My 87 VW Syncro. She's tough, she's lovely and looking for some trails. Twist her up, turn her on and lets ride!
This is my recently purchased 1987 VW Vanagon Syncro 4x4 Westfalia Camper. This was really a bucket list item for me because of my affinity with the VW Westfalia camper line that has been presented for over 50 years. After being an owner of a 1965 Split window, 74, 76, & 78 2nd generation campers and a 91 Vanagon GL 3rd generation camper, I have finally reached the pinnacle of the production of the VW Westfalia camper with my 87 Syncro. Even though, many of the upgrades were performed by other master customizers prior to myself, there are plans in the works for the continuation of upgrades.
Beyond looking fantastic she has a heart and soul that is strong and proud. Many of the beginning upgrades have to be credited to Mike at Rocky Mountain Westy and his team. . This was Mike’s pride and joy vehicle for over 5 years before being sold. She began life in 1987 as a VW Syncro Weekender with a Champagne paint job. It was taken to the next level of being something much more in 2006.
Starting with the Subaru SVX EJ33 6 cylinder pumping out a hardy 230hp, she was equipped with Fox racing shocks all around for stability. A transmission de-coupler was added for more distant travel and less wear on drive train. An upgraded Kenwood KVX516 sound system with Subwoofer, after market 3 window pop top, a Viper alarm system with remote start, South African high output round headlights and grill , including 1000w Hella fog/spotter lamps, a Fox Wing awning, a customized frame mounted bull bumper front and back including a spare tire mount with Jerry can holder. And finally fully insulated with R13 for winter camping.
The next owner apparently owned the vehicle for a couple of years and then sold it to Mr. Craig Heihn of the Santa Barbara Ca. area where he dug in his heals and started again with the upgrades. Craig being a big surfer set out to make it a vehicle he would take to the Baja for surfing expeditions. He began to equip the vehicle with a 2” lift, 16”steel wheels, BFG TA KO 2 rubber, new electric truck fridge, Propex gas heater, and a 100w solar panel and new auxiliary battery. Rubber matting floor and new curtain set trimmed it out for his needs.
Due to the paint clear coat starting to flake he pulled the trigger on a new paint job and under coating. The color chosen was a 1987 VW Marine blue that was not offered in the camper editions, but it should have been. He was so taken by the way of its looks he decided it was too nice to drive comfortably and caused him concern about using it whatsoever.
He was so afraid of losing its perfection he decided to sell it on The Samba (a VW classified website). This is where my heart leaped from my chest and saw it for the first time. I knew after being a multiple bus owner that I had a relationship with this vehicle. I flew out to CA. and consummated the deal in August of this year and had it closed container shipped back to Asheville, NC.
After now of 6 weeks of ownership I too have already dug my feet in and started with my own upgrades to this amazing machine. Beginning with a new big brake system, LED lights for brighter road lighting, new de-coupler switch for a faulty previous switch, steel front differential skid plate, new coolant level sensor, full air intake cleaning, new rear locking hub sensor, a interior steam and kiss on the cheek, she is purring like a kitten.
The future upgrades to come are a full roof rack with ladder, adaption of hydraulic levelers for camping, hot water shower system, hi-lift jack and mount., Recaro front seating and rear back up camera to start.
I understand that this is a Frankenstein in a sense and I am only going to play a part in what she becomes. I want to make sure and give credit due to the others who have had a part in making her what she is.
None of us designed the body nor the Westfalia interior, we simply could see what we could do to make it better. I believe we are off to a good start and look forward to many future expeditions with other Overlanders. Thanks for giving her a thumbs up, I hope in time she will make everybody proud of the culture we are all a part of.
PS. Yes, the previous owners name too was Craig.
Craig Martinkus • 1987 VW Vanagon / Syncro