1989 Volkswagen T3 Multivan With An Audi S4 Engine
This Isn’t Your Average Hippie-Hauler
Published October 13, 2017
After its predecessor had set a seemingly unreachable bar in terms of popularity – especially among the hippies – the Volkswagen Type 2 (T3), more commonly known as VW Transporter or Vanagon, had somewhat fallen out of focus. The sixties were long gone by the time it was introduced in 1979, and so was the need for a “hippie camper”. Yet, the Volkswagen T3 remained active until 2002, and helped millions of people during its almost two-and-a-half-decade-long tenure.
Although the T3 was one of the most practical vehicles you could get back then – especially for hauling both people and cargo – Michael Hillman from Germany didn’t share that opinion. He bought his 1989 Volkswagen T3 in 2003 when the T4 was all-new and somewhat out of his price range back then. He intended to use it as a mobile home on his numerous journeys across the country. That, and to tow his Volkswagen Corrado VR6 Turbo from show to show. Michael succeeded in leaving it mostly stock for a year or so. Since none of his cars remain stock for long, he decided to give his Transporter an overdue overhaul.
Michael changed the suspension and wheels within the first week of owning the van. After a year or so, he also decided to give it more power. The stock engine was evicted, and in came an Audi 5-cylinder replacement. Two of them, actually, but neither managed to satiate Michael’s thirst for performance. An Audi 2.8L V6 was next after another year, and then came the 2.7L V6’s turn. Although slightly smaller in displacement, this one came straight out of a second-generation Audi S4. In other words, it was even more powerful. However, it wasn’t an easy swap. To make matters even worse, the engine caught fire due to a faulty injector in 2011. So, Michael simply bought another 2.7L V6 which still runs today – albeit with larger turbos, larger heads, a new exhaust system and a software upgrade. Power output? Don’t even ask! Even Michael doesn’t know for sure. What he does know, though, is that it hauls ass.
The same way it went through as many engines as it did, this VW Transporter also went through numerous transmissions. The original gearbox, although modified, lasted only three days after the first S4 engine was installed. The second unit lasted a week before a Porsche 911 (993) unit replaced it. This one went on for a while, but ultimately proved no match for the Vanagon’s newfound power. A new gearbox taken out of a 2010 Porsche 911 (997) finally did the trick. The Vanagon is so quick and powerful now that it eats hot hatches and imports alike at quarter mile events. When Michael parks his van in front of the line, the first reaction is usually laughter. That’s often the last thing his opponents do before they bite the dust.
Although it looks mostly stock from the outside, Michael’s van does pack 20-inch OZ wheels. Behind them lurk huge disks taken out of a Bentley Continental and Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG. Over time, Michael says he’d developed a fixation for carbon fiber. Side mirrors are custom-built CF units that mimic those of the Porsche 911 (993). The interior, however, is where the carbon fiber magic happens. Michael’s special van has a kitchen completely made out of the lightweight composite material. Stovetop, refrigerator, sink…You name it, it’s there.
Michael has been enjoying his Volkswagen T3 for over a decade now, and the Vanagon has evolved in a manner that reflects its owner’s tastes – just the way things should be. He’ll continue upgrading this never-ending project and if you’re interested in those updates, you can follow his . Below you’ll find a video detailing everything you need to know about this fantastic VW van. The video itself is in German, but subtitles are present to help clear the confusion. Enjoy!
All photos courtesy of T3 Multivan RS4 and C.O. Fotovision