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Why a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Is Not Your Average Minivan

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author photo by Will Kinton April 2017

The other day, I had the chance to drive one of the coolest people carriers you could own in the late 1980s: a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Wolfsburg Edition. This van was provided courtesy of a friend of Oversteer, Mike, who is known for making silly F1 memes on Twitter. Mike was nice enough to let me drive this van around on a Saturday morning, so thanks Mike!

Now, to the van.

First off, I've never driven a bus, but I imagine that is what the seating position is like. You sit above the steering wheel looking down on it, and the pedal positions require you to almost stomp on the the ground rather than push them forward. The Vanagon I drove had a manual transmission with some pretty long throws, and it was sometimes difficult to tell what gear you just selected; but the clutch was pretty light, which made things a bit easier. The greenhouse of windows is also unlike many cars on the road today, because the Vanagon wasn't really built with safety in mind.

In terms of performance, the Vanagon had a whole 90 horsepower from a rear-mounted liquid-cooled engine. This may not seem like a lot -- because it isn't -- but the Vanagon makes do by having really short gears, so you can get up to speed pretty quickly. On the other hand, during our short stint on Interstate 95, I was reluctant to leave the far-right lane because the top speed is maybe 80 mph with a tail wind.

Despite the fact that the Vanagon won't be transporting you to your destination quickly, it may be one of the best road trip cars I've ever seen. Because the engine is placed in the floor of the trunk, the Vanagon has a huge amount of space. Most minivans and crossovers with three-row seating don't have enough trunk space to take along the amount of stuff typically needed for a family vacation, but the Vanagon does. It also has a rear area reminiscent of a military helicopter: There's a forward-facing bench that sits opposite of two rear facing jump seats. This makes the back area more like a living room than anything else, which is awesome. There's even a little table that pops up.

Beyond the practicality, the Vanagon is undeniably cool compared to other minivans out there, despite the fact that it was objectively behind the eight ball compared with everything else on the market at the time. It's undeniably German, and you can almost picture yourself getting blasted by 911s on the Autobahn while the kids enjoy their schnitzel in the back going to do whatever it is that Germans do for family fun. The Volkswagen Vanagon has an undeniable character -- and I'm glad I got to experience it.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Why a 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon Is Not Your Average Minivan - Autotrader