written by Thomas F. Forhan
What years were syncro Westies available?
The limiting factor is the syncro system, which was available in the US market from 1986 through 1991. Early versions may not have the rear differential lock, a real aid when the vehicle is stuck because of a lack of traction. 1990 and 1991 syncro Wesfalias came fully loaded, with cruise control, power heated side mirrors, power windows, and a wider alloy wheel.
What does a syncro Westie cost?
Typically, from $10,000 to $20,000, depending on year, mileage, what shape the vehicle is in, and local market conditions. But you can go higher or lower. On the West Coast, when dealers have '90 or '91 models the asking price is often in the mid twenties. Syncro Westies are also expensive in Colorado. If you are going to the bank to get financing, be aware that used car price guides are often low compared to actual market prices.
Thats out of sight! Is there a cheaper way?
To get in on the cheap, you could buy a good early syncro GL (non-camper) for $3-6K, and get a blown engine 2WD Westfalia on the cheap. Then you swap all the camper parts into the syncro, including the pop-top roof. Not for the faint of heart, but you won't be the first to build your own syncro Westie.
I've already got a 2WD Westfalia that I know, love and trust.
I want to convert it to a syncro Westfalia!
Syncro's are so different from regular VW Vanagons that VW decided to contract out the construction, and they were built by Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Austria at the same factory where they build the Mercedes Gelandewagen SUV. So VW did not want to touch this, why should you? Besides the powertrain, the suspension is different, there is a totally different fuel system located over the trnsmission, control wiring to go to the cab, vacuum lines, a special snorkle air intake system for fording those deep streams, bash plates that protect the powertrain, etc.
One of the great thing about Syncro buses is that all of this was thought out and engineered in great detail to make these a world class vehicle. Just slipping in a Syncro powertrain would not do it. If you aleready have a late model Westfalia camper, keep it pristine and ready to sell, and when that Syncro Westie appears in the local want ads, go for it and sell your 2WD. You'll likely pay a hefty premium for the Syncro if its in similar shape, but it won't be to much different than the cost of buying a donor Syncro plus the value of your 2WD Westie, and your labor and grief factors will be much, much lower.
Are Syncro Westies expensive to maintain?
No, but repairs can be, particularly if you are comparing costs to a 2WD Vanagon. Syncro specific parts are very expensive, especially if you walk into your local VW dealer to order them (for sure, they won't be in stock). Examples: Driveshafts approach $700, the viscous coupling can cost $4000 to swap out, the special snorkle air intake filters cost five times more than the one for the regular vanagon.
These costs can be reduced with careful shopping, use of Internet discounts at certain dealers, and useing the assembled expertise of Syncro owners on the Vanagon List. With high part prices, it makes good sense to keep an eye open for good deals on older Syncros for use as a parts vehicle. Any running Syncro under $4000 is a serious candidate, and sometimes they appear for much, much less.
What are the best tires for my Syncro Westfalia?
Sometimes it seems that this is the single most asked question on the list, and the consensus is that there is no one, best tire, because it really depends on how you are going to use your Syncro Westie, what the driving conditions are, and how much you want to spend.
Three tons of fun: that's a loaded Westie Syncro, with food, water and fuel for an expedition to the outback. Listmembers all agree you have to get a tire capable of carrying the load. Check the Gross Vehicle Weight sticker on the drivers side door jamb, and get tires that can handle it. Regular passenger cars tires will not do. "C" or "D" load ratings are required, or you can move to an "LT" (Light Truck) tire.
Personally, I use a slightly oversize BFGoodrich AT (Baha Commander) that is LT rated, and 27x8.5x14. This is a moderately aggressive tread. Good handling wet or dry, low highway noise, and excellent traction in off road conditions, especially mud and snow. Other listmembers have been very happy with these tires.
Make sure, by the way, that all four of your tires are identical, including treadwear. Differing sizes can have disasterous effects on that expensive Syncro drivetrain.
See also: Tires!
I have some other questions....
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