Date: Sat, 13 Jan 2001 12:05:10 -0700
Reply-To: Larry Hamm <ldhamm@XMISSION.COM>
Sender: Vanagon Mailing List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Larry Hamm <ldhamm@XMISSION.COM>
Subject: "Syncronize" a 2 wheeler. (Long) Was T3 syncro production
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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
A Bentley is recommended reading, and be sure to spend some time on your
back under both vehicles checking out the similarities and differences
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!
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
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
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
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!)