VW T3 Vanagon, converted panel van (left) and westfalia camper (right)
Until 1982, the T3 was available with the same air-cooled engines as the T2. Starting in 1981, water-cooled diesel engines were available options and for 1984, water-cooled gasoline boxer engines replaced the previous air-cooled ones.
From 1985, the T3 Syncro represented the first production Type 2 with four-wheel-drive. The Syncro drive system was full-time four wheel drive, with drive to the front axle controlled by a viscous coupling that delivered power when required. European Syncros were normally fitted with front and rear pneumatically operated differential locks to improve traction. These were not normally fitted to US-spec Vanagons due to fears over product liability.
Water cooled T3 Vanagon bus, transporter (left) and multivan (right)
Engine size and performance grew considerably over the T25's production run, from the 1.6 L, 50 DIN hp (37 kW) and 2.0 L, 70 DIN hp (52 kW) air-cooled engines to 1.9 L water-cooled powerplants rated at 60 DIN hp (44 kW) or 78 DIN hp (57 kW) to the top-of the line 2.1 L, 112 DIN hp (82 kW) (95 hp for vans with catalytic converters) fuel-injected version. Likewise, the diesel engine grew to 1.9 L and 65 DIN hp (48 kW). There was a turbodiesel option, but only in 1.6 L, 70 DIN hp (52 kW) trim. The 1.9 L turbodiesel upgrade was not available until the introduction of the T4.
In its home market, the T3 was replaced by the T4 for the 1990 model year, but some Syncro models and vehicles for Deutsche Post and the German military continued to be produced in Graz, Austria until 1992. The last German-built T3s were the very sought-after "Limited Last Edition" models of which 2,500 were built.
Meanwhile, the T3 was still being built in South Africa, with a slightly modified body (larger windows, different ventilation, less room above the engine), fuel-injected four and five-cylinder inline engines and new equipment packages. South African T3 production was halted in 2002.