VW T25 Syncro Restoration Project:

Part 1: Bodywork and Painting:

We bought our Syncro on what was near enough its 30th birthday. It began life in Dresden, Germany, where it served as a vehicle in their fire department. At the end of its service it was bought by an English gentleman, who converted it to a camper (it was a tintop panel van) and used it with his family for many years. It even served as his wedding vehicle. When his family grew, he needed to upscale the family camper, and I pounced on the opportunity to buy a UK registered Syncro.

The chassis and major components were all in good shape, and the previous owner had done all that had been necessary over the years to keep the van running. Being 30 years old, however, had been taking its toll on the bodywork and the many patches of rust and filler were the first thing to see too. Below are the pictures taken of the van on the day of its purchase.

 

The Rust:

I took it to my friend’s garage and the first task was to strip it down, remove the windows and the interior trim and find all patches of rust, so that we could be fully aware of what we were dealing with. With the windows begrudgingly removed, we could see that in many places the rust had eaten clean through the body work. The worst spots being around the window frames and in the foot-wells:

Once all of the rust had been fully cut out, and plates were welded into place where necessary, it was just a matter of filling and sanding the rusted parts and any dents and knocks on the bodywork.

Before long the van was ready to paint (this is the rusted sill, with plate and filler – good as new):

Before-27

 

We were working with very limited equipment as I was unable to afford a professional respray. No booth, just a large barn converted into a workshop. Still we sanded the van top to bottom, masking taped what needed it and began the paint job, beginning with the black around the bottom:

With the bottom black, it was masked and the white covered the top. With this done, the trim and windows were replaced and a few little creative flares, the finished project looked like this: 


Before-29

Before-30

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Pretty happy with the results, I’m sure you’ll agree! It doesn’t look like it was done unprofessionally or on a budget.

Part 2: Accessories;

Owning a Land Rover spoils you a little bit. There are accessories and specialists for every eventuality. If you want to turn it into a competition truck, overland vehicle or luxury SUV, there are a hundred that have done so before and companies that specialise in that. If you want a roof rack, wheel carrier, light bar, winch, aux fuel tank or uprated components, you have a breadth of companies to choose from.

Then you buy a VW T25 Syncro.

VW made under 40,000 and stopped making them in 1992.

Very few were ever sold in the UK.

The interior fit out was a breeze as the 2wd T3 was a very popular choice.

But finding any specific accessories (wheel carriers, Jerry can rack, bullbars etc) was a nightmare.

The Roof:

With a set of Pop Top Roof Brackets and a set of Thule Roof Bars, the van had a roof rack of sorts. The roof brackets transfer the load weight to the gutters whilst driving, so it is strong and durable, not putting too much stress on the fiberglass.

On the bars, I mounted a Kamei Husky 100 litre roof box, a 100 watt solar panel and a converted plumbers pipe carrier. All bulky but lightweight stuff goes in the roof box: Tent, sleeping bags, backpacks, winter clothes, wetsuits, bedding etc. The pipe carrier is a recent addition and is a secure and neat way of keeping my fishing rods safe and accessible.

Lighting:

From a multitude of previous projects, I had a wealth of 4×4 external lights sitting gathering dust in my garage. So I did the only reasonable thing, and added them in every direction from the cab of my van. We have one spot above each door, two work lights on the back, an incredibly powerful 120 watt LED light bar on the roof and two spots added to the front.

Surprisingly all have proven useful many times. For one, having 360º lighting is great when setting up camp. The side facing spots have been great when trying to determine which track to take at night, or when searching for the dog in a dark forest. The rear lights make a huge difference when reversing at night and for any night-time roadside repairs. The LED bar is like a floodlight and allows us to see and be seen for miles at night. Amazing for avoiding branches and other obstacles and invaluable when caught off-road at night.

Bull Bars:

I managed to pick up a set of T25 bull bars from e-bay, and with some chopping and welding, made them fit my Syncro without much problem. They are one of the few parts of the project that I am not completely satisfied with and they are still on my list to be changed at some point. They are great for a bit of extra (perceived) safety and for protecting the otherwise vulnerable radiator and lights, but are heavy and worst of all, reduce the approach angle of the van. I have bottomed them out many a time in deep mud or steep ascent and they are generally more hassle than they are worth. They do look smart though…

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Tyre and Jerry Can Carriers:

This has by far been the longest deliberated purchase of the whole project. There is no longer a company in the UK that supplies wheel carriers made for the Syncro.

For the first trip and in the interest of saving money, I was able to use a cheap Paulchen Bike Rack (£20 from Ebay!), and an old Front Runner Jerry can rack to carry a spare tyre and two Jerries:

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While this served its purpose for the first trip, it proved not to be a long term solution. Having to prop the boot up with a bit of 2×4 while strapping Jerry cans out of the way with a bungee cord is not ideal when you wish to work on the engine or access the rear of the loadspace.

After saving a little more money and weighing up all of the available options, I decided to bite the bullet and spring for a Rocky Mountain Westy swingaway tyre and Jerry can holder.

It was tough to spend that much, but I am glad I did. The quality of the product is amazing and it was shipped in just 3 days all the way from Colorado. It has transformed the look and function of the van.

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With the new tyre and Jerry rack fitted, I was also able to creatively chop my old bike rack up, to raise it above the spare tyre. I bolted a big old metal box to it and now have even more exterior storage (or a bike rack if I desire).

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Everything swings out and locks into place and the boot opens unassisted thanks to the uprated gas struts. I now carry two Jerry cans (option for 4) and a frontier stove, a spare wheel and my awning/camp furniture securely on the back of the van. Although it was relatively costly, I think you will agree that the results were well worth it:

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To Read about the transformation of the interior of the van, Click HERE.