Used car VW T3 Syncro: The Pisten-Bulli

Youngtimer VW T3 Syncro
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S Every used car buyer wants such a piece of cake, but this bright red VW T3 Syncro is not for sale. Our model was spared the usual fate. It was neither tortured as a construction site platform nor passed through many hands in the course of its life. He didn't have to endure minimal care under maximum stress. And not even the main enemy of his contemporaries saw him: rust is not an issue for him. No wonder: the VW T3 Syncro rolled straight out of the Volkswagen Museum in front of our photographer's lens. This very special Syncro was created in 1987, and it has truly earned its place in the museum: It is a prototype that served as a study for the later Tristar special model.

The first VW bus was a converted Beetle

When our photo model VW T3 Syncro' Magma 'rolled off the assembly line, the VW bus was already a modern classic, long since Legend matured. Its origins lie in the period immediately after the Second World War. Its name, which is still valid today, comes from this era. In 1947, the idea of ​​some VW employees gave rise to the plate wagon, a transport vehicle for internal traffic that was put together on a Beetle chassis. This served as inspiration for the Dutch VW importer Ben Pon, who designed the first sketches for a forward control bus based on the panel car. The first prototype rolled out in 1948: the Type 2 (second Volkswagen after the Beetle) was born, and the VW bus still bears this name today - regardless of its model series, which has now reached the T5.

Even the T1 was a real globetrotter

The VW T1 series already proved itself in the hands of those who like to travel Buyers as real globetrotters. However, after the official presentation in 1950, it took 34 years for these customers to enjoy the superior drive concept: In 1984 the Volkswagen T3 Syncro appeared in the price lists. The VW T3, presented for the first time in 1979, was also a radical departure from its predecessors. It was no longer based on Beetle technology, but had an independent chassis - among other things with front triangular links and coil springs, which gave it a very comfortable, car-like driving behavior for the time.

The VW T3 Syncro all-wheel drive was developed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch andThe final assembly with the parts supplied by VW also took place in Graz - with Pinzgauer, Puch /Mercedes G and the Fiat Panda 4x4, the Austrians already had an excellent reputation as all-wheel drive specialists. For the VW T3 Syncro, they dug deep into their bag of tricks: The front axle was now an in-house construction, attached to a subframe, the spring travel was extended. Two longitudinal members on the right and left of the shaft took over the protection of the cardan shaft, the front stabilizer gave way to a stronger version. Mudguards under the front end of the VW T3 Syncro and under the engine and gearbox provided additional security. By raising it by a total of 50 millimeters, the ground clearance increased to 210 millimeters at the front and 200 millimeters at the rear - a respectable figure to this day.

VW T3 Syncro - a climbing artist

Mind you: The VW T3 Syncro achieved this clearance with the series tires of the dimension 205R14. The so-called 16-inch Syncro was offered shortly afterwards for really big challenges. It differed from its 14-inch brother in that it had more ground clearance thanks to larger wheels, stronger drive shafts and wishbones, reinforcements in the body and standard rear axle locks. The price, which was already exorbitant at the time, prevented widespread distribution: 48,000 marks were due for the bare basic model. No wonder that fewer than 2,200 of the 45,478 VW T3 Syncro produced as a 16-inch version passed the Graz factory gates.

Purchase advice - VW T3 Syncro used car check

The 16- Customs prices are still high today, and specific spare parts are very rare and expensive. At least in part, the robustness of the 14-inch model could be 'retrofitted' with the bad road package.

This lower and significantly cheaper model can also score points with its astonishing off-road capability. One of the reasons for this is a wise decision in the choice of gear ratio: Steyr built a transmission that provided an extra-short first 'off-road gear' in addition to the four normal gears - a concept that had already proven itself in the VW Iltis.

With the considerable gear ratio of 6.03: 1, an additional gear reduction can be omitted when the Syncro is off-road. Our photo model Magma has 100 percent differential locks on the front and rear axles, which can be easily locked electrically. The then brand-new 2.1-liter water boxer, 95 hp, rumbled in its rear. In a contemporary report by our sister magazine Lastauto Omnibus from 1984, the following description can be found for this then largest petrol engine in the T3: “Many a car is also taken down. It is simply fun to be on the road with the GTI bus. ”

That might sound a little euphoric under today's circumstances, but the DoKa platform still deserves praise.The Syncros could do differently: The small diesel engines were anything but powerful - the powerful gasoline engine is the better choice when buying a used car, despite its thirst, if the engine has been thoroughly checked. In addition to the long coolant lines that are at risk of failure, it reacts very sensitively to insufficient water supplies, and blown head gaskets are not uncommon.

Well-kept specimens from private hands or government vehicles checked by the dealer are therefore a clear purchase recommendation. Because only the very few T3s are as fresh as our photo model. Incidentally, some of the niceties installed in the Magma prototype made it into series production later, in the case of the Tristar special model: continuous carpet, individual fabric seats, rear sliding windows, heated rear window, padded dashboard. Except for the headlights: They were square with the Tristar.

Strengths, weaknesses, prices

On the oil pressure and pay attention to the water temperature, be sure to warm up the engine. Fresh paint should make one suspicious, behind the “vault doors” of the cargo space you can unmask blenders with a close look at the folds. A fourth side door was an extra charge and is also reflected in the used price. Because of the long distances from the rear engine to the cooling, the risk of leaks in the lines is high.

Syncros, which have axle locks installed at the front and rear, are a better buy because the undercarriage hardly crosses. It is essential to also check the function of the all-wheel drive. The gearshift linkage is actually always worn out, but the gearbox must not be scratchy. The prices are stable even for older models with high mileage. Realistically, you should plan at least 5000 euros for a decent copy. The rare 16-inch models are still being sold at extremely high prices today, with almost only wrecks below 10,000 euros.

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