Porsche Powered: VW/Porsche T3 B32 Caravelle

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We talk about the concept of “factory hot rods” every now and again, such as with this recent Ford Taurus SHO entry. One of the ways the waters tend to get muddied is when a vehicle is modified so well that it looks factory but is actually an aftermarket conversion. However, this T3-series Volkswagen Vanagon is actually a little bit of both, as it was built by Porsche into a 911-powered monster with numerous upgrades and is one of seven such vehicles to undergo such an epic transformation. Built at the Porsche workshop Welcherath near the Nurburgring, this T3 B32 is actually branded as a Porsche, not a VW, indicating just how far this conversion went.  

This is a pretty amazing piece of equipment. The story is this: Porsche was engaged in the Paris to Dakar rally with the iconic 959 supercar, and needed a support vehicle to keep up with the rally-dominating sports coupe. Porsche assigned its own series of unique VINs to these T3 Vanagons, and this one in particular was built for then-Porsche CEO Peter W. Schutz. Schutz was an important figure in Porsche’s history, seen by many as being responsible for turning the company’s fortunes around after years of financial decline. Given his propensity for taking some big chances on the company’s sports car heritage, it’s not entirely surprising that he supported the manufacturing of a 911-powered T3 van.

The rational behind the build was this: as the 959 was obviously a performance car above most all others, it wasn’t possible to conceive of a support vehicle that could keep up with it. However, a T3 with a 3.2 litre flat-six from a 911 Carrera could certainly cut down on the time it took to make runs out cars in the field to provide repairs and servicing while the 959 was moving between various stages. Other upgrades were clearly made as well, with the suspension lowered, Fuchs-style wheels installed, a custom exhaust system bolted on, and tinted taillight lenses swapped in, but otherwise, this is about as factory-correct as it gets in terms of its OEM-like appearance.

The interior is clean and simple, with attractive tan leather upholstery draping the front bucket seats and second- and third-row benches. The engineers behind this project were clearly on the Porsche payroll as you don’t see any superfluous tweaks here, not even a set of Recaros, to make you think this was a heavily modified van. The dash and steering wheel are left alone, and outside of a set of auxiliary gauges mounted behind the bus-like gear shift, it’s largely stock inside. What is very un-Vanagon like is the price, which is listed as 364,900 Euros here on the Porsche Centrum Gelderland website. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Arjan Koster for the find.

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  1. Jack

    No passenger door on driver side…

    Like 0
  2. bobhess bobhessMember

    Semi familiar with these rigs. Didn’t know they built so many of them but I bet they are fun to drive. We had a ’84 Westfalia camper with the water cooled 4 cylinder that was a real runner compared with the air cooled models. One note on this rig, the suspension was beefed up to take the pounding in the deserts and was actually raised slightly for good clearance in the rough terrain.

    Like 7

    $369000? Nuts

    Like 7
    • Mike

      Not nuts. 10 made/converted by Porsche ($$$$). Of course, it would be way cheaper if someone did an exact copy themselves.

      Like 3
  4. Spearfish SpearfishMember

    It has to be a blast to work at a manufacturer’s “skunkworks” shop and create critters like this one on the company dime. Out here in the rest of the world I think the first urge for most dedicated car nuts when they come across a rare piece like this is to drive it, to physically experience the product of the efforts of engineers allowed to go a little wild souping up a utility platform. But of course when the reality sets in of the market value placed upon such a rarity with the added burden of a premium name, much of the fun drops out of the equation for most regular Joe’s like me-self. But if I had a ton of car crazy coin to throw around (like maybe Leno), stuff like this might be in my gigantic shop.
    This thing would be fun, but with its dimensions and mass distribution, surely quirky handling would be offered, and in the wrong hands could be dicey.

    Like 10
    • bobhess bobhessMember

      Not sure the handling is too far off the 4 cylinder versions, which is very good. If you notice they moved the AC from the rear to the front which would put a considerable amount of weight where it would offset the bigger engine. You are talking about the condenser, evaporator, dryer and fans/controls all packed into the first one foot of the chassis. The beefed up suspension should contribute to the handling too. Anyway, neat rig.

      Like 5
  5. 4Qts

    This vehicle would give you endless bragging rights for mere $389,767US, plus shipping – YIKES!!!!

    Like 3
  6. Mitch

    $394,000? Really? Wow…

    Like 3
  7. Clarke Morris

    That’s quite the asking price, and doesn’t even include shipping!

    Like 3
  8. Edward

    For the buyer who pays $390K for this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.

    Like 0
  9. scottymac

    Sounds like Porsche cribbed Ford’s idea to use 427 powered Econoline vans as support vehicles for the Falcons in the ’63 Monte Carlo Rally(e).

    Like 1
  10. chrlsful

    we do it for Baja too. Mechanics, gas, spare parts keep in touch w/radio, ham, microwave. Do the Pre-Run (their slang name IS prerunners). Usually have some food’n 1st Aid, and bigger engine than the class restricted driver. Some even bring the driver. Fair sized team. The money is larg(er) tho…

    Like 1
  11. alphasudMember

    I went to a Porsche swap meet back when I had 911’s and I heard a 911 pulling into the parking lot. I looked up and there was an orange Vanagon with a 3 liter SC engine and Fuchs wheels. Cool ideal and I thought then if I were to ever own a Vanagon a Porsche engine would be the way to fly. Of course back then 3-4K would buy you a used 3 liter engine with the trimmings.

    Like 1

    I really dig this V-dub I mean Porsche, but the issue I have with buying fast cars (or fast anything) is that I’m buying it to drive it. Drive it exactly as it was designed, engineered and built to be driven ie; fast on twisty roads and road courses. Someone made the point earlier in the comments that it would require Jay Leno levels of wealth to own, drive and maintain and that’s exactly what I DON’T have. But it sure is a cool idea and I’d love to be able to build one myself for around $365,000 less than what this one is selling for!

    Like 1

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