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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1984 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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The Westfalia market is all over the place right now, with top values staying remarkably strong as they stand strong as one of the best campers ever made. On the other end of the spectrum, we have examples like this brown survivor. A life on the East Coast has caused some minor decay, but the seller, a serial-VW owner, has taken care of many issues and replaced the engine with a later-model 2.1 a while back. It’s far from a perfect example, but it is functional and could be a solid project for a VW enthusiast. For under $8k, this is about as inexpensive an entry into Westylife as you’ll find.

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1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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The license plate on the Vanagon is “STLMOVN,” an apt tag after 200k miles. Perhaps it also refers to its aged owners, who clearly have a sense of adventure but are passing on their great camper. Despite the higher mileage, the van looks extremely well cared for, with the seats having been covered, the exterior shining like new thanks to living in a garage, and a newer engine (though it’s unclear if that means rebuilt or fully new). It’s too bad “AC is not working” is the a main description line, because the more important news is that all of the appliances are like new. Something – perhaps the higher mileage? – seems to be scaring bidders away from the $14k starting point, but I think this is a very attractive Westy.

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1980 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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I typically steer clear of salvage titles for obvious reasons, but this Westy seems deserving of an understanding eye. For starters, I’m guessing that you could sneeze on a 1980 Vanagon and the insurance company would total it. A little engine fire in one of these oldies would certainly do the trick. Some kind soul saw fit to save it, however, and the world is a little better for it. The restoration is a mix of subtle and style, with the classic brown exterior looking stock and the plaid-plaid-plaid upholstery making you think this thing’s top speed is a few orders of magnitude higher than it actually is. The new interior, pop top, and exterior plugs all turn this Westy into a faux time capsule instead of a basket case. It may be aircooled, but this thing looks brand new!

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1982 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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This is an extremely clean diesel Westy from the only year when VW actually offered an oil-burner straight from the factory. As opposed to the anemic original 1.6 liter, last year this received a heart update via a brand-new 1.9-liter diesel unit straight from Volkswagen. Despite being pretty early in the Vanagon life cycle, the chassis has just 84k miles, putting together a very tidy package with a complete, fully functioning interior and nearly flawless exterior. All of this comes together for a van that appears ready for several more decades of fun.

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1990 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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Here’s a nice, mostly-stock Westy that comes with a funny little bonus trailer on the back. I’m not sure how the “solar panel toolbox” works (is the battery inside?), but I like it already and dig the Westfalia badging. It seems a little excessive to just haul bikes on it – that’s what bike racks are for! – but there are plenty of uses for a good trailer. Dirtbike? Scooter? All the stuff you can’t fit inside? Anyway, it may not be the most minimalist, self-contained setup, but who cares when there’s no reserve on it? It looks clean in and out with the main detraction being rather high mileage.

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1984 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia

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After a day of reflection on independence, I see no better vehicle to represent the ideal than a good, clean Westfalia. Cars in general embody independence, the ability to get in and go, but a Westy means you can go and maybe decide to not come back. Many people live in Westfalias full time, exploring the world and staying in new zipcodes while their pop-top home stays the same. While many command serious new-car money, this 1984 example looks to be an incredible deal. If you can make it through the intimidatingly-long description, you’ll find that this van has been loved, gone through, and updated by someone who knows their stuff and truly cared about making a great, functional camper. This is the kind of independence I want in my future, and if bidding remains at such an approachable level, maybe it will be!

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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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1991 Volkswagen Westfalia TDI

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I like older cars that are loved, maintained, and well-used in the manner they were built for. This means that high mileage is, to me, a badge of honor, and replaced and upgrades parts are more a sign of perseverance and attention than decay. Like my old cars, this ’91 Westy appears to me as a shining example of just how good 200k+ miles can look. Sure, there are some stone chips and patina, and the engine and transmission have had to be replaced, but from the wheels to the tent and all through the inside it looks a great, functional adventure van. Instead of the 2.1-liter gas engine, it now has a 1.9-liter TDI conversion that was truly done right, with some nice engine mods along with a re-geared transmission and a Peloquin differential to resist those annoying one-wheel spins in traction-deficient situations. The condition and upgrades more than offset the high odometer reading, so the auction is starting at a strong $29k.

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1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Syncro

Mix-and-match is one of the greatest benefits of VW ownership and modification, enabling Lego-like compatibility with looks and personality straight out of the Playmobil catalogue. While most Vanagons pack the abilities of many cars into one, this T3 takes it to the next level by combining the content of two already-capable VW vans into one vehicle. As the seller embarked on the restoration of a Westfalia California, they came into possession of a non-Westy but Syncro’d van and the Frankenstein dreams quickly took hold – put all the great camping gear into the van with the ultimate running gear. As a result, they made an extremely desirable package and cleaned it up with a full restoration, rebuilt wasserboxer, and a subtle-but-great offroad package. Personal favorites include the perfect Graphite Gray paint and the Star Wars-lookin’ California top that provides a slight differentiation from most pop-top VWs you see. It may have taken a few donors, but in the end this is one excellent monster Vanagon.

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