Vanagon EuroVan
Previous messageNext messagePrevious in topicNext in topicPrevious by same authorNext by same authorPrevious page (January 2001, week 2)Back to main VANAGON pageJoin or leave VANAGON (or change settings)ReplyPost a new messageSearchProportional fontNon-proportional font
Date:         Sat, 13 Jan 2001 12:05:10 -0700
Reply-To:     Larry Hamm <ldhamm@XMISSION.COM>
Sender:       Vanagon Mailing List <>
From:         Larry Hamm <ldhamm@XMISSION.COM>
Subject:      "Syncronize" a 2 wheeler. (Long) Was T3 syncro production
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

Dear Simon, Ben, Mark, Chuck, Bill, Sam, David, et al.

This is a general post about doing a Syncro conversion. If it does not answer your questions, please feel free to drop a note and I'll try to go into greater detail.

I am only going to address the high points of the conversion, not try to explain where every wire and hose goes. If you don't have the ability to work out the details, it may be best to pass on a project like this. I know many of you could do this better, faster, etc. Please feel free to post those suggestions that you feel could help another listee complete his conversion in a better or safer way.

I did this job with basic hand tools, a floor jack and stands, some 2x4, 4x6, 6x6, and other assorted lumber to support the vans. Power tools included a half inch drill, recip saw with metal blade, angle grinder, and circular saw with metal (cutoff) blade. A welder or access to one is also handy.

A Bentley is recommended reading, and be sure to spend some time on your back under both vehicles checking out the similarities and differences in construction.

The vans:

An '82 Westy diesel, in pretty good shape, with '87 Jetta I4 gas engine. I decided the buzzy, low powered I4 had to go. With big tires and the added weight of the Syncro bits, I settled on the Legacy 2.2L engine.

An '87 Syncro, purchased with the original intent of converting to a Westy. When I realized the work involved in adding a poptop roof, and considering that my skills at bodywork leave much to be desired, I canceled those plans. Unable to sell the van at a price less than what I paid, I started to explore the possibility of donating the AWD bits to the Westy. Wish I hadn't sold the trans first!

The stages:

1. While the engine and trans were out of the Westy for the conversion, I pulled the fuel tank out of the Syncro (engine and trans out of that one, too). The space above the trans in the Westy appeared too small to take the tank, but it fits. Removed the hoses and wiring from the tank, then unhooked the mounting straps. The tank has an extension on the right side that fits over the frame rail, so when the tank comes out of the Syncro, the left end drops down first, then the tank is encouraged to move to the left a bit, and then out. Sounds easier than it is. Reversed the procedure to fit it into the Westy. Mount straps had to be fitted, and great care was used when levering the tank into place that the brake lines weren't disturbed. I measured the location of the filler assembly, and cut out a hole in the body sheetmetal to fit the plastic surround and the filler. The Syncro has a boxlike structure welded in behind the plastic, and it might have been good to drill out the welds and use it in the Westy, but I used 1" angle aluminum to build mounts for the filler spout and plastic surround. I think it's nearly as sturdy and was easier for me. (No welder in my garage) I used a curved piece of electrical PVC to provide armor for the filler hose where it exits the engine compartment into the wheel well, on it's way to the tank. When this was finished, I stopped to decide whether I wanted to continue, or just have an extra fuel tank! After a few days rest, I decided to continue. The front tank had to go, so I dropped it. I did leave the filler in place in the hopes of adding a small auxiliary fuel tank in the spare tire well. There was a small crossmember to the rear of the tank that I removed, it was the anchor point for the tank straps and would have interfered with the driveshaft.

2. Rear suspension. Piece of cake. Removed old springs and shocks from Westy and replaced with Syncro springs and OME shocks.

3. Front suspension and drive train. All of this lives on a subframe in the Syncro, so it "relatively" easy to swap. I dropped the driveshaft, unhooked wires/hoses, removed the wheels, removed the front springs, removed the spare tire, and unbolted the top control arms. (Refer to Bentley for details) The steering rack is on it's own crossmember, so it's hoses were disconnected, along with the rod from the steering gearbox, and it was dismounted and allowed to rest on the subframe. Two bolts on each side hold the sway bar to the frame. After removal of these, the bar also rests on the subframe. The subframe is attached to the frame in four locations, two on each side. The front mounts were attached with three bolts each (but there were six holes in the mount pad). The rear mounts are held by two bolts each, screwed into nutplates inside the frame. These nutplates were removed by pulling out from the front after the bolts were out. The subframe is very robust, and with the weight of the rack, swaybar, diff, axles, hubs, control arms, etc, it was dropped with the help of the floor jack and lots of lumber. After the subframe was out, I removed the steering rack crosspiece. Since it had to be reused in the Westy, I drilled out the spotwelds and removed it intact.

The Westy needed a bit of work in preparation to receive the Syncro subframe. After removing the wheels and disconnecting the brake hoses, the springs were removed, along with the upper and lower control arms, radius rod, knuckle, etc., as a unit. The spare tire and all the mounting bits would have had to be removed, but my spare lives on the rear bumper, so I saved a bit of work there. Now I stood at the "point of no return". There are cross pieces that need to be removed to fit the Syncro parts, and once gone, could be tough to replace. (Well, OK, you welder types would have little problem.) First to get cut was the U-channel piece that provides the mount points for the lower control arm. I cut a big chunk out of the middle, cutting just inboard of the control arm mounts holes. Later I discovered the the front mount holes had to go, too. The steering rack crosspiece, being different than the Syncro's, was removed, leaving about four or five inches on each end. The front crosspiece is the one that provides the anchor points for the radius rods, and it was a bit tougher to remove. I started with the cutoff blade in the circular saw, and made cuts flush with the bottom of the frame on the outer ends of this piece. The inner sides of the frame were too tight for the circular, so I used the recip saw to make the final cuts, removing the last barrier on the Westy. You torch guys could probably do it easier and faster, but the saws leave a nice, clean surface.

Then it was time to put it all back together. The steering rack mount was installed on the Westy with bolts, attaching it to the stubs of the old rack mounts. Welds will be added later to assure it's permanence, a good thing to have in a steering rack mount! When I first started checking out this project, I was concerned about locating the subframe in the exact position it was in on the Syncro. Luckily, the boys in Graz used existing holes in the Vanagon frame to position the rear subframe mounts, so I just used the same holes and the subframe is dead on. The rear nutplates had to be skinnied into the frame from a wider hole further to the rear, but that wasn't a serious challenge. In the front, I attached the mount pads with five bolts, instead of the three used in the Syncro. The Syncro had a second piece of sheetmetal at this spot on the bottom surface of the frame, and when my welder guy is commissioned, I'll have him add one also. Then it was just a reversal of the removal of parts from the Syncro. I took the opportunity to replace the front axles, wheel bearings, calipers, pads, and shocks (OME's). I probably should have done ball joints and control arm bushings while I was in there, but mine were in good shape, and my wallet wasn't!

There are other minor items to deal with. The speedo has to be traded, the fuel tank sender wires extended to reach the rear tank, difflock control panel added and plumbed, etc., but as I said, anyone tackling this conversion should be able to work out most of this stuff.

4. Meanwhile, back in the engine bay... The Suby engine was installed using KEP's Syncro engine mount. Anyone converting a standard WBX van would need to get a Syncro mount or otherwise drop the engine down to the proper position. The Syncro skidrails look to be, umm, less than adequate for the job, so as soon as I get my shortened oilpan from KEP, I'll be putting in new rails/skidplate made from heavier stock. I am currently using a stock trans, mounted in the Syncro position, until I can find another good trans. (Cheap, since I'm now overbudget on this project!) One last problem to overcome is the crossmember that takes the trans mounts. I'm not sure about later bodies, but my '82 has a large hole built into the crossmember, evidently for the heater duct for aircooled engines. Again, my welder guy will need to modify that to provide for the new trans mounts. The Syncro crossmember was flat all the way across, and later bodies may be, too.

So, there it is. As I said, just the high points. If you are seriously going to tackle this, I'll help where I can. I've tried to cover all the salient points, but I may have left out something somewhere. Just ask if you have any intention of doing this one.

Since the "accident" my mind may not be up to par, so please forgive any major omissions. You see, there is one particularly sharp projection on the subframe, and in an effort to get a better look at what I was doing, I hit my forehead against that projection. Sharp, stabbing pain, and I reflexively jerked by head back, slamming the back of it onto the concrete floor. Seeing stars, I jerked my head up, only to hit my forehead again on the subframe! This cycle continued until I lost consciousness. My wife found me later and pulled my out from under the van by my ankles and provided first aid. (OK, I started this on Friday!)

Larry Hamm (I own this name, all rights reserved!)

Back to: Top of message | Previous page | Main VANAGON page

Please note - During the past 17 years of operation, several gigabytes of Vanagon mail messages have been archived. Searching the entire collection will take up to five minutes to complete. Please be patient!

Return to the archives @

The vanagon mailing list archives are copyright (c) 1994-2011, and may not be reproduced without the express written permission of the list administrators. Posting messages to this mailing list grants a license to the mailing list administrators to reproduce the message in a compilation, either printed or electronic. All compilations will be not-for-profit, with any excess proceeds going to the Vanagon mailing list.

Any profits from list compilations go exclusively towards the management and operation of the Vanagon mailing list and vanagon mailing list web site.