German Syncro 16" Special Mobils conversion

Item Location: California

Posted by: tobias nirschl
Last Modified: 10/16/2017

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We are selling our overlanding vehicle!
The Syncro is a European spec, 1.6 Liter TD, manual transmission example, showing 303k km on the odometer (189k miles) at time of writing this description. We are the fifth owner and purchased it 3,5 years ago. After extensive preparations and modern upgrades (see below) we shipped this van from Germany to Montevideo (Uruguay) in 2015 and have since been using it for its intended purpose, traveling all over South, Central and now North America. Nearing the end of the journey after two years on the road, we have decided to offer it for sale here in the USA.
So here it is, our beloved home...

For a first impression check out this interview (produced by other travelers in August 2017):

More pictures on:

This Syncro was Volkswagen’s idea of an offroad camper conversion and as a press vehicle, it was tested and featured on motor shows and in automobile magazines when new. One such article we put on our website for you to read about the specs and details, tested by „Off ROAD“ magazine ’91 (with english translation):

Here is what we did before shipping…


- Put in a new (rebuilt) 1.6 TD JX, new water and power steering pump, turbo and alternator, re-used the diesel pump
- Changed rubber to hydraulic engine mountings
- Overhauled gearbox and transaxle with drive shaft decoupler
- Vacuum servos for decoupler and diff locks covered with stainless steel protectors
- Put in new radiators for coolant (42 mm depth, South Africa version), for the additional oil and the intercooler circuit, all together with new hoses (replaced the original water pipes by stainless steel ones)
- Renewed the clutch and hydraulic slave cylinder and the hydraulic pipe, we re-used the master cylinder
- Renewed brake pipes and hoses, put in new master brake cylinder
- Converted front brake to larger ventilated double disc brake from Audi A8
- Mounted GMB suspension, designed to handle the extra weight of a T3 Camper (progressive spring, adjustable ride height and shocks) -
- Changed all bushings and ball joints in front and rear suspension
- Replaced CV joints and wheel bearings front and rear
- Power steering hoses replaced
- Front break dust shields (stainless steel)
- As the original 16“ rear trailing arms were damaged we mounted 14“ trailing arms for the trip (the Gowesty lengthened trailing arms are not allowed by german TÜV)
- New exhaust pipes and muffler
- New engine wiring harness
- New fuel tank saddle and strap set (stainless steel), new fuel hoses
- Manual diesel pump to air fuel filter after changing

All together 9900€ (today 11600 USD) in parts and 200 professional working hours


- Renewed the entire water system (flexible 50 liter water tank, pressure water pump, new pipes, Katadyn® Superdyn water filter, shower installation, re-used taps and sink)
- Installed hot water system (isolated hot water reservoir connected to the engine’s cooling system underneath the back seat, warms up 10 Liter to engine’s temperature, stays hot for at least 24 hours, in warm outside conditions much longer)
- Completely renewed the electric system (130 WP solar panel on the roof rails, Votronic solar regulator MPP 165 Duo Digital / 10 A, 3 parallel connected deep cycle gel batteries with a total storage of 180 Ah, Votronic battery computer 100 S with ampere shunt, Votronic charging converter 1212-45 IUoU / 45 A)
- Took out all the cabin’s wiring and reinstalled all circuits (color coded), fuses neatly arranged in a box
- Renewed burner of diesel heater (Eberspächer D1LC Compact) and added a second pump with lower flow for high altitude compensation (used it at 16000 ft without problems)
- Bench and mattresses renewed (new foam material and upholstery with ActiveClean-material, stain-resistant, wipeable, mattress covers detachable and washable)
- Curtains for front, side and back windows, shower curtain for the back (custom-made of kite material, fixed with snaps and magnets)
- Custom-made mosquito netting for all windows, side and back door (fixed with snaps, magnets and velcro)
- Constructed and built a box between driver and passenger seat: contains 2 of the 3 service batteries, a Votronic SMI 600 Sinus / 600 W / 240 V sinus inverter, hidden hard disk mounting with outside USB-connection for backups, compass, spirit level, flexible map reading light and compartment for valuables etc. (all lockable with butterfly locks)
- Arranged a cupboard behind the passenger seat for additional storage, can be taken out, the lockable door is the board of the table
- Renewed the interior panelling and isolation of the slide and backdoor (varnished natural wood)
- Renewed the boards of the upper bed (varnished natural wood)
- Installed gas alarm Trigas® (detects propane, carbon monoxide and anesthetic gases)
- Temperature gage Votronic LCD-Thermometer and clock
- Covered the hood for isolation and noise reduction


- Transformed a Fiamma rear rack for bicycles to a lockable rack for our kiteboards
- Used one of the original roof boxes on the front mounting and constructed a wooden frame on the back mounting, placed a smaller aluminium box, 2 spare canisters, a shovel and a portable toilet (Porta Potti®)
- Mounted a wheel-„ladder“ on the spare tire (
- Changed the original mirror mountings to the heavy duty version and mounted mirrors from Mercedes Sprinter (additional all view mirror each site)
- Attached a plastic water pipe to the left gutter trim to store bulky baggage (fishing rod)
- Fitted a pre-air-cyclone filter for dust reduction which is jammed on the gutter trim
- Put on 225/75 R 16 tires on 6J Mefro steel rims
- Installed heavy duty rear hatch struts for additional weight compensation

All together 9600€ (today 11300 USD) in parts

For more footage of the 2015 overhaul you are welcome to visit our website

Needless to say that the last two years of continuous use in the rough environment of South and Central America left some marks. Here is a list of all defects we know, as honest as possible:


- Small leak in the cooling hose to the front fan heater due to stone impact, sealed with glue and duct tape, works fine since Chile, no loss of coolant, but you know…
- Turbo waste gate pipe broken in California / USA, already welded
- Loose joint on the diesel pump where the lever of the boost pressure enrichment valve inserts, fixed it with a wire so it can’t jump out
- Power steering rack is mounted with Bolivian self-made bushings, meanwhile we bought the original bushings, but we never changed the running system….
- Dampish spot on the gearbox at the left driveshaft mounting, probably leaky shaft seal
- Hydraulic pipe to the clutch is bended (no idea how that happened, we just find that spot while taking pictures - works normally, no leakage)
- The cylinders head had been removed in Bogota / Columbia due to a loss of compression. As we found the gasket, pistons and cylinders in good condition (traces of primary honing still visible), we blamed the piston rings because they broke while undoing them. We finally replaced piston rings, head’s gasket, diesel injectors, drive belt, valve shaft guides, all filters and liquids with original spare parts ordered from Germany and adjusted the valve lash. Engine is not consuming oil or coolant and starts right away.


- General signs of usage, scratches and dull painting on the furniture
- The compressor fridge stopped working in the Baja California / Mexico (we do not know the reason, but it did 27 years, so probably it’s time to be replaced anyway)
- Obvious traces of usage on the pop up tent: there are some repair patches and replaced mosquito nettings, the tent material itself feels brittle (due to hard UV exposition)
- Driver’s seat upholstery is damaged
- The helping gas spring to raise the pop-top lost it’s pressure gas and isn’t doing any more help. Down in South and Central America we didn’t find any spare part, but the Gowesty pop-top lift assist struts could be a good option!


- General signs of usage, i.e. scratches, faded paint and rock chips
- Crack in the front right headlight, done by an angry cow’s head in Bolivia, next to it two small dents in the chassis where the horns hit
- Rust in the typical T3’s weak spots (corners of all 4 wheel cases, food steps on driver and passenger side, front and back mountings of the bumper, rails of the sliding door, here it led to a hole)
- Rust damaged tailgate on the lower right part of the backdoor window
- Some dents on the slide door and the backdoor
- Typical bendings above rear wheel cases (due to offroading)
- A finger-width dent on the rear left side of the chassis
- Bendings and dents on both bumpers
- Scratch and dent on the front left side between door and front bumper due to vandalism
- The awning was caught by a gust on Holbox Island / Mexico, the framework was badly bended and the right pole broke. We managed to repair it provisionally so it works but the damage is still visible
- Rear rack is bended and the right side of the framework is broken as we missed a branch in Chile
- Windshield wiper nozzles on the right side is not working

We would sell the car together with all our tools, remaining spare parts, overlanding gadgets (e.g. 12 V air compressor, manual winch for self-rescue, tire repair kit, fire distinguisher, small splitting axe, foldable saw…) and camping equipment like tables, chairs and dishes!

For some videos of our journey and areal view of Syncrox in action:

For us the van was the very right vehicle fulfilling our travel dream, especially the roof construction with the extra space and storage made it perfect for long term usage. We really do struggle to give it away, but it simply doesn’t fit to our next life plans, so we hope to find a buyer who really takes care of it.
You are welcome to visit us for a check and a test drive of the van, we will be in California a week or more before we start driving through the USA to Florida.
We’re looking forward to your inquiries and serious offers, don’t hesitate to ask for more photos, descriptions etc.…!
Price: negotiable!

Anja & Tobi