1983 Volkswagen Vanagon Reviews

1983 Volkswagen Vanagon GL 1.9 gasoline from North America

Model year1983
Year of manufacture1983
First year of ownership1986
Most recent year of ownership2007
Engine and transmission 1.9 gasoline Manual
Performance marks 9 / 10
Reliability marks 8 / 10
Comfort marks 9 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 8 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
8.5 / 10
Distance when acquired25000 miles
Most recent distance220000 miles
Previous carVolkswagen Type II

Summary:

It is clear that Annie has been a large part of all my landmark moments

Faults:

Heads replaced at 85000 miles. VW paid for the parts; I paid for the labor.

Coolant tubes from radiator to engine replaced. 10 hours labor! (fuel tank had to come out, etc)

Over the years (21), I have had almost everything replaced except. transmission, engine, front end, alternator, starter. Most of the main systems on this vehicle have performed admirably for 24+ years!

General Comments:

After buying this vehicle in California in early 86, I moved with it and my wife and dog to Oregon.

In 1987, I brought our son home from the hospital after his birth.

Took same son to school on his first day of Kindergarten in 1993.

Ditto, 1st day of middle school (1999).

This bus (Annie) brought our son to his Bar Mitzvah at age thirteen (his age not Annie's) 2001.

First day of HS (2001)

Graduation (2005)

Dragged many of his belongings to college at U of Oregon (2005).

And maybe the most amazing thing that Annie has done was to pull a tent camper (750 lbs) all over the West on family vacations! From Southern California to Yosemite to Redwood Coast to Vancouver BC (6 times) to Jasper and Banff in the Canadian Rockies, and almost everywhere in between!

My mechanic said that pulling the trailer would eat my transmission alive! Well, 19 years after buying the Tent Trailer, the tranny is going strong and the mechanic is out of business!

I know that tomorrow, the whole Bus could blow out, but as you can tell, I'll always have the Legends of Annie the 1983.5 Waterboxer!!

I've told my wife that if I go before her (the wife, not Annie), my wish is to be buried in her on our Oregon land! She said that she'd think about!

As this narrative ends it is clear that Annie has been a large part of all the Landmark moments I've had in the last 20 plus years.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 16th July, 2007

17th Jul 2007, 20:50

What an excellent, sweet review.

My parents had a late '70s/early 80's VW bus that also provided some memories (but mostly of it rolling backwards downhill during our trip to the mountains of North Carolina).

I'm glad someone got a lot of use out of theirs!

16th Aug 2008, 23:11

That is an incredibly touching story about your relationship with Annie... I just purchased my first vanagon, a 1983... I hope I am able to get 1/100th of the enjoyment out of it that you have received from Annie...

Keep on Vanning!

Tony.

1983 Volkswagen Vanagon GL 1.9 liter water-cooled from North America

Model year1983
Year of manufacture1983
First year of ownership1995
Engine and transmission 1.9 liter water-cooled Automatic
Performance marks 7 / 10
Reliability marks 6 / 10
Comfort marks 9 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 7 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
7.3 / 10
Distance when acquired113000 miles
Most recent distance162000 miles

Summary:

Great ride, cornering, road feel. Love it!

Faults:

Transmission has been rebuilt twice. Master brake cylinder leaked for years until I got tired of adding brake fluid and put in a new one. Alternator brackets snap off repeatedly. Starter relay needed replacing at 160,000 miles.

General Comments:

I knew when I bought this old, high-mileage Vanagon for $3,000 that it would require some work and money to keep it running. I stripped out the old bench seats and converted it into a camping machine with a queen-size bed, wood cabinets, cook stove and fresh water tank - much more room than a Westfalia. My wife and I used this Vanagon to travel throughout Alaska three times along with our Golden Retriever. Sure, we had a few minor breakdowns, but it was a wonderful vehicle. The view through the front window and the ride were fabulous. We don't take long trips in it anymore, but still love driving it, locally. I'm having a new Wasserbox engine installed next week and also having it repainted and a new Alpine sound system installed. When you pump $4 to $5 grand into an old vehicle like an '83 Vanagon, you have to like driving it a lot - and I do!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th June, 2006

28th Jun 2006, 17:19

Here's a quick update on the restoration of my '83 Vanagon. I've just finished the installation of an $800 Alpine sound system. You can't believe how great music sounds inside this cavernous "opera house" as it rolls along the highway. I've also had it repainted. Maaco did the work and - although they are usually considered a low-quality paint shop - they did a superb job; door-jambs, everything was perfectly painted the color I chose. I had planned to install a new Wasserbox (1.9 liter engine) since I have been losing compression in a couple of the "jugs" but this old engine still runs so smoothly I just can't justify it, yet. And then, one day last week, it wouldn't start. I had to have it towed to a repair shop. Shame on me. They couldn't find anything wrong with it. Cleaned the battery terminals and it lit up just fine, again. (Dumb me... I know better!). Still the most fun thing to drive that I know of!

22nd Oct 2007, 20:33

So now, it's been a year or so since I decided to install a new engine. And I did. But the engine I installed was not another dog-poop wasserbox. Instead, I let someone talk me into putting in a Subaru engine. Outrageous, Right?

Now, a year after the installation, I have to say it was the best decision I could have made. The Subaru 2.2 is a gutsy powerplant that goes where the wasserbox never could have gone before and with power previously unthinkable. Why did I wait so long to make this conversion (?) The outfit that did the installation was SmallCar Performance in Tacoma, Washington. And they did an incredible job. Sweet, clean, sanitary and with no problems. No, it wasn't cheap. Overall cost approached ten grand. But when you really like a vehicle as much as I like my Vanagon, this is a very viable option. In addition to the new engine, I also installed new electrical components, as well as H4 halogen headlights. What an incredible improvement. This little van can now go anywhere and do it all.

My next expenditure will be the addition of the South African grille with driving lights (since I recently trashed the old, overly-brittle plastic grille) and then some 15- or 16-inch alloy wheels and Michelin tires to replace my 14-inchers.

Only one question? Having pumped so many bucks into this van, how can I insure it for what I now have into it. Any input would be appreciated...

1983 Volkswagen Vanagon 1.9 from North America

Year of manufacture1983
First year of ownership2003
Most recent year of ownership2003
Engine and transmission 1.9 Automatic
Performance marks 10 / 10
Reliability marks 10 / 10
Comfort marks 10 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 8 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
9.5 / 10
Distance when acquired128000 miles
Most recent distance131000 miles
Previous carPontiac Grand Prix

Summary:

I wouldn't trade this car for anything

Faults:

So, far nothing has gone wrong on this van. I live in North Carolina and bought it from a man in Arizona. He took GREAT care of it and it made the trip from Arizona to North Carolina. I didn't go straight back, I mad stops in Roswell, New Mexico and Houston. It ran like a champ and it seemed to eat up the chance to go on a nice long road trip.

General Comments:

My only wish is that it got better gas mileage. It didn't do too bad, considering its 20 years old and so big. Maybe I just need to get used to it.

I love the space I have inside.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 16th September, 2003

Average review marks: 8.4 / 10, based on 3 reviews