Here’s a blast from the past. From February 2013, to be specific. I had just left the Moline Best Buy and spied this survivor across the parking lot. It was hard to miss with its yellow and beige color combo, especially on such a freaking gloomy day.
Introduced in 1980 to replace the much-loved 1968-79 “T2″ VW van, the Vanagon was much more car-like and was available with many more creature comforts.
Early models were air-cooled just like the previous model, but due to overheating issues in warmer climes and ineffective heating in cold Midwestern areas, water cooling was added in the form of a 1.9L “Wasserboxer” four-cylinder in 1983.
Water-cooled Vanagons can be discerned by the extra grille below the primary faux grille, as shown on this ’84 model. And I mean faux in that it did not provide cooling to the engine, though it did contain the fresh-air intake.
Despite the Vanagon’s clear break from the previous “Widow’s Peak” and “Bay Window” Buses, the driving position was still quite bus-like, with an up-tilted steering wheel and high-rise driver’s seat.
I never knew anyone who owned one of these, but I was fully aware of Vanagons through the “Sunagon” tan and orange Hot Wheels Vanagon I got at an early age. Despite being a favorite of mine, and my destructiveness with my toy cars back then, my Sunagon has survived to the present day in near-mint condition. When we moved in 1995, I actually found the pop-up top for it. It had been missing for years!
The Vanagon hung in all the way to 1991 with little change save a 1986 facelift, upgraded seat trim and available alloys on more expensive versions. It was the last of the original VW-type van, as the ’92 Euro Van was essentially a Chrysler minivan with a German accent, configuration-wise, with FWD and an engine up front.