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What looks like your run-of-the-mill VW T3 Vanagon from the 1980s is registered as a Porsche. It came from Porsche. In fact, the sports car maker made seven of what it called the “Carrera Bus” making this the first and only van it ever built. It also makes it one of the rarest Porsche models made. And the story behind the performance van’s development is fascinating. 

Why did Porsche make these buses?

Carrara Bus
Porsche B32 Carrera Bus Vanagon | PCG

In the early 1980s, the company was developing its all-wheel-drive 953 for Group B rally racing. It eventually would lead to the 959. The company was running endurance testing in Algeria for its World Rally car. The engineers and crew needed reliable support vehicles for hauling parts and testing equipment, as well as keeping up with the race cars. 

What it decided was to use its sister company’s T3 van, then convert it with its own flat-six engine. They chose a 3.0-liter 911 engine and transaxle for their initial Carrera Bus. With the success of the prototype, it began making a limited run of them. The numbers are a bit of a mystery, but at least seven were built, and possibly more. 

Which Porsche 911 engine did the Carrera Bus have?

Porsche bus
Porsche B32 Carrera Bus Vanagon engine | PCG

These “production” vans started with the 3.2-liter pancake engines used for 911 SC models. A 915 five-speed limited-slip differential transaxle saw duty, too. Reinforced half-shafts, beefier springs, and shocks, as well as an entirely new wiring system, were other modifications. Of course, Porsche front and rear disc brakes improve stopping. 

The 3.2-liter engine has almost twice the power of the engine it replaced. Its zero-to-62 time was around eight seconds flat. And its top speed was pegged at 135 mph. But to prove it was the van for the job, with nine passengers and the air conditioning running, the Carrera Bus could maintain 116 mph. 

Posche bus
Porsche B32 Carrera Bus Vanagon | PCG

The original grille was retained to add a bit of distinction and to aid in engine cooling. An additional side grille was mounted on each of the rear quarters. Unique front and rear spoilers were created, and 16-inch Fuchs wheels with black centers are the most visual hint there might be some Porsche pieces inside.

Speaking of inside, the T3s were originally ordered with the high-end VW Carat interior. So the cabin features tan leather, with extra gauges placed lower on the dash. The VW-embossed steering wheel now has the Stuttgart maker’s logo.

How can these be real Porsches?

Porsche bus
Porsche B32 Carrera Bus Vanagon | PCG

The automaker gave them an official designation of B32. All of these haulers have Porsche VIN numbers and Porsche registrations. Select customers got first dibs once the company was done with the vans. Prices were about the same as a new 911. 

Porsche bus
Porsche B32 Carrera Bus Vanagon | PCG

The one in these images is currently for sale in the Netherlands. Porsche Centrum Gelderland is asking $358,777 for it. Currently, the odometer reads 81,257 miles, yet its condition belies that number. 

So when is a T3 not a T3? When it’s a Porsche B32. However, Porsche kept the VW log in the front grille to keep people guessing. 


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