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87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap?
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What should we do?
Body swap
3%
 3%  [ 1 ]
Fix existing rust
76%
 76%  [ 20 ]
Grow some... and fix it ourselves anyway
19%
 19%  [ 5 ]
Total Votes : 26

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T3TRIS
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:04 pm    Post subject: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

We purchased a 1987 Vanagon Syncro with almost 300,000 miles on it. The previous owner added a tent-top to it and it already had a running 2.2 conversion in it that needed TLC, and there definitely was some rust. The interior only has the standard folding bench, nothing else. We want to make it into a camper.

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Our goal was to rebuild the engine, strip the van down completely and rebuild the interior with our own design. This is to be our forever-van so before we start rebuilding the inside, we'd want to make sure it's both mechanically sound and mostly rust free!
We've been pretty excited about it all and just swapped our failing 2.2 with a different rebuilt 2.2. So far so good.

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The bodywork though seems to be a little more involved than we originally hoped for (see attached photos, the footwell is the worst by far, but there are little signs of rust everywhere). I thought I'd be able to learn how to do some of the work but am realizing that I might've bitten too much. I just got off the phone with a shop to chat about what it takes to restore rust on a van. From my description, they suggested that it'd be simpler and cheaper to find a Vanagon body out there that wouldn't have rust damage and do a body swap, instead of sandblasting the thing and trying to fix it.

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We're feeling a little discouraged. I realize it's a far stretch to ask for pricing but I was hoping I could get the van stripped, blasted and repainted while keeping the cost under $10,000. I'd be willing to strip the darn thing down myself and trailer it to a shop for them to fix.
Is that realistic?

What are your success stories?
Any tips or opinion on how best to deal with rust?
Should we do a full body swap? Should I attempt to fix these things myself? I have no experience and tools to do so, though I am a tinkerer.

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Last edited by T3TRIS on Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:50 pm; edited 1 time in total
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candyman
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:30 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

I see nothing there warranting a death sentence. Fix it or rock it as is. There is worse out there living the dream daily. Enjoy it!
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T3TRIS
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:52 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

candyman wrote:
I see nothing there warranting a death sentence. Fix it or rock it as is. There is worse out there living the dream daily. Enjoy it!


I like your spirit! However, the van will need to be redone as we are making it into a camper for long term trips. Before we start building the whole interior, we'd like to take care of the rust in a spirit of "let's make it last forever." That's why we're wondering about what it'd take to get that done.
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danfromsyr
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:32 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

yeah it'll be fine..
attend to that slider glide and rock it for a couple years..

too
far too many projects die from the initial over enthusiasm of taking it all apart and wanting nothing but the VERY BEST for all the $$ and time and sacrifice..

that far tooo often ends in a "we never planned to sell it but" sacrifice..


rock it for ~2years.. get the mechanicals in rock solid order.. that'll set you back enough thousands..

travel well and enjoy..
the view is the same from the sliding door and windshield regardless of what you PNW's call rust
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rmcd
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:57 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

A lot of work but it doesnít look that bad. Checkout my rust repair.

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/album_search.php?search_keywords=Battle+Jitney+rust+repair
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MsTaboo
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:03 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

A body swap will end up costing you as much or more than repairing some rust and the new body may have rust also unless you're real lucky to find a gem.
Really need to see many more photos to give a good idea if that body is toast.

Take the van to as many different body shops as possible. Make sure they know that there are many new panels available for Vanagons and get some estimates.
Letting a shop see the van in person will give them a better idea.

Stripping the van down yourself will always save you money. Make sure you take plenty of pictures and bag/tag everything. In fact if can strip it first before taking it for estimates will give the body shops an even better idea of the work.

Repairing it yourself is always an option, can you weld?

I'm all for saving our vans and understand the desire to have a nice looking rig, what's even more important is knowing that it's not rotting away!
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joetiger Premium Member
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:10 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

There are many examples here on the Samba of vans, and Syncros in particular, that were in far worse condition rust-wise and have been saved and are living happy lives. The folks in these threads have very impressive skills, but it's good to know that it can be done.

Here are a few good ones:

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=509422

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=569774

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=647477

"Project Crunchie" is the Gold Standard...No rust, but it's like an entire Syncro Bentley manual in a single thread. I have it bookmarked just for photos of where everything should go:

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=592734

I think Samba user "tjet" has a great Syncro, I remember when he first posted about it, and the progress over the years has been fun to watch. He proves that a rusty van is not the end of the world:

When he bought it 3 years ago:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Recent:

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Finding a good body and swapping everything over...If you're having somebody else do it, that's gonna be pretty pricey itself. I guess it's six of one, half-dozen of the other.

I should probably 'fess up that my Syncro has rust, probably not quite as advanced as yours, but in the same ballpark. I can commiserate. It's discouraging. But I'm going to fix what I can, get help when I need it, and get the rust knocked out. Besides, mine has all kinds of funky problems that need solving before I can even get to the rust. (You're ahead of the game with a mechanically sound van.)

I take satisfaction in keeping mine on the road. But it will be used for what it was intended for--it's for fun. It's not an investment and won't/couldn't ever be a show queen. It might end up being my forever camper, though.

I'd fix it up, but I'm biased. I guess it's a good problem to have; if you have access to a clean body, I can see where that would be an attractive option.
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SyncroChrick
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:06 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

Fix it - Absolutely. No question.
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Red Beard
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:27 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

"Body swap" is going to be harder and more expensive than fixing what you have.

There are things you can do to mitigate the rust issues you have now (greatly slow its spreading) without spending a lot of time or $$$ immediately. Then you can focus on the mechanicals and enjoying it in the near term.

Then you can shop around for the body work in a leisurely way, or research/learn more to do some of it yourself.
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alaskadan
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:39 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

Yeah I had all of that and then some when I started. Pretty much the bottom 7 inches is from a donor. To me a nice thing about a van that's been cut up a bit is I know its never going to be that unmolested survivor that you might be apprehensive of thrashing a little now and then. You should fix it.. Oh and and a couple more places to look for rust, the front frame rails, right above the rearward front cradle mount. It's a total dirt/moisture trap and you have to look on both sides of each rail. There may be a bulge or a hole or if not guaranteed its full of crud. The cross member that the front of the trans bolts to will be full too. Have fun. Smile
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T3TRIS
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:14 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

Wow, thank you all for the great tips and amazing resources. Some of these rebuilds are pretty impressive.
I like the approach of tackling whatís feasible now, slow the spread and enjoy it.
As with anyone who just bought a van, we have big plans for it. Since itís a converted passenger van, we want to build the whole interior for serious camping use. And since that means stripping it down, I know Iím gonna keep uncovering more rusty cans of worms! And at that point, might as well take care of however much we can take care of!
I guess the next step is boxing up everything that was taken off and drive the naked van over to different shops to get estimates (as suggested by one of you).
And to answer someone else, no I donít know how to weld but maybe itís a good opportunity to learn!
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bobbyblack Premium Member
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:07 am    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

If your Syncro is "original" there are plenty of good reasons to get that rust fixed. There are tons of available metal repairs for everything your pix show.

One thing you got to get straight right away: Vanagons rust from the inside out (mostly) at the seams. If your chosen shop doesn't know how to deal with that, you'll have rust back in the seams in no time flat. Plenty of threads here on what it takes, search for seam rust.

Next up... A Miller MIG welder on CL would hold its resale value pretty well, and learning to weld is nearly as easy as the youtube makes it seem. Invest in yourself! Go to a scrap yard and buy a dented car door or such like $5, learn how to cut and fit bits back together, learn how to use a grinder, and which kinds of grinders do what. A few decent tools, and a little time is worth it. Does it have to be "done well" by someone else, or maybe you did it yourself and its not perfect, but you are proud and its fun. I have seen plenty of okay'ish body-hammer/dolly sets for super super low $'s, and that same car door you got to learn cutting and welding will help you learn a little dent and ding repair. Forever is a long time, but even a shop you'd pay $10 K wouldn't keep it from starting again eventually. So, you'll be able to use your skills again eventually Smile Before you know it, you'll have confidence enough to just tear into whatever you need to do on your van. The first cut is the hardest.

BTW, just a paint job alone can be $10K

More fun can be had with a roller and a bucket of outdoor metal paint. When another little spot pops up, wire brush it down, roll on more paint.

Even a brush paint job can look pretty good. My dad did his '53 IH pickup with a brush, couldn't tell, and lasted 25+ years, and he's as anti-mechanical re vehicles as I've ever known a person to be.

Hope things work out, which ever way you go.

-bobby
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danfromsyr
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:33 am    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

remember you can always take it apart again..

and again


and again

as time/space/money/ambition/needs allow/demend


if I were you since you have a blank slate I would look into the Vanagon custom interior threads.. some are over the top and some are utilitarian and base functional.

I have all 3 in my driveway.. stock westy, ASI Riviera, tintop passenger van and custom camper interior. each serves it's user well but what serves you well is up to you.

me I prefer my Riviera and will set up my tintop with a slide in arrangement utilizing the slide in middle seat tracks.

the best return on your time and $$ is to use it.. get out on the open or unopened road and enjoy your travels together..

add a propex or Espar, for comfort in damp/cold/altitude
add Jalousie windows for better ventilation
add an awning to extend your living quarters outside in the heat or rain.
add bigger (ventillated) brakes for steep or quick deceleration.
add a bigger motor to overcome the bigger tires you just HAD TO HAVE when you added the bigger wheels.
add a truckfridge or ARB style chest fridge.


plenty of places to hemmorage $$ before you go tearing into the paint & body..
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shagginwagon83
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:42 am    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

Where is the "sell it to Brandon" option on the poll Laughing
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:39 am    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

I would not let a shop touch it for a while. They will charge you a fortune for stuff that you can do anyway.

Read a lot of the restoration topics to get an idea of what to expect.

I'd strip out the interior, attack the seams from the inside and out, neutralize the seam and any other rust, expose any areas that need new metal. Only then take it to a welder with replacement panels in hand and have him only do the welding, nothing else. You can reseal the seams, and do a home paint job on the body work areas. It is not a beauty contest. Just get it mostly rust free and sealed back up. A nice paint job can be done years later....

Looks like a fun project to me.... Very Happy
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danfromsyr
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:36 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

Joe those links are epic, but how can we overlook Ocean's thread?
Left for Dead...The Resurrection Story....(AWD EE-20)
https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=613669



joetiger wrote:
There are many examples here on the Samba of vans, and Syncros in particular, that were in far worse condition rust-wise and have been saved and are living happy lives. The folks in these threads have very impressive skills, but it's good to know that it can be done.

Here are a few good ones:

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=509422

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=569774

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=647477

"Project Crunchie" is the Gold Standard...No rust, but it's like an entire Syncro Bentley manual in a single thread. I have it bookmarked just for photos of where everything should go:

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=592734

I think Samba user "tjet" has a great Syncro, I remember when he first posted about it, and the progress over the years has been fun to watch. He proves that a rusty van is not the end of the world:

Finding a good body and swapping everything over...If you're having somebody else do it, that's gonna be pretty pricey itself. I guess it's six of one, half-dozen of the other.

I should probably 'fess up that my Syncro has rust, probably not quite as advanced as yours, but in the same ballpark. I can commiserate. It's discouraging. But I'm going to fix what I can, get help when I need it, and get the rust knocked out. Besides, mine has all kinds of funky problems that need solving before I can even get to the rust. (You're ahead of the game with a mechanically sound van.)

I take satisfaction in keeping mine on the road. But it will be used for what it was intended for--it's for fun. It's not an investment and won't/couldn't ever be a show queen. It might end up being my forever camper, though.

I'd fix it up, but I'm biased. I guess it's a good problem to have; if you have access to a clean body, I can see where that would be an attractive option.
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T3TRIS
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 12:42 pm    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

Alright! Thanks for all the tips and resources, I like them all! And the encouraging comments are reassuring.

It sounds pretty obvious now that the only person excited about the body swap was the car shop.

We're off to Cuba for a couple weeks, I'm sure we'll see a bunch of inspiring restored vehicles which should motivate us to keep going on our van. When we get back, it'll be time to strip it down and see exactly where we stand!

Thanks again!
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T3TRIS
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2018 9:57 am    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

Update!

We decided to work with Shane of @LiveTheVanLife and get our van down to Tijuana to have them fix all the rust and repaint the whole thing. We're also getting our interior reupholstered while we're at it. We're also getting a whole set of new seals and the undercarriage lined with truck liner. The stripping has started!

Our van, as shown in the photos has a fair amount of rust. The initial quote for rust repair, windows-off paint inside and out and truck liner from the shop (based on the same photos in the post above) is coming in at $5,000. I'm sure this will change.

Here is the page for his quote request (navigate the website to find more info): http://www.livethevanlife.com/paint-quote.html

You can also read Shane's 5-part article about why his recommended shop in Tijuana is a good idea for Vanagon owners:
Why You Should (or Should Not) Get Your Car Painted in Mexico
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danfromsyr
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2018 10:58 am    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

just be leary of rust repair ala Bondo.. and not being cut out and welded in new steel.

bondo is like frosting on a cake, it's there to smooth over the surface and offer something appealing to the eyes.. but it's not a long term solution and will bleed thru if frosted over rust w/o proper treatment.
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2018 11:37 am    Post subject: Re: 87 Syncro Body Rust: Fix or Body Swap? Reply with quote

DON"T HAVE THE UNDERSIDE TRUCKLINERED! It will only hide problems down the road and will encourage the shop to cut corners because they know the truck liner will hide crappy work.
Better to have good solid paint and add some wax or oil based coating later.
The heavy coating like from the factory can only be done on really solid/new metal.
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