has a new engine, suspension, brakes, fuel system, and cooling system. The original exterior paint looks great and the repainted bed looks even better. Each extra word on this verbose model name adds serious value, and the seller claims it has been professionally appraised for almost $80k!

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1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Hightop

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Despite the unassuming beige-black-and-steel exterior, this is one of the most excellent Vanagons I’ve seen in a while. Looking every bit a well-used 1987 camper, it’s been updated and made complete in all the ways that count, highlighted by a Subaru 3.0-liter H6 conversion driving all four wheels via Syncro. High tops have been growing on me for their unique look and easily-accessible space. Two queen beds and lots of storage with four-wheel drive? I always wanted an office in the mountains. With a massive list of repairs and service, this Adventurewagen is fully set to live up to its name if you can afford it.

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1988 Volkswagen Transporter Panel Van

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Panel vans are a cool look, and their industrious beginnings make them a great candidate for anything you want. Frequent readers know that what I want is an economical and capable camper, and I can see this one working out quite well. The lack of side windows renders going through the effort of making curtains unnecessary so that you can spend all of your time pulling the tacked-on laminate from the walls and start turning it into the mobile apartment of your dreams. You shouldn’t have to spend much time on the mechanicals as its diesel mill has covered just over 35k miles and the immaculate undercarriage corroborates the seller’s claims of “open wallet” maintenance. It may not possess the frills and accoutrements of most VW vans posted here – the blue Rhinolined lower half seems to be the most extensive addition – but that just underscores the vast possibilities available with this slab-sided blue canvas.

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