Kombis T3-T4

A 4WD Syncro Drive
Volkswagen’s Seven-Seater Caravelle
The WBX 6
Not As The Maker Intended
Trakka Syncro-nisation
Kombi On Road To Big Van Assault
Kombi Makes a Comeback
Trakka Vans Attract The Fans
VW’s New T4 Bus
South African Muscle Bus
VW Is Back With A Vengeance
RHD T4 Caravelle
The New Volkswagen T4 Transporter
T4 Caravelle Road Test
Syncronicity - Bus mit Allradantrieb
Syncro Kombis at the Range Rover Test Area
How does VW’s Syncro viscous coupling work?
Yes, But What On Earth Is Thixotrophy?
VW T3 Caravelle Syncro
VW T4 Caravelle
CT / CZ engines
High Mileage VW Shuttle
Series 3 Transporter Design Points
New T5 Transporter
VW Caravelle V6
Autobahn surprise
VW California set for Australia


A 4WD Syncro Drive

By Stephen Muller
December 1985

Last month at the general meeting I discussed a recent test drive of VW’s new toy…the 4WD Syncro Transporter. People who attended the motor show would have seen it on display at the VW stand. VW Australia decided to do a pre press release demo to VW dealers and selected Government bodies such as the Army, Water Resources Commission, Forestry Commission and so on.

The area chosen for the test drive (fun ride) was Duffy’s Forest, north of Sydney. Eric Haump was the VAG rep from Germany who was on a tour showing the Syncro to the Pacific basin. The engine on the 4x4 was a normal carburetted unit that looked very simple compared to the normal Aussie Transporters with fuel injection.

The basic 4x4 system is very simple, easy to service and is weight saving. Volkswagenwerk have used a version of the Fergusson fluid coupling system, manufactured and installed by the Austrian firm of Steyr Daimler Puch who have also produced the Haflinger and Pinzgauer vehicles. The suspension on the Syncro is stiffer and higher up than normal, and is also fitted with 16-inch wheels to raise the ground clearance further. The dash/controls setup is identical to the 2WD Transporter, the exception being vacuum-operated diff locks, front and rear, both being simple to operate. The transmission ratios have been altered with a crawler gear replacing first gear. This is identical in ratio to reverse.

The fuel tank is located in the rear of the bus again, as is the spare tyre.

Driving impressions? Well, simply amazing. On very rough terrain of slopes of 45 degrees the Syncro remained stable and VERY comfortable. The coil springs simply made you think it wasn’t rough. Naturally all the Govt people were amazed at the ride, expecting it to be similar to Jap 4WDs, but they soon had their opinions changed. Traction…it will move over the traditional rough 4WD terrain with ease, but you can’t expect it to crawl over logs and boulders at low speeds, because of its different design. The rear wheels need to be spinning before the system engages power to the front wheels, so a totally opposite driving style is necessary.

Pedal to the metal through loose stuff to get the back wheels spinning. This can be hair raising at times, especially going over crests. There’s an eerie feeling when you do reach a crest, not knowing whether to hit the brakes or keep going. The centre of gravity is rather high, and so was my anxiety.

Finally, all the Govt officials were more than impressed, and VW will apply for tenders next year. The Syncro will be available in either single or twin-cab pickup, Kombi or Caravelle. We can only hope that LNC’s wisdom will allow these models for sale in Australia, because if they do there will be a lot of Mitsubishi L300 4WDs on the used car market.



Volkswagen’s Seven-Seater Caravelle

By Paul Gover
March 1987

When you have driven all the Japanese people-movers you still have to come back to the benchmark, the Volkswagen Kombi.

The Kombi has been around since before people-movers got the name, or became a cult, but the big German remains the one that started it all. And the one which, dynamically, still sets the pace.

Forget the bells-and-whistles approach of most Japanese family vans. When you get down to engines and suspensions, the VW is still the pacesetter, despite the best efforts of the Toyota Tarago and the latest Mitsubishi L300.

The bad news for Volkswagen fans is the huge price escalation of the past few years; these days the seven-seater Caravelle is confirmed as a $35,000-plus proposition, a tribute to the decline of the dollar against the Deutschmark, even in cheaper CL form. If you want the plush GL model I recently tested for a week, then it is going to cost you $42,856 for the privilege, without any extras beyond the optional three-speed automatic transmission.

And, when you consider that air-conditioning is more than $3,200 it isn’t hard to imagine a $50,000 Caravelle.

The Japanese are catching up fast, mind you, and there is talk of a $40,000 Tarago before the year is out, but still the Caravelle is out in front for the time being. This is a far cry from the early-mid 1970s when Kombis were competitively priced, and VW had over 60% of the Australian van market. Not any more.

Volkswagen has never been a company to make changes for change’s sake, particularly with the Transporter, but a new model Kombi has just been introduced to celebrate the changeover to unleaded petrol. It looks the same as the latest-shape ‘Wasserboxer’ Transporter range introduced several years ago. The only significant differences are in the engine bay at the back.

The familiar four-cylinder boxer engine has been enlarged to 2109cc and, with fuel injection and water-cooling, the ULP power plant develops more power than the old 1.9-litre motor.

Power is now 70kW, up from 63, and torque is 160Nm, up from 140; proof that VW’s German engineers have been hard at work to make worthwhile improvements to the motor.

Otherwise the Caravelle test vehicle was very familiar, with comfortable seating for seven – including armrests to prevent driver and passenger moving around – good luggage space, and the familiar walk-through area between the front seats. It is also the safest of the people movers, with noticeably more sheet metal and legroom ahead of the driver and front-seat passenger than any of the Japanese family vans.

What wasn’t familiar, after driving the L300, Tarago and Mazda Traveller in recent weeks, was the relative austerity of the VW; no twin sunroofs, no twin air-conditioning, no cooler box, no mega sound system, no power steering, no electric mirrors or windows.

But on the top-line GL Caravelle you do get velour seat trimming, a good sound system and central door locking. The test vehicle was also fitted with an optional three-speed automatic transmission, and you can add a sunroof, air conditioning and various paint choices.

I had expected the Caravelle to drive well – after all, the Federal Police have gone back to Kombis after unsuccessful experiments with several Japanese alternatives – but even so I was surprised at how good it was.

From the start of the test it performed extremely well, particularly for an automatic with only three ratios. I had expected a few gaps, but the newly-boosted torque made light work of any hills or loads.

And, if you need to rev the engine hard for overtaking, it responds in a way I had not experienced before with a VW boxer. So, obviously, larger capacity with fuel injection and water-cooling has made a big difference.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the fuel economy and, perhaps the biggest surprise of all, there was no sign of the old dak-dak engine note which has always been the trademark of VW’s boxer engines. It was just smooth and quiet, powerful and refined; a vehicle equally at home on a short shopping expedition or a long interstate haul, where the kilometres just roll effortlessly away.

The other really good thing about the Caravelle was its ride and handling.

VW has always had its Kombi chassis right, and the newcomer has none of the front-end pitch or instability of many of the Japanese. It can be upset in crosswinds, but it never seems a real problem.

As you would expect, the Caravelle is generally a slight understeerer, pushing ahead with the power on hard. But it is light on its feet and can be hustled along surprisingly briskly, enough to embarrass some slowcoaches on the run from Lake George to the ACT border.

It also gets superb traction, thanks to its rear-mounted engine, which helps acceleration and cornering balance. It also makes the Kombi a realistic proposition even over quite rough ground.

It soaks up bumps easily, copes easily with dirt-road surfaces, and is always easy to drive. Panic-braking is a delight in the VW, unlike some skittery rivals I have driven, and a firm stab on the brakes just pulls it up solidly and square.

The Kombi also has a very solid feel and I have no doubt the current Caravelle – just like so many generations of Kombis – would go on virtually for ever.

Its passenger accommodation is very comfortable, it is easy and relaxing to drive, and once you have put it on the road it would be quite cheap to run.

It has very few faults, and quite a few small virtues. The bad points are slightly shoddy assembly, at least compared with the Japanese; poor rearward visibility for parking; and the relatively poor access to the engine bay.

But it also has remarkably good headlights, comfy armrests even for the driver, the ability to walk through to the rear passenger area, and a step to ease access for back-seat travellers.

So, despite the price, people looking for the best in family vans should not dismiss the VW Caravelle. If you can afford it, it is certainly worth having.



The WBX 6

By Rod Young and Michael Schymitzek
June 1987

Wolfsburg had just about put the six-cylinder engine on ice. This new development would probably have gone the way of other such worthy schemes and have disappeared into the archives of engine designers, if Oettinger hadn’t taken the opportunity which was handed to them by Volkswagen. What can only be produced economically in large numbers on the assembly lines at Wolfsburg can succeed when made in small numbers at Oettinger’s facilities.

Oettinger, the famous tuning company from Friedrichsdorf, just north of Frankfurt, took only a short time to develop the water-cooled flat six from prototype to production readiness. The engine is now produced by Motogema, a subsidiary of Oettinger, in a village in the south-west of the Federal Republic. The tooling handed over by Wolfsburg is used in modern, computer-controlled machines.

Oettinger, by its own admission, fills holes in the market for products that are too small for the big producers but too big for the small ones, and sees a real chance for profitability with a new six-cylinder. It’s a strong engine straight out of the box, with real reserves.

The close resemblance to the water-cooled four-cylinder is unmistakeable. In principle, what has been done is to simply add two more cylinders to the existing engine, which of course could not proceed without designing a completely new crankcase, crankshaft and cylinder heads. Numerous parts from the four-cylinder are still used. The cylinder sleeves, connecting rods, pistons and valve gear are identical. The hydraulic cam followers are naturally included.

The new engine, which has a displacement of 3.2 litres, has the same bore and stroke as the four-cylinder. Pistons and cylinder heads were designed using the heron principle; that is, with the combustion chamber mostly in the piston. The engine is tuned to run on Euro-Super lead-free (95 octane).

The already proverbial quiet running of six-cylinder engines is particularly the case with the Oettinger six. This is in no small part due to the fact that the six crank throws are arranged symmetrically and individual crank throws are counterweighted.

The greatest advantage of multi-cylinder engines is their greater torque delivery. One of the reasons for this is that with a six-cylinder, there are three firing strokes per engine revolution (every 120°), whereas with four cylinders there are only two (every 180°).

The maximum torque of the 3.2-litre engine is 260Nm. However, the majority of the power increase is brought by the increase in displacement. The high torque with its desired flat curve can only be achieved by a combination of the number of cylinders and their total displacement. What is remarkable about the six-cylinder is that its maximum torque arrives at an engine speed of 3800rpm. The 2-1-litre flat four achieves its maximum torque at 2800rpm.

Since an automatic gearbox is appropriate for such a powerful motor, Oettinger uses the three-speed Volkswagen automatic box on the buses they equip with the WBX 6 motor, and beef them up with the complete gearset from the Audi Turbo. The Transporter four and five-speed manual gearboxes aren’t strong enough for the increased loadings. An approximately 20% longer final drive ratio is used to match the maximum engine speed to the top speed the WBX 6-equipped Transporter can reach. A disadvantage is the noticeable slippage in the torque converter during gear changes – a good manual gearbox would have been better.

During the test drive, the six-cylinder engine performed just as powerfully as we had expected. Zero to 100km/h took 13.6 seconds, and 16.8 seconds more were required to reach 140km/h. Even though far better performance figures could be achieved if a four-speed automatic or a manual gearbox had been available, these times are very impressive. You must consider that this bus with its luxurious ‘Carat’ trimmings weighs in at a hefty 1820kg.

With the additional weight of 90kg of the larger engine and with the test crew and equipment on board, the motor had a good two tonnes to propel. Nevertheless, it pushed this bus to a pretty respectable speed: we measured exactly 181 km/h.

These figures just let you guess what sort of driving experience is to be had in the Oettinger bus. The power in the back allows all-round superior performance. In every situation you have the feeling that you’re driving a sporty passenger car. Rarely have we ever got so many surprised looks and gestures of approval as with this potent vehicle. The exhaust sound leads people to think that the bus is equipped with a sports car engine, and the liveliness of the car only confirms that suspicion. We found the frequent switching on of the loud cooling fan beneath the dashboard, necessary because of the increased heat output of the larger motor, to be a nuisance. Subsequent improvements to the temperature regulation should have fixed the problem, according to Oettinger.

If the 165 horses of this heavy bus are used constantly, maximum fuel consumption is 19.6L/100km. With moderate driving habits we achieved 15.3L/100km during the test. An 85-litre fuel tank is included in the specifications of the Oettinger bus.

The driving impressions are not brought by the engine alone. The stiffer suspension, which is tuned to the higher speeds, and wider wheels and tyres also contribute. On the test bus there were 215/55VR-16 tyres on 7Jx16 rims on the front, and 225/55VR16 on 8Jx16 at the rear. The servo-assisted steering works more directly on these extremely wide tyres, which is of use at high speeds but requires getting used to for some people. Also available is a wheel and tyre combination with 7Jx15 rims and 235/55VR15 tyres.

Special praise is due to the braking system. Oettinger’s WBX 6 has disc brakes on all four wheels, and a 255mm brake servo. The brakes work smoothly but powerfully. The super-wide, 40mm-lower suspension, together with the Oettinger body kit, gives the bus a mean appearance. With such an unusually fast car the front styling is adviseable, especially since other drivers often cannot properly judge the speed of overtaking cars.

For well-heeled drivers who don’t baulk at a figure of 100,000 DM (>$80,000), the Bus from Wolfsburg has become a game without frontiers.



Not as the Maker Intended

By Hans Jürgen Tücherer
October 1987

With the wave of customising kits showing no signs of cresting in West Germany, new contestants entering the battle are forced to look a little harder for a new market segment.

Fritz Ommler and Olaf Bracht, the two men behind Projektzwo Automobile Design in Diessen, thought long and hard about the car they wanted to modify. The Wasserboxer Volkswagen Bus received their nod, as there was no complete tuning kit on the market for the vehicle.

That decision out of the way, they went out, bought a Bus and began developing and moulding. Today the company can offer the works: a kit to satisfy any customer’s ideas, be they wild or mild, can be obtained from the Projektzwo workshop in the idyllic Ammersee region. Projektzwo’s body conversions can fit on all the Volkswagen Transporter derivatives, from the Bus to the Pickup models.

The front bumper is discarded and a Projektzwo front skirt is moulded to include a new bumper. The spoiler has two intakes to duct air into the front brakes and reduces aerodynamic lift to the front suspension.

Side skirts cover the wide wheels and tyres and prevent stone chip damage. The combination of the side skirts and the low-profile tyres produces an optical illusion – the vehicle looks as if it has been stretched.

Rear skirts extend behind the back wheels and again are moulded to replace the bumpers. For the Bus there is also a neat wing that is mounted to the roof.

As well as creating the muscle-car look, these modifications have aerodynamic advantages, as was proved when the Projektzwo tested in the Volkswagen wind tunnel in Wolfsburg. The coefficient of drag figure was reduced from 0.46 on the standard version to 0.425 with the Projektzwo example.

Although this achievement is not important for the customer who wants ‘show’, the guy who wants ‘go’ from this kit will benefit. “The improved aerodynamics allows us to achieve a higher top speed, and side-wind stability is also improved”, designer Olaf Bracht explained.

For the sporty driver, Projektzwo also has engine-tuning kits from the Bavarian company Schick Turbo Tuning. With a KKK turbocharger and intercooler system, Schick boosts power from the 1.9-litre boxer by 37kW to 105kW.

To gain this improvement, Tony Schick has developed a special system to cool the air into the turbocharger. The heat exchanger works together with a water-cooler at the front to guarantee optimum intake temperatures. An additional oil cooler is also fitted.

Thus the Double Cab Pickup – which is geared for towing rather than performance – has a top speed of 160km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 11 seconds. The old ton in a VW ute is fast enough for most drivers.

Handling comes in for attention too, with Boge developing a kit that includes four shorter springs and shock absorbers which have lowered the VW by 60mm. Eight-inch Ronal wheels fitted with 225/50 VR16 Goodyear Eagles maintain contact with the road.

Even with these modifications, it takes some time to get accustomed to cornering on the limit when you sit upright over the front suspension.

Sumptuous is the only way to describe the interior of this very special Volkswagen. A sports steering wheel and specially trimmed dashboard blend perfectly with Recaro seats and a special console – all trimmed in leather, of course.

A Clarion system punches out more than enough sound, and rear seat passengers have further entertainment from video films that can be shown on the TV set included in the console. Parts of the door trims are from a Porsche 928, used because they provide extra storage capacity.

Optional extras include air conditioning, an electric sunroof and electric windows. Tan-coloured carpeting in the load area and a hand-made leather tonneau cover completed the package on the car we drove.

So far, Projektzwo has shipped out 300 kits, although not all were the high-spec version we sampled. With a price tag of DM90,000 ($A72,580), it is a very expensive Volkswagen but one which is in demand.



Trakka Syncro-nisation

By Dave Berry
August 1988

Ateco Industries, in conjunction with Trakka Leisure Vehicle Conversions, have introduced the Volkswagen Trakka Syncro to Australia, offering the ultimate concept in both off and on-road driving.

The vital difference between the Volkswagen Syncro and its original Transporter stable mates is VW’s new all-wheel drive system, designed to cope with demands made by a wide spectrum of driving situations.

The Syncro system enables the vehicle to accomplish the most formibible tasks in the worst road conditions. Developed over millions of kilometres of testing through the harshest off-road environs to the demands of high-speed cruising, the Syncro performs admirably in either circumstance.

This adaptability is all due to the Syncro’s technological design. Unlike conventional four-wheel drive vehicles, the Syncro automatically regulates the additional drive to the front wheels as necessary. Speed difference between front and rear wheels is equalised by a viscous coupling. As the traction is transferred continually to the front wheels, the occupants enjoy smooth, safe ride qualities in any conditions.

The Trakka conversion of the Syncro has created a dream leisure vehicle powered by a high-performance, fuel-injected 2.1-litre petrol engine. With an extremely comprehensive range of features, the Trakka Syncro is designed to accommodate four persons in a spacious and comfortable environment. Trakka achieves this by full utilisation of the capacious interior, with the installation of swivel front seats, ‘pop-up’ roof and ergonomically designed kitchen and living area.

Other features include a hot shower, air conditioning, front and rear protection bars, and Trakka’s Solar System – designed and developed for producing power from the sun which is stored. This allows the use of the refrigerator and other electrical appliances whilst the vehicle is stationary for long periods of time.

Apart from the more conventional use of the Trakka Syncro, it fulfils numerous other functions not normally associated with traditional leisure vehicles. As a direct result of the Syncro’s incredible on-road safety and its unprecedented ride quality, it becomes the ultimate ‘family car’ as its dimensions do not exceed those of an average station wagon. This makes around-town driving, parking and general manoeuvring an effortless task.

The Syncro also offers the ideal solution to those with a sporting hobby that dominates their spare time. Apart from the benefits already established for day-to-day use, the Syncro comes into its own as a transport for surfing, equestrian, bush walking, fishing or golfing activities. Accommodation is automatically there, coupled with the ability to get to the destination required with all the necessary equipment, be it surfboards or horse trailers.

With the stylish, colour-coordinated looks and elegant design of the Trakka Syncro, the niche in the market for a highly practical, adaptable, fun ‘home on wheels’, combining normal family transportation with the ability to convert to an off-road activity vehicle, has been filled.

The Volkswagen Trakka Syncro offers an interesting and cost-effective alternative to the average family station wagon or conventional all-wheel drive vehicle.

The Volkswagen Syncro is available with front and/or rear differential locks and power steering as options. The base model retails for $39,950 and the range of camper conversions starts from $9,240 for a standard conversion to $11,944 for a Deluxe Gold Pack version with accessories available as options.



Kombi On Road To Big Van Assault

By Nick Senior
March 1989

Volkswagen is tackling the cocky Japanese van importers head-on with an aggressive re-launch of its dynamic Transporter range of commercial vehicles with slashed prices and new models.

As well as a dealer network upgraded, the major drive is aimed at grabbing sales from Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi. The assault is led by the newly introduced windowless version of the Volkswagen Kombi panel van, which will sell for $19,995.

The popular Kombi van with windows, which is ideally suited for camper conver¬sions, has been reduced from nearly $30.000 to $22,450. A Deluxe version has been introduced, and this costs $25,400. Trakka camper conversions for the Kombi will be available from an additional $10,007.

The Caravelle GL, which formerly sold for $39.990, drops to $32.600. The executive version called the Carat has been introduced too, but prices aren't available yet.

There will be three versions of the all-wheel drive Syncro. They are the Kombi at $32,450, the Kombi deluxe at $35,970 and the Caravelle, which will sell for $46,990.

A fuel injected 2.1-litre 4-cylinder engine that produces 70kW powers all versions of the Transporter.

Volkswagen is also evaluating a new recreational type vehicle for Australia. It's called the TriStar and it combines 4-wheel drive capability, five-seat passenger capacity with the load space of a utility. All going well, the Tristar will make its debut in Australia towards the end of this year.

Other Volkswagens which will make their debut this year include the double-cab Pick-up models and two versions of the Golf GTI hot hatchback, most likely the 8-valve and 16-valve variants.

Volkswagen has been a dormant force on the Australian market for more than a decade but these are major signs of an overdue recovery.



Kombi Makes a Comeback

By Wayne Webster
March 1989

The VW Kombi, the conveyor of 1960s hippiedom, surfies and the forerunner of people movers, is about to make a comeback to the Australia market.

Volkswagen is about to launch itself back on to the commercial market with the new generation Kombi. Sydney-based importer Ateco Industries Ltd has negotiated with the German carmaker to import and retail the Kombi range at prices ranging from just under $19,000 to a top of $46,990.

These prices, coupled with the marque's reputation for ruggedness and long-lasting reliability will make the Kombi competitive once more with Japanese brands.

Ateco also has revealed that it will follow up the Kombi beachhead by launching two models of VW's Golf GTI hatchback, currently Europe's hot small car, later in the year.

Our current high exchange rate and the state of our new car market certainly provide the right incentives for VW to test Australian market reaction now to its products. The chance here to buy a VW again, at the right price while it lasts, will no doubt prove attractive to the market.

According to Ateco, a range of Kombis will be offered, from the basic $19,995 panel van to the top-of-the-range viscous-coupled 4WD Syncro Caravelle.

Camper conversions options will be available, costing $10,007 for the basic layout and $12,774 for the Gold Pak kit.

Common to the range is a 2.1-litre fuel injected engine, producing 70 kilowatts.

The 1989 Kombis, unlike the ugly-blue beasts that traveled our roads in the 50s and 60s, come in a choice of colors, have a much different grille, square an round headlights (depending on models) and, like most new cars today, feature bigger areas of glass.

All vans in the range feature the unique VW facility that allows the driver to get to the rear load-space without leaving the vehicle.

According to Ateco two double-cab pick-up models — in both two and four-wheel-drive — also are to be released later this year. The 4WD version of the double-cab pickup will be equipped with extra accessories and sold as a lifestyle model called the TriStar.

The people mover of the range is the Caravelle, which in its basic two-wheel drive form, costs $31,145 - a still hard to afford price for most larger families but with a few extra features that help to compensate for this price sticker.

The seven-seater, velour-trimmed interior mini-bus, features power steering, central locking and is carpeted throughout. A tachometer and digital clock are part of the standard instrumentation. And the quad, square-shaped headlamps, also feature in-built driving lights.



Trakka Vans Attract the Fans

By Dave Long
August 1990

In Dee Why recently, not far from my home, I parked my Ghia opposite a really smooth-looking current series VW Transporter.

Now modern Volkswagens, however practical, are not my bag (mainly because I can’t afford them), although I can recognise a good thing. The VW bus, in a colour resembling pewter metallic, grabbed my attention more for its ‘CARAT’ registration plate than for its immaculate showroom presentation.

This particular Kombi is Trakka Van Conversions’ example (as the number plate announces) of the VW Carat, normally available only in Europe. The Trakka Carat, whilst not the genuine article, is very nice and may be, in some aspects, in its way more opulent than the original.

To track down its operator, I began by asking in the household appliances spares shop outside which it was parked; no luck – next the second-hand shop a few doors down. There, expecting the Carat to be the type of spotless vehicle a boutique owner might choose (and bankroll) I barged in, asking nosy questions. The shop assistant couldn’t help with the identity of the Carat owner, but the young lady customer with the two children owned up – it was hers.

Prior to this I had planned on leaving a note under the Carat’s wiper, but as it worked out this wasn’t required and Sally Berry, wife of Trakka proprietor Dave Berry, accepted my bona fides after a brief explanation. And then expressed interest in joining our club!

So I arranged for a call on the Trakka organisation at Chatswood, Sydney, for the purpose of photographs and to fill in some gaps in the information first-hand.

I was shown around by the sales manager, Noel Ryan, a man of similar vintage to Dave Berry, the Boss – that is, middle-forties. He has been connected with the motor trade since leaving school, beginning his career in the early ‘70s at Scuderia Veloce, Lindfield, in spare parts, so he picked up a passing knowledge of Porsches, too, in particular the early ones (the 356 was virtually a current model back in 1973).

Trakka Pty Ltd is located in Short Street, just a zig-zag up from Eastern Valley Way, in neat and efficient-looking premises housing both showroom and factory. Parked outside on the day I called was a fair selection of recent and not-so-recent VW commercial vehicles, including a new twin-cab pickup, window-vans and a couple of ‘70s Type 2 camper vans which may have either been there for fitouts or resale, as Trakka also handles used examples.

Trakka began in the mid ‘70s, converting VW Kombis into camper vans. They became the officially VW-authorised Australian camper van converter in 1987, when LNC Industries sold the Australian VW franchise to Ateco. LNC had owned the previous conversion company, Sopru, which was sold to Trakka at the same time. Today, all but 10 percent of Trakka’s business involves VWs; that which isn’t covers Toyota. Then, of course, no one is perfect.

Their marketing arrangement is organised through the network of VW dealerships Australia-wide, and as with most commercial operations is based on mutual profit. The dealer carries a range of literature showing the scope of conversions available, and the wide range of options. It is assumed the customer will be aware of Trakka products from visits to motor shows, or the awareness of the availability overseas of something comparable.

Trakka appoints a stockist in each state, who has a fully appointed demonstrator vehicle available. It may just as well be, however, that a customer comes to the dealer with nothing more than a concept or a requirement to fill. Trakka would not wish to give the impression that they are in the ‘custom vehicle’ field, while I got the impression they would cooperate in any reasonable specification according to price. Noel Ryan believes though, that the scope of available options and routine modifications is such that most tastes are catered for.

And he shamelessly slips in the plug, “where our business is concerned, nothing is impossible with VW.”

The range of VW-based conversions possible totals seven, price dictated both by the model chosen as the basis, and the embellishments ordered.

The most basic of the range starts with a window van converted to a 5-seater multi-purpose station wagon, with folding back seat. Starting price is $28,500, but if you want the conversion done on a Syncro 4WD van it can be as much as $42,000.

Next is the ‘Multi-Van Gold Pack’, which is the basic conversion with a pop-up roof and some revised trim, sleeping four adults for $30,000 to $40,000. The simplest model is seen as a family vehicle, while the second is intended for a combination of work vehicle and weekend camper.

The ‘Bronco Standard’ comes next, in the form of a basic budget camper with pop-up roof, cupboards, stove, bed and fridge, priced from $36,000 to $50,000.

Then you come to the ‘Bronco Gold Pack’, which adds luxury items like orthopaedic front seats (developed by Trakka in Australia), with arm rests and swivel bases, radio cassette and alloy crash bars front and back, priced between $42,000 and $56,000 (always depending on the level of VW model on which it is based).

At level 5 we find the Trakka ‘Time’, which is debatably the most costly vehicle in the range (even though it is not the top model). Somewhere in the $55,000 to $70,000 bracket, in addition to all the fundamental appointments, you get touches such as leather upholstery, hot water and shower, air conditioning, 15” wheels with premium tyres, and a skirt and spoiler kit.

Number 6 is known as the Carat Seven (7-seater), which deletes the two orthopaedic seats and the fridge, and substitutes a full-width 3-seat bed seat. This one costs from $48,000 to $60,000.

Finally there is the Carat – the model on which this tale opened, and it costs $50,000 to $61,000. The specification goes something like this: orthopaedic seats, two of them swivelling 360-degrees, all covered in English leather; 40-litre eutectic fridge, air conditioning, full velour headlining, full carpet, reading lights for each seating position, and a pull-out conference table. The notion isn’t lost on Trakka, nor any of their corporate customers, that the Carat makes for a brilliant and sophisticated mobile office.

In case they appear to have missed anything, a couple of the many further options are – various annexes and solar battery charging.

Just a spot of detail on the way a standard VW Transporter arrives at Trakka’s premises to be transformed according to buyer’s choice. The subject Transporter, typically a Window Van, arrives at the factory still with the protective shipping wax still covering the paintwork. Luckily it removes simply. The van is delivered standard, zero km, with one important distinction – it has been assembled with 50mm of reduced suspension height from the factory, and has the latest VW factory alloy wheels.

Usually the two front seats are upgraded, the door trims and other trim board substituted in material to match the newly lined roof, using a type of velour fabric. Starting with version 1, in goes the folding back seat, and that’s about it. The others get their further amenities according to price – some including the Indel ‘Made In Italy’ high efficiency fridge, for which Trakka has the Australian agency. The company has the distinction of having developed and supplied a compact compressor to the US Space Shuttle program that operates at full efficiency in any position.

This insight into the operation and functioning of Trakka Van Conversions Pty Ltd was not intended as a promotion for the company, and I have resisted the tendency to get carried away with enthusiasm!



Volkswagen's New T4 Bus

By Rod Young
August 1990

It's finally happened. Volkswagen presented to the public at the end of August its new Transporter, named the T4. The Type 2 in its previous three generations has served its time, at least in the two-wheel-drive versions. Only the Syncro will survive in the old shape for the time being. The amount of appreciation showed by customers for the old rear-engined bus is shown by the fact that the entire production for 1990 has already been accounted for - completely sold out.

Perhaps people should have waited to see what the new Transporter has to offer, because it really is a great deal. Firstly, an entirely new concept: all T4 variants have only front-wheel drive and a transversely mounted engine, which is hidden underneath a short engine lid. This is exactly what the market demanded. When compared to the old Transporter, this layout creates a vast amount of room at the rear of the vehicle, for example for carrying passengers or goods. An excellent ride and ideal space utilisation along with compact exterior dimensions can therefore be expected. The advantages of the old Transporter – the ability to be driven like a car, but with much more room available – are found to an even greater degree in the new Bus.

The T4 forms the basis for a large number of different body variations for the most different of applications. From the Caravelle to the Pick-Up, Double-Cabin and Delivery Van to the Kombi, all the variations, which made the old Transporter such a multi-purpose vehicle, will be available. In addition there will be a vehicle consisting of the bare chassis and cab, which will serve as the platform for special body constructions, such as camper vans and special utility vehicles.

There will be an option of two different wheelbase versions, 2.92 and 3.32 metres. With the Caravelle and the Kombi, this will mean that instead of the usual nine seats, up to twelve positions will now be possible. In future there will be three weight classes of commercials, with ratings of 800, 1000 and 1200 kilograms. Until now the upper limit was 995 kg. For trouble-free loading, there will be a large rear hatch or two swinging doors. The sliding side door is still there, and double sliding doors can be ordered. In the Caravelle the seats can easily be removed, or else the rear seat cushion can simply be folded down to make more loading room.

Three petrol engines and two diesels make up the choice of power plants. All were chosen on the basis of high torque and durability. At the entry level is a 1.8-litre four-cylinder in-line engine with 49 kW / 140 Nm and a carburettor. This engine was conceived mainly for countries that don't have a sufficient supply of lead-free petrol. Then there is a 2-litre five-cylinder with 81 kW / 190 Nm, fuel injection, catalytic converter and oxygen sensor. The petrol motors reach their peak power at 4300 and 4500 rpm respectively.

A 1.9-litre four-cylinder diesel with 45 kW / 127 Nm, and a 2.4-litre five-cylinder with 57 kW / 164 Nm are both available. Both achieve their maximum power at 3700 rpm.

All models have as standard a five-speed gearbox; a four-speed auto is an optional extra.

Together with the improved Cd of 0.37, quite substantial performance can be achieved. For example, VW indicates a figure of 11.4 seconds for acceleration from zero to 80 km/h for the 2.5-litre five-cylinder-equipped Caravelle. The top speed of this same vehicle is given as 161 km/h.

Suspension and brakes are also new, as front-wheel drive presents particular problems concerning varying vehicle behaviour when loaded and unloaded. At the front, independent suspension with double wishbones and two longitudinal torsion bars provide good tyre-to-road contact. With this design more room is also provided in the footwell of the passenger compartment. At the rear are semi-trailing arms with coil springs.

The suspension design and component tuning are reported as providing a balanced driving feel at all load conditions. The braking equipment consists of a hydraulic twin-circuit brake system with diagonal split - discs at the front and self-adjusting drums at the rear as well as power assistance and a pressure regulator that is specially controlled by a balance lever. The new pressure regulator is supposed to guarantee that the high degree of stability achieved by the suspension is maintained while braking through curves.

It is welcome that the increase in interior room is not accompanied by larger exterior dimensions. The short version is 4.66 metres in length (the long version is 5.055 metres), ie. 8 centimetres more than the existing Type 2. The width of 1.84 metres remains unchanged, as does the height at 1.94 metres. The dimensions of the interior loading area are given as 2405 x 1620 x 1415 mm.

It is obvious also that the new Bus will be heavier than its predecessor. For example, the T4 with 2.4-litre diesel weighs about 1640 kg and reaches a legally allowable gross weight of 2540 kg. Maximum trailer weight, depending on total vehicle weight, is up to 2000 kg.

We're looking forward to a first test drive, even if it's not yet clear when the first T4s will be in dealers' hands. Then we'll see if the new flash van from Wolfsburg can impress enthusiasts for the old Type 2. This will also be a question of price, which has not been announced at this stage.



South African Muscle Bus

By Geoff Dalglish
August 1991

Volkswagen of South Africa has staged a spectacular coup d'etat with the launch in February this year of the 2.5 litre five-cylinder Kombi.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that the new Volksie has further distanced itself from the Japanese opposition. To use the jargon of the '90s, it's South Africa's definitive luxury MPV – Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

Arriving on the scene just months after Wolfsburg has switched to an aerodynamic new front-engined design for the T4, the uniquely South African development is a triumph for local ingenuity. Not only is it more powerful than the 2.1 litre version it replaces, but quieter, more comfy, and as stylish as a brick-shaped minibus dating back to the ‘Seventies can be.

Fitment of the locally engineered Audi-derived 2.5-litre engine boosts power 22% from 82 kW at 4800 rpm for the familiar 2.1 litre ‘wasserboxer’ engine to a muscular 100 kW at 5000 rpm. The torque gain is no less impressive, although admittedly at higher revs, soaring from 174 Nm at 2800 rpm to 200 Nm at 3500 rpm. According to VW's claims, it will now accelerate to 80 km/h in 9.2 seconds, while clocking a genuine 164 km/h at sea level.

Changes also go way beyond the engine. Most obvious is the new frontal treatment with new front grilles and bumpers, and larger windows for rear seat passengers.

A welcome innovation is a jump seat that folds down into a table or armrest, and allows walk-through access to the rear. Fitting the bigger engine has necessitated raising the floor of the rear luggage area slightly, but although some luggage area is lost, there is a bonus of two additional storage compartments and a facility to told the seats flat to form a bed.

A five-speed gearbox is standard, although first is rarely necessary; it's better to shift from second to fifth in the normal H-pattern instead. Shifts are smooth and precise, and the van has effortless power with quiet running thanks also to extra sound deadening.

On the open road it cruises at 120 km/h with only a light touch on the accelerator, and proved able to flatten most hills in fifth at sea level.

Although a minibus can never be quite as easy to manoeuvre as a car, the Caravelle comes close, pampering its occupants with every imaginable luxury, including that superb overhead console air-conditioner, plush seating with flip-down armrests, electric windows and mirrors, central locking, tinted glass, height adjustable front seatbelts, full instrumentation, a four speaker sound system, and alloy wheels shod with 205/70 tyres.

As you'd expect, the price is in keeping with its ‘German Luxury Car’ status, with the manual Caravelle costing R79,420 and the three speed auto R81,480 (That’s $36,100 and $37,040 in Aussie dollars). About the only option is metallic paint at R400 ($A182); an alarm and immobiliser is standard.

By contrast, the Microbus foregoes some of the luxuries to arrive with a price tag of R61,130, or R63,200 for the auto. Again, I'll convert that for you Aussies; that's $A27,787 and $28,728 respectively.



VW Is Back With A Vengeance

Daily Telegraph (1982)
February 1992

Volkswagen came back into Australia last week with its first new commercial vehicle release in 15 years. The new arrival is the Transporter range of light commercials - a Microbus and a Kombi.

The Transporter is impressive in all departments, including price, which ranges from $10,995 for the manual Kombi to $14,996 for the deluxe automatic Microbus. Critics have been quick to point out that the top of the line in Japanese eight-seater buses sells for under $10,000 and has more comfort in many areas.

This may be so, but the Transporter range is a well engineered series that will have no trouble whatsoever in disposing of 1,000 units a year in Australia. This is the figure that has been mentioned by Mr Dick Higgins, general manager of Volkswagen Australia. Last week he said the company could no longer expect to dominate this segment of the commercial market.

Volkswagen Australia will import 1000 units a year, split equally between Kombi and Microbus.

The Kombi freaks will come out of everywhere, and there are individuals and businesses that will certainly spend the money to buy what they consider to be the best in terms of reliability and quality in the light bus field.

Of course there are faults.

Like all light buses and vans, the Transporter tends to catch the cross winds, but people with ex¬perience driving these types of vehicles know how to handle that. Dust is inclined to gather thickly on the back window. Maybe a roof-mounted foil would help here. There seems to be a little trouble with the near side seat belt in the middle row of seats when using the sliding door. The vinyl seats get hot and sweaty without air conditioning, and one expects cloth seats in a vehicle costing almost $15,000.

Another fault with the front seats is that there is a lack of under-thigh support, and you feel you are slipping forward, particularly when driving. Side support seems sufficient and would definitely be better on cloth seats.

No doubt there are other faults, but a first look at the Transporter shows a top class multi-purpose vehicle.

It has very good visibility, the handling is excellent, the ride superb, it is quiet and comfortable for both driver and passengers and it gives a wonderfully safe feeling. Moving downhill at above average speed, the Transporter negotiates even fairly sharp bends with ease and without causing any white knuck¬les among the passengers.

Last week, Mr Higgins said that the initial shipment of 199 was already spoken for. It is easy to see why.

The Kombi and the Microbus are back and they look like staying for a while.



RHD T4 Caravelle

By Phill Lander
March 1992

A whole year after VW first unveiled this front-engined, front-wheel-drive people carrier, the Caravelle has finally been made available in right hand drive. The delay might seem surprising; you’d have thought that the company would be keen to eat into the expanding people-carrier market in the UK as soon as possible. But there’s a good reason for the delay: 30,000 European butchers, bakers and pretzel makers are waiting for their new Transporter vans, on which the Caravelle is based. Volkswagen has decided to concentrate on filling these orders before building large numbers of Caravelles. The company’s commercial vehicle factory in Hanover is producing 700 Transporters per day, 150 more than it achieved with the old rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive Transporter.

With British prices ranging from $A38,500 to $A47,300, the Caravelle is pitched directly at Renault’s Espace and Toyota’s Previa (Tarago). But unlike these two, and most other purpose-built people carriers, the van-derived Caravelle has ample room not just for passengers, but for their luggage, too. There’s enough space behind the rear seats for at least six suitcases, and more if you’re willing to sacrifice some rearwards vision. Two versions of the Caravelle are available: the GL, which comes with seven seats and has the higher spec trim; and the CL, which comes with eight seats as standard (a ninth is optional) and is less well equipped.

The middle row of seats in both models can be removed at the flick of a couple of levers, which creates even more luggage room; and a few minutes with a spanner will have the back seats out too, thus turning the Caravelle into a carpeted Transporter.

A large sliding door makes loading the VW child’s play. As well as being easily removed, the middle seats fold down to make a table. The back of the GL’s seat is covered in a hard plastic moulding, with indents to hold drinks. Both the driver’s and front passenger’s seat can be swivelled around to face backwards.

There's no doubt that you're driving a Transporter when in the Caravelle. The steering wheel is more upright than a car’s, and you sit with your knees bent at right angles. It’s comfortable, though, and in the GL you even have an armrest for your right elbow.

Both the GL and CL versions have well made and sensibly laid out facias, which borrow switches, knobs and stalks from VW saloons. The GL has more doolackies than the CL: central locking, rev counter, electric door mirrors, contoured seats, power steering (which the diesel CL has as well), and metallic paint.

Three transverse engines are available for RHD Caravelles: two petrol motors, a 63 kW 2.0-litre four cylinder and an 82 kW 2.5-litre five cylinder, plus a 58 kW 2.4-litre diesel. All Caravelles have five-speed gearboxes as standard.

The Caravelle has independent front and rear suspension - semi-trailing arms at the back; double wishbones and torsion bars (which cleverly keeps the footwells clear of intruding coil springs) at the front. This car-like suspension set-up makes the VW a great handling van like its predecessor, but unfortunately it’s not up to Espace standards. The VW, after all, is 230 mm longer than the Renault, and on the road it feels it. The upshot of the extra size is fine ride comfort, better than the Espace or Toyota. The Caravelle smothers big bumps, but has a tendency to pitch. Push it too hard and it starts to understeer, and because you sit high up it feels more out of shape than it really is. Drive it like a Transporter, however, and it wont let you down. And it certainly doesn't gyrate the way an old Ford Transit would if pushed too hard.

I drove the GL version, fitted with the 2.4-litre diesel. Volkswagen quotes a top speed of 140 km/h, a figure easy to achieve, and one which is quite adequate for a vehicle capable of carrying so many people. Strong low-down torque makes the diesel VW relaxing to drive in town, endowing it with decent acceleration and good lugging ability - something missing from buzzy, high-rpm Toyota engines. VW also quoted an average fuel consumption of 9.4 L/100 km while we burned slightly more - 10.0 L/100 km.

As a pure alternative to the Renault Espace, the Caravelle is not quite suitable. It’s too much of a van, not quite enough of a car; too big on bulk and a little short on luxury. But for football teams, antique shop owners and especially old Kombi owners, it makes a lot of sense.



The New Volkswagen T4 Transporter

By Phill Lander
November 1992

Released at the Sydney International Motor Show, the new Transporter/Caravelle range is the safest and most environment-friendly ever.

Prices for the new commercials are still competitive with the Japanese vans at $24,750 for the panel van and $29,900 for the window van, and with Volkswagen's superior quality and reliability should sell well. The Caravelle should go on sale in a few months time and will hopefully be priced to compete with the Toyota Tarago. With TKM advertising the Caravelle on its safety features it must be a better alternative as a family bus.

Through three generations covering 40 years of production, the Transporter became the most popular commercial vehicle of all time. Nearly seven million sales worldwide are a testament to its success and versatility.

Now comes the new Transporter, a brand new vehicle developed at enormous cost to take van owners into the next century.

Much thought and care has gone into every aspect of its design. From the front engine with front wheel drive, to the low flat load floor and the large tailgate. From the moulded dashboard and door panels, to the independent suspension front and rear. From the aerodynamic shape, to the extensive anti-corrosion treatment.

The front engine, front-wheel drive layout of the new Transporter has allowed Volkswagen's designers to create a van for all trades and businesses.

At the near side a sliding door is supplied as standard so that you can take full advantage of the 5.4 cubic metres of load space.

All this load space hasn't been supplied at the expense of overall dimensions. The new Transporter is truly large on the inside and compact on the outside. At less than 2 metres high, with the standard roof, it should fit into a standard garage or multi-story car park with ease.

Whether in congested city streets or on the open road, the Transporter is easy to drive with features like independent suspension to give car like ride and handling.

From the moment you open the door the new Transporter looks inviting. The cab doors now open behind the front wheels and the wide, low entrance step makes the access very easy.

Creating the best possible environment for the driver was the priority for the Volkswagen design team. Once you’re behind the wheel the fully moulded dashboard and door panels, and comfortable seating help you to forget it's a van at all.

As you would expect from Volkswagen, there is a heavy emphasis on safety. Like its predecessor, the new Transporter has a deformation zone built into the front end of the vehicle to aid passenger protection in the event of a collision.

The new Transporter is unique amongst commercial vehicles in having independent suspension front and rear. The compact front suspension uses double wishbones and torsion springs together with short shock absorbers, so that none of the components project into the footwell area.

At the rear, diagonal trailing arms and coil springs are used. Again a compact arrangement has been achieved by mounting the shock absorbers below the load floor. This design gives the large through-loading width of 1220mm between wheel arches of van models.

Extensive anti-corrosion treatments are applied during manufacture, including dip-degreasing, zinc phosphating and cataphoretic priming. In addition cavities are flooded with hot wax as a further protection against rust.



T4 Caravelle Road Test

By Philip Lord
November 1993

To have a tribe of kids can be a mixed blessing. You can easily cope with carting your own in the Beetle, Golf or Passat, but what if they want to bring friends? Or what if you have more than three kids?

This is where passenger vans come into the picture. Vans like the Tarago have become very popular for their ability to handle the rigours of being the large family's workhorse.

The VW Caravelle (and before that, the VW Microbus) passenger van has been available in Australia for many years, but has long been at the mercy of the Japanese manufacturers with their ability to undercut on price. Now that prices of Japanese vans are climbing higher, the Volkswagen Caravelle has become price competitive.

The Caravelle has the 2.5 litre five-cylinder engine and 5-speed manual as standard. Major options for the Caravelle include auto transmission, air-conditioning, alloy wheels, bull-bar and tow bar.

Heading for Palm Beach one-up, it was hard to gauge what the performance and ride would be like fully loaded. However, as it was, the van’s performance was quite acceptable (especially off the mark), and while the suspension did feel a little choppy, this is not unusual for a van design such as the Caravelle.

The Audi-sourced five produces a pleasant, unobtrusive growl when provoked, and   is smooth through the rev range. No torque steer was evident despite the front-wheel drive design.

The test vehicle was fitted with a 4-speed overdrive automatic transmission. It was smooth in operation and had good kick-down response. I noticed that in traffic or on the winding Barrenjoey Road, it was better to lock-out 4th gear so as to avoid riding on the brakes. While the gear selector is well positioned, it would benefit from a gate such as Audi's, to avoid slipping past the intended gear, as is easy to do with the long angled lever.

The seats seemed softer than those fitted to late-model Passats (they look virtually identical) and are quite supportive. Access to the front seats requires a definite step up, and can be awkward to negotiate, especially as there is no grab handle. Once seated though, there is ample view foward, and one cannot escape the feeling of riding over the front wheels. The seating position is high and bus-like.

The Caravelle's advantage over other passenger vans is its superior size. This is a double-edged sword, as its roomier cabin space naturally means a larger exterior, with all the ensuing perceptions of unwieldiness, heavier fuel consumption and so on.

At $42,990 (manual) or $45,690 (automatic), the Caravelle is not cheap. However do some shopping around and you'll see that nothing else in this category of vehicle is either! With Volkswagen's reputation for over-engineering their cars, one might expect that the Caravelle will last the spills and scrapes of family car life much longer.



Syncronicity - Bus mit Allradantrieb

By Simon Matthews
February 1995

The combination of the Volkswagen Transporter and permanent Syncro all-wheel-drive transmission providing a go-anywhere people and/or goods mover has been one of the best ideas to come out of the VW Group so far.

I lucked onto my 1988 Syncro Transporter after spotting an advertisement in the Trading Post. The third-generation Transporter shape had always appealed to me and I had looked at buying several two-wheel drive versions before. The Syncro was reasonably priced, and following an inspection decided that it was too good to resist. My Audi 5+5 was sold off and I became a boxer owner once again.

Despite being beautiful, clean and in surprisingly good condition for a commercial vehicle, there were a few items to attend to following its arrival home. The original shock absorbers were well past their use-by date and desperately needed replacing. These, combined with almost-bald original 205x14 Michelin X street-type radials allowed the bus to spin all four tyres in the rain one afternoon coming through a fast comer on the way home from work. Some better rubber was required if the bus was going to stay shiny-side up.

The shock absorber problem was tackled first. Original equipment units from VW were priced way out of my league, and so an alternative had to be found. It seemed that aftermarket shocks for a Series 3 Syncro Transporter were going to be difficult to find. Both Bilstein and Koni did not list a part number for such items, but Active Suspensions in Hornsby Heights was one company that could make a set of Koni adjustable Special Ds to fit the bus for considerably less than the original replacements. Following the excellent results of fitting Konis to my Audi, this was definitely the way to go.

After adjusting the shocks to half firm it has not been deemed necessary to re-adjust the units since. Not having driven a Syncro with decent original shocks it is hard to compare how the Koni-equipped bus rides. When empty it is definitely on the firm side but improves greatly with a load on board (i.e. other than a car-full of drunken yobbos at Valla ‘93).

The wheels and tyres have probably caused the most headaches of any mods to date. After pricing off-road tyres to suit the original 6x14" steel rims it was decided to up the ante to 7x15" rims for improved looks and a wider choice of tyres. Several problems then arose. As with the shocks, the Australian aftermarket wheel industry was not brimming with items for late Transporters. Most reasonable-looking alloy wheels that we checked out were (a) not available in 5x112mm PCD and/or to suit M14 wheel studs, (b) the wrong offset, or (c) had flat centres that would not clear the rear stub axle nuts etc. etc.

Eventually a set of 5 spoke Performance Austar alloys were chosen for their ease of fitment and good looks. Their open design allows them to be easily cleaned, a job that occurs quite often! Several new alloy wheels to suit the Transporter have been released since I went through all this, so setting a Syncro up with alloy wheels nowadays is not as hard as it used to be.

The choice of tyres was again a matter of compromise. Realistically, the Syncro would mostly be used on the street and see little (if any) real off road use, so an aggressive mud tyre would destroy the superb ride afforded by the Konis, as well as handling suspiciously in the wet. Transporter Syncros, although 50mm higher than the 2WD variant, are still limited in the size of tyre that will fit under the guards. A set of 225/70R15 Dunlop Grandtreks fitted the bill perfectly, being a predominantly road tyre but with a reasonable mud/snow pattern for occasional excursions into the bush. Clearance from the left rear tyre sidewall to the inside edge of the open sliding door is about the width of my smallest finger, almost too close for comfort!

With the bus now running and driving okay it was time to turn the attention to the interior. Although fitted with a Camperize rear seat that folds down to form a double bed, the bus came with the basic austere trim it left Graz with, including bare painted steel everywhere, including the rear floor. Having the side and rear trim panels reupholstered in 'frontrunner’ cloth provided a more homey atmosphere, and a carpeted plywood floor made the interior much more presentable. So far I have not extended the roof lining from front to back, this job being included in the list of things to do One Day. The original gauge cluster was replaced by a ‘Euro’ version including a tripmeter speedo, tachometer and 24 hour digital clock. The original fuel and temperature gauges were modified to fit in the tacho face.

The 70 kW 2.1-litre 'waterboxer’ catalyst motor has been kept absolutely standard for the sake of reliability and driveability. A Finer Filter polyurethane air filter and stainless steel muffler are the only additions so far. Combined with the ‘4+G’ gearbox the big bus will move along quite respectably and will easily see off a 4-cylinder T4 in a traffic light drag. In fact, the first time I used the rev limiter was to run an enthusiastic Tarago driver and left him languishing behind. Such driving does not pay dividends at the petrol station however, because motoring at any decent speed will see the fuel gauge drop quite alarmingly. Round-town driving normally sees the bus return about 12 litres per 100 km, and the tank holds 70 litres.

A Camperize alloy bull bar and Cibie Super Oscar driving lights are the only external mods. These lights, combined with 90/130W headlight bulbs produce a brilliant display of light and ensure that I can always see where I'm going. Many thanks to Phill Lander for his factory-type wiring job on the lights and relays.

The Syncro has not done much off road work since its purchase, being used mainly as a very practical daily driver. The roadholding is now very good and the visibility in traffic is superb. Looking down on lifted 4x4 Hiluxes and Landcruisers is especially satisfying. I did, however, get a chance to use the Syncro in anger in the bush last year when a friend of mine, Mark (a Landcruiser owner) organised half a dozen or so of us from work with 4WDs to try a track known as ‘Long Angle Gulley’ at the base of the Blue Mountains, starting at Blaxland and finishing at Winmalee. The track is about 10km long and is rated as 'very easy' 4WD, being used for club driver training and the like. We amateur off-roaders should have no problem making it through, or so we thought...

Heavy rain the week before had created quite a lot of mud in places and had washed deep ruts into sections of the track. Mark acted as tour guide and showed us the right way to read the track surface, where to put the wheels for maximum grip and so on. It was stressed that slowly was the way to approach most off road situations, with the very real possibility of car damage as a consequence of doing something stupid.

Immediately the choice of tyres on all vehicles became important as to how well they performed. Mark's mega-Landcruiser with 12.5 x 33 inch tall BFGoodrich Mud Terrain T/As had no problems with the track, but my (street type) Grandtreks easily filled with mud and did not self-clean as easily. We soon learned how much throttle to apply without spinning the wheels uselessly. By travelling a section of the track one car at a time, road building where necessary and having lots of help available in case of trouble, we moved cautiously forward. The 6.03:1 Gelandegang (off road gear) in the Syncro would allow it to climb hills that I would have found difficult to walk up. The absence of power steering made hard work of the constant wheel corrections necessary to keep the bus driving forward, but being seated over the front wheels made it very easy to place the wheels exactly where they were needed.

Comparing the performance of the Syncro with the other 4WDs in our party, several things became apparent. The first was the lack of wheel travel. At any crossing of a dip or bump at a skewiff angle, the Syncro would lift wheels off the ground. One especially deep ditch turned it back into a 2WD as it picked two diagonally opposite wheels up. Some judicious lifting on the rear tow bar by three other party members to put both front wheels back on the ground soon had us on our way again. A locker diff for the rear axle would provide drive even if the car has wheels in the air. For serious bush driving, they are a must.

The only other problem was approach and departure angles. Being a forward control van, the long nose meant that rock steps and sharp rises had to be treated with a great deal of caution. Some minor scurfs on the bottom of the bull bar were the only marks I put on the bus all day. Fortunately, there are side tracks around some of the more ‘challenging’ sections and by sticking to these the impact on the cars was minimal.

The only major problem we had was Mark's Landcruiser breaking a front CV joint after jamming the wheel between two rocks while climbing a very steep hill. We spent our lunch break cleaning the broken parts out of the axle tube and the Cruiser finished the rest of the track in 2WD only with no sweat.

All in all, I was very impressed with the performance of the Transporter Syncro. By the end of the day my confidence in the car's ability had increased 1000%. It is surprisingly capable and, given more suitable tyres and a few other mods, would be able to go just about anywhere. I don't think I would like to take it bush too often though, because cleaning it is one hell of a job!



Syncro Kombis at the Range Rover Test Area

By Jeff McKenzie
May 1997

On a gorgeous autumn morning, two Syncro T3 Camper Kombis attacked the Range Rover Test Area, with good results. Derek Drew and I took our '90s and our families out for a little mud, muck and Syncro Madness.

The spot is some old farmland that the Range Rover people have set up for demonstrating their vehicles. It is traversed by a series of very rutted ‘two tracks’ up and down moderate hills, into gullies, in both bush and open land. Many of the ‘roads’ in the open areas remind my wife of central Africa, where she worked for several years.

Its nice to go to a place like this with a buddy vehicle to keep you out of trouble (or to share the trouble you get into). We did find trouble, too. Recent rains had left standing water at all the low points, and recent Range Rovers had made some gnarly ruts in the clay soil. Their tyres are much bigger than the Syncros’!

No gates for the Range Rover Test Area, just bulldozed up a couple of large berms up at the end of the paved entry road to keep out the riff-raff. Up and over we went, and in about one minute we were pretty nicely stuck.

Now, Derek's philosophy is that to get anywhere interesting, you have to be willing to get stuck. We had just gotten past one mud pit when the lead vehicle got caught just at the beginning of a second. Those Rover ruts are deep! We hooked up a tow strap, and with the diff locks on, backed up like a little train, retreating to the more solid stuff between the two quagmires.

We de-aired the BF Goodrich Radial All-Terrain size 27LT8.5-14 tires (both vehicles run these - they are the ones you want, folks) to about 18 psi, reconnoitred the mess on foot, repositioned to attack from the side, and proceeded through.

Soon we were at the ‘Pyramid’, a three-metre mound of dirt set on a little plateau. Three sides have been packed at somewhere between a 25 and 45 degree angle, and there is just enough room on top to stop your vehicle for ‘hero photos’. For added effect, there is standing water (actually, standing mud) around the base. The key to climbing this little hill is the friend of all VW Kombi drivers, momentum. You get a running start, and head for the hill, prepared to launch. First you hit the mud, which sprays up all over the side windows giving you a tunnel effect, and then you realise that there is nothing in your forward range of vision but this hill, and it is about two metres ahead of your windscreen. Of course, your windscreen is forward of the wheels, and a millisecond later you see nothing but blue sky as you start the ascent. In another millisecond, the hill levels out abruptly (somewhere along here, reliable witnesses report your front wheels leave the ground) and you are perched on top, ready for your photo opportunity!

The kids love driving around in mud, so next we played in the mud for awhile, before heading off onto another track. This one had even bigger muddy ruts, and you could easily get stuck on the high centre. I had the lead, driving somewhat contentedly along, more or less with right wheels on the centre, left wheels on the left shoulder, which was rapidly disappearing into a pile of brambles. I knew I had to get over onto the right shoulder, thought I picked the right space, but it was not to be.

All of a sudden, we were stopped with the right wheels in the right ditch, left wheels up on the high centre, frozen in time, and frozen at what looked to be about a thirty-degree angle. We did not breathe. The engine was running. I slowly turned the wheels full right, gave it some gas, and the tough little Syncro Kombi crawled up the right shoulder. We were safe again, and even level.

Derek watched this from behind. He reports that first he thought no one should move, because it seemed like we were so close to tipping. When we did not go over onto our side, he wanted to measure the angle to establish a data point: take a Syncro Camper with four pax to X degrees, and you will not (likely) tip. Much as I might like to have the data, we just wanted to get out! My wife and I both have some training and experience in judging bank angles of aircraft, and we are certain it was somewhere around 25-30 degrees.

Of course, all this stopped Derek who was following us, and, loosing momentum, he ended up stuck. We got some debris ( a refrigerator door, and wheel and tire), threw them into the offending mud hole, and he was out after a few tries and letting out a little more air from the tyres.

All in all, it was a beautiful fall day. Derek’s rule prevailed: ready and willing to get stuck, the Syncro Kombis went places and did things I never would have considered before. We all had a great time.



How Does VW's Syncro Viscous Coupling Work?

By Phill Lander
March 2000

The majority of motor vehicles on the road today have only one driven axle. This is perfectly sufficient for many driving situations. For special situations, however, such as winter driving in the mountains, off-road driving and in countries with inadequate road systems, all-wheel-drive is an advantage. This is why in recent years it has been increasingly applied to almost all types of vehicles.

The aim is a drive system which, ideally without the intervention of the driver, improves traction and also cornering dynamics whenever this is required by the frictional conditions.

In the VW Syncro 4WD system, this objective is achieved by an axial hydraulic coupling - referred to as ‘viscous coupling’ - in the drive train.

Construction - the viscous coupling consists of a drum-shaped housing, enclosed on all sides. Inside it are two independent, perforated and slotted steel-plate packs, of which one is splined to a shaft and driven by the engine and gearbox. The second plat pack is driven by a viscous (ie. thick and sticky) silicone oil, and they in turn drive an output shaft, likewise by means of a splined connection. The outer drum is rigidly connected to the pinion shaft of the rear-axle drive.

The viscous coupling is thus of similar construction to a multi-plate axial clutch. Unlike such clutches however, the viscous coupling does not have a disengaging device. The plates are free to move in the housing and on the shaft, and are slightly spaced apart. Power is transmitted mainly through the silicone oil by its resistance to shear.

Couplings of this type have the characteristic that, with very small differences in rotational speed, they allow a slight slip between input and output, but ‘stiffen’ as the difference in rotational speed increases - which, with further increasing shearing forces, results virtually in a friction-type drive. The friction heat generated in the silicone oil during shearing leads to the expansion of the fluid, which results in a rise in pressure in the housing.

To prevent excessive pressures in the hermetically sealed coupling housing, a small air bubble is included. This controls the extent of the pressure rise, which also influences the torque characteristics of the coupling. Through further effects occurring at the molecular level of the silicone oil, it is possible for the transmitted torque to increase to such an extent that one may speak almost of a rigid lockup. This is then where a self-regulating effect occurs. Since, in this condition, there is virtually no longer any relative motion between the plates, the temperature falls again, thereby reducing the pressure; both the temperature and pressure finally settle at a certain level according to the instantaneous tractive effort.

Fluid: High-viscosity silicone oil is used for viscous couplings because, in contrast to mineral oil, the viscosity of silicone oil falls to a lesser degree with rising temperature and, furthermore, the fluid remains stable even at very high temperature. Although it is known that siloxanes do not have any marked lubricating properties, particularly not between steel/steel, this very fact appears to guarantee the desired torque progression (hump). The siloxane fill is regarded as a life-long fill and the unit is permanently sealed.

Plates: The plate pack also has a decisive influence on the ability of the viscous coupling to transmit forces and torques. Both the thickness and number of plates, as well as their surface quality, have an effect on the shear behaviour. Their diameter is also a major factor (the torque is proportional to the 4th power of the effective radius).

The thickness of the plates tested varied between 0.25mm and 0.9mm. The plates are provided with slots and holes which, shaped by empirical means, promote the torque and shear behaviour and the shape stability.

Wear: The latest VW test results from the endurance test run bench revealed quite different wear patterns on the surface of the plates.

Whereas one mating surface pair of two neighbouring plates shows clear signs of smoothing, no wear at all is detectable on the surfaces of the next immediately adjacent pair. The appearance of the surfaces is as when installed, namely virtually as new. This phenomenon applies alternately to the entire set of plates. However, there were some exceptions: Two or more adjacent pairs were also found to have no signs of wear, just as two or more adjacent pairs were found with wear marks.

Seals: Since pressures of up to 100 bar may occur in extreme operation, high demands are placed on the shaft seals, especially as silicone oils have exceptionally high creepability; that is, they tend to creep through the narrowest of gaps even when under no pressure. This results in tightly fitted seals that consequently produce a basic friction of up to 30Nm.

Driving the Vehicle: Any difference between the rolling speed of the front and back axles resulted in almost simultaneous locking of the viscous coupling. The front axle always has precedence since it initiates lockup. Tests were done to determine the influence of different tyre diameters between front and rear, as this would allow a speed difference between the front and rear axles, and should activate the viscous coupling.

It was mainly the different tread depths that caused any differences between rolling circumferences (with equally sized wheels front and back); loading and air pressure were of little significance.

Measurements showed that in continuous operation with a slip speed of 5 rpm between front and rear, the viscous coupling does not yet enter the range of torque progression. This corresponds to the effect of a 3 mm difference in the tread depths on the 175/70SR14 tyres between front and rear wheels at a speed of 160 km/h. Anything larger and the visco coupling will begin to activate as it heats up.

Since, however, endurance tests have shown that the rates of wear on front and rear axles are virtually identical in the slip-controlled permanent four-wheel-drive, the danger of the viscous coupling overheating at high speed due to different rolling circumferences virtually eliminates itself.

Since the viscous coupling can best be compared with an automatically locking differential, there are no additional levers or other operating components. The VW Transporter Syncro is driven like a van with rear-axle drive. The driver need not, therefore, learn any new driving techniques or observe specific or complex rituals. He can forget the four-wheel-drive; it is permanently available when it is needed.

If, for example, the vehicle comes onto loose ground, onto ice or snow and the driven rear wheels begin to spin, the viscous coupling immediately and imperceptibly begins to transfer power to the front wheels. The distribution of the propulsion force between the two axles is variable. It is perfectly possible that the rear wheels may be on an ice patch while the front wheels are on a dry road surface. When driving off under such conditions, the drive is almost entirely by means of the front wheels. Under normal circumstances - on a road with good grip - the drive power will be transmitted almost entirely by the rear wheels. The driver is not aware of this at all, and can drive on uninfluenced. This new drive concept offers maximums driving safety.

However, the viscous coupling also guarantees that a further driving situation is no longer so terrifying; with a single axle drive, it is possible for the driven wheels to spin. For example, on a snow-covered roadway, if the throttle is opened too much when cornering, the vehicle breaks away at the driven axle. This would be oversteer for rear-drive vehicle, and understeer in the case of front-drive vehicles.

An inexperienced driver has difficulty in mastering such a situation. In the case of four-wheel-drive by viscous coupling, the viscous coupling quickly and gently connects the drive to the other axle. This counteracts the incipient tendency to oversteer or understeer, and the vehicle proceeds neutrally through the curve. In most cases, the driver will not be aware at all that the wheels have developed the tendency to spin. This represents a significant contribution towards driving safety.

A further special feature of the viscous coupling is that it damps vibrations and jolts in the driveline. This spares all components, such as bearings, gearwheels and drive joints.

This is a summary of an SAE technical paper written by Wolfgang Peschke,  Volkswagenwerk AG.



Yes, But What On Earth Is Thixotrophy?

By Phill Lander
March 2000

The VW Training Manual I researched clearly states that heat is what causes engagement of the viscous coupling (VC). Let me quote it: "This unique silicon fluid...has the ability to increase its viscosity quickly when it is heated." So quickly that the manual states that once the wheels are turning at a differential above the 6% threshold, it only takes 1/10 of a second for the VC to engage, or within about 1/4 rotation of a wheel.

Wolfgang Peschke of Volkswagenwerk AG, wrote in his 1986 SAE technical bulletin #860386:

"If a test bench with torque control is allowed to operate over a lengthy period with load increasing at 20 sec. intervals, this results in the heating up of the coupling due to the fluid friction. This leads to a torque digression, caused by the decrease in the viscosity of the siloxane, which is added to the thixotropic behaviour. After a while there is a rather sudden reversal of the torque behaviour: as the torque is further increased, the slip speed surprisingly decreases.

"Graphs show torque on vertical axis, temp on horizontal and has 4 curves plotted, for VC input vs output speed differences of 10/20/30/40RPM. Each curve dips down as they say, then suddenly rockets up, around 50-70deg Celsius, meaning the torque being transmitted suddenly rises once the VC heats sufficiently.

"Section 5.3 - Torque Behaviour as a Function of Pressure. Since the housing of the VC is closed and sealed on all sides, the heat will result in an increased pressure due to the volumetric expansion of the siloxane, which is greater than that of the steel housing. A further graph shows the recording of static pressure, to be distinguished from the dynamic visco-elastic pressure between the plates during shearing. It can be seen that the torque progression starts when the primary pressure has assumed a certain magnitude. If the pressure is relieved, or if, due to a leak, it is unable to build up in the first place, then there is also no stiffening (lockup of coupling)."

In summary: The VC needs pressure to lock (sect 5.3); Expansion of fluid due to heat makes pressure inside VC (sect 5.3); Slippage inside VC makes heat (sect 5.2).

At this point I felt pretty confident saying that heat is what locks a VC, and I think this is what Peschke is saying too!

But what is Thixotrophy? Checking this word in the dictionary, it says (of fluids and gels), having a reduced viscosity when stress is applied, as when stirred. Some examples are paints that thin out on stirring, or the way tomato sauce flows more easily when you shake it. The synovial fluid in your joints also behaves this way. When you stand still for a long time your knees have a 'heavy' oil in them (which doesn't squeeze out from between the cartilage!) but when you move, the oil 'thins', so you don't waste energy in fighting fluid shear/friction.

Thixotropy is quite an interesting phenomenon and, here, a useful one! I suspect this a better explanation for such a method of operation over the 'disk heating' theory. I have a very hard time believing that the parts/fluid within the VC can possibly heat up that much within a ‘fraction of a revolution’ to make any real difference (perhaps you can generate significant heat if you are running different size tyres between front and rear and the differential movement is enough to constantly keep the VC in a 'semi locked' mode). I don't think even a dry clutch could heat up that fast. It should take a lot more friction and a lot more relative movement to make any real heat.

Consider too, what is the ambient temperature difference between that VC working in the snow and the same VC working out in the desert. If it was heat dependent, I should think the VC in the snow would behave in a totally different manner than the VC in the desert, needing far more time (and, therefore, wheelspin) to heat up to that 'magic' lock up point. The VC in the desert, on the other hand, would be locking up much faster, or may be locked up all the time if it was really hot. It seems to me that the factory would strive to have the lock up point happen with pretty much the same point under as wide a range of operating points as possible all the time.

Heat would be a factor, but I suspect that thixotropy is the answer !



VW T3 Caravelle Syncro

By David Morley
November 2000

In a world where motoring tastes are driven either by fashion or necessity, it's good to see the two aims corning together for a change in Volkswagen's Caravelle Syncro.

While a lot of families want a four-wheel-drive for the fashion statement these lumbering behemoths make, many other clans need a less-trendy people mover for its sheer number of seats.

Back in 1989, Volkswagen Australia (Ateco) offered a vehicle that was a little bit of both. Having invented the people-mover concept nearly half a century ago, it's fair to say Volkswagen knows a thing or two about getting large groups of people mobile in safety and comfort.

But throw a sophisticated four-wheel-drive model into the line-up, and you suddenly-had a very capable vehicle that, while it wasn't a dedicated off-roader, could still handle greasy boat ramps and building sites if required. The vehicle was called the Caravelle (the Kombi with extra seats and better trim) Syncro.

The Caravelle Syncro was also significant because it marked the last hurrah for the conventional VW powerplant. It was the last of the Kombi derivatives to use the celebrated horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, and the last to mount the engine behind the rear axle and under the luggage space.

It was also the last push-rod operated VW Kombi Caravelle engine, although it did feature water cooling (of the cylinders and heads only, not the crankcase). Subsequent T4 VW people movers used more conventional inline engines, overhead camshaft designs, full water cooling and mounted them in the normal space between the front wheels. And that's before we even mention that the next generation was front, and not rear-wheel-drive.

So, in many respects, the Caravelle Syncro was a member of the breed that would claim to be the last ‘traditional’ Kombis.

The water-cooling enabled VW to wring a little more performance from the engine with the same high levels of reliability. Enlarged to 2.1-litres, the four-cylinder engine now made 70 kW, which - while it doesn't sound fantastic - was produced in concert with huge helpings of torque, always a Volkswagen long suit. Combined with intelligent gearing, the new engine gave very relaxed performance and while it was no rocket, it was certainly as quick as most other people movers.

The all-wheel-drive system was aimed at providing grip when the conditions demanded it, but maximum performance and fuel economy at other times. The Syncro system was set up so that the Caravelle was virtually a rear-wheel drive.

The on-board sensors kept tabs on the speed of rotation of the front wheels, relative to the rear wheels. As soon as any difference was noted (indicating that wheel spin was occurring), the Syncro system shifted some of the drive to the front wheels and spread the torque more evenly.

The torque is shifted front and rear via a viscous coupling and since there are no buttons or levers to worry about and a smooth transition between rear and all-wheel drive, the occupants don't usually detect anything happening underneath at all.

If the buyer required it, the Kombi could be made even more off-roadworthy with the optional rear differential lock, which improved traction even further in slippery conditions. It was standard fare on the Caravelle. And to make the vehicle even more likely to emerge again from any off-road encounters, bash plates protected the engine and front suspension, as well as the driveshafts.

Longer travel suspension was also part of the deal and gave the vehicle a high-stepping ability, while Syncros all got a pseudo five-speed manual gearbox. In truth, the unit was a four-speed box with an extra low first gear that was only used for trundling up and down steep slopes. In day-to-day use, you simply started in second gear and used the gearbox like a conventional four-speed.

The fact that there were absolutely no controls associated with the four-wheel-drive system certainly made the Caravelle Syncro a lot less daunting for many drivers who would have been put off by the complexity of some other systems.

And just to prove that it all worked as it should, Kombi Syncros were entered by several local teams in the Australian Safari, with class-winning results in some cases. The Syncro Transporter also won the ‘Overlander’ 4WD Of The Year award in 1990.

The rest of the package, meanwhile, was typically sensible VW people mover packaging. The body was still the familiar shape (with slightly more modern detail work) so it still amounted to a box on wheels. That meant it had good elbow and shoulder room in any of its seven seats, and a proper walk-through facility for when discipline was required in the rear-most row of seats.

The seats themselves were covered in sensible, hard-wearing cloth, and individual head-rests and armrests added to the comfort factor.

Safety - always an issue in people movers which place the front occupants ahead of the front axle - was addressed with strengthened construction at the front with the front bumper, panel supports, door pillars and side intrusion bars all adding to the vehicle's crashworthiness.

Standard equipment for the Caravelle Syncro ran to air-conditioning, power steering, central locking and the usual people mover trick of multi-folding seats.

The Caravelle won't be for everyone and the Syncro fitment arguably makes it even more specialised. But it's a vehicle that is still good to drive and makes a good fist of getting to wherever it was you wanted to be, even if that included a bit of mud and the odd creek crossing.

Caravelle Syncros were anything but cheap when released and have held their value like a lot of Volkswagen models over the years The talking starts at about $26,000 at a dealer’s yard for a 1989 model. The last batch arrived in 1992, just before it was replaced by the new T4.



Volkswagen T4 Caravelle

By Bill McKinnon
November 2000

Volkswagen's Caravelle is now back in the showrooms after a brief absence. The previous model's $50,000- plus asking price saw few takers, so Volkswagen has knocked $3,000 off the ticket - now $48,990, or $52,190 for the auto - and added plenty of engineering and feature upgrades to sweeten the deal on the grandson of the Kombi.

The Caravelle's major attraction is space. It is the only people-mover that will carry eight large adults comfortably in full sized, properly contoured seats. It is also unique in providing a generous load area behind the third row when all seats are taken. The VW’s third row - the usual people-mover squash zone - has more leg room than the back seat of a Commodore.

Volkswagen designs its cars to exceed by 40 per cent internationally legislated safety requirements. The latest Caravelle may still look like a breadbox on wheels, but underneath its slab-like architecture lies extra side impact protection, more effective front and rear impact absorbing ability and stiffer, reinforced sill panels.

An electronic differential lock, anti-skid brakes and a driver's airbag are also new.

The five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine gains a little more performance, while the automatic gearbox is now computer controlled, and chooses from five different shift programs depending on how the driver communicates through the accelerator.

The previous Caravelle had a stingy standard equipment list compared with its Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Voyager competitors, but this criticism no longer applies.

Fully automatic air-conditioning, with roof outlets for the second and third rows of seats, is now standard, together with alloy wheels, height adjustable front seats and seat belts and a trip computer. Power front windows and mirrors, cruise control and central locking are also included.

A new dash, instruments and controls, plus higher-grade upholstery, trim and carpets complete the makeover. All passengers have height- and tilt-adjustable head restraints, but the centre belt in rows two and three is lap only. Five child restraint anchor points are provided, two behind the second row with tether strap clips, and three holes for tether strap mounting bolts behind row three.

The Caravelle lacks the convenient side door access of the Voyager and Odyssey, but getting into the third row is quite simple with a single lever folding a section of the second row-forward. The walk-through access from the front seats to row two is also handy. Climbing up into the front seats almost requires mountaineering skills, but the rear floor section is much lower, so passengers and gear are easily loaded. The big load compartment has a sturdy cover, which folds forward with the third row when extra space is needed

In theory, the second and third row seats can be removed for a hangar-sized cargo area, but you need a spanner to unbolt the third row. The 60/40 split second row is secured by latches - after 20 minutes I gave up trying to remove it. As a last resort, I turned to the owner's handbook, where I found no joy either.

The Caravelle still feels like a bus to drive and the placement and operation of some controls is awkward. The automatic shift lever is too short to reach easily; you have to lean 45 degrees to the left to get at the handbrake, and the accelerator pedal is right up against the front wheel arch. The trip computer, air-conditioning and cruise control switches are ridiculously complex.

The 2.5-litre engine is lethargic and noisy. Performance is a low people-mover priority, sure, but nearly 20 seconds from 0-100 km/h - unladen - is painfully slow. On any incline the Caravelle simply dies, or goes into thrash mode if you put your foot down. The 2.5 has neither the power nor torque to haul the Caravelle's 1.7 tonnes, and its agony in doing so is reflected in high city fuel consumption of 17.0 litres/100 km.

Engine and tyre noise resonate through the cabin, and the Caravelle is light years behind its competitors in refinement.

The Caravelle's dynamics are acceptable - just - and the compliant suspension works well on our poor roads. Compared with Odyssey and Voyager, however, it drives like what it is: an optioned-up commercial van.

The Caravelle is rugged, spacious, safe and comfortable, but in other respects is overdue for replacement. Despite the price cut, it is still $5,000-$10,000 more expensive than the seven-seater Voyager and Odyssey automatics - against which it feels like a museum piece to drive - and can't be considered good value for money.

ENGINE: 2.5-litre fuel-injected five-cylinder
POWER: 85 kW at 4,500 rpm (not enough)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100 km/h in 18.5 seconds (slow)
BRAKES: Discs wth ABS (average)
ECONOMY:   12.4 L/100 km highway, 17.1 city
PRICES: Recommended retail: Manual $48,990; auto $52,190
You can get $1,500 off by twisting dealer’s arm
MAIN OPTIONS: Metallic paint $995

GOOD: The only people mover able to carry eight adults comfortably, and plenty of gear in the back.  Solid, durable and very safe. Well equipped.
BAD: Drives like a commercial van. Excessive engine and tyre noise. Sluggish, thirsty engine. Inefficient, dated   controls. Poor value for money.
VERDICT: The ace of space, but overdue in Kombi heaven,
STARS: two stars ** (out of 5)



CT / CZ Engines

By Tom Slider
October 2001

Occasionally I get asked about what size engine is the CT or CZ code VW engines. The owners believe they own a Type 4, but couldn't find any information. At first, I couldn't find this code in all of my references either. They said it looked like a Type 4 engine, and it came out of an ‘80-‘83 T3 Transporter (Vanagon in USA). Common sense told me to assume it was a 2.0L code that I didn't have a listing for, as all of the air-cooled Vanagons here in the US used a Type 4-based 2.0-litre. So too for the air-cooled T3s sold in Australia.

After discussing this with my fellow contributor, Rolf Christensen, he said that the CT code was indeed from the early Vanagon, but that it was a 1600 cc – in fact 1585 cc, yes same as 1600 Type 1, so it was NOT a Type 4-based engine. Hmm. From his description, it sounded like a weird low cost option for those early T3s, probably only for the European and UK markets. He'd had only seen a CT a few times, but he gave me a general description from memory. I was still curious.

Just recently I was given the opportunity to look through a European dealer parts book. Sure enough, I finally found a listing for the CT engine code. This required a careful study of the parts listings. What follows is a description of this engine and it's characteristics.

It a nutshell, it’s a modernised air-cooled 1600 Type 1 long block, but fitted with Type 4-style ‘pancake’ fan shrouding and fan.

The CT / CZ crankcase itself is very similar to a Type 1 crankcase, and could easily be mistaken for one at first glance. But there are some interesting additions. From the parts catalogue (ETKA) diagrams, you can see there is an oil filter flange that is moulded into the crankcase. The oil cooler flange is similar to the Type 1  flange and in a similar position, but you'll notice that it's been moved rearwards closer to the distributor, over the top of #4 cylinder. Obviously it doesn’t use a Type 1 style fan shroud, so the cooler doesn’t need to be in the same place.

There are also four studs on the rear end of the case for mounting the Type 4-style fan shroud, together with some new strengthening ribs. The oil pick up tube appears to be identical to a Type 1, and the flange on top of the case looks just like the one used for an alternator/generator stand on the Type 1.

The CT and CZ engines used a ‘pancake’ cooling system that looks and works similar to the Type 4, but is not interchangeable with the Type 4 as the engine is physically smaller. The shroud is visually similar to a Type 4, but the part number is a different series, so I'm assuming that it's different. The fan also looks really similar to a Type 4, and my suspicion is it's the same. It has a special adapter to mount the Type 4 fan onto the Type 1 crankshaft.

The diagram of the engine tinware pieces used with these engines is interesting. All of these pieces are unique to this engine, making finding replacements quite difficult. The oil cooler is mounted further rearward, as I mentioned, but also it doesn’t sit vertically like a Type 1. It sits horizontally and lays over #4 cylinder.

The oil cooler has it's own exit point for hot air, so the air blown across the oil cooler isn't dumped back on top of the cylinders and heads. The hole in the firewall tin is reminiscent of the doghouse set-up on the later model upright 1600s. The lower cylinder shrouds look really similar to the Type 3-style parts marketed as ‘cool-tin’, so it doesn’t have the Type 1 deflectors. The rest of the tinware looks quite complex, like a Frankenstein mixture of Type 3 and Type 4 shrouding.

What of the lubricating system? The oil strainer, sump plate, pickup look the same as a Type 1. So too does the oil pump, still with two gears and a flat cover plate. reen appear identical to their Type 1 counterparts. The rear-most oil pressure relief valve also looks the same, but the diagram doesn’t show a front valve. I wonder? There is an oil breather tower bolting to the same flange, in what appears to be the same location as the generator / alternator stand on the Type 1. However this engine doesn’t mount the generator; it’s down to the right side like the Type 4, and the fan is at the end of the crank of course.

The oil filter mount is in about the same location as the Wasserboxer engine, and is cast into the case. The oil filler is similar to the Type 3, Type 4 and the Wasserboxer engine. It bolts to the lower bottom of the back of the crankcase and extends upwards.

Another EKTA diagram gives a closer look at the cooler flange. As mentioned, it’s placed further rearwards (away from the flywheel), so the entire casting at this point has been redesigned. This would make for some difficulty if you wanted to use this crankcase in a Bug. The standard upright shroud wouldn't encase the cooler.

The engine uses a spacer to place the cooler away from the cylinders and to provide it with its own airflow. By the way, the oil cooler has a unique part number, so there's probably something about it that makes different from a Type 1 doghouse, Type 3, or Type 4 oil cooler. I suspect it may be the Type 4 oil cooler with a provision for the oil pressure-sending unit, and the external dimensions may be slightly different.

Here's an oddity: the intake manifold. The aluminium twin-port end castings and rubber boots look the same as a Type 1, but the centre is quite different. There are some weird bends in both the manifold and the heat risers, and the carb flange sits very low – below the level of the aluminium end castings! It's definitely not the same manifold as we are used to seeing. These engines used a Solex 34PICT4 single barrel carb, the same as used on the '74 Bug. No, these engines are not dual-carb like a Type 3 or Type 4. The manifold has a hefty heat riser to get the heat to the centre.

This engine used a lot of other unique parts that I haven't spoken about yet, including valve springs, hydraulic tappets, air cleaner and the complete exhaust system. The crankshaft also has it's own part number, meaning it was unique to this engine. I don't know how it was different, as it uses Type 1 main bearings, Type 1 rod bearings, Type 1 gears, and 215 mm Type 1 flywheel. It could have been a cast crank, whereas the previous cranks were forged; I am also unsure as to whether it has a Type 4-style crank seal at the fan end. The valve springs were probably stronger to allow for the control of the hydraulic valve train during operation.

All of these unique parts will make restoration of this engine quite difficult (and expensive) to return it to original, especially in markets like the US and Australia where this engine was never sold. In Europe it would be difficult enough.

What was difficult to determine was the difference between the CT and the CZ code. The only difference I've been able to find between the CT and the CZ is that the CZ engine uses dished pistons, most likely to lower the compression ratio and the fuel octane rating requirement. A detuned air-cooled 1600 in a heavy T3 Kombi – no wonder they didn’t sell many of them.

Both of these engines share parts from the Type 1 series, Type 3 series, Type 4 series, and from the Wasserboxer. An example is the rocker arms. The early ones are the 8mm found in the Type 1; later they changed to the 9mm adjuster, same as the Wasserboxer. To my best judgement, the following parts are essentially the same as the later model dual port Type 1 engines: crankshaft (as noted above), connecting rods (standard 1600 cc Type 1), and heads (with the exception of the small 30 mm exhaust valve). Type 1 parts could probably easily be interchanged on this engine to keep costs low during a rebuild and to get some more power.

The CT/CZ engine also used parts from the Wasserboxer, it's larger, younger brother. The camshaft, the 261 mm pushrods, pushrod tubes, and oil filter were all borrowed from the water-cooled flat four that VW used in the later T3 Transporters.

Not as many parts were pulled from the Type 4 parts bin. Hydraulic lifters (which were used for the Wasserboxers later) and the thermostat are the only obvious Type 4 parts used in these engines. It’s more the look and the general layout that screams ‘Type 4!’ rather than the specific components. There are a few hardware parts that are interchangeable, but not worth mentioning.

What all this means is that any experienced Type 1 builder can use off the shelf parts to get more power and life from this engine. They just need to realize that this engine is still a Type 1, and its limitations are the same.

This engine was made available from May 1979 through January 1983 on the T3 Transporter in Europe/UK, offering it as a low cost option for customers not requiring the Type 4-based 2.0-litre engine, or the Golf-derived 1.6 diesel engine. The key part of this statement is ‘low cost’. It's been reported that the dependability and power are marginal when compared to the Type 1 1600.

Its close resemblance to the Type 1 also means that a lot of the same problems with the Type 1 are true with the CT/CZ engine. The crankcase is made of the same magnesium/ aluminium alloy as the Type 1 cases, so align boring is often necessary. The fragile material causes the lifter bosses to be fragile if driven hard or with a large camshaft. There are workarounds for these problems, like sleeving the lifter bores, but the problems do exist.

Finding a CT/CZ in good shape is quite a rarity. These engines were generally driven hard, as it was pushing the heavy T3 Transporter around, quite a bit heavier than the earlier Type 2s. It was even rumoured that fresh from the factory the crankcases weren't as good as the Type 1 cases, but this is still a rumour, so treat it as such.

I've had reports that these engines have been converted to upright cooling systems and increased the displacement to 1776 cc, and that they are quite reliable. These upright conversions used a stock Type 1 fan shroud, modified for an external oil cooler. They very well could have used one of the 911 fan style conversions.

The UK Haynes manual for the ‘80-‘83 Transporters (Haynes #638, ISBN # 0 85696 638 x) has a lot of technical information on this engine, as it was included as an option for UK market Transporters. After glancing over the specs, it confirmed my suspicion that its internals are interchangeable with the Type 1 parts.

You can also see pictures and specs of this engine if you lay your hands on a Euro ’80-’83 Volkswagen Transporter brochure. Try Ebay to locate one.



High-mileage VW shuttle

By Hans Bleeker
November 2002

With close to 500,000 km on the clock, Dave Fitzpatrick thanks his lucky stars he chose the VW Transporter as his workhorse.

The all-wheel drive VW Transporter syncro travels an average of 1,000 km a day in its role as the Cooma-based Snow Express Shuttle. Mr Fitzpatrick's company transports skiers between the Snowy Mountains Airport at Cooma and the ski resorts.
It is often in the very worst winter weather conditions, on icy slippery roads, so it was crucial he made the right vehicle choice.

To fulfil its purpose of shuttling skiers, the long-wheelbase, 2.5-litre petrol 5-cylinder Transporter syncro was converted to seat eight people and their luggage by Trakka Pty Ltd of Sydney, Volkswagen Group Australia's official conversion partner.

“My wife and I have operated our business (based on site at Cooma Airport) for the past 21 years, and the Volkswagen Transporter is the best and safest car I've driven on the mountain,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“People are astonished at how much fits in. I have only ever used the roof racks once or twice and we are talking about accommodating a full load of passengers packed with ski equipment.”

VW's commercial vehicle manager Phil Clark said for business customers such as Mr Fitzpatrick, the Volkswagen brand provides a point of great security.

“Volkswagen sells Transporter throughout the world so it was a non-negotiable point that our vehicle meets or exceeds safety standards for even the most demanding markets.”



Series 3 Transporter Design Points

From the VAG Sales Training booklet
March 2003

Volkswagen's third generation 'T3' Transporter debuted in 1979. Still powered by an air-cooled, flat four engine mounted in the tail, it was a vast improvement over the 1968-79 2nd generation 'T2' VW Commercial before it.

VW listed a great many reasons for the new Transporter's superiority, some of which VW has since bypassed when they designed the later (still superb) front-drive T4. However, the T3's many good points are well worth looking at. They come from a 1980 VAG sales training brochure on the then new Transporter.

The new Commercial is much more elegant than its predecessor. The new styling is emphasised not only by the lower waistline, but also by the truly large-area windows all round.

The increased width is another attractive feature: 185 cm compared with 172 cm previously. The flashing turn indicators have been moved out and wrapped round the corners for improved visibility.

The new Commercial looks more elegant, is wider, has larger windows yet lower aerodynamic drag than its predecessor.

The new tailgate is 75% larger, extends the full width of the vehicle and reaches almost down to the back bumper.

To add passive safety, there are massive bumpers with a full-width deformation element. And a bifurcated side-member layout for the floor pan, with arms extending forward to the deformation element. The crumple zone of the bodyshell is now 10% longer.

The Delivery Van load space has grown by 0.7 m3, and the interior height by 5 cm.

High quality running gear: independent suspension front and rear, with double wishbones at the front and semi-trailing arms at the rear.

The 60-litre fuel tank and the spare wheel have been moved forwards to gain additional load space. Uniform axle load distribution, long wheelbase, wider track and carefully chosen centre of gravity are the secrets of good behaviour whether loaded or empty.

Naturally the Pick-Up still has loading platform height, 1005mm from the ground, but the load area has changed for the better. It now measures 4.73 m2, over half a square metre larger. The locker on the Pick-Up has been enlarged by 40%, and now measures 1.0m3 compared with 0.7m3 on the previous model.

The large load area of the Double Cab Pick-Up, now 3.24 m2, is entirely flat and can be reached for loading from three sides. Three people can travel in the rear section of the Double Cab, and there is additional space for tools or materials under the bench seat.

There is facia storage space, open on the passenger's side. As an optional extra, with lockable lid.

Unladen with driver, the weight distribution is 56% front, 44% rear. With driver and half payload (495 kg) it is a perfect 50% front, 50% rear. With driver, passenger and full 995 kg payload, it is 46% front, 54% rear.

The 2.0-litre has a maximum trailer load of 600kg unbraked, and 1200 kg braked.
The axle loads are 1100kg front, 1300kg rear.

The instrument panel is in the driver's direct field of view. The binnacle contains two large circular dials (with non-glare glass), with all switches and telltale lights. There are lever controls for heating and ventilation, a cut-out for radio, and adjustable fresh air outlets on either side. Large open storage area in front of passenger.

An automatic transmission is an option on all models with 2.0-litre engine. Smooth gear engagement and automatic, uninterrupted power flow in all speed ranges.

The bodyshell is of all steel, load-bearing design.

The battery has been moved from the engine compartment and is now under the driver's seat.

A compact, single-unit engine and transmission block with final drive. Low wear, minimum maintenance. Specially rated for arduous commercial vehicle duties.

The front overhang angle is now 21 degrees, compared with 19 degrees on the previous model.

The brake system is dual-circuit; fixed calliper disc brakes at the front, self-adjusting drum brakes at the rear. The brake pressure regulator responds to retardation rate, for rear-wheel brakes; transfers braking effort increasingly to the front wheels as pressure builds up. A vacuum brake servo unit increases braking force for the same pedal pressure, standard with the 2.0-litre engine. A high-performance brake system of ample strength ensures optimum braking, in conjunction with directionally-stable steering roll radius for the double-wishbone suspended front wheels.

The maximum permissible roof load is 100 kg.

The deformation element is full-width, located behind the front bumper.

Digital Idle Stabilization is an electronic control device that keeps the engine idling speed constant under all conditions, so that corrections become unnecessary.

The characteristic Volkswagen ‘walk-through’ opening between the driver's and passenger's seats is now 15% larger.

The automobile-style chassis and suspension components provide car-type handling with full commercial vehicle strength.

The cab design is according to ergonomic principles. Seat layout and position, restraint systems and location of instruments and controls are all designed for maximum ease and efficiency of operation by the driver or passenger. The steering column and pedals are not offset from the driver's seat; there is 25% more seat adjustment range (220mm fore and aft); adjustable seat back angle; foam upholstery material, and an extra-wide cab (1845mm). The cab doors have internal reinforcing beams of hollow section.

Top speeds are 110 km/h for the 1.6-litre, and 127 km/h for the 2.0-litre. The Automatic 2.0-litre has a maximum speed of 122 km/h.

Fuel consumption (DIN 70030 standard test) is 11.4 L/100 km for the 1.6-litre, and 11.8 L/100 km for the 2.0-litre. The Automatic 2.0-litre's figure is 13.0L/100km.

The windows are 22% larger on the Kombi and Microbus. The windscreen is 21% larger, and the rear window is 98% larger. There is 30% greater field of view to left and right.

The pedal cluster is pendant, hanging from above.

The unladen weight is 1365 to 1530kg, depending on the model. The gross weight is 2250 to 2360kg, depending on the model and equipment.

For heating and ventilation there are combined output, individual fresh-air supply points (Microbus). Rapid, draught-free low-noise fresh air flow through the interior; complete air renewal in the cab every 18 seconds. Rapid heat availability. Constant flow of warm air regardless of engine speed. Stratified airflow for comfort (cool head, warm feet). Individual control of airflow rates and directions. Special setting for extra-fast defrosting. Jetliner-style fresh-air nozzles in Microbus and Kombi. Temperature of 20°C inside vehicle within 10 minutes at 0°C ambient temperature.

Final drive ratio is 5.43 to 1 on 1.6-litre version, and 4.57 to 1 on the 2.0-litre version.

An inspection flap is provided for checking oil level and adding oil when necessary; concealed behind rear licence plate.

Volkswagenwerke's Technical Development teams investigated numerous design concepts with full forward and semi-forward control cabs. Front engines, rear engines, mid-engines. Front drive, rear drive. Inline, transverse and flat engine layouts. Some were built as prototypes and evaluated in a simulated customer cost benefit analysis. This was repeated on several occasions with modified criteria. The most highly rated concept of the 12 models evaluated was No. 7 - rear engine, rear drive layout.

The new Commercial has high-quality paintwork, a bitumen-wax base underseal, body cavity sealing and ‘open’ structural members. These are not fully enclosed but are 'vented' to ensure that moisture can evaporate quickly.

The cornering behaviour benefits from good wheel location, wide track, long wheelbase and well-balanced centre of gravity.

The cooling fan on both the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre engines are both driven from the crankshaft end, with no V-belt.

The rear loading height is 825mm on the delivery van, and 1005mm on the pick-ups.

The Delivery Van's interior dimensions are larger than before. The load space's overall length is 2780 mm, with 1570 mm in front of the engine compartment. Interior height is 1465 mm, with 1090 mm above the engine. Floor loading height is 455 mm above the ground. The total interior load space is 5.70 m3.

The safety steering gear is rack and pinion. Precise, light in action and direct. The steering roll radius is zero.

The aerodynamic drag coefficient indicates the resistance offered by the body and running gear components to the airflow, including air entry and outlet points and the turbulence at the rear. The improved drag coefficient for the new Commercial has been confirmed by wind tunnel testing. The result: a Cd = 0.44. Compare this with the Daimler Benz L207/D208 van (0.55), the Ford Transit FT80/120 (0.45) and the Toyota Hiace (0.48)

Standard model variations available from the VW factory include Delivery Van, High-roof Delivery Van, Kombi, High-roof Kombi, Pick-Up, Pick-up with enlarged platform, Double Cab Pick-Up, Microbus, Ambulance and Campmobile.

The 2.0-litre engine has a bore and stroke of 94mm x 71mm, for a capacity of 1970cc. The compression ratio is 7.3:1. Power output is 51 kW (70 bhp) at 4200 rpm. Maximum torque is 137 Nm at 3000 rpm.

A large engine cover provides unrestricted access to engine and all auxiliaries. The cover measures 570 mm x 1100 mm (600 x 540 mm on Pick-Up) so that routine checks and maintenance are easily performed.

The frontal area is 1.35 m2, and the wheelbase is now 2460 mm, 60 mm greater than before.

The available space in the Microbus luggage compartment is 40% larger (there is 0.4 m3 more space above the engine); there is 50 mm more headroom inside the passenger area, 90 mm more headroom in the driver's cabin, 120 mm more interior width, 5% wider access opening from cab to rear, and the sliding door opening is 90 mm higher. The Delivery Van has a load volume of 500 litres more than before. The Pick-Up's bed areas are larger and so is the storage locker.

At the first servicing (1000 km), there is one new work operation: checking the engine oil. The following work operations are no longer required: Adjusting V-belt, oil change, clean oil strainer, replacing full-flow filter, adjusting valve clearance, adjusting clutch play (with hydraulic clutch), visual check of cylinder head cover and full-flow oil filter. At standard servicings no. 2, 4, 6 etc (7,500 km, 22,500km etc), cleaning the oil strainer is now unnecessary. At standard servicings no. 3, 5, 7, etc (15,000 km, 30,000 km etc) the following have become necessary: replace spark plugs; check hydraulic clutch hose, lines and connections for leaks. Now unnecessary are: adjusting steering, cleaning oil strainer, adjusting brake shoes, adjusting hydraulic valve clearance, checking cylinder head cover, checking and clearing water drain holes in front axle beam, checking axial play of steering ball joints, checking steering gear for leaks, adjusting hand brake.

The spare wheel has been moved to the front, under the cab, and accessible from the outside.

The rear suspension design of semi-trailing arms (diagonal arm) ensures minimum track and camber changes as the suspension operates, and excellent lateral stability when cornering. The ride remains good over the entire payload range - a unique feature of this vehicle class.

The centre of gravity position depends on wheelbase, track, weight distribution, suspension geometry, layout of mechanical assemblies and body height. On the new Commercial, it is in the front half of the vehicle for maximum stability, resistance to overturning and good cornering.

Oil changes are now only every 7,500 km, with Standard Service only every 15,000 km.

Quick and effortless work on the engine is possible through the much enlarged access hatch. There are fewer individual body panels, and they are easier to replace. The battery is easily checked under the front seat. Oil level is checked and added to through the separate inspection flap behind the licence plate. The running gear and all catches, locks and hinges are maintenance free.

Active safety is assured by the constant axle load distribution, precise, neutral steering, good straight-line running, excellent centre of gravity, smooth cornering, powerful brakes, good road grip under all conditions, improved resistance to side winds and unproblematical handling.

Passive safety is obtained by a rigid occupant cell structure with substantial body members, a strengthened front bulkhead and special door reinforcements. The interior has no sharp edges or protrusions, and is trimmed in flexible material. It also has a deformable facia panel which even complies with legislation not yet in force. Interior mirrors and sun visors are designed to prevent occupant injury. There are no sharp or unprotected edges anywhere. Other passive safety features: substantial bumpers with a full-width deformation element behind the front bumper, a crumple zone lengthened by 100 mm, outstanding all-round vision, an ergonomically designed cab and a low noise level.

The safety steering has two struts between the column and bulkhead, capable of folding on impact, and a detachable element in the steering column ensure that the column cannot penetrate the occupant area if forced back.

The front and rear tracks are now both 1570 mm. Previously the front track was 1395 mm and the rear 1455 mm, so the front and rear tracks have increased 175mm and 115mm.

Doors give access to cab with 120 mm more headroom, sliding door step is 60 mm lower, and the opening is 15% larger. The tailgate is 75% larger.

The occupied road area is 8.43 m2.

The jack is stowed with the toolkit in a compartment under the driver's seat.

An electric washer pump is standard equipment. Options include automatic wash/wipe and intermittent wiper action.

Both the 1.6 and 2.0-litre engines have hydraulic valve tappets, thus making adjustments of valve clearance unnecessary.

The turning circle is 10.7 m; previously 12.5m.

Contactless electronic ignition with digital idle stabilisation is standard. Adjustment of dwell angle and spark timing and replacing the points now unnecessary.

The clutch is hydraulic and self-adjusting as standard on the 2.0-litre engine. Available on the 1.6-litre as an optional extra.

The VW Commercial Concept: Driver at the Front, Load in the Middle, Engine at the Rear.



New T5 Transporter

By Karl Jansen
December 2004

Fifty-three years after its debut, the new Transporter (fifth generation) can scarcely be compared to its ancestors. The new Transporter has a great many features, giving it a strong character that is unmatched among lightweight commercial vehicles.

The preceding model series was sold in countless variants, and again Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has concentrated on this market variety. For the first time, this multi-talent is offered with three roof heights and can be configured on a completely individual basis.

The new Transporter comes across as self-confident and striking with its enlarged dimensions of 4.89 metres long, 1.91 metres wide and 1.96 metres high. These outer dimensions and the steep body panels promise a larger interior, volumes that are unique in the lightweight van class.

The wheelbase can grow to 3.4 metres and thus the vehicle length to 5.29 metres. The heights of the two high roofs are 2165 or 2465 millimetres, and with this wide variety the closed Transporter provides five different cargo compartments.

Just as versatile is the chassis with single or twin-cab for special bodies - whether for tray top, refrigerator van body or as a towing truck - with the factory-standard special equipment the new Transporter is suited for virtually any task required of a modern commercial vehicle in trade and the industry.

There is a choice of six new engines in the new Transporter: four diesel powered units, a four-cylinder petrol engine and the top V6 unit. The two-litre petrol engine has a power output of 85 kW and a maximum torque of 170Nm. The powerful six-cylinder develops a maximum torque of 315Nm from 3.2 litres displacement and delivers 173 kW.

A 1.9-litre four-cylinder engine with 63 kW marks the entry into the diesel ranks, with a 77 kW alternative. The maximum torque of these pump injector diesel engines at 2000rpm is 200 or 250 Nm.

Extremely impressive performance data is provided by the new five-cylinder pump injector diesel engine, at 96 kW or 128 kW. Depending on the power class, this especially short lightweight engine delivers a maximum torque of 340 or 400 Nm. The front-axle drives are by means of five-speed or six-speed transmissions.

McPherson suspension struts at the front and the fully developed principle of the semi-trailing arm axis with ‘miniblock’ springs and separate shock absorbers at the rear, give the new Transporter the driving characteristics of a car. Adequately dimensioned anti-roll bars reduce the roll angle.

What is new is the mechanically isolated chassis sub frame on the front axle. It carries the engine and holds the track control arms, and also serves as a second crash barrier and increased partner protection in the event of a collision. In association with the large silent blocks on the rear axle, this running gear and engine suspension ensures a significant reduction on the engine and rolling noise inside the vehicle interior. The single-seat cockpit seating and joystick gear selector mechanism permits generous freedom of movement for the driver and front passengers. If required, they also ensure free entry into the cargo compartment.

For the weather conditions in Europe the components for climate control of the Transporter have been conceived using the module principle, building on the heat exchanger. A manually regulated air conditioning system is the next equipment level and can be ordered for all body types, as the pump injector diesel engines deployed in the Transporter have optimised efficiency and therefore do not generate enough heat in winter for the interior. A fuel-powered auxiliary heater is standard on the minibus with seats and an option for the box body. This automatically sets the preselected temperature and always provides the heating of the vehicle with exactly the amount of heat required.

For the transport of goods that are sensitive to frost during longer periods when the vehicle is parked, an additional heating is available at an extra charge. It has a fitted cargo compartment partition, which also heats the driver's cab for the European winters.

The list of equipment available continues depending on the professional application. For example, alongside an electrical roof fan a compressor gives the preparation for deployment as a fresh goods delivery vehicle with additional cargo compartment ventilation also available, as well as for the box body.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles also sets standards in the brake system, consisting of four single plunger-floating callipers and all-round ventilated brake discs. The brake discs of a 16-inch running gear decelerate the engines of up 128 kW and the brake discs of a 17-inch running gear brake the 173 kW V6 engines in all Transporter variants, while the manually operated handbrake affects the rear wheels.

A series-standard four-channel ABS and a traction control system (TCS), which is also standard equipment and intervenes in the engine management, round off the active safety package. An engine drag torque control (EBC) and an electronic differential lock (EDL) are also on board as standard.

The electronic stability program (ESP) is available for the minibus with seat preparation and for the Shuttle as an option as of the 96 kW.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles was the first manufacturer to offer a brake assistant alongside the optional ESP in the van segment, as surveys showed that in the case of full braking drivers usually do not press the pedal firmly enough to reach the control range of the ABS.



VW Caravelle V6

By Les Stephenson
February 2005

Permanent all-wheel drive - the company calls it 4Motion - as well as a 3.2-litre V6 engine that comes with the option of an auto/sequential gearbox, have been added to the VW T5 Caravelle multi-purpose vehicle range.

All-wheel drive, also with the Tiptronic option, has also been made available in the 128 kW, 2.5-litre turbodiesel-powered Caravelle.

VW is claiming ‘fastest in class’ with a 0-100 km/h time of 10.6 seconds and a top speed in excess of 200km/h from the 173kW / 315Nm V6, on both the two and all-wheel drive versions.

The automaker is also claiming extraordinary fuel-consumption figures for the V6, especially considering the vehicle's bulk: 12.9 litres/100km in general use for the Tiptronic and 13.4 for the manual 4Motion. Open-road driving, the company claims, will give 9.9 and 10.6 litres/100km respectively.

The Caravelle V6 has anti-lock disc brakes all round, traction control and an electric differential lock, and the whole plot rides on 17" alloy wheels shod with 235/55 low-profile tyres.

The MPV has the normal equipment of the Caravelle range, but adds leather upholstery to the deal. Big-bucks options include satellite navigation and cruise control, parking proximity sensors and a power tailgate. Power sliding side doors are also available as an option.

Like all VWs, the Caravelles will be delivered with a three-year or 120,000 km warranty, a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and a five-year or 60,000 km maintenance plan. Service intervals for the TDI are 15,000 km, with a mandatory oil change every 7,500km until low-sulphur diesel becomes available countrywide in 2006.



Autobahn Surprise

Car Magazine, UK
March 2005

On the Stuttgart-Heilbronn Autobahn just north of the Zuffenhausen exit, the fast lane is filled by a struggling Mercedes 300D, a. be-spoilered Golf GTI, a white BMW 520i and a Ford Granada wagon. As the oil-burner moves over into the slower middle lane, the other three cars accelerate but they just don't seem to be able to pull away from a quite ordinary VW T3 Caravelle that has just joined the autobahn and is now fourth in the fast lane queue.

The Ford Granada driver looks in the mirror before he puts his foot down to get rid of the VW shoebox, little puffs of black smoke denoting the six cylinders' concerted effort. But instead of dropping back, the blue Caravelle moves a couple of metres forward and a little to the left, eventually persuading the irritated Granada driver into a 150 km/h lane change.

In the meantime, the BMW and the VW Golf GTI have gained about a kilometre but it takes the inconspicuous Caravelle little time to catch up. The driver of the BMW 520 glances at his door mirror, notes the threat and flashes his main beam to get past the Golf GTI. But the Golf is not yet prepared to surrender. He creeps further ahead.

After they fly on in formation for about five kilometres, it is the BMW 520i that yields first. The driver grins as he is passed by the VW Caravelle at an honest 185 km/h.

This leaves the Golf GTI. The young man behind the wheel has, of course, long ago realised that the blue menace behind is no ordinary VW T3 delivery van, but at 195 km/h his hopes are still high. On a long uphill stretch, however, Germany's fastest fly catcher makes short work of the exhausted Golf and storms past. With his speedo reading 220 km/h, the driver of the Golf GTI just does not understand the new order.

“Like no other car I can think of, the Porsche-engined B32 VW Caravelle is a true wolf in sheep's clothing,” says Porsche's Uwe Brodbeck. “Of course, you get a lot of satisfaction out of a Carrera or a 928 when people move over because they recognise the silhouette. But the Porsche bus is infinitely more fun because of the surprise effect. Since nobody expects a van to do 220 km/h, you get a kick out of passing anything faster than a standard 140 km/h waterboxer VW bus. The Porsche bus not only eats all small BMWs, Mercs and Audis for breakfast, it is a serious threat to bigger Benzes and Jaguars which lack the oomph and cornering power of this potent eight seater.”

In 1984 Porsche constructed and sold through the German Porsche dealer network just ten Volkswagen Caravelle microbuses, fitted with an air-cooled 3.2-litre flat six Porsche Carrera motor, each producing 170 kW and mated to a 5-speed Porsche transmission. There were other modifications, such as stiffer springs, heavier drive shafts and CV joints and ventilated brakes in order to tame the power but, as the chassis of the standard Caravelle was already very good, the Porsche modifications merely enhanced that.

Externally, it was very hard to tell this Porsche B32 bus apart from the ordinary 1984 VW Caravelle. Suspension was not lowered, and there are no flared wheel arches or spoilers. Only two things differentiate the Porsche bus from the outside - two small black vents in the rear quarter panels, and a modified rear apron to accommodate the larger Porsche 911 exhaust. Porsche did not want to spoil the Q-car effect.

After a test drive, Car magazine continued: “Traction and directional stability are outstanding. Whipped up to 4000 rpm, the Porsche bus will take off like a 911, which surprisingly is rather less stable in crosswinds and under braking. The 911 is also less forgiving at the limit, whereas the heavier eight-seater bus gives the driver plenty of warning before the fat Continental tyres eventually let go. Of course you can waft along at 100 km/h in fifth gear, turning at 3200 rpm. But the acceleration potential of that hoarse and nervous flat six, and the astonishing top end go which provides really strong performance to the 7000 rpm cutout. This car copes equally well with traffic light GPs but it is on long fast stretches of motorway where this 220 km/h VW Caravelle is at its superb best.”



Volkswagen California set for Australia

By Steve Carter
April 2005

Volkswagen is set to enter Australia's booming recreational vehicle market with the California, a five-seat luxury motor home based on the T5 van model.

The California is fully manufactured by Volkswagen in Hanover, Germany. As one expects from Volkswagen, the all-new California sets new standards through the use of innovative materials and meticulously thought-out detail solutions.

The elevating roof (containing the upper-level bed) is made of aluminium and is over 25 per cent lighter in weight than the GFRP (glass-fibre reinforced plastic) elevating roofs normally used. In addition, the roof is raised/lowered electro-hydraulically using the command menu on the control board, so the manual straining to get the roof operating and store the collapsible bellows is now a thing of the past.

Clever details create space so when not in use, the multi-purpose table is stored in the interior cladding of the sliding side door and the fold-up outdoor seats store in the rear door. To save weight, another high-tech solution: the furniture is made of aluminium with corrugated core which is extremely strong, light in weight and blends-in with the California's cosy style and timber finishes.

The format for the internal fit out is the kitchen block and wardrobe on one side, and on the other side is a double bench seat which folds into a bed and - in conjunction with the rotating driver and passenger seats - forms the seating group arrangement.

The ‘upper floor’ - the roof-bed - provides a huge comfortable sleeping surface of 1.2 metres x 2.0 metres.

California comes standard with a kitchen sink and two-burner gas cook top, a 42-litre compressor refrigerator and two kitchen storage cupboards with an integrated drawer. In the rear is an easily accessible wardrobe and there's even an innovative roof storage box that rotates downwards from the ceiling for easy loading and beautiful twin-point Venetian blinds provide privacy.

High levels of body rigidity enhance the ride/handling of Volkswagen's T5 van range, and to compensate for the raising roof panel, metalwork and die-cast aluminium modules in the roof opening provide enhanced stiffness. The combined independent front suspension and engine mounting not only reduce the engine noise transmitted to the interior, they also provide secondary impact protection in the event of a collision.
McPherson strut front suspension and the well- proven principle of trailing arm with miniblock  springing and separate shock absorbers at the rear provide the California with sedan car-like reinforced ride/handling.

“We are already a big supplier of base vans to the motor home rental market in Australia and New Zealand but clearly the growth in private ownership of motorhomes is continuing unabated, so we have told the factory in Hanover to start work immediately on homologation of right-hand-drive Californias to supplement our range of vans," Mr Clark said.

"The beauty of the California is that is completely designed and manufactured in-house at Volkswagen Commercial vehicles in Hanover, Germany so we are able to bring to our customers the security and peace-of-mind of a product with the inherent quality of German design and assembly," Mr Clark added.

(Note – VW Australia was unable to achieve Australian certification for the California camper. All Australian ‘factory’ T5 campers are now locally converted by Trakka Pty Ltd of Mount Kuring-Gai, Sydney – Ed)


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