Where do I begin? I guess almost any story has a beginning, a middle, and an end… right? Well, you’re jumping right into the middle of mine! You see, I turned 50 three years ago on this very day. With that birthday came a gift to myself; a 2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350. I’ve always wanted that car; when they redesigned them with that flat plane crank there was NO going back! It was a dream of mine! At 50, I sort of felt that I worked hard enough to get it. With some bartering back and forth with my wife, it became reality. With that reality became another reality: my 17 year old son now had the REAL yearning to learn and drive a manual transmission.
I knew darn well my son wouldn’t be getting behind the wheel of the Shelby, which we appropriately named “The Beast”. It was just that… a damn scary car to drive! I can see why all the kids at car shows take these things sideways into crowds! It was so easy to lose that ass end but in that same breath; being able to let off the accelerator and it snaps right back into line of where you’re going. It was amazing! That distinct engine sound that was modeled off of a Ferrari flat plan crank. Beautiful and throaty with that low end growl which climbed through all 2 gears. Yep! I said it! First gear did about 53 and second gear you’re nearing 100. The gear box had 6 gears but there was little reason to use but three or 4!
So, I was left with the “dilemma” of teaching my son a life lesson and learning on a manual gearbox. So, as any good father would do, I needed to make some decisions. What’s a relatively inexpensive car, easy to fix, cheap parts, and ability to learn auto / mechanics skills? In steps the 1967 VW Type 3 Squareback! It met ALL the criteria! (Did I mention that either car I wanted to be able to have fun going to local car shows with?) Along with the aforementioned list of criteria, I wanted something with some type of significance. It all fell into place because 1967 was when I was born! I told my son that when I passed, I’d be willing these cars to him; one was my birth year car and the other my 50th bday gift. (No, I couldn’t afford a 1967 GT350… just for the record!) Thus, my son learned stick on the Squareback which we affectionately call “Volksy”.
Fast forward to today or the days / weeks leading up to today. I’m getting older… we’re ALL getting older! The Beast was a car that you ACTIVELY had to drive; even going down the highway, those WIDE tires would grab a rain groove in the pavement and off it’d go pulling! I had fun driving it and I DID drive it. However, I knew there was much more to it and I couldn’t just see it being a ‘garage queen’ as any car needs to be driven! I started thinking about my current life and future life as I get ready to retire and do other activities; whether that be biking, running, scuba or whatever life may throw at me! I started to float the idea of getting a new vehicle which my wife, in no short order, put a “two fun vehicle sanction” on me! So, I had that frank conversation with my son… which one would he want? I mean, what car would any 19/20 year old, young man want, right? Yea, no. My son went with Volksy! Hell, he’s had almost squatter’s rights on it almost from day one. That’s the car for him!
That left a nice budget for me to work with! I knew that I was starting to do more scuba and outdoor activities so I started looking at the run of the mill Jeeps and Forerunners. They’re nice vehicles but there are SO many of them and they really lack personality or character. That’s when I started digging deeper as well as attempting to figure out what I “wanted”. I decided, for scuba, that I’d want 4WD capabilities due to possibly going on beaches or driving back on old quarry roads. I also wanted the flexibility of being able to hit the high road and doing any possible road excursion which might (or not) come my way. There’s a TON of the country that I’d LOVE to see one day! That threw me down the rabbit hole of “overlanding” and seeking those vehicles. Quite frankly, I was pretty close to purchasing a Defender 110 but there was the outfitting part which I was stuck on. Did I want a roof tent or towing a small trailer. Roof tent was more a “purists” view however I then had to worry about the kitchen setup. On the other hand, there’s a new breed of overland 4×4 campers out there that made it compelling. Yet, my wife kept reminding me that I had a budget to work within.
Being a part of TheSamba.com with Volksy, I wasn’t naïve to VW’s offerings in this area. As I started digging, a whole new world opened up to me (and still is) surrounding the Westfalia Syncro line. I started digging and finding out more as well as upsides and downs. Then I found these more aggressive looking Syncros which REALLY caught my eye! There was one in Seattle and two others in the UK. That’s when I found out of such a unicorn called a 16” Syncro! It appears that most Syncros in the US are 14” with mods to make them similar in specs to the big brother counterparts which were not imported into the USA. As I stated, I started getting serious speaking to three owners. As I started calculating shipping costs, I found that importing a REAL 16” was approximately the same price as transporting one in the US which, quite frankly, was a 14” on steroids.
These were the two that won me over! Each having their own character and styling. I started negotiations with both owners probably around November 2019. I didn’t know anything about importing but “there’s a guy” over there that seems to be the contact that can make it all happen. My next chore was to sell “The Beast”. Well, with holidays and then.. (cue villain song) Coronavirus. That put a LOT on hold. I lucked out and was able to sell the Shelby fairly quickly and locally. However, making an overseas purchase proved to be WAY more challenging. It’s challenging enough under “normal” circumstances however with infection rates, countries opening and closing borders, and all of that… well, it’s now the end of September 2020! With that, the green Syncro was sold locally in the UK as well as the gold. However, the seller of the gold one contacted me a month or so later (around maybe the end of July) to tell me that his buyer backed out.
Since then, it’s been a flurry of activities from learning about the export/import process, currency exchange / transfers as well as MANY other things! However, “Van Diesel” will be on US soil October 2, 2020. It’s already hit several ports in the US already however I’m in the southeast and probably one of the last ports. The name is a play of words due to the Vanagon being a diesel. Enough said. I’ll be attempting to post and vlog as time goes on! Until then… you have my back story and I’m sticking to it!