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Transporter History At A Glance

Part 3

T3 - 1979 to 1992 (or 2003 in South Africa)

Vast improvements were made in all areas - the T3's unique 50:50 weight distribution, coil sprung, double wishbone suspension and rack and pinion steering gave handling and ride comfort that was hard to beat. The floor was even lower than the T2's and the adoption of the pancake engine designs allowed VW to drop the rear load platform by 200mm, increasing the tailgate area by 75%.

The 12th platform now offered by VW, it is solely the
Transporter's. The range continued where the T2 left off - as with it's predecessor the bus range changed to - simply - Bus for Europe and Vanagon for the US (from Van-W-agon (!)).

Tough times for US

Perhaps proving Tony Schmucker right, the
Vanagon and Vanagon Camper enjoyed remarkable sales success in North America despite the name - remarkable in light of VW's damaged reputation due to a dismal run of American built Golfs (aka Rabbits) and runaway automatic Audi's - it was possible to start them in gear.

Indeed, it was the Transporter's crash worthiness that allowed it to be sold in the United States; the T3 was no exception to this as it was the only forward control vehicle on sale in the US during this period.

T3 Developments

February 1981 - The Diesel T3. The first of the water-cooled Transporters

From the T3's outset, the air-cooled engines' days were numbered. New European noise legislation was on the horizon and there were concerns about fuel economy, thanks to a rising Green lobby. In February 1981 VW announced that full scale production had started of the Transporter D, although the German Post Office had been running them (read testing) for some time prior to this.

The diesel engine was a heavily revised 1588cc
Golf unit laid on it's side by 50 degrees to the left to maintain the T3's low rear deck height. The Transporter version was detuned to 50bhp yet pulling power increased to 103Nm at 2,000rpm, giving comparible performance to the 1.6 air-cooled version, but a great improvement in fuel economy. The front mounted radiator was serviced by a pair of cooling pipes that ran under the floor for the entire length of the vehicle. A 70bhp turbo diesel later joined the range, and in the final years of European T3 production the normally aspirated engines capacity was increased to 1.7 litres. The component set used to fit the diesel engine allowed for the adaptation of the 1781cc 112bhp Golf GTI engine of the time to be shoehorned into the back of the T3.

Brazil followed in 1985 with their water-cooled diesel T2, the first of the T2c's, but the petrol / alcohol versions remained air-cooled, although Mexico introduced a 75bhp 1800cc petrol
Golf engine into their T2 in 1988.

September 1982 - The Wasserboxer

The 1.9 Wasserboxer was unveiled in 1982 to replace the 1.6 litre and 2.0 litre air-cooled boxer engines.

Initially available with single-choke (60bhp) and twin-choke (78bhp) carburettors, a 90bhp fuel injected version soon followed in 1983 for the
Caravelle Carat and Vanagon export models (82bhp with cat). A 5-speed gearbox was offered for the first time, although VWoA deemed it unnecessary for the Vanagons. Displacement grew to 2.1 litres (112bhp) in August 1985. From launch, all of the water-cooled models had radial tyres and servo assisted brakes.

It was during this period that plans for the T4 were being drawn-up.

February 1985 - The Syncro

At first the
Syncro could only be had with the 78bhp engine. Despite being introduced that August (1985) the 1.6 Turbo-Diesel and 2.1 litre Wasserboxer engines were not offered in the Syncro range until the following September, when the famous 16" option could also be specified. Total production equally 43,468 - 2,108 of which were right hand drive.

September 1985 - The Multivan

Although a fold-down bed system could be specially ordered for existing
Caravelles, the weekender concept was finally given a seal of approval when a Westfalia study was displayed at the Frankfurt IAA show.

September 1988 - The California

Although the camper was still built by Westfalia, the
California replaced the Joker - for 10,000 marks less. Prior to this, Jokers required a two invoice transaction at the showroom - one from VW for the base vehicle, one for Westfalia's conversion. The Atlantic soon followed.

At this stage, all Campers built by VW Partner companys came with
Carat style bumpers, rear wash/wipe, electric mirrors and upgraded dashboard.

The six millionth Transporter

and finally the...

T3 Specials (by model year)

1982 - The 7-seater
Caravelle special edition (2.0-litre air-cooled) notable in having unique two-tone paint, with contrasting tones on the upper body and lower flanks, plusher seat fabric and carpets, jail bars

1983 - The limited edition "
Tone in Tune" colour-concept Caravelle with Pewter Grey Metallic paint and velour seats in a black and grey pattern. This is the fore-runner to the Carat, albeit with seven seats bringing the Samba concept right upto date...

1984 - The 6-seater
Caravelle Carat - available with metallic paint, tinted glass, alloy wheels, full body kit, Scirocco sourced headlamps. This is the forerunner to the T4 and T5 Business

1984 - The
Vanagon Wolfsburg Edition

1985 - The
Vanagon Camper Wolfsburg Edition

1987 -
Vanagon GL Wolfsburg Edition (and 1988, 1989 mdels)

1988 - The 7/8-seater
Caravelle Coach with Carat trim and Multivan Magnum.

1988 The 2wd
Tristar pick-up with Caravelle trim came from the Magma design study and preceeded the Syncro version.

1989 - The
Tristar - double cab Syncro.

1988 - The
Multivan Bluestar and followed by the Whitestar (which was white) in 1989.

1992 - The
Limited Last Edition - a limited production run of 2500 T3's produced some way into the T4's production run by Steyr (Magna-Steyr since 1991). This coincided with the final run of Syncros to leave the Austrian factory.

T4 - The Next Generation

Under Dr Carl H Hahn's, the VW Group Chairman of the time, watchful eye the front-engined, front wheel drive fourth generation
Transporter became the first of the line built around the group's new shared "platform" strategy.

One of seventeen platforms, the new "T" platform led European enthusiasts (with the VW Truck Division subsequently following their lead) to retrospectively label the T2 80 (or T25 as it was known in the UK) as the T3 and the earlier iconic "Bay Window" and "Split Screen" models as T2 and T1 (both were previously known as Type 2's).

The significance of the T4 Transporter reaches deeper into the VW model program as other models were spun from lessons learned through the T4 development program. Elements of the "T" platform can be found in the Microbus sized VW / Ford co-developed
Sharan (T4) and the T Plus VW / Porsche Touareg / Cayenne and Audi Q7 (T5), if you look hard enough...

And finally

The last T3 to be made...

in South Africa (2003)
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