New/Prospective Owners What are they like to drive?

From VW T25(T3)-Tech
Jump to navigationJump to search


Some prospective owners may be interested to know what these vans are like to drive, with so many options of engine and high top/ pop top etc it can be difficult to give a general experience but I am going to add to this wiki thread any postings about general experiences. My personal experience is coming from a small car and a bay window to T25 ownership. Initially they can seem large and cumbersome, but that feeling soon passes after a while so driving it is like slipping on a comfortable pair of worn in shoes. The distance from the front nearside corner is one I still find hard to judge and I have lost a couple of bumper end caps but I guess that's just a case of my driving, reversing I also seem to think I am nearer than I actually am and leave a larger gap than needed. Cross winds can be surprise to the new owner especially on high tops. You get to recognise bridges, overpasses and weather conditions that are likely to cause problems, but during that learning period in extreme weather should be driven with caution o avoid the "auto lane change feature" Cold weather can make starting a problem if batteries are not up to snuff combined with old wiring and corroded earths. The standard round headlights are woeful (once described as a glow worms armpit) various upgrade options are available including a cheap relay to reduce the voltage drop to them. Gearboxes can be nothchy whilst cold particularly first to second and getting worse in winter, some expensive oils can delay the inevitable gear box rebuild. Boxes can be a bit whiney in some gears esp 2nd. Exhausts tend to corrode and blow give the engines a fruity note, and wind noise can make conversation difficult with anyone in the back of a camper/panel van (caravelles have better sound proofing.) Also steering can be difficult to get used to by anyone used to power steering (it was an option available on the T25) and anyone with less than average upper body strength low speed manoeuvres can leave them panting but at speed it is no issue. So COMPARED TO A MODERN VEHICLE its noisy, thirsty, slow and difficult to drive.

I have driven a 1.9 petrol and a 2.1 injection. Both, if in good condition, will pull well in 2nd and third the 1.9 has less pull in 4th with a tendency to struggle on long hills On a motorway and a drop down to 3rd is sometimes necessary. The 2.1 when it is in form is lovely to drive and will have enough to hold its own with most traffic on the motorway and have a little in reserve to overtake when necessary. They are thirsty beasts and an LPG conversion is a route that many people take to make it an affordable experience. Previously I would be filling the petrol tank every other week on a 40 mile a day commute and some general driving locally on the weekend so for a 50L tank it was like £45 which stung. I fill my 50L LPG tank for £16 (you can only get 45L litres in it) and get about 140 miles out of it driving mostly at 65mph (2.1L petrol engine using a carb) 14MPG. I drove it at 50 on a long journey and that went up to 160miles 16MPG) I have heard others get over 20MPG and my LPG system seems like it may need "setting up" again, But I have found this makes little difference in the past.

. Maintenance can only be described as costly. I recently had a spate of coolant leaks which resulted me being £200 lighter at VW prices. I suppose I spend about £1K a year on both vehicles just keeping them running, road legal and safe. Membership of 80-90 has helped to keep this to a minimum by finding second hand bits and the experience so I can fit them.

There is however an indefinable enjoyment that many seem to get, manifested by the "big grin" and the community that surrounds the VW transporter which goes beyond the tin and rubber that the vehicle is made from.


I have both a 1.9 and a 2.1 water cooled. Both have enough oooomph along as you don't expect to be the fastest off the lights...charge up hills...or cruise at 85 on the motorway. If you respect the fact that the engine is trying to push over 2 ton along the road, you'll be fine.

And if anything like me, you'll enjoy driving it soooo much that the fact that the journey is a bit longer won't matter.

print off and take with you the buyers guide.....

as for engines......they can be fairly easily replaced. So if it really does go bang it is not the end of the world, but really bad rust is......

As for pop top v high top - the debate rages.........I love my pop top, if only because it means I cannot leave it full of "rubbish" after each trip! but can still sleep two children in the roof, or walk around the van comfortably if it is just me and other half.

If you can, have a drive of the thing. Also have a ride. Think about where you are going to be taking it and why. Mine is a daily drive, with a few carparks where not even the pop-top would get in, bu my tin-top does.

Then having made all the practical decisions....go out an look and buy the one you fall in love may or may not match your "practical" decision!

Good luck, and enjoy your van.


1.9L DG watercooled = plenty of ooooomph for camping journeys, but probably not for racing, so it depends what you want to use your van for?! Ours cruises comfortably at 65mph on dual carriageway / motorway but will go up to 70mph if needed for overtaking.

Vic20 Did about 80+ once when we were late for a ferry but didn't really like it an the fuel economy was woefull. Must be something to do with aerodynamics, brick with a brick tied to it.

Peasant Number one was an early (82) 1.6D non turbo 50 hp tintop camper with a tiny pop-up roof (standing room only, no bed). The roof was very small, so drivingwise, windwise and parkingwise it was the same as a tintop. On this very early model there were no servo brakes ...emergency breaking meant trying to rip out the steering wheel, that's how hard you had to push the pedal. Not only did it not break it also did not accelerate. The 50 hp diesel is momentum driven only ..loose your momentum and you're crawling. Overtaking anything else but a tractor is illusionary and even a tractor needs a good run-up. Motorway inclines can be a bit scary as you will not make it in fourth and possibly not even in third (depending on the incline) ..40 mph or less on a motorway full of fast trucks is a bit daunting. Top speed was something like 65 mph, but you'd be better off looking for a fast truck and stay behind that at 55 or so, at least for long motorway stints. Having said all that, I had it for seven years and was very happy with it. Fuel consumption was frugal (7-7.5 l / 100 km) and it needed nothing other than regular servicing.

Number two was a few months spent driving a 1.7 non turbo 57 hp while on duty in the German army. I found it to be somewhat stronger but not necessarily faster than the 1.6, it could hold its puff just that bit better on an incline, but basically it was just as slow.

Number three was a fully fitted camper with a massive high roof and the 1.6 TD 69 hp. In comparison with the previous two that one was a race car relation to the rest of the traffic it was able to hold its own more , no less. It was reasonably quick around town and in the right speed band on the open road you could actually attempt the odd overtake or two. Gearing and the push from the turbo were nicely co-ordinated and driving on country roads was actually quite a pleasure. On the motorway you'd have to be careful though. Top speed would be around 75 mph but cruising speed is only 60 - 65. I found that out doing a somewhat hurried trip the length of Germany and back again (moving house at the time) where due to time constraints I had the pedal at the floor most of the time. One week later I needed a new turbo and cylinder head. The turbo diesel simply gets too hot when pushed too hard. Driven sensibly and with mechanical sympathy this little engine is quite tough though, fast enough not to be an embarrasment and still pretty frugal (between 7.5 and 8.5 l/100 km are realistic). It is the only diesel to go for in a heavy camper (unless you like the attention that comes with always being the head of the queue)

The current number four is a nekkid 1.6 TD syncro with low mileage (60 k miles). The engine is in a very good state of maintenance and other than the additional syncro bits the yoke is empty and has no high roof either. The pull from a good 1.6TD that doesn't have to haul a heavy camper and push a big high roof through the air is quite astonishing really. Especially when considering how small and weedy the engine actually is in comparison to modern ones and in realtion to the size and weight of vehicle it is asked to move. I don't have any motorways where I am only bendy country roads and the diesel brings a smile to my face on those every time. Combined with the very safe 4WD you can almost drive it in a "sporting" manner.

Actually, the suspension setup and the structural rigidity was the best money could buy in a van during the 80's and early nineties. From a driving dynamics point of view the T3 still has nothing to be ashamed of even today and is miles ahead of its contemporay forward control competitors like early Hi-aces, Mazdas or Mitsubishis which are simply awful to drive slow and dangerous to drive fast.

HM: Just be aware it's a heavy van and needs driving with wider margins than a lighter car if you haven't much experience in vans. This isn't such a modern vehicle, so everything happens (and should do) a bit slower, and needs a bit of forethought... gearchanges, maneouvres etc. I've just seen a few (usually the younger blokes!) trying to drive them like cars, rushing at everything, and wondering why they're ending up one step behind all the time, trying to catch up... gearbox usually suffers about same as the passenger's nerves, maintain gaps, read the road well-ahead and brake gently early rather than late.

Then there's performance and gradients and winds, head, cross and tail... depending on engine, you'll know pretty quickly about up gradients and headwinds. But you maybe surpised how cross-winds can slow and destabilise, particluarly with a high-top. Cruise slower even in crosswinds and allow for the van to wander as wind gusts or you pass roadside obstacles - be one step ahead. It's often better to sit with the big trucks at 56 mph, keeping station, than keep passing them, unless you have the gradient, favourable wind or plenty of power; maintain your mirrors, keep them clean and adjusted and use them frequently, they're life-savers.

Take time and enjoy, the view from a T25 is truly different, like being on horseback, worth a few mpg less to see all that countryside from up there OK!