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Category: volkswagen bus

Junkyard Gem: 1982 Volkswagen Vanagon


Volkswagen began selling Transporter vans in the United States during the early 1950s, with sales continuing through three generations and through the 1991 model year. There are those who will tell you that VW Transporters are now much too sought-after by enthusiasts to ever appear in the big self-service car graveyards I frequent, but they are incorrect. We saw a second-generation Transporter in a Colorado yard last year, and now here’s a third-generation model currently residing in a South Carolina facility.

The T3 Transporter first appeared in the United States as a 1980 model, and it was badged as the Vanagon. This name was a mashup of “van” and “wagon,” which followed decades of VW stubbornly pitching its passenger vans as station wagons (to be fair, Detroit did the same thing with its passenger vans). When Toyota attempted to sell an Americanized version of the MasterAce Surf with “Van Wagon” badges here for 1984, Volkswagen’s lawyers forced them to change the name to, simply, the Toyota Van.

Gasoline-fueled Vanagons had air-cooled engines until well into 1983 (water-cooled diesels with 49 mighty horsepower were available in the Vanagon for 1982 and 1983), but we can see a radiator in the snout of this van. What’s the deal?

The build tag says it started life in Hanover, West Germany as a 1982 model with the 2.0-liter gasoline-burner, so it must have had a Wasserboxer swap later on. I saw an ’81 Vanagon with a similar swap in Colorado a few months back.

The engine was grabbed by a junkyard shopper before I arrived.

Unusually, this van has the optional automatic transmission. The water-cooled VW engines most likely to have been swapped into this van made well below 100 horsepower and the curb weight is close to 3,100 pounds, so this machine would have been very, very slow to accelerate.

Jim Hudson is still selling new cars in Columbia, though not Volkswagens these days.

It turns out that the Vanagon shares its wheel bolt pattern with that of the Mercedes-Benz W123. There’s just one of these wheels installed, but it looks cool.

It’s not rusty and the interior probably wasn’t too bad in its pre-junkyard-arrival state, but the cost to restore one of these vans can be prohibitive.

Essentially a European luxury car. You’d want to avoid hills with a diesel Vanagon and a load of seven passengers.

The Vanagon was all about performance.

The room of a van. The comfort of a station wagon. There’s a crafty dig at Detroit’s recently downsized wagons in this commercial.



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