All aboard the love van. An Indonesian mechanic has built the world’s first stretch VW camper van, which can seat around 20 of his mates. Wahyu Pamungkas, from Semarang, Indonesia, spent a year creating the ultimate hippie wagon, which is now 7.6 metres long. He did have a little help from his friends though – around 30 of them. The VW fanatic spent more than £20,000 (400million Indonesian Rupiah) pimping out his stretch Kombi.
He did it by mashing together two normal Kombi vans, altering the chassis , and swapping the 1,500cc engine for a 2,000cc engine so it could cope with the extra weight.
The interiors are fitted out with cream leather and seat around 20 people. (
Naturally, there’s a fully stocked mini-bar.
It brings all the girls to the yard.
There’s even a soft-top for catching a few rays. (Picture: Barcroft)Did someone say road trip?
German camper van converter SpaceCamper offers some of the most versatile, well-packaged Volkswagen Transporter campers we’ve happened across. Its also built one of the fastest camper vans on the planet. Now it’s expanded its lineup with the LightOpen, spreading the camping equipment around the cabin for an even lighter, more versatile recreational vehicle layout. The LightOpen can haul the family to and from work, school and sports practice, go camping, and work as a mobile office, all with little to no conversion in between.
SpaceCamper already offers Light and Open models, and now it mashes them together, creating the LightOpen van. We’ve seen a lot of multiple personality vans that work as campers, everyday people haulers and/or cargo vans, including the recent Pössl Campster, but the LightOpen does it more effortlessly than most.
Like the SpaceCamper ClassicOpen, the LightOpen includes sliding doors on both sides for easy loading and indoor/outdoor access to key equipment. Like the SpaceCamper Light, the LightOpen offers exceptional flexibility for use as a camper, everyday commuter, cargo hauler and rolling office.
Key to the LightOpen’s flexible, spacious design, SpaceCamper breaks down and shrinks what might otherwise be a large, space-devouring kitchen block, moving food prep amenities around the van cabin. A 25-L compressor fridge creates a different type of center console, giving the driver and front passenger access to cool drinks and snacks, a feature that could prove handy well beyond camping, to road trips, kids’ soccer games, hiking or mountain biking trips, and countless other uses. This refrigerator can also slide back into the main cabin, giving all passengers access.
In another twist on the camper van kitchen, SpaceCamper integrates the two-burner cooktop into the removable folding table, providing meal preparation and dining space. The table can be used inside or out, and without a kitchen block limiting its size and placement, it is larger than tables in other camper vans. It also doubles as a desk when work, not food, is what’s on the menu.
Another interesting feature of the LightOpen is the housing of both a flip-out side table/outdoor worktop and a sink in a console next to the rear bench. The compact sink slides out for indoor/outdoor use and slides away when not needed, saving space. A similar console on the other side has storage space and its own side table/worktop.
In the end, SpaceCamper has taken all the standard amenities of a camper van kitchen – cooktop, counters, sink and refrigerator – and spread them around the cabin to create a freer, more functional space with seating for five people. This setup is also an advantage when it’s time to sleep because the folding mattress stretches the width of the rear cabin, creating a 5 x 6.6-ft (1.55 x 2-m) bed, versus the 4.3 x 6.6-ft (1.3 x 2-m) bed in SpaceCamper models with more traditional kitchen blocks. A pop-up roof adds a second bed, making the LightOpen a good option for families.
The LightOpen’s equipment is compact and spread out enough to make the van a practical everyday driver for five people. The rear bench and under-bench storage drawers can also be removed easily, turning it into an open cargo van.
The SpaceCamper LightOpen prices in around €69,000 (approx. US$77,250) built atop the VW T6 Transporter Caravelle Comfortline with 148-hp 2.0-liter TDI engine and including standard equipment and options with the pop-up, sleep-in roof and the layout described above.
How much do you think this would set you back? £800, £1500, £5,000…read on to find out the price.
Bun Van is a bed and room reinvented by CIRCU as the iconic VW camper, ideal for the little hippy adventurer in your life!
The whole bus is a hand made reproduction, with the exterior of this piece made in fibreglass with the use of chrome-plated parts and palisander wood veneers throughout give the Bun Van bed a true retro feel. And in addition to storage compartments hidden throughout, you’ll also find a flatscreen TV, a mini bar, a sofa and of course a bed inside.
Parents will recognize the inspirations for this piece, one of the most remarkable vehicles ever produced and at the same time, one of the most iconic and magical symbols of fun and freedom! Few other vehicles have the ability to turn heads and conjure a spirit of freedom, adventure and open roads.
Kids will also recognize another inspiration, one of the most well know characters of the Disney movie “Cars”, Fillmore, the 1960’s hippie bus. This bed is perfect to bring some fun and imagination to rooms!
Measuring 400 x 185 x 220 cm, the Bun Van bed adds a statement to your kids’ living space with impressive artwork and sophisticated furnishings. A true and genuine piece of art, the bed pays homage to the hippie lifestyle and motoring heritage.
So how much?
Over £30,000 – you do need to have everything…
For VW Microbus enthusiasts, the 23 window Microbus is considered the Holy Grail. Today, we are sharing a very special unicorn: the world’s only 1965 Volkswagen Microbus stretch limousine, complete with 33 windows as well as a ragtop sunroof.
The one-of-a-kind Microbus was custom built by a VW-only restoration garage in Southern California (where else?) and took two years to complete. The result is stunning: the India Ivory-on-Tropical Turquoise bus features safari windows, front and rear; 14 side pop-out windows with large spoon latches; chrome front door frames; polished trim pieces on beltline and bumpers; and original 15-inch “crows foot” wheels in a white powdercoat.
Underneath the skin is a 2074cc VW engine that has been completely rebuilt. In fact, the engine, transmission, and gear reduction boxes have all been completely disassembled and rebuilt using only brand-new authentic components. Additional mechanical upgrades include front disc brakes, Gene Berg performance shifter, Vintage Speed exhaust system, and Blaze-Cut auto fire suppression system. The restored stretch Microbus also features LED headlights, custom LED taillights, as well as an LED third-brake light.
The cabin is undoubtedly the VW’s party piece. The Volkswagen Microbus stretch limo features two-tone brown benches with white piping and hidden pleats, which seat up to 12 passengers. The Microbus also boasts a custom wood floor, wood interior, and a high-end sound system featuring 6 JBL speakers, an Alpine amp, and Alpine head unit. RGBW LED light strips run across the entire length of the interior of the bus and can change to any color!
Following the extensive two-year restoration, the stretch Microbus finally arrived to Maui, Hawaii (where else?), to enjoy its new life as a special VIP limo for Endless Summer Limousine. Maui is long known as a popular wedding and tourism location with over 7,000 weddings booked every year.
Unfortunately, a sudden family emergency will require the owner and operator of Endless Summer Limousine to relocate, which means leaving the Microbus, the business, and the island behind. According to the eBay listing, the beautiful Microbus sold for $220,000. Despite the astronomical price, we’re sure it is money well spent for the right owner.
Who wants a princess bed when you can have an awesome VW camper van replica to lay your head down in?
Reddit user inexplorata, aka the world’s number one dad, built his daughter this incredible bed-cum-playhouse for her third birthday after he saw an ad on Craigslist for free VW Beetle parts – namely, a bumper, hubcaps, and some interior door pieces.
After picking up a $30 bunk bed, also on Craigslist, the enterprising dad set to work.
The construction, as detailed on his blog, took him four months.
He did have the occasional extra pair of hands.
The build cost him a total of $100, or £65 (much cheaper than those custom-made kids’ furniture places charge we’re guessing).
The camper bed has working headlights and a horn that makes driving sound effects.
It also has a colourful 60s style decor, as befits the iconic van’s hippy heritage.
As well as a hammock. Obviously.
And one careful owner.
Excellent work dad.
In fact, she said, people have been “open and kind and welcoming” everywhere
they’ve gone on this odyssey. “You hear bad things in the news, but overall
people are willing to help. They’ll drop everything they’re doing and invite you
Vought was quick to ascribe their cordial reception to the vehicle. “It’s the
bus,” he said. “People in all countries seem to love the VW bus. They’re already
kind of looking at you anyway, and when they see the bus, it’s like instant
smiles and instant friends.”
The bus at “Mano de Desierto,” a large sculpture of a hand in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Dillon Vought and Tessa Ely didn’t know each other when they attended Service
High School at the same time. Big school, different classes, different crowds.
You know how it goes.
But they’re plenty familiar with each other now. For the past year, they have
traveled 26,000 miles throughout the Western Hemisphere in a Volkswagen
Westfalia pop-top camper bus.
“We just got the idea that we wanted to do some long-term travel,” said Vought.
“We did a few road trips around Alaska and it sort of evolved into this.”
The Alaska Dispatch News contacted the couple in Tierra del Fuego, the
southernmost part of South America. Ely said the place felt a little like
“There’s free camping everywhere,” she said. “It’s very safe. And everyone’s
Vought, 29, got a degree in marketing at a college in Reno, Nevada, before
moving back to Anchorage, where he has worked in logistical support for the oil
industry. Ely, 27, studied at UAA and became a special-education teacher with
the Anchorage School District. Of course, for the last 13 months they’ve been on
what can only be described as an extended leave of absence.
“It’s more like two years,” Vought said. But during the first year of the
adventure, the bus didn’t go anywhere as they rebuilt it.
They bought the broken-down 1975 Westfalia for $500. “It was the only one for
sale two years ago,” he said. They found it slowly weathering away in Hope. It
took a year of busted knuckles and “a lot of duct tape” before the thing was
ready to roll. In the process they added insulation, an RV furnace and changed
the horrible orange paint to a classic green and white two-tone.
Most important, they replaced the old air-cooled engine, a 1960s design, with a
modern Subaru Boxer 2.2 water-cooled engine. The original could churn up 66
horsepower and was famously underpowered, particularly on hills. The Boxer
produces 100 horsepower or better and is more fuel efficient than the vintage
It was time well spent, Vought said. “It’s really a blessing that we rebuilt the
entire thing, because now we know what’s going on with it. We can do most of the
fixes ourselves. You don’t need to worry about finding a good mechanic.”
They had considered taking a year to drive around Asia, but decided South
America would be easier, more right-in-the-neighborhood. “Tessa knew some
Spanish,” Vought said. “It was a more reachable trip.”
The journey began with a long drive down the West Coast. “We were hoping to ski
quite a bit,” Vought said. “But it was a bad year for skiing all over. We didn’t
actually get out and do anything until we got to Vancouver Island. And then it
was surfing. In February.”
They did manage to find snow in Montana. Then they joined a couple of other VW
buses for a mini-caravan drive down the Baja Peninsula, where they spent a
month. From there, the couple ferried the bus to the mainland, headed down the
west coast of Mexico, cut over to the Yucatan and proceeded through Central
America, surfing and camping on beaches as they went.
The Panama Canal brought a gap in road travel. The bus was shipped to Colombia
and the travelers followed by sail. After another month in Colombia, they
continued into the Andes, traveling through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
The southern terminus of the trip came at the end of the Pan American Highway,
just past Ushuaia, Argentina, latitude 54 degrees and change. It’s sometimes
referred to as “the end of the world.”
“We considered going further by boat to Antarctica,” Vought said. But “the
cheapest tour would still have been $5,000.”
Though the trip has been decidedly frugal, it hasn’t been free. The travelers
are already contemplating their return to home and jobs.
“We’ll cruise around Patagonia for a few months, then ship the bus to Florida
from Buenos Aires,” Ely said. While the bus is on the boat she’ll come back to
Alaska to work and Vought will backpack. They’ll reconnect with their trusty
transport in mid-June and drive through the U.S. and Canada “and see how long we
can make our money last,” she said.
The last logical leg will come after they return to Alaska, a run up the Dalton
Highway to Prudhoe Bay.
“I think we’re going to do a photo book,” Vought said. “But we probably won’t
actually complete it until we’re back in Anchorage.”
They’ll come home with a log-book of white-knuckle experiences. “Bolivia has the
worst roads,” Vought said. “We came out there with suspension issues. I’ve had
to replace the shocks and replace the clutch cable five times now.”
“And we’ve gotten a few bouts of stomach illness,” he continued. “Times when you
have to hole up in a hotel for a while and just pray you’re going to get
“I was getting pretty sick in El Salvador,” Ely said. “Dealing with hospitals
and the language barrier is something I don’t want to relive again.”
“The good part is that the local medical care people know how to treat the
common ailments in the area,” said Vought. “They can help you get well, even if
it seems like the most horrible thing.”
The payoff has been the people, Vought said. That goal was at the top of their
reasons for making the trip.
“We wanted to get more engulfed into the culture, go places that the tourists
don’t go, talk to the locals,” he said. “It’s been great. Every time we have a
question or a loss, you don’t hesitate to ask anyone because everyone is so
willing to help. You ask someone for directions and they ask you to stay at
One question they get asked a lot is whether they want to sell the bus. The
answer is always no. “It’s our baby!” said Ely.
“Besides, if we have kids, they’re going to see pictures of this trip and
pictures of the bus,” said Vought. “And if we don’t still have it, they’ll kill
BLOG Follow the travels of Dillon Vought, Tessa Ely and their 1975 VW camper bus
There’s been a lot of talk about people taking a ‘staycation’ rather than going abroad for their holidays. Put off by the increased hassle of ever-tougher airport security checks, would-be holiday makers could be forgiven for not wanting to make a trip abroad.
Besides which, there’s plenty to see in the UK, and while many might be familiar with the Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol, know nothing about the UK, and all it has to offer. After all, Chancellor George Osborne has made great play of his UK camper van holiday, so its popularity extends to the great and the good.
It’s surprising more classic enthusiasts don’t consider a classic camper van for a great way of seeing more of this country. There’s the opportunity of getting to different places, not being tied to one hotel or self-catering location, and being able to pack more into a week.
The classic camper movement might be dominated by Volkswagens, but there are many more models out there that are worth looking at – and possibly considerably cheaper too. While it’s not uncommon to see VW Type One ‘splitties’ busting the £20,000 mark and later Type Two ‘bay windows’ easily commanding £10,000 to £15,000, a Mark One or Mark Two Ford Transit won’t be anywhere near that, and Bedford CFs trail behind Transit prices.
Then there are the more unusual – a 1970s Fiat 850T camper is small, but it’s highly rare and that bodywork can suffer from terminal rot – hence the reason so few have survived. Luckily VW models are very well supported which makes ownership easier, although not necessarily cheaper, but when it comes tod riving a Mk1 and Mk2 Transit probably drives better while the Bedford CF trumps the Ford when it comes to performance and car-like all-round capabilities.
For one-upmanship in the classic camper stakes something American takes some beating, especially for fixtures, equipment and ‘furniture’, although fuel economy might not be quite so easy to stomach.
But for ease of use, good spares support but a great practical quirkiness, the Citroen C15 Romahome is one of the best all-rounders, and it’s old enough to be considered classic. With a well-fitted camper body, the C15 is relatively pokey too, and no matter how hard it’s driven, won’t deliver less than 40 to the gallon. It’s as near to a car as driving a classic camper can be, and it’s not too expensive – yet – although increasing interest will soon put paid to those pleasingly affordable prices.
From: Nigel A. Skeet
As you have probably already discovered, being a classicist isn’t an ideal preparation, for 1968~79 VW Type 2 ownership, or indeed any car ownership!
I think most people associate the early Greek and Roman civilisations, as being the basis for the study of Classics, but there were several others in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, plus Central & South America. What aspects (e.g. languages, culture, architecture, music, sciences & mathematics, etc) of Classics are you involved?
A member had written in:
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you like this – I’m a member of the T2 owners’ club and drive a 1974 Westfalia, which I’ve had since 1998. I’m afraid I’m not sure which of the club’s officers gives technical advice – please say if you’re too busy or I should ask someone else – but I’ve seen your articles in the T2 magazine (which I’ve not now got with me – so I’m also not able to access the member’s area of the website), and wondered if I could get some advice.
The VWT2OC technical advisory panel (of which I have never been a member), seems to have dwindled in number, during the past few years. Mike Tout (Tel. 01 884 – 841 598), Bruce Hodson (Tel. 01 263 – 734 444) and Peter Good (Tel. 01 552 – 751 941) are the official technical advisors, but I am often contacted by members about a whole range of topics, owing to my high-profile presence in the magazine and on the website, plus various Internet VW forums.
For the past 1¼ years or so, I seem to have been writing most of Transporter Talk single handed, but that cannot continue for much longer. There is an URGENT need for VW Transporter related material, from a greater number of members.
The 1974 VW 16/1800 Type 2 Westfalia Continental campervan, seems to have been made in relatively small numbers and I have yet to see one “in the flesh” or featured in any VW magazines, such as VWC&C – Volkswagen Camper & Commercial, which has been published since 2000 (82 issues to date; initially quarterly, then bi-monthly and now monthly). The layout is somewhat different from that of 1972/73 VW 16/1700 Type 2 Westfalia Contintental campervans. I know for a fact, that David Eccles, editor of VWC&C, would be interested in featuring a 1974 VW 16/1800 Type 2 Westfalia Continental and its history (e.g. previous owners, acquisition, general use, travel, tales of woe).
A few years ago I had the engine rebuilt – it was a Vege engine which the previous owner had had installed in around 1997. I also had the cylinders re-bored to a larger capacity – something I’ve subsequently regretted, as it took a few years, and a couple more complete rebuilds – to stop the engine from breaking down. The recurrent problem, as i understand it, was that the rebuilds didn’t include reinforced push-rods; since these have been installed, the engine has basically been running fine, and I’ve not had any problems. But I was so scarred by the catastrophic breakdowns (in several cases ruining family holidays), that I’ve not really dared to drive the van much.
You didn’t mention whether you have a 1974 VW 1600 Type 2 (VW Type 1 style engine) or a 1974 VW 1800 Type 2 (VW Type 4 style engine), which have different designs of flat-four air-cooled engine!?! From our telephone conversation during the weekend, I deduce that you have a VW Type 1 style engine, whose circular oil-strainer plate, is held in place by six 10 mm AF, M6 acorn-nuts.
Unless your rebuilt engine included an after-market high-lift camshaft and/or high-ratio rocker arms, opening the cylinder-head valves, ordinary factory-standard push-rods, should be quite adequate.
So far as you are aware, what is the displacement, stroke, cylinder bore and compression ratio of your current non-standard engine?
The factory-standard VW 1600 Type 2 engine (i.e. VW Type 1 Beetle style engine), has 1584 cm³ displacement, 69 mm stroke and 85.5 mm bore. After-market substitute cylinder barrels & pistons for this engine, typically have a “bore” of 87 mm, 88 mm, 90.5 mm, 92 mm or 94 mm, giving displacements of 1641 cm³, 1679 cm³, 1775 cm³, 1835 cm³ and 1915 cm³ respectively, when used in conjunction with the 69 mm stroke crankshaft. Unless the piston crowns are dished and/or the cylinder-head combustion-chamber volumes are enlarged, the compression ratio will have increased above the factory-standard 7.5 : 1.
The three largest bore sizes, require machining of the crankcase (and cylinder heads I think) to accommodate them, and should be avoided in my opinion. For a VW Type 1 style engine, 88 mm “bore” cylinder barrels & pistons, combined with a 76 mm stroke crankshaft, to give a 1849 cm³ displacement, is probably the most reliable way, to achieve an increase in power & torque.
Given that increased power, results in there being increased heat to be dissipated by the cooling system, I would recommend the substitution of the VW Type 4 style engine’s 7-row oil cooler, in place of the standard 5-row cooler (increasing oil-cooling capacity by about 40%), if this has not already been done. This would necessitate modifying the cooling-fan-housing’s oil-cooler “dog house” enclosure.
As a general rule, power & torque are increased by substituting a free-flowing extractor exhaust system and twin carburettors with separate inlet manifolds. The single-carburettor inlet manifold, severely restricts air flow, limiting the mass of air which can be inducted into the engine, which limits the available power.
Although i took the van to my local mechanic for a health check before setting out, I do seem to be getting through the engine oil at quite a fast rate – I had only got from Glasgow to Kendal (admittedly driving without stopping) before the oil light came on.
The advice I’m seeking really concerns the oil level. Over the years I’ve constantly tried to get oil leaks minimized – and when they’ve been serious, regarded them as a sign that something is very wrong with the engine. I’ve never really managed to get clear advice from any of the people who have worked on the van as to whether this is correct or not.
Over the 600 or so miles I’ve done over the last few days (I made some detours), I’ve topped up about 1.5 litres of oil. The engine, as I say, seems to be running fine. But in the past, I’ve found having to check the oil before every long journey (and usually having to add some more) rather a worrying sign. it would be reassuring to know that if is just a fact of life!
Your VW air-cooled engine, should NOT be leaking and/or burning so much oil!
The Volkswagen factory, regarded an oil-consumption rate (i.e. oil burned along with the petrol) of 1 litre per 1,000 km, as being “acceptable”, but this would be for a well-worn engine in my opinion.
If you are burning significant quantities of oil, the spark-plug electrodes and insulator noses inside the cylinder heads, are likely to be oily and exhaust smoke is likely to be black or blue in colour, especially when suddenly revving the engine and then quickly backing-off the throttle. It might be useful to undertake a compression test and/or leakdown test, to determine how well the valves and piston rings are sealing. A compression test can easily be done using a simple DIY compression tester but leak-down testing requires more specialised equipment.
Connecting a vacuum-pressure gauge to the inlet manifold, will also allow one to undertake some useful diagnostic checks, which helps to highlight worn valve guides, leaking valves, worn piston rings and other faults, as outlined in one of my recent articles in Transporter Talk, about supplementary instrumentation. Sadly, the illustration (63 mm x 42 mm) on Page 40 is far too small to be useful; having been originally of A4 size (298 mm x 210 mm), which should have been reduced to no smaller than A6 size (149 mm x 105 mm), but preferably A5 size (210 mm x 149 mm), if it was to provide any useful information.
Nigel A. Skeet, “Air-Cooled & Water-Cooled Volkswagens: The Case For Supplementary Instrumentation – Part 2”, Transporter Talk, Issue 125, November & December 2013 – Engine Inlet-Manifold Vacuum Pressure, Pages 40~42
Leakage via various paths, is yet another problem, which can be exacerbated if the crankcase is being pressurised, owing to worn cylinder-head valve guides or worn cylinder-barrel bores and/or piston rings. Excessive oil pressure owing to substitution of an “uprated” oil pump or incorrect oil-pressure relief or control valve springs, will tend to increase leakage rates.
Typical oil-leakage paths are:
(a) push-rod tubes & seals;
(b) cylinder-head rocker-cover gaskets;
(c) oil-strainer cover gaskets;
(d) oil seal at flywheel end of crankshaft – leaked oil drips from clutch housing;
(e) oil seal or oil-return screw & flinger-disc at pulley end of crankshaft;
(f) top of dipstick tube – associated with crankcase pressurisation;
(g) crankcase breather tube to air filter – associated with crankcase pressurisation;
(h) base of cylinder barrels close to crankcase – damaged crankcase, cylinder barrels or gasket rings;
(i) crankcase parting line owing to damaged or contaminated crankcase abutting faces.
If your engine is leaking oil at an alarming rate, it needs to be properly investigated; preferably by first thoroughly cleaning the engine exterior and then observing all suspect areas of the engine whilst the engine is running; preferably with the vehicle elevated on ramps or a vehicle hoist. It might take a while for oil drips to form or oil mist to spray out from the disconnected crankcase breather, but this is the only reliable way of identifying leakage sources.
When my 1973 VW 1600 Type 2’s AD-series engine had worn valve guides, but minimal oil leakage, it burned about 1.0 litre of conventional multi-grade mineral oil per 1,000 miles or 1,600 km; which I considered excessive. When in circa 1986, I substituted Mobil 1 fully-synthetic 5W/50, API SF oil (has lower volatility and is more tolerant of elevated temperatures), the oil consumption rate decreased to circa 1.0 litre per 3,500 ± 500 miles.
However, after a couple of non-eventful summers, that’s changing; I am planning to go to Normandy in a couple of weeks time, and have just driven the van down from Glasgow to London. I broke the journey up, but did most of it on the motorways, going around 55-60 mph (though i think my speedometer could do with recalibrating – it’s always somewhat lower than the satnav, esp. at the higher end).
Owing to the legally acceptable speedometer-calibration tolerances, being plus 10% to minus 0% of the true value, vehicle speedometers typically read about 5% high, even when the correctly-sized tyres (i.e. 185 R14C or 185/80 R14C) are fitted to the factory-standard 14 x 5½J inch steel wheels. What wheel and tyre sizes do you have on the front and rear?
A speedometer reading which is lower than the true value, is illegal. If non-standard tyres have been fitted, it’s likely that both speedometer calibration and effective engine gearing will have changed. If you have after-market alloy wheels, there’s a high probability that both the wheels and tyres are of an inadequate load rating, for a heavily-laden campervan and the tyres which are typically fitted, result in a higher speedometer reading, than one would observe with the correctly-sized tyres.
A speed of 60 mph, is probably the absolute maximum which can reasonably be sustained by a VW 1600 Type 2 engine, but during hot summer weather like we’ve had recently, 50 mph might be more appropriate, if one wishes to avoid engine overheating and high oil-consumption rates, owing to increased oil volatility at elevated temperatures. What supplementary gauges do you have, if any, to monitor engine-oil temperature & pressure, plus cylinder-head temperature?
If you are travelling to France, make sure you have the necessary headlamp beam converters, spare-bulbs kit, safety equipment kit (at least one approved-pattern warning triangle but preferably two, plus reflective waiscoats for driver and all passengers), tow rope, temporary emergency windscreen (if you have a zone-toughened windscreen) and alcohol breath-test kit. Exceeding speed limits by even 1 km/h, could result in hefty on-the-spot fines! Excessive speeding, can result in one’s vehicle being confiscated and auctioned-off to the highest bidder, so beware!!!
I trust you have invested in some good road maps (scale = 1 : 200,000 or 1 cm => 2 km) of Normandy, rather than relying upon a satellite navigation system.
Nigel A. Skeet, B.Sc., P.G.C.E., M.Sc., Pg.Dip., B.A.
Pictures are unfortunately missing from this story.
VW developed 4-wheel drive on both Beetles (Type 86 – Kommanderwagen) & (Type 128 “Schwimmwagens”) during the Second World War. It took nearly another 40 years before they ventured into this field again.
During the 1970’s a couple of VW engineers who both liked to travel in their Westfalia campers to far off inhospitable regions of Africa & Europe decided it might be a good thing if VW revisited 4WD & developed some vehicles capable of getting further than existing models were able to & seriously competing with the existing 4WD market.
They were ideally placed to do this; Gustav Meyer was head of VW Light truck engineering & Henning Duckstien was in charge of the truck testing department.
Money for research was tight in those days (as the T25 was being developed) but between them they managed to produce five prototype 4WD Bay window transporters using a lot of parts from other vehicles. The driver for this was that if VW could produce a good 4WD drive vehicle & be seen to be competing (or supplying support vehicles) for the tough African rallies then this would attract orders for transporters from the armed forces.
The first of the five prototypes was completed at the end of 1975. The vehicles had semi automatic gearboxes similar to the “Stick Shift” Beetles. These were coupled via a torque converter and a hydraulic clutch to a 70BHP 2-litre engine, which had just been developed for the VW/Audi military “Iltis” vehicle. The system had friction type diff locks & an extra lever in the cab allowed it to be driven in either 2 or 4 wheel drive. Extensive modification was required to the front axle to accommodate the differential & drive shafts (and rerouting of the heating system). These vehicles had drum brakes all round.
Under body plating was applied & the exhaust was modified (tailpipe through bumper!) to give extra ground clearance. Addition of 16” wheels also helped increase ground clearance.
The 5 prototypes undertook extensive testing & produced very positive results.
THE EXHAUST WAS RAISED & EXITED FROM RIGHT CORNER OF BUMPER!
However the project was already attracting a lot of resistance from within VW itself. Amazingly the VW marketing guru’s did not believe there was a market for 4WD utility vehicles in the future – not one of their best marketing decisions!!
Despite this Gustav & Henning managed keep their enthusiasm & continued the project.
At the launch of the Audi built “ Iltis” in 1978 a Bay 4WD prototype was also present. During trials before the German Armed Forces the Bay 4WD ran rings around the Iltis. Despite this the VW Chiefs still decided that the vehicle would not go into series production.
Significantly Ferdinand Piech, (then head of technology with Audi – later boss of VW) was at that demonstration & also saw other film & pictures of the prototypes performance during testing & during its expeditions to the Sahara & as a support vehicle for the Audi Quattro.
MEANEST LOOKING BAY WINDOW EVER PRODUCED.
They also performed as well as they looked but unfortunately appeared at just the wrong time as VW’s attention had switched to the introduction of the T25
At least one air-cooled T25 vehicle was produced in 1982 as a prototype expedition backup vehicle.
The introduction in 1983 of the water-cooled engined vehicles to the Type 25 range allowed VW to have another rethink about four-wheel drive.
This time though VW decided that they would not further develop their Bay Window 4WD design or even use the well tested “Quattro” system already installed on their sister companies Audi range.
Instead they went for a completely new and different “Ferguson” system (originally invented by a Briton) was used on Jensen cars and well tried out on the racetracks.
Volkswagen took this system to an Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch, who were already well known in the four-wheel drive “field” for their “Haflinger” and Mercedes “G-Wagen” developments. This was part of a deal for which VW in return would supply LT Diesel engines for their “Pinzgauer” 6×6 vehicles (that is something else in a different league)
Haflingers were once described to me by Richard Norman of the Haflinger Club (who uses a Syncro Pickup to transport his about) as being the most fun you can get with your trousers on. Its nearly true! For more info on Haflingers etc – www.nottingham.ac.uk )
In the spring of 1985 the first Syncro Transporters started to appear.
Initially only 2 engine options were available; the 1.9 litre 78 bhp petrol & 1.6 litre 70bhp turbo diesel.
MORE FUN THAN THE SHOPPING RUN
The 112 bhp 2.1 litre engine was still being developed & was introduced later for the 1986 model year just in time to go on sale in the UK. The 2.1 litre engine was also fitted with a catalyser on many vehicles. This reduced BHP to from 112 to 95.
The load and towing capability of these vehicles was very impressive. Road handling was/is just perfect. Once again VW managed to produce a perfectly balanced (50/50) vehicle. Something few vans produced today can boast.
A Syncro for sneaking up on zebra’s
Four-wheel drive versions of all models were available but sales were disappointing. There were several reasons for this.
Although the vehicle itself was exceptionally good it was expensive. This was mainly down to the ergonomics of the manufacturing process, which involved a lot of transportation. Initially, body shells from the Hanover works were delivered to the Steyer-Daimler-Puch works @ Graz in Austria to be fitted with their 4WD train. They were then shipped back to Hanover to be finished off. Vehicles destined to be campers were then shipped off again to the Westfalia works at Wiedenbruk.
|Mud plugging Syncro|
|NO PROBLEM CHANGING WHEELS ON A SYNCRO!|
In the late 1980’s the entire T25 production line (including standard vehicles) was switched to the Graz works in Austria to make way for the introduction of the T4 Transporter due to start in the summer of 1990.
Some of these vehicles including Syncro’s were exported to be assembled as “Knock down Kits” in other locations (in particular Japan).
In the UK syncro models were £3500 – £3800 more expensive than the standard transporters which at a price of £13,000 – £15300 when introduced in 1986 made many people look elsewhere for cheaper vehicles.
Although the range of vehicles was very impressive they were let down by their engine range. The Syncro was a vehicle ideally suited & aimed at the service sector (in particular rescue services and the military).
|Syncro GL with 114 Brake horsepower!|
Most of these services wanted much more powerful diesel engines than the pitiful 70 BHP offered by the golf turbo diesel unit being fitted to the VW transporter. Consequently sales of Syncro’s in this sector were very disappointing.
Of course, the one area that VW completely missed the boat was the leisure market. If their marketing department had seen what was coming I’m sure they would have continued to develop the vehicle and would now be the market leaders in 4WD utility vehicles rather than now trying again to get back into it with the Touareg, a “new luxury off roader” poor relation in people & load carrying practical terms compared with the Syncro!.
|However Syncros continue to have their fans all over the world. Nowhere is this more fanatical than in Australia where they also have some ideal territory to test it to its limits.In the early 1990’s the Syncros were very favoured rally vehicles|
It is ironic that when production of the T25 was continued in South Africa during the 1990’s they equipped it with the Audi 5 cylinder engine which gave the vehicle all the power it needed to really make it succeed. If this vehicle had then been made available in the UK/worldwide at the right price then VW would almost certainly been have been the leader in the 4WD MPV market today.
One of the arguments for stopping production of the T25 in Germany was that the expensive boxer engines could not be used in their other (car) models it was been producing (as had been the case earlier with Beetles & Split Screens & Bay window Transporters).
It was quite acceptable however for the drive train from the Syncro to be incorporated into the VW car range. It was used in Golfs & Jetta’s but the only real attempt at making a true off road vehicle was when in 1989 the “Golf country” was produced. This vehicle has additional ground clearance & protection.
|In the early 1990s an interesting military VW was produced. The “ COBRA” light strike vehicle. the Mk1 LSV was 2WD with the 1.9 water-cooled petrol boxer engine out of the transporter, there were also just 5 Mk2 produced (as shown left) which were 4WD with the same 1.9 petrol engine but out of the Syncro and then later models used the diesel.|
|THE ONLY IMAGE I HAVE OF A COBRA. CURTESY OF VW MOTORING/ CHRIS BURLACE|
In the UK the Syncro vehicles, particually the Pickups & Crew Cabs were and still are firm favorites within the building trade. As far as utility firms are concerned it was the water companies that proved to be a good customer
|The Syncro Ambulance conversion that is still one of the most utilised syncros still being used today. Rowan Medical Services has four Syncro ambulances & these can be seen at events all over the country (in particular Vanfest & BVF)www.rowanmedical.co.uk|
Of course the Syncro drive train was also used in the next generation of Transporters but the T4 Syncros were never given the off road credentials of the T3.
SYNCRO TRANSPORTER PRODUCTION DETAILS
SYNCRO Total Production – 43468 (of these 2108 were right hand drive models)
Single Cab Pick ups (M245) 1787 produced.
These vehicles were only available in the UK with 1.9 litre petrol or 1.6 litre turbo diesels.
Double Cab Pickups (M247) 6849 produced.
These vehicles proved to be very popular & were generally available with the same engines as the pickup. However a special “Tristar” model was produced fitted with a 2.1 litre petrol engine.
Panel Vans (M251) 5848 Produced
These vehicles were available with all 3 engine formats
|ENGINES – Fitted to SYNCROS|
| 2.1 (95 BHP Catalyser)
1.6 Turbo Diesel (70BHP)
Minibuses (M253) 14650 Produced
Many different types of minibus versions were available, ranging from 8 to 12 seats. They were however only supplied with the 1.9 petrol or 1.6 diesel & turbo diesel engines & were not available as Syncro’s in the UK.
|Sand Sea and Snow nearly every where a Syncro can go!|
Caravelles (M255) 14334 Produced
UK Supplied Caravelles were all fitted with 2.1 litre engines.
Syncro 16” (Option M855) 2138 Produced
Of the above vehicles, some were heavy duty special’s fitted with 16” Wheels. These were not generally available as export models but used by the service section within Germany. No 16” Wheeled vehicles were exported to the UK or US. Many different options were available on these vehicles. Most had different gear ratio’s, even heavier duty suspension & uprated brakes.
Tristar (M314) Unknown Number produced
This was a special package based on the crewcab launched in October 1988. It came with alloy wheels, black wheel arch spats linked by graphite coloured lower body paint, an integrated spoiler plus twin rectangular headlights with washers plus most of the other equipment offered on the GL carravelle. Rear seat passengers also had their own heater. A similar spec vehicle called the “Magma” was produced for the German market. Only a handful (if that!) of Tristars were sold in the UK. Where are they all now?
Tristars in UK were available with either 2.1 litre or 1.6 litre Turbo diesel engines Unfortunately very few of these vehicles were produced.
A SURFING TRISTAR
|A TRIWHEELED TRISTAR|
In the end VW were very keen to focus all their attention on the new T4 model & effectively killed off the T3 (and with it one of the best and versatile four wheel drive vehicles ever produced.)
|THE GERMAN “MAGMA” WAS RELEASED JUST BEFORE THE TRISTAR|
HOW DOES IT WORK
OK, so what is so special about a Syncro? Well they are probably one of the strongest and most versatile vehicles every produced & certainly (in my book) the BEST VW Transporter ever made.
For those of you unfamiliar with the vehicle, it is fairly easy to spot once you start looking (hard). It sits about 25cm higher than a normal van (55cm if you are lucky enough to have a 16” Syncro). This is because the vehicle has its own sub frame to carry its 4-wheel drive system. Over the years this has confused many people who have not seen Syncros before & believed them to be customised vehicles. It is nice to be able to look down on Range Rovers!
Having four – wheel drive means that VW had to move some other bits about. The petrol tank was relocated to the rear over the gearbox & the spare wheel also had to be located inside the vehicle. The Syncro does have a special gearbox. In addition to an outlet to a drive shaft to the front differential (viscous coupling) it has 4 gears plus a very low ratio “ (G or Gelande – cross country) crawler gear” for any times you might be “inclined” to go or down extreme slopes.
To allow for the odd occasion that you might loose drive to both rear and/or the front wheels the Syncro was fitted with diff locks. Not all vehicles were fitted with both rear & front locks, but most if not all of the ones imported into the UK were. These are needed because, unlike more rugged of road vehicles the Syncro suspension & drives were not articulated enough & ride height still too low to avoid grounding out in the most extreme conditions.
The diff locks are basically vacuum operated solenoids which operate to lock either front or rear diffs (or both) They should not remain engaged during normal road use
The basic suspension system remains the same as the normal transporter although uprated springs & dampers are fitted. In the engine bay the Air cleaner was uprated to give better off road protection. Under the vehicle extra plating is fitted to protect the underside components of the vehicle. A very welcome (and often overlooked) addition fitted to the later Syncro was the rear window vents, which allowed a cool flow of air through the interior of the van without having to open the rear windows. Apart from that (& the four wheel drive system) most of the rest of the van is the same as a normal transporter.
How doe the Syncro bit work? Well being a Volkswagen the boffins decided that it had to be a simple system to use & work without the diver having to operate any extra controls for normal use on the road. That ruled out most conventional systems currently in use.
This is why they opted for the British Ferguson “FF” System.
This invention uses a viscous coupling instead of a central differential. This coupling comprises of a sealed drum shaped housing containing and cooled by a silicone liquid all built into the front differential unit. Inside the drum are two independent slotted & perforated sets of discs. One set is joined via a splined shaft to the prop shaft, which in turn connects to the gearbox. The other connects to the front final drive pinion.
The Silicone fluid flows between these discs & the only transmission of power between he discs occurs via that liquid when there is a difference in speed between drive & output of the rear wheels. When the rear wheels (significantly) loose grip or spin then the coupling locks and transfers drive to the front. The viscous drive coupling does allow slight differences in speed between front & rear.
|SILICONE IS DIFFERENT TO SILICA!||SYNCRO FRONT DIFFERENTIAL|
I have had a long and happy association with Syncro’s. When they were first introduced I borrowed a Syncro Panel Van a couple of times from the VAG/Mann distributors @ Swidon to do the (pre BVF) “Bug In” event at Malvern. (We just missed out being able to use their Tristar Demonstrator!)
Then in 1993 (at BVF) I managed to get my own 2.1 Caravelle Syncro. It is a 1989 model & came complete with a tuned stainless Autocavan “Powertorque” exhaust which, despite being repaired a few times is still on it.
It also came with a set of bull bars which were extremely useful & saved the front of the vehicle being caved in on more than one occasion but have now been removed as it is no longer the correct or accepted safe thing to have on the front of on road/off road vehicle in the UK.
|SYNCRO HAS POLE POSITION ON DRIVE – PORSCHE HAS TO ROUGH IT IN GARAGE!|
It has proved to be a really fantastic vehicle & I have not seen anything that can really match it for quality or versatility since so I have kept it. It has been a brilliant workhorse & has grown up with the family. We only needed two seats when we got it now we need six! It has carried incredible loads, towed just about everything & pulled out numerous tree stumps (and stuck vehicles @ VW events!) It has been an essential part of the team at all the Vanfest events during the built ups & throughout the show weekends (and has the dents to prove it!)
It has now done 130K on original engine & clutch with no major problems.
|My Syncro with its original bulbar furniture (it sits 2cm higher without it!)|
It has always had an annual service & been run on Castrol GTX. More recently I have added “Prolong” to both engine & transmission & the improvement has been quite fantastic. It starts a lot easier and no longer do I get any tappet rattle when it is started up after a period of time. In fact the whole vehicle sounds completely different. I took sound meter readings before & after using this treatment & there is a 12dbA reduction in noise level at the crankcase – this in my book equates to very welcome reduction in wear of components & improved efficiency. (I had very similar results using this stuff in my Kemperink). Prolong is a well proven “no equal in the world” Anti Friction Metal Treatment widely known in America but also soon to be available over here. www.prolong.com
|It is now starting to look a bit tatty but nothing that can’t be fixed. There is not a lot to beat the driving experience. Visibility is good as you are sitting so high, road holding & ride are second to none.|
It just gives confidence to know I have a vehicle that I can go almost anywhere (and do almost anything in!)
Many Syncro problems (and also many of the problems common to all T25 vehicles) are already well documented in books & on many of the web sites listed below.
Obviously, the fact that relatively few Syncro’s were produced means that some spares are scarce (and expensive!). Front drive shafts, gearboxes, prop shaft & front transmission all fall into this category. Most items are available if you know where to look.
I have just completed an overhaul on my own Syncro & prepared it for a re-spray. In the course of doing this several problem areas came to light. Here are a few more items that Syncro owners (and anyone owning a fuel injected T25!) should take a look at.
BODYWORK – the original under protection had cracked in several places, in particular around all of the jacking point areas. This had allowed some corrosion to take place on/in the sills which required new sections. The Sliding door bottom body side seal channel also had to be repaired. This is a common problem on many T25’s. As a precaution against any future problems I repaired, painted & resealed all effected areas & applied wax oil based under seal to the entire underneath of the vehicle & topped up the internal sections as well.
FUEL SYSTEM – Several serious problems in this area. The fuel filler pipe work was in poor condition. It looks like this must have been a fabricated at works item (not given the normal VW galvanising treatment) as it was badly corroded (in particular at the filler cap section). Luckily it is fairly easy to remove & repair. The fuel pipe section under the rear wing also required attention. The Fuel tank support saddle was badly rusted. This was treated & repainted, as was the tank fuel gauge sender unit plate on the left hand side of the tank. Both of the fuel pump rubber mounts had sheared, leaving the pump supported by its hoses. Closer inspection revealed severe corrosion on the pump. This had been caused by electrolytic action between the steel clamp and the aluminium. I decided to chip off the scale treat, paint and re clamp the pump with a tape interface. This was most definitely the WRONG decision as I found out to my cost when I started up the van & it started to dump the entire contents of the fuel tank on the drive through a hole that appeared in the pump! So if you find any corrosion in this area I strongly advise that you get yourself a new pump. The same electrolytic corrosion was evident in the fuel filter (located inside the left hand rear wing). This was also replaced.
BRAKES – My Syncro, is still on its first set of rear brake shoes. During this overhaul I think I may have found out why when, for the first time, I removed the brake drums. The bottom brake swivel pins on both sides were seized solid & had been for a very long time. This had totally restricted pad movement, resulting in very little wear to the shoes. (0.5mm in 150k miles!). It took a lot of heat to remove the pins. Braking & handbrake now work a lot better!
Other Jobs I have carried out in the past include some of the normal 2.1 injection problems (head gasket failures both sides & water pipe renewals).
Front top swivel joints both sides have been renewed. I swopped the front drive shafts over at 120K miles to get more life out of them. A future job will be a steering rack overhaul.
SYNCRO CONTACTS LISTING
Just like the normal Transporters the Syncro has a worldwide fan club with numerous web sites and clubs.
These are just a few. Most have links to even more sites
www.syncro.org Info & pictures of Syncros
www.vanagon.comAmerican Site with section for Syncro.
www.vangon.orgAmerican site with Syncro section
www.t3syncro.deGerman Syncro Site
www.syncro.club.free.frFrench Syncro Site
www.syncro-bernd-jaeger.deGerman Syncro site for parts
www.syncro16.deGerman Syncro 16 Site
www.vwpix.orgSyncro brochures & pictures
www.syncro-t3.deFor Syncro T3 info from Christophe Boltze (see also www.vwpix.org).
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/syncro/Syncro discussion forum
http://members.ozemail.com.au/~pjlanderPhil Landers Australian Syncro site
www.club80-90.ukUK T3 site
www.Touareg-dakar.comThe new VW 4WD in action
www.rowanmedical.co.ukSyncro Medical unit