Cohort Outtake: South African VW T3 “Big Window” Syncro Bus Found in NYC – One of 89 Built!

I did not appreciate just what a rare thing this South African VW T3 Syncro found in NYC by wooriegi is when I first saw it at the Cohort. wooriegi did put an exclamation mark at the end of his caption, since I’m sure he was surprised just to find any SA T3 bus in New York. But this isn’t just any SA bus; this appears to be one of exactly 89 Syncros that were built there in 1991 and 1992. (Update: apparently more were built previously, but not with the big windows and other changes starting in 1991)

Note that there’s a number of differences on these SA T3s, such as the bigger side windows, and different grilles and such. Most importantly, SA T3s had inline VW/Audi water cooled engines starting in 1991 (when they got the big windows). The basic van got the 1.8 L four, but the nicer Microbus and upscale Carat got treated to much more potent Audi 5 cylinders, in 2.3, 2.5 and 2.6 L variants, with some 135hp and even 5 speed transmissions, power steering and other goodies. And they were built until 2002. But these 89 Syncros still got the 2.1 L “wasserboxer”, presumably because of their unique transmissions. So this is one odd duck, and mighty far away from home.

It took me a bit to sort out the information on these, as it’s a bit confusing, especially the part about switching to the inline engines the same year (1991) they also built the first of these 89 Syncros. But I’ve confirmed it from several sources now.

Interestingly, this bus has not been converted any or much beyond its original configuration, as the third seat is still original although there does appear to be some kind of cabinet on the right side. And of course it has that raised roof.

It’s also impossible to be sure, but the exhaust looks rather more stock than not, suggesting it still has its original 2.1 L waterboxer. Swapping in the 1.9 L TDI is a popular upgrade on these, or the 1.8 L gas inline four.

In any case, this is an unusual find and I’ve learned a few things about these SA T3s that I didn’t know before. That’s what keeps this job interesting.