About a decade ago, a bay-window Volkswagen Bus could be purchased for the price of its weight in scrap metal and self-service junkyards always had a couple of rough examples in stock. Collectors almost unanimously wrote off bay-windows as parts cars at best and focused their attention on restoring the earlier split-window vans.
Now that split-windows are essentially out of the average enthusiast’s reach, bay-window buses are finally starting to attract interest and their value is creeping up every year. Next in line for the unenviable title of “most unloved Volkswagen commercial vehicle” is the boxy T3, which was introduced in 1979 and sold as the Transporter/Caravelle in Europe, the Vanagon in most American markets and the T25 in the United Kingdom.
Although still powered by a rear-mounted engine, the T3 broke with the past in several important ways throughout its long production run. It gained a 1.6-liter diesel engine in 1981, a water-cooled gasoline-burning flat-four in 1982 and a 4×4 drivetrain called Syncro in early 1985. It was available with a slew of creature comforts – including power steering, electric windows and heated mirrors – that made it a better daily driver than its predecessors.
Still, the T3 never obtained the cult status that the split- and bay-window buses reached in the 1960s and 1970s. Consequently, it is remembered as more of a work vehicle than anything else.
Will the T3 eventually become a sought-after collector’s item, or will it remain Volkswagen’s unloved van forever?