Volkswagen Syncro: We Could Use More 4x4 Vans
It takes a certain person to love a van, but as far as vans go, they don’t get much cooler than the Type 2 Volkswagen Syncro 4x4. In the late ‘70s, some of VW’s chief engineers expressed interest in developing a four-wheel drive system for the group’s light truck division, a drive-type that VW hadn’t been interested in since the end of World War II. The project underwent ten years of successful testing before reaching production in 1985 in the form of the Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter Syncro (on sale in 1986 for US). PHOTOS: See our gallery for the VW Type 2 Vanagon
VW settled on a four-wheel drive system developed by Ferguson Research and put into production by prominent Austrian manufacturer Styer-Daimler-Puch. The system sidesteps using a traditional center differential by means of a viscous coupling, which engages the front wheels when the back wheels lose grip. An optional rear locking differential was also offered to increase off-road handling. Syncro models saw a 1.2-inch ride height increase over normal rear-drive models.
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In the US, Volkswagen offered its 2.1L water-cooled flat-four engine, which produced 95-horsepower at 4800rpm and 117 lb-ft of torque at 3200rpm. Straight-line performance isn’t exactly what you would call quick – usually people stopped counting – but it was sturdy. Syncro models featured a manual transmission equipped with an added 6.0:1 low range "crawl" ratio.
Even though the four-wheel drive package was offered on all Type 2 models, relatively few vans were optioned-up due to its steep $2,175 premium, pushing costs of the high-end Syncro Camper up to $19,335 in 1986.
But if you gobbled one up back in the day, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. VW busses hold somewhat legendary resale values in general and these late ‘80s 4x4 versions remain the crème de la crème of the modern age. If you’re itching to get anything better than “runs and drives”, make sure to empty your savings. Steyr only produced 43,468 Syncro vans between 1985 and 1992.
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