VW T3 Syncro
- Off Road Ability 65%
- Versatility 95%
- Mechanical Simplicity 80%
- Reliability 60%
- Load Capacity 40%
- Part Availibility 65%
- Availability of Accessories 70%
- Fuel Efficiency 80%
- Comfort 80%
Compact, Economical, and hugely comfortable to live in, couple this with great off-road ability and a fiercely strong following and you have an overland vehicle that is hard to beat.
With only around 38,000 Syncros making it off the production line, finding a solid example is about the hardest part of getting a syncro to use as an overland vehicle. Once you have one though, the rewards are obvious. The rear-mounted engine allows for a huge interior space, with external dimensions similar to that of a Land Rover. The viscous coupling instead of central diff engages the 4wd only when needed, saving fuel on road and offering exceptional traction off-road. Add to this the luxury interior options and comfortable seating position, and you have a superb home on wheels to travel the world in.
As an overview:
VW’s Syncro 4x4 system was an option on most Volkswagen Transporters available at the time. The Westfalia camper conversions are highly sought after collectors pieces now, so perhaps a regular camper version would be the best option, depending on your budget. the choice between high top and pop top is yours to make, with each offering their own benefits. The syncro was available in both a 14 and 16 inch model, the latter being built for even more rugged use with bigger wheels, uprated brakes and internal strengthening, these are however, incredibly rare now, but a well kitted 14″ can tackle almost anything a 16 can.
The original options were for a 1.6Td or a 2.1 petrol, both hugely outdated in terms of performance and reliability. Most european vans will now run on conversions to later AAZ or AHU 1.9 TD/TDi engines now, which put out decent power and can return easily north of 35mpg. The american preference for petrol has led to a subaru engine being the common choice for conversion, which offers a 30% power and 40% fuel efficiency upgrade over the original VW option, while also increasing reliability. The only issue is the difficulty of improving the factory gearbox to deal with the extra torque.
There are hundreds of configurations for the ample interior space, from custom built interiors to factory fitted or flat-pack options still availaible. The addition of a high-top or pop up roof will allow for a bed as well as full standing height, while there is plenty of space downstairs for a seat/bed, cooker, sink and fridge as well as storage for all of your stuff.
On the assumption that the living space of your syncro has been well built out, and the vehicle is already kitted with a pop top or hi roof, there are only a few vital modifications to make.
Which modifications you choose to add will massively depend on the duration and location of your trip, but a few seem ubiquitous:
- spare wheel carrier; The T3 has its spare wheel mounted under the front, but on the syncro, this was moved inside and replaced by a bash plate, due to its vulnerable position. Exterior spare wheel carriers were a factory option, but there are plenty of aftermarket options available if you do not have one, this will be a vital addition if you want your spare outside and out of the way.
- Extra fuel, the syncro gets decent range on account of its good fuel economy, but somewhere to carry an extra jery can or two would be a good call.
- Other; most expeditions will see uprated suspension, bullbars, a night heater, a winch and some decent exterior lighting as invaluable additions
With Syncros becoming increasingly rare, the price you will look to pay depends on how much work you are willing to do and how far you are willing to travel. you can get the bones of a vehicle, working, but high mileage and spartan interior for around £2000, especially on the german or eastern european markets. If you want something well prepared, with accessories, a nice interior and a professional engine upgrade, you will be looking in the range of £12-28,000
In the USA prices can range much higher for Vw Syncro Vanagons, with prices sometimes hitting as much as $100,000 for a pristine example.
“VW Syncro’s – possibly the worlds best compact 4×4 camping platform…”
Values are approximate and for reference only
Av. Fuel Economy (diesel)
Approx Cost (Buy and Prepare)
Overlanders Using Syncros
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