Ratty Rescue: Vanagon – Scorchingly Low Priced

With the Holidays coming faster than we’d like, it’s time to think about getting the family together to celebrate. What better way than in a roomy 1990 Vanagon? Our latest Ratty Rescue needs a new home. And a new engine. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Volkswagen’s Vanagon has always been an odd vehicle. A replacement for the “bay window” Type 2 Bus, it premiered in 1980. With its modern angular styling, it looked nothing like the older van. Underneath that knife-edge body was a very generation-one VW layout: rear-mounted boxer engine and rear wheel drive. This model bridged the “old” VW and the new.

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Despite its old-school layout, there are some great benefits of this box on wheels. First, it’s very roomy inside. The low floor makes it easy to get in and out of. It has more headroom than full-size vans of the same era. The short wheelbase gives it a tight turning circle. And while Vanagons were never fast, they are fun to drive in a very different way. While more raked than the second generation Bus, the steering wheel is nearly horizontal. With the front wheels directly under your butt, you have to recalibrate right turns – you pull into the intersection, then turn, otherwise you’ll hit the curb. The giant windshield and lack of a hood make the whole world look like a movie playing right in front of you. It’s endearingly quirky.

At first glance, this 1990 Vanagon looks like a solid van. Sure it has some dents and dings, but what 25+ year old car doesn’t? It looks complete with no missing trim. Well, the center seats are missing, a common malady of VW vans. The previous owner installed some handsome Mercedes Benz wheels, and it even has a matching spare.

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The downsides? Look at photos of the back and you’ll see it’s a bit…crispy. An engine fire has inflicted some damage. One tap to that rear window and glass shards could spill out everywhere. The upside to all this? It’s the perfect candidate for an engine swap. A 2.0L watercooled engine or a 1.8T would make this quite the kid-hauler.

You can find this Ratty Rescue on copart.com. It’s located in San Diego CA. It is a ‘pure sale’ listing – essentially a “no reserve” auction. There have been no bids yet on the Vanagon.