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Volkswagen vans are iconic. While most people go straight to the “hippie vans” of the late 1960s, the VW van game is much deeper than just the microbus. While many enthusiasts are familiar with the Volkswagen Synchro van, casual drivers may not know about these rare 4×4 vans. While the normal Synchro vans are cool and rare, the 4×4 Volkswagen Syncro Kombi 16 is the coolest and rarest of them all. Meet one of the greatest 4×4 vans ever made. 

VW Synchro Van 16
VW Synchro Van 16 | Car & Classic

Are there 4×4 Volkswagen vans? 

According to Silodrome, Volkswagen sought to diversify its lineup in the late ‘70s by adding a tougher 4×4 van. The standard van before this was a 2wd. Volkswagen went to the off-road pros, Steyr-Daimler-Puch, which had a history of making military vehicles. After the occupation by Nazi Germany the owner, Creditanstalt was forced to give up their industry portfolio. Among these was the Steyr-Daimler-Puch A.G., which was dissolved and incorporated into the Reichswerke Hermann Göring where firearms, vehicles, aviation engines, and ball bearings were made for the German military.

Horrifying German automotive history aside, Steyr-Daimler-Puch teamed up with VW to make the super-capable Synchro. 

What year did the Volkswagen Synchro come out? 

Rare Volkswagen van driving down a hill.
VW Synchro “16 | Car & Classic

The Transporter Type 2 T3-based Synchro van hit the scene in 1985, and it looks like it. The 4×4 Volkswagen van came in three different styles; Caravelle, Kombi, and Double Cab. Like many other vans at the time, the Synchro was used in everything from family hauling and farming to heavy-duty workhorse and some light Military work. 

This rare van combined reliability, toughness, practicality, and, of course, off-road capability to build quite a loyal and enthusiastic following. However, despite the love the Synchro got, VW never could seem to sell them in any real volume. 

The best Volkswagen camper van

While different types of people dug the Volkswagen Synchro van, no group took to it more than the overland camper builders. As Silodrome notes, the Synchro was unique in America, at least for its four-wheel drive system in such a compact size. Its adaptability made it an ideal choice for a camper van where the standard rear-wheel drive Type 2 VW van could only dream of going. 

The Synchro “16

Volkswagen Synchro Van in green parked on top of a hill in Africa.
VW Synchro | Car & Classic

The one we are looking at today is the rarest of an already rare model, the Synchro “16. The 16 means it has bigger 16-inch wheels as opposed to the normal 14-inch wheels. This allows for more ground clearance and a better approach angle. You can tell these models by the larger front and rear brakes and black fender flares, which VW added to hide the area where the arches were trimmed to give more room for the larger tires. 

The Volkswagen Synchro was finally put to death in 1992 when the Transporter T3 platform came about. 

The Synchro “16 we see in these photos is believed by its seller to be only one of three examples in this precise configuration (right-hand drive). Seeing as how these could be pretty easy to fake, it comes with a certification that confirms it to be a factory-built RHD 16” Kombi with “customized design for internal special purpose.”

Before its restoration, it was used as a Safari vehicle in Tanzania. The vehicle is still in Tanzania, where it is registered. It is currently listed for sale through Car & Classics. Click here to learn more about the listing. 


Why Does Volkswagen STILL Refuse to Sell VW camper vans in the U.S.?