Letters from the road: Frugal alternatives to a Syncro Vanagon

Hey Mark! Greetings from California. I’m up in the mountains at Castle Crags State Park in Northern California, just south of Mount Shasta, sitting next to the Sacramento River. A Union Pacific Train just passed by on the opposite side of the river, and now that it’s gone you can hear the traffic on Interstate 5. Beyond I-5 is the rest of the park, including the campground where I spent last night and the actual crags for which the park is named.

I took some artistic liberties with the drawing above — I didn’t actually drive to the top of the crags, although I did hike up to a viewpoint. The helpful sign at the viewpoint informed me that Castle Crags is a rock formation known as a granitic pluton, although I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that information. I’m pretty cynical, so I assume that some granitic pluton awareness council placed the sign in hopes that it wool encourage me to buy granitic pluton futures or invest in a granitic-pluton-based hedge fund.

Ever since the pig attack earlier this summer I’ve had some impressive scars on my legs. Unfortunately, they are like magnets for crazy people. Yesterday in Redding a weird guy on a bridge started talking to me, and when he found out that my pig attack happened on the same day that he chose to leave his apartment and all his belongings behind, he started acting like we shared this great kinship and launched into a tirade about his former neighbor who smashed his window in, and how the cops didn’t believe that his neighbor did it, and in fact they thought that he had smashed his own window in, which proved that his neighbor was a cop. Fortunately, I’ve learned that it’s easy to disengage from a guy on a meth rant with the six simple words “I have to go now, goodbye”.

Later on, at my campsite, a weird but harmless dude who’d ridden his bike here from Florida talked about his plans to end his trip by climbing Mt. Shasta, which is not really advisable, at least not if you’ve never climbed a mountain before and plan on doing it alone and don’t know that having snow on a mountain makes it easier to climb.


Hey Mark — While driving this summer I’ve had a lot of time to think about what works well with the Vanagon — both mine in particular and the model in general — and what doesn’t. And I’m pretty happy with mine. Even though it’s only two-wheel drive, I haven’t had any problems getting around. But still, a Syncro would be nice. The problem is, everyone else feels the same way.

So I took the liberty of designing some budget-conscious alternatives. Do you think Rocky Mountain Westy might want to offer these conversions to customers? If so, I’m willing to license any of these designs for a modest fee (payable in either cash or sandwiches, depending on my financial situation).

The first design is the easiest to implement, but would require you to partner with an equine specialist. My advice is to beware of anyone who thinks it’s okay to give an animal a name with six or more syllables.

The second design is a little trickier, and plus it looks like the kind of thing someone on the Internet has already probably done.

But the third design — this is where the Vanagon aftermarket is definitely heading. Practical, but plenty of character. A V-8 diesel 4×4 powertrain for less than the cost of a barely running Syncro Westy. Better (i.e., non-zero) towing capacity. And cup holders that came built in from the factory.

Sure, the idea seems like Volkswagen heresy now, but give the world time. Pretty soon we’ll all be wondering how we ever lived without it.

Excerpt from collage on back of letter.

Click to embiggen.

Click to embiggen.

3 thoughts on “Letters from the road: Frugal alternatives to a Syncro Vanagon

  1. You, sir or madam, are an extreme talent … we laughed and we laughed some more (We did cry just a wee bit but that’s of course because our dear Vanagons have taught us to). You touched the rare psychic funny bone of the Vanagon obsessed as it can only be touched (by a fellow obsessive!?). Your deftness with the stylo puts us in mind of R. Crumb as does the environment that we V-obsessed inhabit.

    Thank you for this delightful interlude …

    Robert & Lucy

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