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Subaru Powered Vanatruck: 1980 VW Vanagon Pickup

031116 Barn Finds - 1980 VW Vanagon pickup 1

Here is another custom pickup! Who knew that people had so much free time on their hands? This 1980 Volkswagen Vanagon custom pickup is listed for sale here on Craigslist in Gresham, Oregon, just east of Portland. You knew that Portland would be involved with this one! The seller has done an absolute ton of work on this unique ride and is only asking $3,000 – or they will trade; for what they don’t mention.

031116 Barn Finds - 1980 VW Vanagon pickup 2

I’m surprised at how much I like this thing! To say that this custom truck would turn heads is an understatement. The work that has been done looks good so far, but it’ll need your finishing touches “or just drive it the way it is and turns heads everywhere you go” as the seller mentions. I think the oddball factor is high here, but so is the cool factor. It’s been lowered with an air-ride suspension and that gives it a unique touch in my opinion. Being a purist, I normally don’t care for vehicles that have been lowered, but for some reason this one works for me. The body looks good but it’ll need some finishing and the seller says that it has been painted with tinted primer and that the “patina was added later.” There’s that contentious P-word again that draws the ire of so many folks. This Vanatruck even has a rear suicide door on the passenger side for yet another added custom touch, not to mention that the rear hatch opens; well-done, builder!

031116 Barn Finds - 1980 VW Vanagon pickup 4

The clincher on this mod-ride is the engine. You are correct, that is no VW powerplant there, that’s a 2.5 Subaru boxer! Talk about an upgrade–that’s at least twice the horsepower of the original engine. This vehicle would have originally had about 70 horsepower in air-cooled comfort. This primer’d-and-patina’d ride is now powered by a custom RS boxer engine with aftermarket rods and a set of famous and not-inexpensive Wiseco pistons. It’s also been balanced and blueprinted and it has dual Weber carbs and a Tri-Mil header. To top it off, there’s an aluminum radiator and electric fan hiding under the wood bed. You may want to build some sort of shrine…er…I mean, shroud around it, or at least keep it detailed to within an inch of its life when you take it to your local car show, which you will. A nice piece of engineering and fabrication here.

031116 Barn Finds - 1980 VW Vanagon pickup 3

As a purist, I normally like things original but I think that this VW/Subaru creation is a grand slam! The incredible amount of work that has been done here is impressive, even if a person doesn’t care for a cut-up-and-lowered Volkswagen van with a Subaru engine. I see a bright future for this person, they’re super creative and it looks like they do nice work on top of it. $3,000 for the parts alone is a steal, let alone that this is a working and driving vehicle and one that would be cheap entry to any VW or Subaru show. What are your thoughts on this one: are you a purist when it comes to VW Vanagons or is a custom creation like this as appealing to you as it is to me?





  1. Avatar photo MikeG

    I put a Subaru in my Vanagon about 15 years ago. Just put a rebuilt high compression 2.5 in last year to replace the aging 2.2. Love it!

    The rear deck seems a little on the low side, but other than that, might be a great deal.

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  2. Avatar photo MountainMan

    This is a great find and very cool build. Price is right and very interesting as well.

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  3. Avatar photo Kornmanone

    Wow I like this

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  4. Avatar photo OhU8one2

    I myself would lose the wood on the sides of cargo bed and go with factory VW fold down panel’s. I think it would finish off the van better. Can’t get my finger on what color to paint it. For sure I would install the South African style front grille. Early 90’s style Mercedes 320 wheels. Then hit all the VDub shows I could.

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  5. Avatar photo Bobsmyuncle

    I like it, but I’d like it more if it had started life as a double cab. As it is the bed is all but useless but you could fix that with some effort (a lot of effort if you want to regain the real estate above the engine).

    Regardless it looks great in that way that only a few of us ‘get’ and let us not fail to add to the ‘P’ word by using the ‘S’ word. Stance.

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  6. Avatar photo Jack NWPA Member

    I do like it alot yet wonder with so much time and talent why one would want to sell. The trans park feature and park brake must not work as I see more than one wheel chock. But if it wern’t so far away I’d call it a project and snap it up!

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  7. Avatar photo Peregrine Lance

    (1) What are the owner’s needs, for which he’d trade?

    (2) I’m assuming a standard 4-on-the-floor. Please don’t let this turn out to have the VW auto box!

    (3) I must’ve missed it: Where is this beastie located? Oh…Nr. Portland! Great! I’m in Sacramento….wanna meet halfway?


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  8. Avatar photo Mike

    What a pile of ????????

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  9. Avatar photo the one

    Our eldest daughter’s x boy friend stuffed a flat 6 Subaru in his vw camper van. 280 HP. What a screamer. Lots of work to do the conversion Sounds great! he also stuffed a 2.5 into a Carmen Ghia and a Porsche 914. A very creative fellow.

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