Open Road | A Year Long Journey in the 1987 Volkswagen Syncro Van

September 14, 2011 Cars By Photo by FH

Editor’s Note: Foster Huntington is the talented force behind A Restless Transplant and the hugely popular tumblr The Burning House. Recently, Huntington embarked on an epic cross-country adventure to document unique individuals and the things they care about for his upcoming book to be released by Harper Collins. After sharing his plans with us first hand, we asked Foster to share dispatches from his year long journey with Gear Patrol readers through an ongoing series of photo essays and the occasional gear review. To kick things off, this first essay highlights his unique (and awesome) ride, which you’ll simply have to read and see to truly appreciate.

My hunt for a VW Syncro van began late one night in March. After poking around Google for a while, I eventually found a Youtube video showcasing the van’s off-roading abilities (which you’ll find embedded after the break). After laughing hysterically for a few minutes at the idea of a ruggedized van and failing to find the song played in the background with Shazzam, I started my research efforts in earnest. One link led to another, and before I knew it, it was 3 am. I had to be at work in only a few hours.

For those unfamiliar with a VW Syncro, here are the basics; They are 4wd versions of the common VW Vanagon and were imported in small numbers from 1985-1992 to North America. Their bodies were built by VW but their drive train, suspension and AWD system were made by Steyr-Daimler-Puch, a company known throughout the off-road community for building the Mercedes Unimogs, G Wagons, numerous military troop transports and tanks.

Over the next few months, I checked the VW classified site, The Samba, in my downtime. As my notion to leave my job and travel around evolved from a fantasy into a reality, I narrowed my search to one Vanagon in the middle of nowhere Nevada. After deliberating for hours about spending more than a year of Manhattan rent on a car that was older than me, I called its owner for more info. A week and a half later, I was on a flight headed to Reno to meet the owner, and pick up my 1987 Syncro with an Audi 2.0L engine and locking front and rear differentials. Of course, being an unabashed gear nerd, I added a few customizations and outfitted the ride as a capable base of operations for the next year, as I travel around North America taking photos and enjoying the outdoors. I am excited to have a new outlet for my writing and photos, and expect more to come soon.

Photos and words by Foster Huntington

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