1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Reviews

1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Syncro 2.1L Wasserboxer from North America

Model year1986
Year of manufacture1986
First year of ownership2003
Most recent year of ownership2007
Engine and transmission 2.1L Wasserboxer Manual
Distance when acquired114000 miles
Most recent distance160000 miles
Previous carVolkswagen Vanagon

Summary:

I will keep this car forever, and will replace the engine with a new 1.9l VW turbodiesel

Faults:

2nd gear crunch, ignition replaced, head gasket at 60k and 100k.

Air conditioning unit fell down.

General Comments:

Head gasket problems due to non VW mechanic using the wrong type of coolant. Flushed and switched to VW certified non phosphate coolant, and now no problems.

Air conditioner unit fell down off the ceiling because of 4x4 off road conditions.

Syncro all wheel drive is awesome in snow and ice driving conditions.

Fixed 2nd gear crunch and rebuilt the transmission, adding front and rear lockers, changed syncro system to a true 4x4 set up, and added a de-coupler. Now I can go anywhere!

It is not made for speed off roading, so the 90hp motor with the trail gear can climb a wall with stair step ruts with mud, snow and ice.

I am finding it hard to challenge this vehicle, short of rock crawling like jeeps that have thousands of $$ in suspension work. Mine is stock suspension.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 12th September, 2007

18th Sep 2012, 21:33

Would putting a 1.9 diesel be a straight forward job? Without modifications etc?

1986 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Wolfsburg 2.1L Water Boxer from North America

Year of manufacture1986
First year of ownership2002
Most recent year of ownership2003
Engine and transmission 2.1L Water Boxer Manual
Performance marks 7 / 10
Reliability marks 5 / 10
Comfort marks 10 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 5 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
6.8 / 10
Distance when acquired80000 miles
Most recent distance88000 miles
Previous carVolkswagen Jetta

Summary:

A temperamental, moody, do anything go anywhere van

Faults:

The ECU has been replaced.

The muffler has been replaced.

The water pump failed and was replaced.

The distributor went out.

General Comments:

Water cooled vanagons have the most complicated cooling design I have ever seen. The radiator is in the front, the engine is in the back, and there is a spider web of lines in between.

Also, parts are not cheap and these vans are slightly underpowered.

The standard 14" wheels are unstable at best on the highway at 70 mph and I feel like someone's literally kicking the van off the road.

However, I cannot bring myself to sell this thing because when it runs, it really is the most fun, versatile vehicle I have ever owned. It carries both our big dogs and bikes and a pile of gear plus the roof pops up into a bed.

There really is no other vehicle out there quite like this.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 24th July, 2003

22nd Mar 2004, 13:39

This is an 18 year old vehicle. How many 18 year old Ford's/Chevy's/Honda's/Toyota's do you see on the road around you? But yours still looks great and runs! It probably also has over 100,000 miles on the odometer! The odometers usually break at 130K miles too. Vanagons - You gotta love 'em!

TE Miller

89 Westfalia that my brother calls my 'Gonnafalia"

27th Jan 2012, 12:29

How many 18 year old Toyotas, Hondas, Fords and Chevys? A heck of a lot more than VWs, that's for sure.

18th Sep 2012, 22:16

Not to bash VWs. I have an 03 Jetta TDI for commuting, but I also have a 1995 (17 years old) Ford 1/2 ton 4x4 with a 300ci (4.9L), which Ford no longer makes, with a 5 speed. Had it since day one. Has 137,000+, still gets 16 MPG. A/C makes you want to put a coat on, even if it's 100 degrees. The parts that have been replaced: shocks, main drive shaft u-joints, brakes, serpentine belt (twice), steering linkage and upper and lower ball joints, battery (once), original went 11 years, of course tires and wipers, heater core (twice), headlights and cyclops (middle) brake light bulbs, thermostat. Has original bench seat with no holes and original FoMoCo glass, but needs a windshield. No cracks, just pitted. Has original brake light and turn signal bulbs. The original clutch is starting to go, so that the flywheel, TO bearing, and pressure plate will be replaced soon. Gonna be needing shocks again, along with complete suspension components, all springs. Never been hit, but my better half dropped a 30lb rock on the left bed rail while rock hounding, and it is starting to get cancer on the right front fender. I expect it to go another 100,000 or more.

Love the Jetta, but it has 180,000+ and needs an oil pan, fuel pump, turbo, MAF sensor. Still drives though and gets 43 MPG, which is why I keep it, since I commute 43 miles one way, and it burns about 2 gallons a day, as opposed to 6 that the truck would. The truck is my winter commuter vehicle.

Average review marks: 6.8 / 10, based on 2 reviews