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Autotrader Find: 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro High Top


You might do a double-take when it comes to the price of today’s Autotrader find.  This is a 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro Weekender High Top Campervan.  And it’s worth every penny of its $75,000 asking price.  Let’s unpack.

The Volkswagen Vanagon was essentially the third-generation of Volkswagen’s iconic van, or bus as some people like to call it.  The last of the rear-wheel drive air-cooled models, the Vanagon’s engine resided at the rear.  It came with a unique driving position that saw the front seats perched at the very front of the vehicle, directly over top of the wheels.  While unorthodox, this was a common van design theme at the time, and allowed for considerably more cargo space without increasing the vehicle’s footprint.

This particular Vanagon has a lot of suffixes attached to its name.  First of all, it’s a rare ‘Syncro’ model, which means it had selectable four-wheel drive; appealing for anyone wanting to camp in remote areas.  Additionally, it’s a Weekender model, which came with a fold-out bed and table down below, plus a pop-top (we know; we’ll get to that in a minute), without the built-in sink, stove, refrigerator, and storage.  Today these are arguably more desirable than their full-blown camper counterparts, as they trade a bunch of appliances from the 1980s that will undoubtedly need fixing for a bigger bed and greater overall simplicity.

As for the roof on this one, it’s a rare ‘Adventurewagon’ fiberglass top conversion, which again means more overall space without the added complexity of the folding roof panel.

On top of everything else, this Vanagon has had its underpowered Volkswagen engine swapped out for a 2.2-liter Subaru engine, which will at least be adequate for steep canyon roads; something that can’t be said for the original VW mill.  All that adds up to an asking price on par with a modern midsize luxury SUV.  But you can’t live out of a Mercedes GLE, nor will it turn any heads at the trailhead.  If you’re interested in what I think is probably the ultimate van life vehicle, this 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon is offered by a private seller in Brewster, New York.  Act fast – out of all the different variants of VW vans out there, this one is among the best.  Find a Volkswagen Vanagon for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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