7th Dec 2002, 21:41

I/we (family) drove a new 75 Vanagon camper for 44k? approx miles for 4-5 years on trips. 55mph was the fastest surely safe speed for it.. higher and it's like a floating fastball.. with your bods right up there in front.. any disturbance off optimistic nominal and you've got problems no family needs.. I vaguely remember pushing up to 75 one time on straight empty interstate down south one time, for awhile, just to see. It became OBE about 1990, sat dead for ten years, and recently Ebayed away.. it's a novelty, among many in this world. Onward.

15th May 2003, 00:29

Your troubles sound familiar. I'm a professional VW mechanic in Seattle WA. and I drive a 1988 Vanagon Camper. I love my van so much and find it so useful that I've torn it completely apart and reassembled it with new parts and have completed a number of design improvements. I turned my 90 hp 2.1 into a 150 hp 2.2 (no kidding). It will outrun most passenger cars with V6 engines and at the track I was able to go 100 mph. At this terrifying speed the windshield wipers float up off of the windshield. I spend money on it with reckless abandon, but it's still cheaper than buying a new one and my van is customized to meet my specific needs. Best of luck to you! David at Northwest Connecting Rod.

11th Nov 2003, 10:30

I concur with your assessment of the '84 Vanagon-- ours "Five Hundred Dollar'ed" us to death as well-- constant ignition/distributor problems. But it was comfortable-- like a rolling living room-- and you could pack more luggage in than into any SUV aside from the Suburban. If only the electrical + fuel systems were better...

24th Feb 2004, 20:39

I just got a Vanagon and I love, but last weekend I took it to San Francisco and now it has a funny noise. Other than that, there are some leaks and shifting between gears is really difficult (1st and 2nd). I wouldn't advise teaching someone to drive a stick with a VW. Besides it's odd problems, I love it. I slept like a dream in its comfy bed.

22nd Mar 2004, 12:07

The Vanagon has a GVWR of about 5,300 pounds -- the vehicle itself is in the 3,500 pound range. People have carried truly amazing loads in them, but in normal operation they're nowhere near 6,000 lb.

It is one of the (maybe the?) best-handling vans in existence; most complaints of wallowing or insecurity on turns are due to improper tires. There are very few tires suitable for this vehicle -- with its standard 14" wheels it requires a tire with Reinforced rating (the specified pressure for rear tires is 48 psi) and a high load rating. Shifting to 15-inch wheels widens the selection considerably, but not many wheels are suitable.

Any of the watercooled (83.5 and later) versions should be able to exceed 90 mph on a long straightaway, and maintain 80 mph in gently rolling terrain. However they turn (nominal) 4,000 rpm at 72 mph and the owner community is split; many routinely drive 70-80, and others never exceed 60 for any reason. Note: there was briefly a diesel version; its top speed is around 65 mph on the flat.

They do indeed need lots of expensive repairs. The cooling and exhaust systems are complex and difficult. They are prone to seam rust. The engines need rebuilding sooner than you would expect in a modern vehicle, there's a rubber gasket between the head (s) and the cylinder water jacket (s) that is designed to fail, transmissions sometimes fail early (the automatic appears to be more reliable than the manual) and the '86-up 2.1 liter engines have a tendency to throw a rod at around 175,000 miles.

Most fuel leaks when filling are due to rotted rubber tubing in the elaborate expansion-tank system which uses two small plastic saddle tanks mounted in the fender wells to provide headspace for expansion. This is a nuisance to fix, but not very expensive.

The fuel-injection system operates at 36 psi above manifold pressure, and it's critically important to maintain the fuel-supply hoses in the pressure circuit. Many Vanagons have burned because of lack of attention to this.

Difficult shifting in general can be greatly improved by using synthetic gear oil such as Redline. Also the shift linkage passes through several bushings under the vehicle; early-to-mid models left these exposed to the weather and they fairly quickly lose their grease and make shifting difficult. Greasing cures that. Also the shift lever pivot mechanism may need rebuilding. Difficulty in disengaging third or fourth gear indicates a cracked 3-4 syncromesh slider, a well-known and expensive failure.

2nd Jul 2004, 02:12

I recently owned a 1986 Transporter Syncro window van (vanagon). I loved this vehicle for it's commanding view, odd style, enormous capacity, and it's road hugging/bush whacking four wheel drive system. It never let me down and I drove it proudly. It did, however, as mentioned above, cost a lot of money to repair and maintain. I purchased it and sold it for $10,500 but spent a whopping $4200 in repairs over the mere 15 months I owned it. Just when I had finished what I wanted done my wife and I had a 'chat' and off it went. With a new house and baby it was just way too costly. Oddly, six months later I am looking for another. On second thought, maybe I'll buy a Toyota...

13th Nov 2004, 10:50

I love my 84 van so much that even though the engine is toast, I am looking for a replacement so I can continue driving my "cracker box". I love all of the storage space and the view from the drivers seat. I also love all of the waves from other VW van drivers.

I have been driving this van for only a year and a half, but can't imagine life without it.

I have several scouts out searching for an engine and trans axle right now. Hopefully I'll be contentedly cruising down the road again soon.

2nd Sep 2005, 22:38

I just bought a 1984 Vanagon and although I know nothing about them (I have no manuals) I like everything so far. I think it it will be a lot of fun and hopefully somewhat cheaper to operate than my Durango.I'd appreciate any input that might be useful to me.

11th Nov 2005, 08:41

I just bought a 1984 (Vanagon) for $500.00. It looked great and drove great. The guy selling said, "he just wanted to bless someone. I have an assisted living home and was looking for a mini van. I had to re-carpet it. Then fix all the leaks in the exhaust system. She passed the state test and runs fine. Yes up hill in the van is slower, but runs along with everyone else. The van still seams to drive like new. I will keep my fingers crossed, but any money I put into her will not hurt at this price.

17th Jan 2006, 14:34

I bought an '85 water boxer camp mobile in 2005, which overheated rapidly when stopped for a traffic signal, then cooled to a tolerable level when driving resumed. I removed the thermostat and left a rag stuck in the return port, upon reassembly. The oil gauge only registered at higher revolutions. tore the engine down to find the rod bearings are way out of specification. I love the van, have been an ardent V.W. owner beetles, rabbits, pickups, air cooled vans for years. I am disappointed in the seeming throwaway construction of the water boxer models. Lemon, maybe--. At $500.00 it seemed a bargain, now I'm not so sure.