1982 Volkswagon Camper

I have a 1982 Vanagon that has been sitting in my garage since 1987. I bought it second hand and it lasted until about 77,000 miles before the rings burned out. Having a new family (3 kids) I did not have the money to fix it. I put it in the garage until I was to retire and then maybe be able to afford to fix it. Now I am 67 and think I want to restore it. I have 3 questions:

  1. Does anyone know a shop near Rochester, New York that has the expertise to fix this?
  2. Should I give myself a “Dope Slap” for even thinking of trying to get it running again?
  3. What should I expect that it will need to get running again and how much budget should I set?

If in fact the Vanagon has been sitting untouched in the garage for 25+ years restoring it to driveable condition will be a labor of love and the actual cost will/should be irrelevant.

If we look at this as a “classic car” project, as in a guy finds an old Ford in a barn somewhere and brings it back to life, you can expect the final result to be worth half of the cost of the parts used and none of the labor time.

From any standpoint, the project will be a financial loss. But what’s the value of rolling down the window and driving away on a month-long trip in your beloved Vanagon?

I recommend you get the book How to Keep your VW Alive… by John Muir. It is about the classic VW beetle and is enjoyable and informative reading, as well as a step by step guide to repairs minor to major.

Have mice taken residence in your VW? You can often tell by droppings on the floor or seats and a urine smell inside. And how much work does the interior need? Mechanical work tends to be less expensive than body and interior work. Don’t try to start it without turning the crankshaft by hand. This implies that your van should be pushed out of the garage and pulled by cable onto the tow truck.

After 25 years you may not have the money now either to restore this vehicle. A guy down the street owns one, it’s a late 90s model, I believe, and he seems to be forever working on it. You will have to do most of the work yourself.

They were not all that reliable when new, and as other point out this would be a labor of love to get it going again in a safe manner.

When you do get it going, don’t expect to take a trouble free holiday trip with it. A friend of my wife had one, which they bought new in Europe. It was forever breaking down in the most inconvenient places.

My advice would be to sell it as is and buy a much newer US built compact camper.

You’ll want to join the on line VW communities for LOTS of good info on fixing these up. They should have ideas on mechanics. Both Thesamba and VWVortex are good. I’d work on it if there’s not too much rust-how bad is it?

Absolutely no rust, no mice, very good body.

Then fixing it up will be pretty straightforward. A replacement engine shouldn’t be hard to find.

Fun times, I would consider 10 grand for a budget I would start with if you are not doing it yourself.

$2500 hew motor
$500 trans, differential, coolant fluids bearing repack
$150 New hoses and belts
$500 new tires
$300 new shocks
$150 Detailing
$600 Brakes and lines if needed
$2000 refabricated seats and dash etc.
$1000 interior restoration,
The rest for unforseen items and desires.

A Google search pulled up several classic restoration shops in Rochester, NY . A similar seach should help find an air cooled VW mechanic . A good basic repair shop could change oil and make sure brakes are working .

If you can haul it to a restoration specialty shop so they can look it over, they can give you an estimate to do a “sympathetic” restoration. That’s a term used to describe getting the vehicle in good, safe running condition without trying to restore it to “like new” condition.

Isn’t a 82 Vanagon a water cooled engine? If so, what kind of fuel injection system does it have? Hopefully not the CIS.

The '82 should be air cooled and have a form of AFC fuel injection although my memory is a bit hazy on this.

A lot will be needed (meaning parts and cash) to restore this thing if you’re planning on paying someone to do it.
The cost of doing so is not going to be on the cheap side so the first question is about how much are you wiling to sink into it?

Is this like the Porsche 914 engine?

If you Google search a VW repair shop in your area it comes up with a number of places. Here is one you might try. You should have a nice vehicle when you get it going again and should be worth the investment to do it. These vehicles are selling for a pretty good amount of money.

If this is an air cooled motor, a motor rebuild should be straight forward. The old gas is an issue. The gas tank should be removed and cleaned at least and possibly replaced. All the fuel lines need to be replaced too. Next is to decide if the Bosch fuel injection system can be made to work, or if you need to put a carb or carbs on it. Carbs should work fine IF you don’t have to pass any pollution tests for such an old car in NY state. These buses used Porsche motors so parts can be pricey but available. For the motor you might do best with a shop that specializes in Porsche’s.

If you can sort out the motor issues and get it running well - then you replace all the parts that are rubber, hoses’ belts, tires, including all the rubber sections of brake lines. Since was store in a garage perhaps the interior and seats are OK. Mice and spiders can really mess up gauges and wiring. Put a fresh battery in the thing and see if the lights, wipers, radio, and other electrical stuff work properly. If fuses blow and things don’t work you can have hidden damage that will take significant dollars to sort out.

I think it is worth the effort to explore making it road worthy again.

These are neat and I agree that any restoration project should be a “labor of love” endeavour and not something that you’re going to do on a budget.

That said, I wouldn’t want to take a cross country trip in one of these (even brand new) unless you’re planning on getting real friendly and staying–they are not the most reliable vehicles around. A friend’s family had one of these when I was a teen and it did nothing but break down, break down, break down, and for dessert, break down again. It was only a couple of years old at that point. It was also so underpowered that it was the only vehicle I’d seen that wasn’t capable of spinning its tires on wet pavement. 0-60 was about a 20 second trip and top end wasn’t much past that. I wouldn’t want to drive one on a modern highway.

One time we were at a park and one of my more rowdy friends (in a Chevy van) had just finished leaving a patch of rubber in the parking lot. We were in the VW and the local ranger came over and accused us of messing up his parking lot. We just laughed. He finally went away when my friend offered to let him drive the Vanagon and see if he could manage this feat.

One good thing about the Vanagons is that they can be a great vehicle for camping, weekend getaways at the lake, and so on. They have a boatload of room.

ok4450 IF the lake is close by, I agree, it’s a nice roomy vehicle.