1991 VW T3 Syncro Conversion — Final Paint & Reassembly Begins

Knowing we were due for a scorcher, I got out early and Raptor coated the front half of the underbody. It looks great and I was thrilled that it was finally done, because that meant it was time to start assembling. As I was peeling off the masking tape and paper, I had the realization that my van was now simply a disassembled Syncro and that was a cool thought.

Underbody Coating Done

I started by bolting in my new lengthened rear control arms. I installed the bearing/stub axle carriers and the rear brake assemblies. I’m going to have to fabricate longer rear metal brake lines, as the added length of the arms will necessitate that. I bought four 1/2″ lifting pads for the rear springs. I’m running the GoWesty 2″ lift spring in the rear plus the two 1/2″ pads for a 3″ lift total. I opted for a set of Fox long travel adjustable shocks with full compression adjustment. I mounted up the left rear, leaving the right off to facilitate the fuel tank install.

Left Rear Suspension Installed

I had to take a moment to organize the order of operations. There was so many different directions I could have gone next, I needed to make an intelligent plan, so that I didn’t forget something that would later be more difficult to install if more components were already on. I ended up installing the LP gas tank and it’s guard. Then I moved onto re-running the wiring harnesses. I installed the pneumatic reservoir and then ran the Syncro pneumatic and wiring loom. I had to add the two new pneumatic lines for the decoupler, the wiring already existed from the factory.

LP Gas Tank Installed

The next step was installing the radiator and the new stainless steel coolant pipes. GoWesty’s kit comes as a four piece set. They designed it this way as the forward halves of the coolant pipes on 2WD and 4WD are the same, whereas the rear halves are different. By manufacturing their kit in four pieces, it is not only easier to ship, but cuts down on manufacturing costs. I ran the front halves and installed their hangars. I eliminated the rear heater core, as I’m intending to install a Propex propane heater for cold weather camping. I ran new heater hoses the length of the van.

Stainless Coolant Pipes & Heater Hoses

I remembered that I needed to run the clutch hydraulic line and set about doing so. It is a two piece setup with a short length making the vertical run from the clutch master cylinder and a long length running under the van. I also installed the front half of the shift rod, which included a new bushing of improved design from GoWesty. The throttle cable for a manual gearbox setup is different from an automatic, so I installed the new accelerator cable that I’d purchased.

it was time to tackle the front suspension parts that aren’t a part of the subframe assembly. I’d bought urethane rack mount bushings and installed those in the rack mounting ears. Once the rack was in, I had to re-bend the powersteering hard lines, due to the rack mount being further forward than the 2WD one. One of the lines is fairly large in diameter and was a bit of a wrestling match to re-bend. I then installed the shorter Syncro-specific steering rod between the u-joint on the rack and the steering coupler further forward. With the rack fully in, I installed the upper control arms.
Upper Control Arm

I started working on the front differential. First, I installed rear carrier and then its front mount. I bought urethane mounts for it and new hardware. The originals were in bad shape. I had also bought new output flange and driveshaft flange seals. I ran into my first snag while trying to install the new output flange seals. The flange came off no problem, but the seals are installed in threaded cups that are used to set the differential side bearing preload and differential location. These cups have plastic retainers that are secured with two 8mm philips head screws. The top screw came out without difficulty, but the bottom screw on each side wouldn’t budge. Ultimately, I had to shear off their heads with a chisel, leaving me with the broken-off threaded portion still in the casing. Like a dope, I didn’t prepare the differential months ago and have all this sorted ahead of time. These screws really are the last of the crusty parts from the donor Syncro. I was pretty bummed, not just for the hassle, but because I had really wanted to get the subframe assembly installed today. Oh well.

I wanted to end the day on a better note, so I installed the new GoWesty steel front bumper and the upper and lower grills. The van sure looks better for it!

GoWesty Steel Bumper

14 hours work day in 107° heat — intense.

Day Eight complete!