These trucks are pretty common all over the world, EXCEPT in the USA. VW technically did not import ANY Vanagon trucks into the USA. This is one of 18 that was brought into Canada under very special circumstances. Indeed, there is a great story behind this Vanagon TriStar Double Cab (DOKA) Syncro (4WD) truck.
As the story goes, there once was an oil exploration company in Canada that ordered 18 Syncro DOKAs just like this one. And, they were not just ANY Syncro DOKAs, but all TriStar models—more on that in a moment. The company ended up going out of business before the trucks arrived. So, VW of North America ended up selling these 18 trucks through their distributors in Canada.
Well, one of the ex-employees of the company snagged two of these, and brought them legally back home to Southern California. Check out the photos of the current California title. That is right: This is one of those 18 DOKAs made with the correct VIN for North America. This may seem like an inconsequential detail—but it is actually quite a big deal in this case, because this DOKA is diesel powered. Currently, it is not possible to bring a diesel powered vehicle into California if the vehicle in question was not a model offered somewhere else in the USA. NO WAY. So, the first amazing thing about this DOKA is that it is a totally LEGALLY REGISTERED DIESEL: That alone would be crazy enough, but it gets better...
Every DOKA ever made, except for these 18, was sold outside the USA. They were sold in Northern Europe and Scandinavia, and were mostly work trucks, put into service in severe weather (especially the Syncro models). Of the 18 that made it to North America, most were sold in Canada. What does this mean? It means that just about every DOKA ever made is now a rust bucket. By contrast, this truck has lived all its life in Southern California, and has spent its time on the freeway. Therefore: NO RUST. Anybody who has ever spent time staring at a DOKA, like me, is simply amazed by how incredibly rust free this example is. But wait, it gets better...
This is not just any ol' DOKA. This is a TriStar. So, unlike 90% of all VW DOKAs ever made that were basically 3-door, stripped-down work trucks, the TriStars were built super plush. TriStar means it has every factory option, including:
• Full plush cloth interior
• Padded dash
• Wall-to-wall carpet
• Heated driver's seat
• Rear window defroster
• Cruise control
• Arm rests on both front seats
• Power windows
• Rear differential lock
• And last but not least: FOUR DOORS
And, that's not all...
The guy we got this from is a super duper, over-the-top Vanagon NUT. He went totally overboard and did the following:
- Complete repaint inside and out to factory color
- Gray color redone all around the bottom
- Lots of seals and gaskets replaced
- All new carpet throughout
- Syncro.Org springs
- Old Man Emu shocks
- All new brakes
- Drive shaft decoupler (still has viscous coupler)
- Nice stereo with new larger speakers under rear seat
- All new power door lock system with remote entry
PLUS, HE ADDED:
- Air conditioning system (that kicks ass, BTW)
- Fresh transaxle with much taller 3rd and 4th gears, for the...
LAST BUT NOT LEAST:
- 1.9 liter Turbo Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engine with intercooler
-Removed from a 2000 Jetta TDI with only 35k miles
-Installed in the in the vehicle at 117,000 miles-so the engine has only about 55k miles
Now, a few words about the AC and TDI engine:
AC in a DOKA? That is not possible.... that is, unless you are some sort of super duper, over-the-top Vanagon NUT. The owner had the AC unit painstakingly removed from an early 80s Vanagon, painted to match the interior scheme, and custom-installed so it looks like it came that way from the factory. Now, we have added NORMAL, FACTORY AC into a run-of-the-mill Westy that did not have it. It was a fairly straight forward job, but still cost north of $5k—all said and done. I just can't IMAGINE how much time THIS took.
But wait, there's more! Act now and we will throw in... a set of magnified, illuminated nail clippers! No, just kidding, you get: the TDI engine.
You might say, "Hey, I did not know that they made Vanagons with TDIs in them..." It's not that you did not know it. It is that they never did it. Now, everyone knows GoWesty's opinion about diesel engines in Vanagons, so let me explain why our normal trepidation DOES NOT apply to this vehicle:
1) This is a TRUCK, not a regular Vanagon. So, unlike a regular Vanagon, it does not have the big white plastic lid RIGHT above the engine. Rather, the truck bed sits above the engine, which means there is a whole lot more room to work. That makes a DOKA a much better match for TDI in-line, 4-cylinder engine installation, and...
2) This installation is INCREDIBLY nice. The number of hours that went into this is impressive, plain and simple. It was obviously a labor of LOVE. You can't pay for work like this. This kind of quality is typically found only in owner-installed installations where no time cards are kept. Jack (the installer): You kick ass, dude!
The bad news about the TDI installation in this vehicle is that it is NOT supported by GoWesty, and does not come with any warranty expressed or implied. The good news is who installed it, and how it was done. This professional installation was done by BRU Auto in San Diego, which is an ongoing, thriving business. The work they did on this vehicle is simply heads and shoulders above anything we have ever seen. So, not only is it likely to give trouble free service for a long time; the company that installed it is available (for hire) to answer any questions or perform any work it may require. The rest of the mechanicals on this vehicle are basic, normal Vanagon stuff that can be serviced at any shop that knows Vanagons.
But the bottom line here is: The price listed above DOES NOT INCLUDE any support or warranty for the TDI part of this vehicle.
You will recall I stated earlier in this diatribe that the ex-employee bought TWO of these. Well, the previous owner of this one was recently offered the other one, too. And get this: The other one has less that 7000 miles on it! He had to scramble to get the funds together to buy it PRONTO, so he reluctantly sold us this one.
We paid him $50,000 for this TriStar DOKA. The price listed above includes that, plus a modest 5% mark up, and the cost to do the following (mostly not done yet):
• GoWesty maintenance service and thorough mechanical inspection
- Oil (synthetic) and filter change
- Coolant and brake fluid flushed
• GoWesty 16x7.5" alloy wheels for the 225/70-16 Michelin tires
• Super nice detail inside and out
Therefore, as with all GoWesty vehicles: Everything that is supposed to be there is guaranteed to be there, and everything that is there is guaranteed to WORK.
I drove this truck around for a solid month. The level of refinement is impressive. This is one of the smoothest diesel powered Vanagons I have ever driven. The AC is AMAZING. Cruise, power door locks, power windows—what more can I say? I ALMOST decided to keep it for myself. But the thing is: I already have one. Mine is not a TriStar, and not nearly THIS cool. But then again, neither am I...
The previous owner estimated that, including what he paid for the truck to begin with, all said and done he spent about $85k on it. There is NO WAY GoWesty could duplicate it for under $100k, I would estimate. So, the price on this one is WAY cheaper than it would cost to build one just like it from scratch. That is, if you could find SCRATCH to start with! It's not like you are going to find one of these at your local Chevy dealer...
We sold this vehicle to William about a year and he had us do the following:
• All new stainless steel coolant pipes front to rear
• Solid shaft instead of viscous coupler
• Full size spare wheel and tire
• Deluxe auxiliary battery kit-GoWesty style
• Camper seat swivels added under both front seats
• OEM VW South Africa big brakes up front
• More comfy German BOGE shocks all around
• More comfy OEM Syncro Camper springs all around
• New ECU with performance chip and software
-115HP up from 90HP
-215 FT-LBS torque up from 155 FT-LBS
-17 LBS boost pressure up from 14 LBS
• GoWesty rear bumper with integral hitch (not pictured)
• Trailer wiring
• GoWesty steel bumpers front and rear
• GoWesty front 2" receiver hitches front and rear
• Black texture coating all around lower body line and bumpers
• High amp plugs at front and rear; winch ready
• New timing belt-just in case
• Full size spare wheel and tire
• High powered headlights
• AUL 24 month/24,000 mile warranty
• Bed liner applied
William put only a few thousand miles on it, but had to sell it for personal reasons.
So, we agreed to sell it for him, and it is here on consignment for over $20,000 less than it cost him. That is too bad for him--but he is OK with it, and is happy for the next (very lucky) owner.
This is a particularly good value on a very unique, practically irreplaceable TriStar DOKA.
Kelly and Johnny knew a rare deal when they saw one and picked this one up right away from William.
The TriStar Doka just recently had some transaxle issue that required a freshly rebuilt transaxle and we worked closely with them and AUL to get the situation remedied. Here is what they had to say:
From: Johnny and Kelly
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
To: Chris and Lucas
Subject: GoWesty way-after-purchase service
Hi Chris and Lucas -
Chris , I want to especially thank you for the time you took hammering out the situation with AUL - we really couldn't have done it without you. Some bottles of Carr "El Jefe" , a nice full bodied Cab Franc Syrah blend, are on their way. Thank you!
I remain impressed with GoWesty as a place of high expertise and integrity. I understand the enduring popularity of these sweet vehicles and the motivation to keep them on the road and in use.
Thanks again for all your good work on our behalf
Johnny and Kelly