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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my first post, so feel free to point me in a direction to find this answer if it's one that has been overdone!!
We are former VW owners (two '69 Transporters and a '71 pos) but it's been about 6 years and we're now looking at a '83 Westy but know little to nothing about them.
Are there any specific issues that we should be aware of with this particular year? It seemed to drive really well. No rust. The top is in great shape and the engine looks all original except for the plugs basically. Interior needs new fabric and headliner, but that's no big deal.
Are there specific questions that we should get answers to? Or are there similar years/options that we should avoid?
Thanks!
 

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Re: Looking for info on '83 Westy (homebrewer)

Quote, originally posted by homebrewer »
The one that we found is a water cooled.

Then definitely look up info on the Vanagon waterboxer head leak issue. It affects pretty much ALL watercooled Vanagons. If the problem has already been fixed, then good for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Re: Looking for info on '83 Westy (MagicBus)

Thanks- I have heard about the head problem and read up on it. The Vanagon is at a used car lot and they have ZERO knowledge of the vehicles past which scares me a little. But hell, I bought my first 3 busses with less mechanical knowledge than I have now! Is there an easy way for me to determine whether head gasket repairs have been made.
Are there any other specific issues with this year? Thanks! And I hope to me around this site much more often after we find our new bus!
 

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Re: Looking for info on '83 Westy (homebrewer)

Quote, originally posted by homebrewer »
Thanks- I have heard about the head problem and read up on it. The Vanagon is at a used car lot and they have ZERO knowledge of the vehicles past which scares me a little. But hell, I bought my first 3 busses with less mechanical knowledge than I have now! Is there an easy way for me to determine whether head gasket repairs have been made.
Are there any other specific issues with this year? Thanks! And I hope to me around this site much more often after we find our new bus!

I don't have any personal knowledge of '83 models. We've had 3 Vanagons in the family:
1) a brand new 1985 model Vanagon GL (7-passenger non-camper) - parents bought it when I was 6 or 7 years old. Had the same engine as the van you're looking at - the 1.9 L waterboxer
2) a 1989 Vanagon GL (7-passenger non-camper) dealer demonstrator, bought in late 1989 by my parents. Still on the road with a rebuilt engine in 1999. Has the 2.1L waterboxer
3) a 1991 Vanagon base model (7-passenger non-camper). 140K on original engine - heads done 30K ago with much of the engine refeshed. Bought it a year ago this week with 134K on it. Same engine as the '89 Vanagon GL
If you have no service record, I know of no way to be 100% sure the heads have had attention. Low mileage is not a sure indicator. My dad's van needed head work (dealership stuck him with a whole new engine) at 65,000 miles. My van, according to the service record, had the heads done at about 105K miles.
Things to check for - look for cvolant leaks under the engine, and all around the van while you're at it. Coolant under the engine is a strong indicator that the heads/head gaskets are in need of attention.
-look at the overall mileage - as with any car, the lower the better. Just keep in mind that when it runs, the Vanagon waterboxer is a nice enough machine. When it has problems, it needs attention. (Of course, engine conversions and rebuilt engines are easy enough to come by, though not cheap)

Is this Westy auto or manual? Manual Vanagons from 1980-1989/90 had a problematic transaxle, with a poorly designed 3/4 syncro. Problem corrected in late '89/early '90. (Check GoWesty for info) My van is a manual '91, so it is unaffected.
What is the asking price?

All in all, a Vanagon is a committment. If you understand that up front, and expect the possibility of the occasional big repair, you'll enjoy it a lot more than someone who thinks they're buying something indestructible. A Westy Vanagon is known to have some problems, as outlined above, but the fun factor, when they run well, can far outweigh any headaches they provide.
That being said, come back to us with more questions and use your best judgement. BTW - what's the asking price?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Re: Looking for info on '83 Westy (MagicBus)

Thanks MagicBus!
Certainly not expecting anything indestructable. We used to have a pair of '69 Transporters, so we're aware of the commitment.
* Asking price is $4995.
* Speedometer (conveniently stopped at 125k)- this scares me a little
* No leaks of any kind that we found. We took it for a 20 minute drive and then let it sit for about 20 minutes afterwards and didn't see anything. Exhaust smells clean at cold start and after the drive.
* It's a 4 speed manual. 3rd gear seemed very loose with literally inches of play while in gear and driving. Seemed odd but it worked well and wouldn't slipout without the clutch fully engaged.
* The body and paint are in great shape. It has lived somewhere hot because all of the molding in the rear has melted into a wavy pattern.
*Interior upholstery needs some attention but that's easy enough.
Thanks again for helping me out!
 

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Re: Looking for info on '83 Westy (homebrewer)

I don't know your local market, but $4995 is pretty much on par with local Westys in New Jersey - mostly because of the rarity. Passenger models, like mine, are significantly cheaper where I am, but almost as hard to come by.
Do you think the used car lot is willing to bargain?

What do you all think this Westy is worth?
Personally, I might buy it, and I might not. I would need to see the van firsthand. There's only so much you can glean off a description.
 

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I bought my '85 non-camper for $900. It's a four speed and when I got it it had trouble shifting at fourth and third had play. Now only 5 months later I'm having terrible shifting problems where I have to double clutch and shift at exactly 2000 rpm or else I have horrible grinding and it occasionally decides it doesn't want to go into first. I'm not saying that this will happen to yours at all but I am saying there is a design flaw in the Vanagon tranny and it is possible you will have to replace your transaxle or rebuild it. By the way my odometer also conviently stopped, mine at 147k though. I wish you luck though with whatever bus you get, personally I would rather stick with my '76 westy though.
 

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Re: (subwv)

so...
1. It's a Volkswagen. The odometer will probably stop at some point.
2. The Vanagon manual transmission has known problems with a bad 3-4 syncro
as well as other things such as head leaks and seam rust. In short, use your own discretion, though I would say that miles are not such a big deal as long as the body is in good shape and you can see some sort of service records.
have fun fighting yourself deciding if you want to buy it.
 
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