Curbside Classic: VW T4 Double Cab Pickup – The European Take On The Double Cab Diesel Pickup

I’ve been sitting on these shots of this VW T4 “Doka” (Double cab) pickup that I found three blocks from my house. But given Jason Shafer’s eloquent exposition in defensive of the really big American double cab diesel pickup, it seems appropriate to post this one today as something of a counterpart. And quite the contrast it makes: it has FWD (!), a tiny little diesel engine making somewhere between 60 and 100 hp (or so), it can’t tow 50′ semi-trailers with 40 head of cattle in it, and it certainly doesn’t exude any machismo. Yet somehow Europeans contractors and farmers and utilities have managed to survive (barely) with such an under-sized, under-powered pathetic little truck.

And here’s the really odd thing: the reason this truck with Polish plates is in my neighborhood is because the house it’s in front of is owned by a guy who makes his living buying tired old trucks like this from Europe and selling them for healthy profits to Americans who eagerly snap them up. What’s up with that?

If you don’t understand why, I’ll give you the short answer: it’s cool. With a certain psychographic, of course. It wouldn’t be cool in central Missouri, I can assure you. Let’s just say that tribalism is the most powerful human drive along with sex and food. And our vehicles are the single most effective way of expressing our specific tribal allegiances, since they’re sitting out in front of our house even when we’re inside. Or when folks can’t see our clothes, hair, tats, piercings, shoes, or other tribal insignias.


Of course there are some who might be attracted to this truck simply because of its objective qualities, like the lack of a long hood, a compact, space-efficient body with plenty of interior space, and its flat bed with fold-down sides that makes for a very practical and multi-purpose tool. Someone like me, for instance. But then I’m a European by birth, so it’s probably my tribalism showing.

Oh, and that bed is rated for some 900 kg (depending on exact model) which is 1984 lbs, or almost exactly one ton. So let’s call this a VW T-350.


So even if it can’t tow 50′ semi trailers, these trucks are actually a bit more capable than one might expect, towing-wise. Towing capacity is 2000 – 2500k, or 4400 – 5500 lbs. Not too shabby for such a lightweight little thing. And yes, in Europe one really does see these hauling pretty good sized trailers.


And here’s a surprise: a fully independent rear suspension, for a ride over rough and bumpy roads that is on par with most passenger cars. The VW T4 (and up) once sold here as the Eurovan, has always been praised for its excellent suspension and car-like ride.

Oh, before I forget, a four-wheel drive Syncro version was available for those that really needed it. Or just wanted it. This picture represents effectively how those poor Europeans manage (barely) to get by with their little toy trucks.

As I mentioned, this particular truck was recently imported recently from Poland. There’s some paperwork still on the dash.


This was obviously a hard-working truck in its first career. I wonder who will be its new owner? An organic produce farm, a small contractor, or just someone wanting the anti-F350?

This particular truck has seating for six, no less, with a bench in front next to the driver’s bucket seat.

Here’s a better view.

And here’s the back seat. There’s three different upholstery fabrics represented here, so I’m guessing the importer swapped in some seats that were a bit less worn than the ones that were in the truck. Who knows how this T4 was used in Poland. Hard, undoubtedly.

I was tempted to raise the partially-open hood to see what was under it, but I summoned some unexpected restraint. Most likely it’s some variant of the VW 2.5 L diesel, although there were four cylinder versions too, especially the earlier vintages. The T4 was built from 1990 all the way to 2003. And it started out with engines as little as a 1.9 diesel four with all of 60 hp. But the typical 2.5 TDi was some 100 hp, although there were some higher output versions available too, but not likely installed in a work truck like this. With the 100 hp version, 0-60 came in 16.9 seconds. That’s not going to work for the rolling coal crowd. And a few others too.

Trucks have become very potent symbols. But let’s not read too much into this one just because it’s red.