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Thread: 2wd to 4wd Conversion

  1. #1
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    At the risk of starting a new topic....after searching the archives.

    87 Westy, 2WD. Has anybody attempted to convert to 4WD? I sure do envy those with Syncros, but I can hardly afford the price. What about buying a Syncro Vanagon for parts to do the conversion? Is this totally unrealistic? This may sound crazy, but could you remove the Vanagon body from the chassis and then put the Westy body onto the Vanagon chassis? Or, alternatively; remove all the camper equipment from the Westy and install on the Vanagon? Or 3rdly; remove the transaxle assembly from the Vanagon and install on the Westy. Just curious to hear if anybody has attempted anything like this. Those Vanagon Sychros sure are cheap -- enough to give somebody a crazy idea.

    Thanks

    [ 03-18-2002: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]
    pablo (87 Westy)

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    Hey there,

    having done the conversion from a vanagon to a westy using a purchased 'donor' westy, I would think this is by far the easiest step, aside from having to use caution when cutting the roof, everything else is straight forward. My 2 cents worth. If anybody has specific questions, they can reach me at peter.elpel@elpel.org

    cheers,

    Peter (Camper)

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    Transferred from the Syncro thread on the GETTING A WESTY forum. It appears this topic is of growing interest and the previous discussions aren't being found (though showed up with the search engine), so are being transferred here.

    Edoty Junior Member # 2212 posted 09-12-2001 09:16 AM

    Don't know if this has been discussed before, but what is involved in taking a Syncro donor vanagon and converting a 2WD Westy of the same year over into a Syncro Westy? Is there any specific factory welded reinforcements to the body to support the stress of the AWD system or any additional welded items? When performing the transplant, is this an opportunity to replace certain wear components that would be worthwhile instead of reusing transplant components from the Syncro? Anyone done this?

    Camper Member # 1227 posted 09-12-2001 10:25 PM

    Hey there,

    Re: Your idea of converting a 2 wheel drive into a syncro, DON'T, I just finished converting my '84 passenger vanagon (2wd) into a westy using a '80 donor (2wd), it looks difficult and it was. The roof being the most demanding, however, having looked at the complexity of the syncro setup as well as the body/frame mods required, I would turn your syncro into the westy not vice versa.

    cheers,

    Peter

    Edoty Junior Member # 2212 posted 09-17-2001 12:25 PM

    Thanks for the info. I guess it may be too exhaustive to do a westy to syncro conversion. A lot of these vans are getting old and have high miles, so I thought that I might as well play with the mechanicals while doing an overhaul, but I don't want to get too far in over my head! I would rather spend time enjoying the bus instead of having it disassembled during a restoration.

    [ 03-18-2002: Message edited by: Capt. Mike ]

  5. #4
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    Thanks for the replies. Has anybody attempted to tranplant the body from one chassis to another? I know this is pretty common in car restoration circles.

    The information about added weight and reduced gas mileage and reduced performance does give me pause as my van is my daily driver.
    pablo (87 Westy)

  6. #5
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    Vanagons are unibody. Unlike the old Beetles where you could unbolt the body from the chassis & pan, the Vanagon is all welded AND the body contains some of the framing. Thus a transplant would require massive cutting & welding, and probably end up costing more than paying top dollar for a used one and restoring it.

    VW published a book, Volkswagon Body Repair Information, P/N W42-701-005-01 that shows Vanagon body & frame repairs that will give you a good idea of what is involved. Probably out of print now, I'd check to see if a VW dealer with body shop might still have his copy around or if there has been a supercession. Mine is circa mid-80's.

  7. #6
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    This has been very helpful. What seems to "fall out" of this discussion is that the most cost affective/least time consuming method would be to use the existing Westy as a "camper conversion kit" for modification to the syncho Vanagon - the most challenging task of which would be cutting out the roof. With this method in mind; it seems best to go with a very nice Vanagon and a beat up, engineless, or wrecked westy. It would be silly to gut a nice westy.
    pablo (87 Westy)

  8. #7
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    well, i have been thinking a lot about it, and now im doing it. I have an 85 westy, and just bought an 87 syncro. The syncro is in great shape, except it has tons of rust (finger thru kind) so, I am currntly pulling the drive outta the syncro, and am starting the conversion. My plan is to pull everything out, sand, and paint, and re-instal. I will let all know how it goes

  9. #8
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    The conversion is massive. First, the frame, suspension and height are different. A 2WD Westy has a 'standard' suspension hieght (US Vanagons typically are 'lowered'. A 4WD is 'raised'. The front frame is considerably different, beefed up with additional members. There is a skid-bar protective system. The fuel system is different, with the tank in the rear and the front tank removed. This also changes the fuel expansion & evaporative emissions. There are numerous other differences, including cooling system parts & piping, heat system and some electrical changes.

    Syncros are not just 'add-on' conversions at the factory. They aren't even produced by VW. The bare 'knock-down' chassis and body is shipped to Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Austria, who builds the VW from the chassis up. It's then sent back to Westfalia in Germany for the interior (Westy or regular). The cost, time & resources would be prohibitive.

    Best of luck. Hope you're really good at welding and final frame alignment as you remove the syncro frame and suspension mount system and weld into the 2WD. We'll be interested to see how it goes.

    Moderator note 11/12/06: I attempted to contact jeremy c to see how the conversion went -- the email is no longer valid.

  10. #9
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    Lucas at GoWesty does these conversions all the time... in fact my wife and I are saving up to do that to ours. It is very expensive though and one needs to find a donor syncro for parts. We will do it in about two years... or if I hit the lottery first.

  11. #10
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    Begs the question however,,,why not buy a syncro staight out? Even a non=westy syncro is easier to convert to a westy than a non to a syncro. I think you would have a better vehicle for less money all told. Just one persons opinion

    Icarus

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