Exterior photo of 1988 Volkswagen Caravelle (Vanagon) Syncro

1988 Volkswagen Caravelle (Vanagon) Syncro



Price: SOLD

Mileage: 45,500 Kilometers (28,272 Miles)

Engine: 1.6-Liter Inline 4-Cylinder Turbocharged Diesel Engine (JX)

Transmission: 5-Speed Manual Transmission with Low Range Granny Gear

Exterior color: Pastel White Exterior (L900)

Interior: Tan Vinyl Interior

Additional features:

Rear Differential Locker

9-Passenger Seating

Excellent Paint

Excellent Interior

Zero Rust

Full Length Roof Rack

Stickers Included! (We will remove them if desired)

FSW 16-Inch Wheels

Cooper Weather Master S/T2 Snow Tires

Clean Colorado Title

Imported through the 25-Year Exemption Rule


1988 Volkswagen Caravelle (Vanagon) Syncro exterior photo

The third generation of the Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter, the T3, was called the Caravelle in Europe and the Vanagon in the US market. It followed the legacy of the T2 “bay window” bus, and the iconic T1 “split window” bus. Unlike those, the T3 offered modern amenities, lots of space, excellent road manners, and heat (I spent many a winter night shivering behind the wheel of my T2 growing up). The Syncro was the all-wheel drive variant. It deploys a viscous coupling-based full time four-wheel drive system with raised suspension and significant underbody shielding. The T3’s nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution and optional rear-locking differential (as this example is equipped) make the VW Syncro one of the most unstoppable 4x4s ever made. They were rare too, having a total worldwide production of 43,468 units, with only 14,233 of those coming to the States—zero were turbo diesels! Although available in the U.S., the 1.6-liter, inline 4-cylinder JX series turbo diesel motor was never available in the U.S. Syncro. It has slightly less power than the U.S.-spec Wassserboxer petrol engine, but what it does have is torque—and torque is what you need to claw through dirt, rocks, mud, and snow, using the Syncro’s granny gear if necessary. Forced induction also allows the turbo-diesel to make sea-level power at the high altitudes found in the Rocky Mountain region. Diesel fuel economy and reliability are added benefits. Parts are readily available in the U.S. because this engine was used in earlier U.S.-spec VW rear wheel drive Vanagons.


 exterior photo

We love Volkswagen Vanagons at Glen Shelly Auto Brokers. I’ve owned, maintained, and found several T3s for clients over the years. The current Glen Shelly shop vehicle is a 1990 VW Vanagon Carat (you can see pics of it on our website). We acquired this 1988 Euro-spec Caravelle Syncro through the 25-year exemption rule. A VW T3 enthusiast brought it from Europe to Los Angeles, where we completed the import certification process in Colorado. We specialize in importing 25-year exempt vehicles at Glen Shelly; this Caravelle Syncro is completely U.S. legal and comes with a clean Colorado title.

Clean Syncros are hard to find. This example shows only 45,500 kilometers (28,300 miles) on the odometer, although I believe the actual mileage is probably closer to 90,000 miles. We inspected it thoroughly and had T3 specialists Rocky Mountain Westy give it a second look. It runs and drives great. The exterior has undergone a quality restoration with some minor rust mitigation in common areas like the slider door track and the battery tray. The paint finish is excellent and there is zero rust present. The interior is original and in excellent shape. The motor was replaced somewhat recently, I suspect during the restoration. I also suspect this was when the odometer was reset. Our mechanical inspection revealed no notable defects. We replaced a sticky fuel level sensor, weeping valve cover gasket, and oil pressure sender seal. The timing belt and drive belts have been replaced recently. The suspension is firm and compliant and the bushings are original, but have lots of life left and were another indicator that this is a sub-100K mile Syncro. 16-inch FSW wheels, fog lights, limo window tint on the back windows, and a full-length roof rack make it well-spec’d and ready for many new adventures with its new owner.


1988 Volkswagen Caravelle (Vanagon) Syncro exterior photo

The exterior of this Syncro is in exceptional condition, especially compared to most Vanagon Syncros. It clearly has undergone a high quality respray, not an inexpensive task considering the Syncro’s large surface area. The Pastel White paint presents very nicely, with no glaring chips or failed clear coat. The front end is not peppered with the rock chips that most Colorado Syncros have. There are a few light imperfections, but they take searching to find. All panels appear to be original and there is no evidence of accident history. The rack was damaged slightly during shipping, along with a small bend in the driver’s side gutter rail. There is no rust, other than a quarter-sized spot blemish below the paint on the right front panel. Common corrosion-prone areas like the body seams and floorboards are clean. There was rust mitigation done near the sliding door track and the battery tray when it was repainted, but both were quality jobs that have withstood the test of time. The underbody has been preventatively coated and it is clean underneath. Some underbody components, like the brake calipers and rear drums, have superficial surface browning, but nothing outside of normal for such items. The front and rear skid plates and drive shaft protection bars have been pained orange and add to the 4x4 look. The windshield and side / rear window glass are crack-free. All glass aft of the front doors has dark limo tint. The headlight, fog light, indicator and brake long lenses are perfectly clear and un-cracked. Smoked front indicator lenses with clear bulbs and smoked taillights and small black Euro bumpers are nice upgrades.


 interior photo

The interior is in excellent condition and is an indicator of the overall mileage. There are no odors and it has never been smoked in. The front has rubber fitted floor coverings and the rear has aftermarket carpet; both are in excellent shape. The front passenger bench seat allows seating for nine people, not commonly found in U.S. T3s. The seat vinyl is in excellent condition with no glaring rips, tears, or failed stitching. The driver’s seat has independent adjustments from the front passenger bench seat. The center rear seat is removable and the back seat backrest folds down for more cargo space. Manual door locks and windows are more reliable than the failure-prone power options found on later-model T3s. The dashboard is crack-free. All gauges and lights in the instrument cluster work. Both front and rear heaters work and the blower motors are quiet. The fog light buttons have been relocated to the locking differential panel, but the original switch has been left in place. The only interior item I needed to address was the sliding door latch mechanism (a common issue). The European radio does not work here, but I have several aftermarket units I can recommend.


 engine photo

I’ve driven this Syncro for over 1000 kilometers under a variety of conditions since we took delivery of it. It has always performed flawlessly. In addition to my own inspection, I took it to T3 specialists Rocky Mountain Westy for a once-over. The only issues we found were a sticky fuel level sender, and oil weeping from the oil pressure sender and valve cover gasket. In preparation for sale, I replaced all of these. The 1.6-liter turbo diesel engine starts on command. It doesn’t leak or smoke, other than a little smoke on start-up, which is normal for a diesel of this vintage. A cold start valve (similar to a choke) can mitigate this if you get the setting just right. It idles smoothly and pulls strong to redline. The coolant temp always remains within a needle width of the warning light, the normal operation zone, and both the low and high speed fan resistors work. The clutch take-up is excellent and the transmission shifts smoothly. The viscous coupling four wheel drive system works correctly, and the rear locking differential engages on command. There are no wheel bearing or driveline vibrations. The suspension is compliant and the brakes are firm. This is a turn-key Caravelle Syncro, ready for many years and miles of adventures with its new owner.