By on November 9, 2017

Image: 1987 Volkswagen Doka TransporterA familiar German visage greets the casual onlooker.  “Ah yes, this is a Vanagon,” the American viewer thinks to himself. But once the eyes have scanned beyond the upright frontage and to the side of this white rectangle, a problem comes to light. Those eyes dart to and fro in disbelief. What should be there — the rest of the Vanagon — isn’t.

That’s because this is a Doka, and it’s the verboten manual diesel van-truck of your dreams.

Image: 1987 Volkswagen Doka TransporterThroughout the 1980s and until 1991, the Volkswagen T2 Transporter was available in U.S. Volkswagen showrooms as the Vanagon. With rear-drive or Syncro 4×4, Americans could buy the standard passenger van or Westfalia camper. Other markets around the world had more choice: Additional gasoline and diesel engines, more doors, larger camper options — you name it.

Image: 1987 Volkswagen Doka TransporterThe Doka we have here is the three-door crew cab truck version of the Transporter, with the engine residing underneath the flat bed. It’s like the German successor to the charming Chevrolet Corvair Rampside.

Image: 2015 Volkswagen Tristar ConceptAs an aside, the Doka still persists today as a version of the global Transporter van. However, it has certainly lost some of the charm it once had, sporting a less well-integrated bed. The current version appears much more a utility afterthought.

The image above is of a concept yet to see actual production. It’s the Tristar, and takes the original idea of the Doka and adds mobile office features for the contractor on the go. I like it.

Image: 1987 Volkswagen Doka TransporterBut back in reality, the Doka is presently listed on Craigslist of Seattle — some miles north of downtown San Francisco. An excited owner imported it from Poland under the 25-year rule, and titled it in Washington state. An unappreciative spouse is forcing the sale, however, if the ad copy is to be believed.

Image: 1987 Volkswagen Doka TransporterAs the headline states, this is a manual diesel example with a 1.9-liter engine (0-60 time = maybe). The seller indicates the 1.9 is very common in the United States, but I’ll let VW aficionados verify the claim.

Image: 1987 Volkswagen Doka Transporter

There’s seating for six people on a comfortable bench, with room in the bed to hold all your weatherproof luggage items.

Image: 1987 Volkswagen Doka TransporterThere’s a big list of replacement parts listed by the current owner, so only cosmetic issues remain. It’s all yours for $16,000. Common abroad but unknown domestically — just what a Rare Ride should be.

H/t to commenter JohnTaurus for showing me this Rare Ride. Have a Rare Rides listing you love? Submit it to [email protected]

[Images via seller]

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30 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1987 Volkswagen Doka, Hailing From Forbidden Manual Diesel Land...”

  • avatar

    I’d love to have one of these, just super cool. Always loved the Eurostyle fold down bed sides – so practical, even if the bed height is very high, being an engine under it and all. But is it any higher than a current American truck?

    I am assuming that since he doesn’t say it is a turbodiesel that it isn’t. In which case I don’t believe the n/a 1.9 was ever sold here. But these days getting parts from Europe is really no harder than from Autozone, and in many cases cheaper. I’ve been buying Alfa and Triumph parts from the UK for years now.

    Having driven a Vanagon with the 1.6 n/a diesel it will be slow, but not as bad as the 1.6 automatic! Certainly no slower than the air-cooled gas Vanagons, possibly faster. How fast do you need to go in something like this anyway? Your legs are the crumple zone afterall. Swap in the 1.9TD out of an A3 or A4 VW and it would probably go pretty nicely.

    • 0 avatar

      Probably a bit slower – a good friend of mine and I bought identical Vanagons (light blue over dark blue) back in the early ’80s, his with the diesel, mine with the leaping 74hp 2.0 gasser. I could out-drag him by a bit but he could not keep up on the highway – he could only coax around 67 0r 68mph out of it. I could get up to 74 or 75. LOL!

  • avatar

    Very nice. Maybe that’s what I should get with my buyback money!

    The 1.9 mechanical injection (IDI) engine isn’t common in the U.S. the 1.6 was common but the 1.9 IDI was never sold. Canada got the IDI 1.9 TD in the late 90s, however. So parts are available, but probably not as available as the CL guy thinks.

  • avatar

    There was no 1.9 Diesel in the Transporter T3, which is what the commercial versions of the Vanagon were called on their home turf. They only came with 1.6 Diesels, 1.6 Turbodiesels, and 1.7 Diesels (and a couple petrol engines from 1.6 aircooled to 2.1 watercooled of course).

    However, the bigger Diesels from later VW Group cars are a common retrofit. A 1.9 should actually be not too slow — the van (or in this case, truck) isn’t all that heavy. 60 mph is definitely not “maybe”, but it might take 20 seconds to get there.

    They’re not too common anymore in Germany — after all, they’re at least 25 years old by now. The last of the daily driven rear-engined work Transporters are being junked as we speak, leaving just the fan-owned ones and the stowed-away donors. Prices are rising accordingly, but $16k would still buy you a nice camper. A not quite original Diesel Doka? Maybe half that over here. (Probably the other way round on your side of the pond. We always crave what we can’t get so easily, don’t we?)

    Oh, and VW have been building Dokas since 1958, by the way.

  • avatar

    I know I found this one for Corey, but to be honest, there is another imported white crew cab diesel manual truck I would rather have. And, it’s about $7,000* cheaper, plus it has 4wd.

    *the price has been removed, but it was around $9k. Its been for sale for quite a while, and can’t be sold to someone in the state its located in. So I imagine I could get quite a deal on it, likely less than $9k.

  • avatar

    “An unappreciative spouse is forcing the sale, however, if the ad copy is to be believed.”

    LOL, I took a look at the list of work this guy had done and I think I know why she’s unappreciative.

    Still, if wives are smart, they don’t make a fuss about this. My mom had the right idea.

    When I was in college, my dad had a serious thing for a 32-foot Trojan yacht with twin 440 Chryslers, a fully furnished interior (with A/C), and a fly bridge. FYI, we lived in St. Louis. Due to the madness of the Mississippi’s river levels, you could only really use it three months a year, and during those three months, the weather conditions are roughly equivalent to what you find in a pressure cooker oven at KFC. He never figured out quite how to drive the thing, and aside from me, no one would ride with him on it.

    It’d have been cooler if we’d have been able to take it out on an actual body of water worth boating on, but the nearest lake was the Lake of the Ozarks, and trailering that thing down there would have been like a scene from “Fitzcarraldo.” You might as well have trailered an AEGIS cruiser.

    And I conservatively estimate he blew seventy five grand on that thing, between the purchase price, marina fees, upkeep, and gas.
    At the time, he still had two kids to put through college, and his business wasn’t exactly flourishing. I asked Mom why she didn’t push him to sell it. Her (classic) reply: “we can afford it, and what would I rather him blow the money on – a boat, or coke and other women, like half his friends have?”

    Mom was a smart lady. If that guy’s money losing habit is a diesel VW dwarf mutant pickup, it could be a lot worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, given the alternative (cheating, gambling, hard drugs, excessive drinking), I’d rather my future significant other build a bridge to nowhere as well. I just hope he’s as understanding about my car obsession. Ha!

      “What are you going to do with THAT?!”

      *looks at the unicorn leaking its bodily fluids all over my car hauler*
      “Um, drive it…I guess? Eventually, anyway.”

  • avatar

    Not surprised this is around here. Seattle is The Place of Used Vanagons. Plenty of unreconstructed hippies and no rust.

    Some useful context: the neighborhood where this guy lives is one of the wealthiest in Seattle and you can’t buy in for less than about $3 million. I don’t think it’s the parts cost that’s forcing the sale.

    No desire to own it, personally, although a longer fold-down bed with a front engine would be vastly more useful than a traditional American pickup for lots of things.

  • avatar

    So awesome. A Doka-style minivan/truck should be possible with other brands of minivans as well; given the popularity of the small crew-cab pickups, I wonder why no US automaker gave it a go…

    • 0 avatar

      I think the Ridgeline is a good compromise vehicle between a truck and a van, but it’s not a good truck to many. And not enough van to consider replacing a minivan. I mentioned it to the wife when shopping and got “absolutely not”. She loves her minivan.

  • avatar

    Every time you think you have finally mastered the entire Volkswagen catalog out pops one you never heard of and would give your right arm to own. Neat!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Why not an updated version of this instead of the Anorak (Mukluk? Toque?)?

  • avatar

    I wish VW would bring any van over here, preferably Sienna/Odyssey size. My Golf, though new and problem free, has renewed my love of VWs. I’d probably ditch the leased Sienna tomorrow no matter the penalty if a VW van was available. I briefly looked at Eurovans, but they are all too old or high mileage (or both) to remotely consider. Metris was/is too commercially styled for my wife’s liking and won’t fit in our low garage. Ford, bring back the Aerostar!

    • 0 avatar

      I could envision an Aerostar slotting between the Transit Connect and the full size Transit. RWD with optional AWD, passenger and cargo version (with decent towing capacity).

      It’ll never happen, but its a nice thought lol.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny…we’re seriously looking at a one-year old Metris to take over dog-show hauling duties. Not as luxurious as some similarly-priced minivans, but the utility of it all would probably be appreciated.

  • avatar

    In case you’re wondering, Doka, or DoKa, stands for dobbelkabiner, or double cab.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    Diesel cab-forward traydeck = work truck.
    $70,000 P/U with all the entertainment/luxury crap = fashion statement.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, because paying $16k for a 25 year old VW doesn’t and isn’t intended to make a statement, right?

      And who says you can’t take a $70k truck through the mud and use it to tow a trailer, as I see often? Oh, yeah, its the people who steadily b¡tch about other people spending their own money on a vehicle they want but might not need (since you can tell someone’s every need with 100% certainty by driving next to them on the freeway for a few minutes).

      • 0 avatar

        True. A friend of mine has an F-250 Platinum FX4 Crew Cab with the 6.7 Scorpion. It looks very nice, *and* he’s the only guy on our high school band pit crew with a big enough truck that can tow our “chuck wagon”, a 24′ all steel enclosed trailer we use when feeding the band kids.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Yeah I always grab underpowered rigs full of unobtanium parts I have to order from Germany to use as work rigs and I especially like paying 16 grand for the privilege when similar vintage domestic work rigs of equal capability (Think Ranger) can be grabbed for hundreds of dollars vs thousands.

  • avatar

    That orange/yellow VW Crafter I mean Sprinter. Is it still a transporter if it is just a re-badged Benz?

    • 0 avatar

      Nothing to do with a Crafter/Sprinter. That’s a T6, the Eurovan’s current incarnation in Europe, and a much smaller vehicle than the Crafter — Transit Custom size. Available in two wheelbases, three roof heights, FWD or AWD, and the usual range of minibus/camper/panel van configurations, plus of course singlecab and crewcab/Doka pickups. Only 4-cyl anymore I’m afraid, but hey, Volvo can get away with that too.

  • avatar

    He told the wife “Yeah I’ll just sell it for 16K and all’s good”. Except he knows he’ll just be keeping it, driving it, at that crack pipe price. It’s an interesting piece, but it’s a $5K truck and he knows it. He could have $50K in it, it’s still a $5K truck with special thanks for all the time and money he threw at.

    I like to throw in the extra “Hey thank your wife for me.” even though I never saw her (or know for a fact he’s married), when buying cars or trucks for cheap but realistic price guys are taking a huge loss on, but sorry that’s the way she goes.

  • avatar

    Cory, updated have found the holy grail of Vanagon’s . Fantastic find. Thanks.

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