1989 Volkswagen Transporter DOKA

1989 Volkswagen Transporter DOKA


Status: Sold to Scot B. of Nashville, TN
Manufactured: Germany
Imported: Tenerife, Spain
Engine: 1.9L 4-Cylinder Gas
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual

The Volkswagen Transporter is one of the best-selling vans in history. Dating back to 1950 and still in production today, over 12,000,000 of these have been produced across their six generations. This T3 is the third generation of the iconic van, which the U.S. received under the name ‘Vanagon.’ In typical fashion though, the U.S. didn’t receive all the different variants. Overseas, the utility versions, or those equipped with the pickup bed, were used for everything from agricultural to military applications. They came in gas or diesel; 2WD and 4WD; single cab and double-cab. They were a blast, and like anything else, have developed their own little cult following around the globe. This particular van is a DOKA, or double-cab, 2WD variant equipped with the 1.9L water-cooled four-cylinder.

Our DOKA hails from Tenerife, Spain. Over 3,500 miles away from our little dealership here in Marshall, Tenerife sits off the North African coast. It’s part of Spain; one of the Canary Islands. And between you and me: I feel sorry for the Volkswagen. It had life pretty damn good down there. Tenerife is a beautiful place. Not too hot. Not too cold. Sun. Beaches. You get the idea.

We bought this DOKA from a man who knew how to live.  That wooden – Pergola? Camper shell? – on the back was his weekend getaway. As we talked, he sent me a photo of the Volkswagen casually sitting along the coast. The door to the camper was propped open and a woman sat comfortably on the bed sipping her morning coffee. It was the type of picture he probably didn’t put too much effort into. But man – Life looked good. Good enough to try for myself, I thought.

We’ve ventured out to Lost Whiskey before, but it’s the type of place where any excuse to get out there is worthwhile. Against the Appalachian Trail on the eastern spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Lost Whiskey Club is the brainchild, passion, and project of Mark Turner and the crew at Greenspur, a Falls Church, VA-based design build firm. High on the mountain with a stunning view of the rolling valley below, it’s an effort to get people back outside. To disconnect from phones and reconnect with friends, family, and nature. It seemed the perfect site to recreate that Tenerife-feeling, even if it isn’t exactly coastal. The DOKA quietly slipped up the side of the mountain before dawn; the pickup bed loaded with a little firewood and a percolator. And that’s it. In true Lost Whiskey fashion, we let the story end there. The fire crackled away and brewed a nice pot of coffee, with the sun rose up over the valley below. You don’t need a DOKA to get outside and relax (it doesn’t hurt…). Get to it.

Driveline. The DOKA has Volkswagen’s 1.9L water-cooled four-cylinder gas engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission.  The Van has 152,235 miles on the engine. The engine’s single Solex 34 carburetor has an automatic choke, making starting an easy flick of the key. Shifting through the five-speed is drama free, with no signs of meshing gears or a worn clutch. It cruises comfortably on the highway and contends with hilly backroads with ease. We can also confirm it climbs up the side of a particularly tricky mountain in the Blue Ridge when asked to do so.

Exterior. White paint shows well, though some scratches and stains do exist. The DOKA is almost entirely rust free, with some light pitting noticeable on the surface of the pickup bed. The chassis and body are otherwise straight and rust-free. The three doors and two storage panels under the bed operate with the same key. The rear bed’s three sides drop flat with a few latches holding them in place. The homemade wooden camper shell isn’t water tight, though it could be made so easily. One side of the shell opens up (passenger side) while the other two sides have access hatches built in. At 6’-1”, sleeping in the bed would be a tight fit, though perhaps possible at an angle.

Interior. The gray vinyl upholstery is consistent across both front and rear seats. The DOKA can seat six, although the right answer is probably “four comfortably.” Manual windows roll with ease. Doors shut solid and lock. Wipers, lights, signals, and gauges all work. Volkswagen determined that the driver of the DOKA had two primary concerns when it came to gauges: Your speed, and the time. In lieu of a tachometer, a full-size clock consumes the right-most gauge housing. It’s ironic, though. When cruising in the DOKA, time feels like the least of your concerns. I hope the next owner will use that one sparingly.

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