View original topic: Feedback Wanted - Syncro Private Sale Hypo Page: 1, 2  Next
BCgee Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:16 am

Long-time lurker, first-time poster.

Considering an '86 Syncro tintop with asking price of $12,500. After spending an inordinate amount of time reading threads here on TS I'm stuck in the hesitation phase, so to break the stalemate I need candid feedback and maybe even some heckling to make a decision.

Relevant Facts:

-Long-distance sale. I'm in the N. Rockies, van is in CA.
-Presently owned by a mechanic who uses as a pleasure vehicle for family stuff, sparingly. Owned for ~ 10 years. put on about 25K, originally from the PNW.
-Mechanic's business is well-known locally and has good track record, so to the best of my ability from afar, seems trustworthy. Did not do a PPI as it seemed out of the ordinary as mechanic owner very forthright with van, has gone over most maintenance, and is willing to write down recollection of all work as part of a Buy-Sell agreement. That, and IMO price is pretty fair.
-Original 2.1L WBX with top end work in past, present mileage @ 260k+
-Basic maintenance such as belts, replaced some but not all tired-looking old rubber hoses/lines, coolant lines, spark plugs, fuel pump, etc. No big upgrades, just classic maintenance and replacement with mostly OEM/NOS parts some recent, others not so recent. Likewise, consistent flushes of brake/coolant lines.
-Put in a sweet sound system and head unit - (not the same importance as new coolant lines but still nice)
-Big brake kit up front, drums still on rear with decent cylinders, everything works but lines may or may not be original
-New catalytic converter and some parts of exhaust replaced (titled out-of-state to avoid the CA smog nonsense but also driven sparingly therefore)
-16" VW rims bored out plus spare and decent tires.
-T3 bushings done on more than half of front, remainder of bushings go with sale.
-Replaced shocks and struts with NOS parts.
-Rebuilt transmission (still old gear ratios) and rebuilt front differential
-Functional rear locker, and functional non-binding VC
-Stock AC and heaters, working but of course not updated or seriously maintained.
-Paint is decent but OG
-Next to no rust. As in, no seam rust, no underbody rust apparent, and can't see anything on windshields or other suspect seams.

I've read the stickies and dozens of build-threads, and yes I expect to systematically go through the mechanicals and deal with safety stuff before the sexy stuff, and ultimately do a serious engine and drivetrain upgrade.

Kicker here, though, is I'd need to drive the van up to Yellowstone NP this winter right after a one-way flight in and title swap. I love adventures, but talk about taking a huge first adventure with potentially dire consequences (ain't no AAA let alone cell reception on 1/3 of that drive route!).

I've been searching for a baseline Syncro to slowly build into my family mobile, but of course am now experiencing massive hesitation now that I've found what could be a fair vehicle but am far away. 12,500 is also my upper budget (hey, I'm a middle-class fellah) and this feels like a 'go big or go home' scenario.

What says the peanut gallery? Is 12.5k a fair price, and would you roll the dice and drive into the unknown on a 1,000mi+ road trip after cashing out your savings account?

SyncroButter Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:31 am

"in CA" as in California, not Canada correct?

That price seems about right if all you have stated is true, most notably the no rust part.

Tough call on PPI... I get that it might seem awkward since owner is a mechanic, but the alternative is that you are taking everything on the seller's word. Also "write down recollection of all work" means you will likely have no "real" receipts so you are putting a lot of faith in this owner. If you decide to go for it anyway without PPI I would suggest that you have a checklist and a "no go" plan in your back pocket and are prepared (mentally prepared) to use it e.g. if you fly in to pick up the vehicle and it is not as represented, be prepared to walk.

Not trying to be all doom and gloom here, just recommending that you should be pragmatic and skeptical. Keep your eyes open.

Last comment from me: I have known some mechanics, including some very talented/honest/good ones. Their car (nearly) always gets worked on last, if at all. "Mechanic owned" is not a selling point on its own from my experience.

HBB Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:41 am

Taking a 30+ year old vehicle you've never seen before to a remote area without performing any sort of meaningful inspection or maintenance seems like a dumb idea to me.

Sorry if that's harsh, but you asked for opinions.

Edited to add: I bought a Syncro from the owner of a well-regarded VW shop. I broke down within 1/4 mile of the shop after taking title.

danfromsyr Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:49 am

ask the seller if he'd goto Yellowstone in the winter in the van

if he's honest he'll say NO

if he's dishonest he'll say, "well it's never let me down"

go forth from there.
he's a mechanic and may be willing to do some mechanicals for $$ over the sale.

benandmj Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:54 am

I bought a syncro site unseen and drove it home with no problem. Similar mechanical condition. Take your time and enjoy the drive. Take lots of photos.

Sounds like a killer deal, if you don’t want it send me the info.

Our definition of “long distance” is a little different. My drive was 2900 miles.

dobryan Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:56 am

Are you able to do a roadside fix if it breaks or do you need to rely on a mechanic? From your description it seems you can work on it yourself. If so that is a big plus to going for it to drive home.

bobbyblack Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:01 pm

I don't know about the price issue. If you've got the cash (and can loose it without it killing you), and another 20% for slush fund, then I'd give the picture a positive rating. I'd consider buying a round trip ticket tho. Also, you could consider a Auto-Transport company. Fly there, drive it and if you like it buy it, leave it with the Transport company, and fly home. In a couple of weeks, you'd have it at your door. (Or closer at least)

If you are simply wanting a syncro for YOU, that is one good reason. If you are wanting this syncro to drive a year or two and sell, that is not a good idea.

dabaron Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:09 pm

SyncroButter wrote:
Last comment from me: I have known some mechanics, including some very talented/honest/good ones. Their car (nearly) always gets worked on last, if at all. "Mechanic owned" is not a selling point on its own from my experience.

my brother-in-law who passed away this summer was a mechanic. he worked for 2 decades at a dealership and was well respected but he was always fixing my sister's car. they didn't have lots of money so that meant older model cars with all manner of problems. the last thing he wanted to do was wrench on cars when he got home from wrenching on cars. he did what he could to get them going but they'd soon have trouble again.

he decided to quit being a mechanic and got into IT security. with the new career came better income. he stopped having to fix cars, he replaced them all with recent models with warranties!

i would never buy a car from my brother-in-law when they were skint and he was doing just enough to keep the cars going. not that he would try to sell them, he was a good guy.

16CVs Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:15 pm

Just because the guy is a Mechanic does not mean the van is perfect. Most Mechanics I know fix their own cars as minimally as possible. They work on crap all day and few want to dig into theirs after that.
He is probably selling this to buy a new Dodge F150 Yukon. Me personally, I'd fly in and put the key in it and head towards home. Every mile you get closer to home is one less mile to have it transported.
You're going to learn about this van "Trial by Fire" anyway and this will just speed up the process.
Post some pictures after you buy it, join the Road Haus site and have a nice trip.
Just remember that the purchase price is just the cost of Admission.

Good Luck

elizer Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:19 pm

trust no one. Get a PPI. I bought mine and drove it home 700 miles non stop. I also bought a fire extinguisher/fluids but I had no tools, but AAA premium. That was a good shake down run and I realized everything that needed to be replaced. I wouldn't have taken it to a remote area without AAA coverage. how about some pictures

cmayna Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:23 pm

I like bobbyblack's idea of having it transported home, unless you are convinced the rig is all updated in replacing fuel lines, etc. If CA is Kalifornia, where in this lovely state is the rig located?

izzydog Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:58 pm

Do the PPI.

Bring tools.

Rent a SAT phone for a week.

Go for it.

Have fun.

SCM Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:45 pm

HBB wrote: Taking a 30+ year old vehicle you've never seen before to a remote area ...

The park roads are currently closed for winter so the OP will be driving to the vicinity of, not into, the remote area. It should be easy enough to plan a route from CA to MT/WY/ID that stays on interstates and near enough to help to eliminate Donner Party-level incidents. It's just a matter of how much inconvenience and unexpected delays one wants to tolerate.

But, yeah, probably easiest and less stressful to figure out a shipping/towing method.

termuehlen Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:56 pm

BCgee wrote:
-New catalytic converter and some parts of exhaust replaced (titled out-of-state to avoid the CA smog nonsense but also driven sparingly therefore)

This is the only thing in your thread that bothers me. If it is only driven sparingly because it is too hard for a mechanic owner to keep smogged, then maintenance is being deferred.

This all comes down to your risk tolerance. Pick it up, live the adventure, who knows what it will cost or how long it will take you to get it home. In the words of Clint Eastwood, you've gotta ask yourself one question, "Do I feel lucky".

joetiger Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:18 pm

This couple bought a Syncro somewhere east (Pennsylvania? Can't remember) and had an adventure driving it back across the country to Nevada. The van was on its last legs and they were not very skilled as I recall. Quick read with lots of humor and a few forehead-slapping decisions:

...but apparently they got their sh*t together because my search just now revealed that they've since taken the van to Argentina and Alaska.

You might be in for a bunch of heartbreak or a bunch of fun, but if you buy it and head out and things end up going poorly, it ain't the van's fault! Get AAA Premium, download the Van Alert app, and make sure you have enough cash to get yourself and the Syncro back home just in case.

Best of luck either way!

bobbyblack Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:35 pm

Hey again.

So, in that long trip back, lets say you do break down... Lets say the tow truck comes and has the kind of tow rig that lifts the front and you put the rig in neutral and the rear wheels roll.. Well.. there you may have a problem.

I'd be willing to bet a transport company would be less costly than the repair that tow truck just caused you.

Jake de Villiers Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:38 pm

I'm with Stacy and Izzydog: go and drive it!
If you like it, buy it and drive it home.

Life's too short to drive only Toyotas!!! 8) 8)

theadventureneverends Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:50 pm

I would not be willing to spend $12.500 on a Vanagon without extensively looking at the vehicle and a solid test drive. Post town where it is and ask on here if someone would be willing to check it out for you. Or fly in one way being prepared to walk away and fly home with the hope it checks out. Ask for a 100 mile test drive 50 miles up the hwy and back. If I had a nervous buyer and were to sell my Syncro I would definitely allow a 1.5hr test drive with me in the vehicle. I would not give that option on one of our Toyotas but for a Vanagon sure!

Post a picture of it, maybe one of the previous owners will recognize it and can tell you some history. I owned an 86 Syncro Tintop in the PNW (Tacoma) about year 2000 it was pristine it sold while my wife and I were working in Alaska and I didn't meet the buyer. I have always wondered where it ended up.

1986 first year but with a locker, 260k original motor, $12.500, potentially no rust are key points.

I TOTALLY get dodging smog but I would be a little apprehensive about purchasing a vehicle that has been avoiding smog checks especially enough to register out of state my thoughts immediately are it will not pass but I definitely could be wrong and maybe smog checks are not an issue where you live.

Syncro Tintops seem to be increasing in cost without looking I would guess averaging about $12.500 asking.

Sounds like you have big plans with the possibility of keeping for a long time and investing quite a bit. For me I would be looking for 90/91 and settle for 88/89.

At $12.500 for an 86 a lower mileage or a fully rebuilt motor would be nice.

My main thing is rust above all else and this one sounds like it is rust free. I once drove to Idaho to look at a completely rust free Syncro Westfalia. The woman selling promised several times it had zero rust I was very specific with my rust questions. I explained how far I was driving and knew what I was looking for. My wife and I pulled up to see multiple holes the size of quarters in the rockers and bubbling rust everywhere.

The rear locker is a plus!

If needed AAA Premier =200 mile tow for free, demand a flatbed. I can't picture you breaking down out of reach of AAA responding and getting you to a town big enough to sort things out.

SyncroChrick Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:52 pm

Picture of the engine and drivetrain would be tremendously helpful to help us asess your chances..

If the guy is a mechanic and he wants to sell, ask him for video of engine compression and leak down test.

levi Thu Nov 29, 2018 5:05 pm

I didn't see anyone mention the mileage.

260,000 on the original lower end sounds like a ticking time bomb to me.
Maybe I missed something.
The 2.1 is known for stretching rod bolts and throwing the bearing, I thought the "watch out" mileage number on that was 175,000.

You did sat only the top end was done right?

*Full disclosure*
I am not a real mechanic, I just like to pretend I am on thesamba.

Anyway, if I got that info right and it has 260,000 on the original lower end I'd certainly want a warm oil pressure reading, and I'd be planning on what I'd want to do when the engine goes, rebuild, conversion, etc

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