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Black Diamond - A 1984 Westfalia hightop syncro conversion
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jsmitch11
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:23 pm    Post subject: Black Diamond - A 1984 Westfalia hightop syncro conversion Reply with quote

So my whole love with the vanagon started with fly fishing. I am addicted to fishing(slightly more then vw's) and the way I looked at it was that a westy would provide me with the best way to travel and fish. My plan is to build a nice westy then take some time off of working and travel and fish for at LEAST a year. I have a good friend that had a vanagon back when we were in high school and I love them so I definetly wanted to get a vanagon. Immediatly I was drawn to the Syncro but after bowsing prices I found out a true westy syncro was out of my league so I began looking at 2wd Westies. I looked for over 3 months because I wanted something that was cheaper and needed some work since I would be restoring it anyways but did not want too big of a project(very funny to read that now). I almost pulled the trigger on a sky blue air cooled but after a talk with Ray at the Tec Shop here in Seattle(a very knowledgeable and helpful guy whose shop sells and installs bostigs) he convinced me that a water cooled van was the way to go. I finally found one that looked good to me. It was a 1984 factory Westfalia that was running fine but had a few issues.

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The van was in decent shape but has rust on drivers side rocker and a little dent in the passenger rear corner. It had the thule racks on it with a bike carrier. The speedometer had stopped at 193000 ten years ago. The current owner had owned it for most of those ten years and used it as a rec vehicle not a daily driver. I estimated that it probably had 250,000 on it. I got the van for $3500. I immediatly began fixing small issues(like electrical) but used it to fish every weekend. Over the next year I drove the van a lot(over 40000 miles) It served me well taking me to many wesome fishing destinations. The only major failure was the tranny wwent out. It started making tons of noise.....so I drove it for another 2000 miles not wanting to deal with it and it held together. I got the transmission rebuilt by Darryl at AA who did a great job(unfortunatly the tranny wasn't used for long as I am going to a syncro). I still had syncro lust going constantly and new I would not be content till I had one so I pulled the trigger. I bought a 1986 Syncro with no engine from Idaho and had it shipped up here to Seattle. The syncro was very rusty(which sucked when I was dismanteling things!) so I decided to convert my Westy to a syncro rather then move the westy roof to the syncro. Here is the new syncro:
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For anyone doing a syncro conversion the samba thread written by BMWMANGO is the Bible for you.

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=349105

I also foung the Tinkerbelle thread helpful.

http://forum.club8090.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=80081

And this Site in German is very helpful for the 16" upgrades

http://www.ig-syncro16.de/wiki/Was_ist_ein_syncro

My friends Joe Gobo and Hamilton Foro have been helping with the work. The garage that I am using is too low for the syncro with no engine to roll in so we broke out the sawzall and made her topless.

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And a cool view of one of the pillars....lots of reinforced metal in there!!
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After the haircut the syncro went in the garage no problem. It was very nice being able to jack it up high while I was working on it. I know I could have gotten scrap for it but I didn't want to deal with it so I had a guy who pics up scrap for free come get it. He ended up getting the whole van piece by piece.
_________________
1984 Vanagon Westfalia Syncro Hightop
1986 Vanagon Syncro(RIP)
1989 Vanagon Wolfsburg Whitestar Edition(RIP)

My Van syncro conversion/restoration
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=535730&highlight=black+diamond
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shepherdsond
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice, looking forward to the rest.
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1987 Syncro Hightop Camper Conversion
Front and Rear Lockers + decoupler and solid shaft
2.2 Phase II Subaru
Hightop build thread: http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=534517
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jsmitch11
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:04 pm    Post subject: .. Reply with quote

Once the van was in the garage on jack stands I started unbolting anything that was connected to the van. The van did not come with transmission or engine so there was a little less work for me. The van had been sitting for a couple of years in Boise, ID and the rust showed. I can not count how many bolts were rusted solid and I had to cut out. speaking of cutting...that is a "hidden cost" in the conversion. I have spent close to $300 on recip blades, cut-off wheels, and flapper discs and I am not even done yet!!
Here is a pic of a tranny mount that I had to cut. This is about typical of how things looked.

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I got all of the bolt on items off....
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and sent them off for powder coating. I pulled the syncro harness and set it aside. I cut out the gas filler and also removed the gas tank but didn't take any pics.
Joe and Ham after cutting off the nose!
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As I went along I started cutting off sections that I did not need to get them out of my way and allow for better access. Here is a pile for the scrapper with the nose section and the rear section:
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The Syncro started looking pretty bare!! I cut off the floor pan and was left with the frame rails. Here is a good view of the power steering rack that needs ot be cut off and transferred to your new van.
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This is the frame rail flipped over showing the power steering rack again and also the center crossmember which either needs to be transfered or something fabbed on the 2wd.
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I cut the power steering rack off and the center crossmember using the "cut extra and grind down" method as this leaves things much stronger! I cut a couple of other pieces off and sent the rest to the scrapper. Time to start on my van!!!

I bought a North American Hightop that is going on the van. I wanted the extra storage space and the stealth camping as I will be living in this. More on the hightop later. The poptop sold quickly on CL to someone with a cracked top. On my 84 with the poptop removed and some air out of the tires I was able to roll the van into the garage no problem.
_________________
1984 Vanagon Westfalia Syncro Hightop
1986 Vanagon Syncro(RIP)
1989 Vanagon Wolfsburg Whitestar Edition(RIP)

My Van syncro conversion/restoration
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=535730&highlight=black+diamond
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jsmitch11
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:40 pm    Post subject: .. Reply with quote

Got the first batch back from the powrdercoater. I went with a cardinal 20% gloss. I had asked for a flat black but the powdercoater informed me that you want at least a 20% gloss to protect from uv(even under the van...reflections ect). They look good and I can't wait to put them on!!
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We dropped the engine outside before rolling the chassis into the garage. The 1.9 was sold to a guy with a bad engine that had his van stuck at a shop. They ran a compression test on the engine before putting it into his van...155/160/160/160. Not too bad for original engine with about 250,000 miles and a couple of rebuilds. Hopefully it takes the new owner to many places troublefree.
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One of the biggest tips I can give is to bag and lable everything...pics too!!! It will help a lot. I pulled all suspension, wiring harness, everything that can be removed with out cutting...and then grabbed the sawzall. The 2wd suspension has to be cut out. On the upper parts I tried to cut low and then grind down. On the 2wd steering rack I cut it with a little extra to weld too.
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Once those were removed I cut little holes in the frame rails for the bars that the subframe is bolted too.
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_________________
1984 Vanagon Westfalia Syncro Hightop
1986 Vanagon Syncro(RIP)
1989 Vanagon Wolfsburg Whitestar Edition(RIP)

My Van syncro conversion/restoration
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=535730&highlight=black+diamond
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WedgeAntillies
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bookmarked!

Looking forward to watching your progress. Very Happy
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jsmitch11
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:11 pm    Post subject: .. Reply with quote

So I thought I would give you guys a heads up where this is going. Like I said before the van will be a syncro north american hightop. I do not like the original brown and will be painting both van and hightop wolfram grey. Pretty much everything that can be will be new on the van. I have been replacing all bolts, screw, nuts, bushings, bearings. I have old man emu shocks and will be buying the gowesty 2" lift springs. Both front diff and transmission will be converted into lockers with a decoupler and straight shaft added. I am adding rear disc brake conversion and girling big brakes in the front. Suby 2.5 will be going in to power the van. The vans interior will be almost all black. Wheels are powdercoated black Mercedes CLK's that will have BFG KO on them. I will be undercoating the van before reassembly. I have purchased all powerflex bushings available through T3 Technique( http://www.t3technique.com/). Good thing for me that I have good housemates who put up with my addiction seeing that my van parts fill a 20 x 20 room completely. It is a huge project but I am hoping to finish mid summer. Some pics of bolts, bushings, powdercoated parts.
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Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
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_________________
1984 Vanagon Westfalia Syncro Hightop
1986 Vanagon Syncro(RIP)
1989 Vanagon Wolfsburg Whitestar Edition(RIP)

My Van syncro conversion/restoration
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=535730&highlight=black+diamond


Last edited by jsmitch11 on Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:58 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Phishman068
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another wonderful, ambitious project! I look forward to the outcome.
Having seen, driven, and worked on "BMWMango"'s conversion with him, i've come to respect the fact that this is a very possible and not particularly unreasonable conversion to do.
It's pretty amazing just how they fit together.
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outwesty
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very very Nice. I was going to do this over the winter but my $1500 donor syncro has turned into my daily driver for the time being. Keep us updated !
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TDI swapped 89 westy, 87 Syncro, 97 Jetta TDI, Camry ALL TRAC 4x4
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jsmitch11
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:23 pm    Post subject: .. Reply with quote

Thanks for the compliments guys. After I cut the holes for the rear part of the subframe I moved on to the front part of the subframe. From removing the 2wd suspension there is a void that needs to be replaced. I used a 1/8" steel plate 4" x 11". All of the metal that I have used on this project I have purchased from onlinemetals.com This place is awesome and has no minimum orders. Us in Seattle are lucky because we can pick them up will
call and save shipping!!
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Here is where I make the disclaimer that my friend Joe did almost all of the welding on this project. I bought a welder during the project and have done some stuff(gas tank support bracket, 16" reinforcements, and the skid bar mounts and a couple other small things) but I left most of the welding to Joe as he is professional welder and does great work!! Once we had the plate welded in it was time to drill the holes to mount the subframe. We mounted the subframe using the 4 rear bolts which sucks the subframe right in perfectly. I measured against Joe's van just to make sure that it was completely perfect and then drilled holes. I still had the sections of the frame rail cut out where the subrame front mounts. I took the passenger one and flipped it upside down and bolted it to the drivers side and vice versa. This lined up the holes I needed for the sway bar mount so I could just drill through the holes in the donor syncro.
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You can see the two holes towards the rear...these are what you are drilling for the sway bar mounts.

Power steering rack was next. Since I cut this out of the donor we grinded it down flush. At this point the curves of the syncro power steering rack nestle right into the vanagon. Again we measured(way too many times) and Joe welded the steering rack in.
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The battery boxes need a corner cut out so there is a little more room for tire clearence. I cut out the corners and Joe welded in triangles.
Donor syncro battery box
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My van cut out
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Finished with triangle of metal welded in
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For the locker air storage(triple bubble) there are two threaded rods welded in. I got high grade bolts, cut off there head, and welded them to my van. The actual triple bubble came on a ton of vw in the 80's and 90's including the Jetta and Passat. I got mine off ebay for $20..mine was off some Audi and is blue.
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I got some aluminum tube and threaded the end,popped that throught the rubber seal, and the air tank is ready to go.

The rear heater hoses had to be moved so the old holes were welded up and new holes were made. The back ribbing in the syncro is different then in the 2wd so make sure you drill in the right spot. I didn't and then had more holes to be welded. It turned out great though.
Stock
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My finished one.
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The rear gas tank filler was a bit of a bitch but it turned out awesome. The main hole was not too bad to cut but the one through the firewall was not so easy to get perfect. I made sure to cut the donor wide so I could keep the factory lip.
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Here is the syncro filler coming through the firewall. This piece is the sloppiest piece that I have done but I will tidy it up before paint.
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_________________
1984 Vanagon Westfalia Syncro Hightop
1986 Vanagon Syncro(RIP)
1989 Vanagon Wolfsburg Whitestar Edition(RIP)

My Van syncro conversion/restoration
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=535730&highlight=black+diamond


Last edited by jsmitch11 on Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
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rubbachicken
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice work, keep the pictures coming
Cool
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lucy is 1985, with 2.1 Digifant, 4 speed manual.
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spitsnrovers
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 7:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My gawd what a project!

And I thought I did pretty good 40 years ago cutting a beetle down to make a beach buggy.

Your mention of sawzall blades and cutting disks reminded me that I actually did cut a whole baywindow bus in half (like you, in order to scrap it) with just a one ended hacksaw. I wanted the rear reduction boxes. Sure broke a lot of blades.

Oh, the benefits of modern electric cutting tools.
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mathieux46
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for taking the time to put the details of the built!

I did the same syncro conversion last year on my hiroof van and I can only say that your approch of replacing eveything with new part is the right one.

It sucks to install used part just to find out later that they are to worn to work. I had to replace the driveshaft after I installed it. The VC was cooked so I installed a decoupler after finding out, and now one front axle is making noise. I wish I had no tried to save money at the beginning and do the job only one time.

Keep up this great post.

Mat


Last edited by mathieux46 on Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:44 am; edited 2 times in total
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insyncro
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lookin' good Exclamation
Nice work.
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jkidd152
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am adding you to my list of "heroes". Laughing

Thanks for sharing your project with us! Can't wait to see more.
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thevannmann
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow!!! this is awesome!! will definitely be following this thread in the future!
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Jedi
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow thats a lot of work but you cant stop OCD when it kicks in Laughing Have fun with the build and dream at night of catching rainbow trout and staring at your syncro in the back ground Cool Then you go over to it to fry up the fish in your camper Wink VW Logo VW Logo
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1961 Westfalia SO34 T/BW
1961 Westfalia SO34 SWR
1964 Westfalia SO33 pearl white
1965 Westfalia SO42 Velvet green
1986 Syncro Wolfram grey with black int GL
1986 Syncro Doka
1987 Syncro Sevana beige Adventurewagen
1987 syncro Sevana beige GL
1973 Pumpkin orange Thing
2 1963 Rag top bug's
1965 Manx
1970 Single cab
1971 combi
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jsmitch11
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:42 pm    Post subject: .. Reply with quote

On the donor syncro the gas tank support was too rusty to use. The bottom part where the gas tank straps attach was so rusty it broke when I just touched it. I looked at some different ideas for brackets and settled on the one Mark posted. I welded some angle hot rolled with 1/8 plate cold roll behind it. Welded two captive nuts for the straps to attach to and drilled two holes in the 1/8 steel backing. I drilled two holes from the inside cabin area and put bolts through that were welded into place. Now the gas tank support just slided on the fixed bolts. This was my first welding project. It will be powdercoated before reassembly.
Pic of the donor syncro rusted out
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Pic of a second gas tank support I bought with the new one above it
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Pic of it finished just waiting for powdercoating!
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The two bolts I had welded in to hold the tank support
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I had cut the donor whole rear crossmember out which made it a lot easier to work with. Using a mini sledge I was able to pound off the driveshaft protection bars mounting points. After these were off I was able to fab some new ones up. I wanted to improve on the originals so I boxed in the available ends and made them slightle longer towards the rear. On the extra tab towards the rear I put steel welded to the rear side of the crossmember.
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The transmission mounts were one of the worst parts of the job. Joe did these and did an awesome job. I didn't take any pics of the actions but have after shots. I made templates on the donor syncro crossmember out of sheetmetal that bolts into the two wheel drive mounting spots. I banged the edges of the sheetmetal arount the donor crossmember , that way the templates had a specfic shape that could only go one way This way I was able to bolt the template up and drill the six syncro transsmision holes. I decided to put bolts down rather then put recessed nuts in. The drivers side was perfect....mount slides on very easy. The passenger side was more difficult due to the fact that one bolt comes in from the side. I had to cut the angle bolt shorter so the bracket can fit on. If I did this again I would do bolts except for the angled one which I would do a recessed nut. i think it would be easier that way.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
_________________
1984 Vanagon Westfalia Syncro Hightop
1986 Vanagon Syncro(RIP)
1989 Vanagon Wolfsburg Whitestar Edition(RIP)

My Van syncro conversion/restoration
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=535730&highlight=black+diamond


Last edited by jsmitch11 on Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:44 pm; edited 3 times in total
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specialev
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2012 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a hell of a project. I thought I was ambitious converting my Syncro to a pop top!

You still have the roof from your syncro? I've got one and want to acquire another to roof my Vanagon themed firewood shed.
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jsmitch11
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2012 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

specialev wrote:
That's a hell of a project. I thought I was ambitious converting my Syncro to a pop top!

You still have the roof from your syncro? I've got one and want to acquire another to roof my Vanagon themed firewood shed.


No sorry the roof is long gone. I am playing catch-up with this thread. I am currently finished with the syncro conversion and starting undercoating. The syncro process started last spring. I will get the thread caught up soon. Any pics of your shed??
_________________
1984 Vanagon Westfalia Syncro Hightop
1986 Vanagon Syncro(RIP)
1989 Vanagon Wolfsburg Whitestar Edition(RIP)

My Van syncro conversion/restoration
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=535730&highlight=black+diamond
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thummmper
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2012 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow--awesome
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