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Our Syncro

Syncro Westy at Glacier
Here are some photos of my 1990 VW Vanagon Syncro Westfalia We purchased it on May 29, 2009 with about 184,700 miles on it. The vehicle was well cared for by a couple who never smoked. They bought it from the previous owner who lived in Iowa and purchased it from Nevada brand new. The Syncro has a rare reinforced frame. On April 6, 2012 I picked up a brand new 2.4L Wasserboxer engine built and installed by Jack Morris a Wolfsburg Motorwerks in Seattle, WA. As I discussed with him again and again I wanted everything brand new and reliability was my top priority - spare no expense. At that time the vehicle had 191,784 miles on it, and I started on down the road of body and camper restoration. My goal was first that he vehicle be as mechanically sound and stock as it could be. Adam and Ben did quite a bit of work on it - the entire coolant system was replaced with stainless steel tubes, distributor and high quality silicone tubing around the engine, along with the clutch, brakes, and more. Prior to that I also gave the vehicle a brand new driveline from Drivelines NorthWest and a drive shaft decoupler. I also had the front driver and passenger seats refreshed with new padding and original upholstery cleaned and left in tact. They're much more comfortable now.

In May 2012 I took my Syncro to Kirk Meeks at

NorthWesty. I knew it wouldn't be cheap, but wanted the full monte. The van lived there for 3 months and underwent total rust removal, body work, and a complete exterior paint job. The entire driver side rearmost panel was removed as rust had made it's way under the air intakes at the lower part of the body. Under the rear bumper, the panel was replaced to improve some earlier inferior body work. The camper hookups were completely removed and the area completely sealed up - I never used them and wanted to eliminate the chance of moisture getting in them. I was impressed by the body work and preparation for paint. All seams were completely redone, the body was sanded and prepared and baked for several days with a high quality self-etching primer. The final paint job by Lucas included a subtle coat of blue pearl, and turned out practically flawless. It looks fantastic in all corners.

But it wasn't over - the Syncro then went on for even more work. New Nokian WRC tires (6-ply Load G ~2200 lbs each) and CLK wheels, Burley tire carrier, truck mirrors, and custom front and rear bumpers. The bumpers were made by Jon Ament (

JA Custom Works) and turned out amazing. Jon took some great photos of the front bumpers and rear bumpers. We put some nice PIAA fog lights on the front, and mounted the plug for an ARB air compressor just behind the front passenger-side corner.

Following that came camper and cabin work. While the interior was disassembled, everything was scrubbed and cleaned, new sound dampening was applied along the driver side wall (behind the sink/stove/cabinets) along with new moist-retardant insulation. The entire panel there was covered with gray vinyl to match the interior vinyl, and to make the backing nice for the new cabinets taking place of the old Dometic fridge which was removed. A new Sunbrella tent from NorthWesty was installed along with new headliners top and front. We installed nice interior lighting, auxiliary battery system and solar system with only the highest quality components from Blue Seas, Lifeline, and Blue Sky. The water faucet was replaced, the water tank fully cleaned and all water tubes replaced. All interior cabinets were scrubbed and cleaned along with the stainless steel cooktop. Without the Dometic I gained a bunch of cabinet storage, but still needed a fridge so bout the

47L ARB freezer/fridge and installed four flush-mounts to the floor to hold it in place.

Summary of work completed from 2010 through 2011

All work performed at Wolfsburg Motorwerks in Seattle, WA.

  • New driveshaft from Drivelines Northwest
  • Driveshaft decoupler kit installed
  • Pop-top lift assist struts installed
  • Drive chain checked and repaired
  • New compressor and A/C system install
  • Exhaust system replaced

Summary of work completed in 2012

This was a huge year for the Syncro. A full-restoration of the mechanics and body/camper took place. I wanted to keep things as close to factory and stock but modernize.


All work performed by either Wolfsburg Motorwerks in Seattle, WA, except brakes by

NorthWesty in Renton, WA.
  • Brand new engine 2.4L Wasserboxer from Jack Morris at Wolfsburg Motorwerks. Jack Morris is the owner of Wolfsburg Motorwerks in Seattle, established 2004, where he's been building Vanagon and Porsche motors. I was debating on going Subaru or WBX for this project and settled on going stock, but with the beefier 2.4L from Jack. I know he's a purist and uses high quality components, improving on known problem areas like the valve adjusters. Here's his description of the engine build:
    • Crankshaft is stroked from 76mm to 82 mm, counter-weighted, heat-treated and fully balanced.
    • Connecting rods are made by Scat with special ARP hi-strength fasteners.
    • All bearings are OEM Kolbenshmitt.
    • Engine case has welded and flycut water-jackets, welded and re-surfaced water-pump plane, clearanced for increased bore and stroke.
    • Brand new AMC cylinder-heads. We remove the valves and guides that are original to the heads, then new Bronze guides are installed with new TRW valves.
    • Camshaft is proprietary and custom ground for this engine. Available only through our shop.
    • Brand new Bilstein hydraulic lifters.
    • Pistons are custom manufactured exclusively for us by JE. They are 96mm in diameter and feature dead center pins with a special updated dish design, single cut valve reliefs, drilled (8 times in each piston) below oil control rings for better skirt oiling and utilize a modern style ring package (1.2, 1.5, 3.0mm sizes by SRP). The rings are custom gapped to fit each individual cylinder. The pins are machine tool steel.
    • Rockers are set up with 911 Porsche valve adjusters. They have a swivel foot design and allow for a more aggressive cam profile without premature valve guide wear.
    • The oiling system is set up with a high-volume 30mm oil pump.
    • New Hepu water pump.
    • All steel engine components are powder-coated the appropriate factory black color. Looks great and more importantly prevents corrosion.
    • The engine gaskets are all high quality made in Germany by Victor Reinz.
    • Viton crank and flywheel seals.
  • New clutch, master cylinder, fuel injectors, GoWesty Hot Wire Air Flow Meter (AFM)
  • Cooling system overhaul - stainless steel coolant pipes, stainless junction box, thermostat housing, and silicone hoses at the engine
  • Syncro big brakes installed, e-brake lines replaced with brand new

Body / Camper

All work performed by

NorthWesty in Renton, WA.
  • Custom front and rear bumpers from Jon Ament (JA Custom Works) and NorthWesty
    1. 1.75 inch steel tubing
    2. 2 inch receiver front and rear
    3. Front and rear fill plate between the bumper tubing, dimples on the outer plates
    4. Front-bumper brush bar that extends from the lower frame mounts
    5. Two tow hooks both front and rear
    6. Step dimples on rear bumper top and lower steps for extra grip in rain or other conditions
    7. Light mounts 1/8 inch plate steel on front bumper
  • Lots of body work - complete rust inspection and all rust eliminated
  • Side-panel camper hookups eliminated to prevent water entry, side panel welded up as if they were never there
  • Complete exterior body paint job back to stock flash silver with a touch of blue pearl, including door jams. All fixtures, lights, windows and pop-top removed. High-quality surface-preparation and Sherwinn-Williams self-etching primer applied by Lucas at NorthWesty
  • Pop-top sanded smooth and painted to match body. All prior holes from roof racks sealed up. All new stainless steel fasteners installed.
  • Interior hardware painted (table legs, hinges, stove front, vents, pop-top latches and hinges.
  • 5 matching 16-inch CLK wheels painted gloss black and installed
  • 5 brand new Nokian WRC Van tires installed - 6-ply sidewalls 215/65/16 109 with load capacity 2271 lbs each
  • Interior cabinets completely removed, scrubbed and cleaned back to as-new condition
  • Original LP propane tank removed, body holes (for pipes) sealed up
  • Stainless steel stove sanded and scrubbed back to as-new condition
  • Dometic fridge removed, replaced with cabinet space and matching vinyl panel behind it
  • Driver-side vehicle panel gutted and cleaned, improved with sound deadener and new moisture-resistant insulation
  • New Pilkington windshield, new window seals (almost) all around
  • New headliner installed on pop-top; new headliner in front-cabin
  • New pop-top canvas using Sunbrella high-quality marine-grade canvas, custom made by NorthWesty in Sky Blue with three silver windows and an interior wire loop to hide inside wiring.
  • New tinted skylight in matching gray installed
  • South-African mud flaps all-around
  • South-African grill
  • New ARB 47 liter freezer/fridge with factory VW flush floor-mount tie-downs installed
  • New ARB high-performance Air Compressor CKMA12 installed in space of the old spare tire carrier. Mount plug installed to be very accessible behind front corner of the passenger-side, protected with a plastic cap. On/off switch installed to front dash next to cig lighter.
  • New ARB Awning 2500
  • New passenger-side rear seat belt installed to factory fittings
  • New Webasto Air-Top 2000 B (gasoline-version) heater installed under rear bench with a custom wood box built to surround it for protection (still plenty of room for the Bentley and other accessories). Fuel-pump installed directly underneath, mounted to body undercarriage and exhaust ran out to driver-side near rear tire.
  • Fuel lines to the engine replaced with new lines during Webasto install. Exhaust pipe covered with heat-shield material to prevent heat damage to nearby components such as coolant hoses.
  • New Gary Leek roof rack installed
  • New custom interior lighting
    • Multi-color remote control LED strip installed at topmost foreward of the pop-top
    • Multi-color remote control LED strip installed underside of interior shelf
    • Osram Copilight light installed toward back of interior shelf for book-reading, closet light, and other uses
    • LED panel installed above sink for good visibility
    • Dome lights above driver and passenger seats
  • New truck mirrors installed
  • New Das Mule expedition rock sliders installed
  • New IPF round headlights
  • New IPF Super J Beam XTi bulbs
  • New PIAA 5291 Halogen Fog lights installed to front bumper. On/off switch located on driver-side dashboard.
  • New Crime Guard 350i5 car alarm
  • New Sony MEX-BT4000P multi-color display stereo receiver with Bluetooth. Audio mic installed discreetly above rear-view mirror for wireless hands-free talking through Bluetooth enabled phones.
  • New custom built auxiliary battery and solar system using only high-quality components:

Summary of work completed in 2013

Mostly finishing touches and some routine maintenance.


  • Install GS100 Solar Panel. A small hole drilled into roof top behind racks, so wiring could be tucked inside, hidden away, and run along the inside of pop top.
  • Install wiring for ham radio antenna. Coaxial wiring tucked away under pop top, hidden from view, and PL-259 connector mounted to awning brackets.
  • Air conditioner fixed with new components installed.

Summary of work completed in 2015

In summary, new suspension components, new radiator, new A/C components and work. IMPORTANT Note about the air conditioner A/C which works awesome now. We decided to bypass the thermostat which monitors the cooling block. This means the A/C works *continuously* while turned on, and will not shut itself off. This means it's up to the operator to turn the AC off and let things thaw out, otherwise the lines could freeze up and cause problems.
  • Control Arm Bushing: Upper and Lower
  • Ball Joint: Upper and Lower; Moog (T3)
  • CV Joint Kit: Rear (68-91)
  • Starter: M/T, 1.0kW; SR401X (WBX,2.0AC)
  • Alternator Bracket (WBX) and Alternator Bracket Uprade Kit (WBX)
  • New Radiator
  • New power window motor
  • New fuel distribution rail

Summary of work completed in 2016

New exhaust, and hot damn does it run and sound so nice right now!
Close up showing some detail of the blue pearl flakes in the new paint job, mixed with the stock color.

Close up showing some detail of the blue pearl flakes in the new paint job, mixed with the stock color.