Saturday, February 17, 2007


The original brakes that come with the Vanagon are not very good, especially on the Syncro Westy, there is a lot of weight. There are South African Vanagon brakes that you can install, they take vented rotors but the piston size is still the same as the later type Vanagons.

I installed a set of later Audi 5000 turbo rotors with the Girling double piston calipers that came of the same car. You have to machine the caliper bracket to match the holes of the steering knuckle and use 8 mm thick spacers with M16 or 5/8 " bolts for this.

In the rear I have calipers from a 2004 Jetta VR6 or Audi A4, they take vented rotors. I have used 1985 Audi 5000 Quattro front rotors, they are 280x22mm. The calipers are mounted, by using an adaptor, to the bearing housing.
The brake hoses are from a 2004 Passat AWD, they use a banjo type bolt to connect it to the calipers.

Also, the rear hubs have to be machined down so that they fit inside the rotors. I had to go to a bigger wheel and longer studs, using 17" Audi S6 mags.
I am using synthetic brake fluid so I had to clean out all brake and clutch lines, it does't mix with regular brake fluid.
Once the van is on the road, I will check out the brakes to determine if the rear brakes lock up too easy on a wet surface, I may have to install a different pressure reducing valve.


Syncro Vanagon said...


How does one get ahold of you to acquire some of your fabricated pieces?


Herman said...

Hi Ben, I would like to test the brakes out before selling adapters etc.It will be a while before I have the van on the road, too many projects right now. But when I do, I will post it here. Thanks

Damon said...


Great pictures, and interesting install. Could you please elaborate on the rear brake setup. Do you need 17" wheels to clear the setup? Playing around has shown a 15" alloy would fit over a 288 rotor on a front brake setup ('90s A4).

It would be great if you could contribute to the (very) lengthy brake thread on the samba:

If you could e-mail me at:
damoncampbellvw (at) yahoo (dot) com, i'd appreciate it, as i'm very curious about your setup.

Herman said...

Hi Damon, I have been experimenting with the rear brakes for a while.
First I made adapters for the Audi 5000 rear brake calipers and used a solid rotor, but I never liked the emergency brake part. They tend to rust up easy and the brakes drag and heat up. Then I got some calipers from a 2005 model Jetta, they take vented rotors, the brake lever has an exellent external seal on it and should not let any moisture in, it also provides more clamping force and are made out of aluminum.
I had some Golf GTI front rotors laying around and mounted those with the Jetta calipers, the only drawback is that I have to use 17" wheels. I am currently making new adapter plates that fit the same 288mm front rotors with the Jetta calipers. If I ever wreck a rim in some remote area, it is easier to get hold of some 15" rims and tires to make it back home

Anonymous said...

On the rear you used the 2005 claipers. What were the rotors you used? I can't imagine they where bigger than the Audi 5000 turbo fronts with 276 mm. Was the caliper the older 2005 Jetta, or the 2005.5 jetta or are they the same?


Herman said...

Hi gator70, what I did was to go to a place like: and look in the brake section of the late model high performance Golfs, Jetta's and Audi's, they are the ones that are using vented rear brake rotors. Now check what model has a rear caliper for a 22 mm vented rotor. Then go to a website like :
and see who has a set of calipers for this paticular model and how much they want for them or buy new ones from Auto Parts Warehouse etc.

Now for rotors, note that Golf and Jetta rotors have the wrong bolt pattern (100x5)for a Vanagon.
Audi has the right bolt pattern (112x5) but the late style Audi S4 and S6 rotors are a lot of money, so I looked at the Audi 5000 Turbo from 1980 to 1983 that has 280x22mm front rotors, they are only $20.00 a piece and are easy to get. They are only 4 mm larger than the later Audi 5000 Turbo front rotors that I have used for my front brakes.(276x25mm)
Now, I am working on a mounting bracket for these calipers, so if it all works out, I will post it on this Blog.
The calipers that I used came from a 2005 Jetta VR6 USA, but if you can find Audi S4 or S6 calipers,they will work too.
Also note that I am using 13mm spacers between the drive hub and the rotor, this will also move the caliper outwards and the mounting bracket will be different if you don't use spacers or use spacers between the rotor and the wheel.


Anonymous said...

You used the earlier Audi 5000 Turbo front rotors on the rear of the syncro, with the 2005 Jetta VR6 USA rear calipers. Did I understand correctly? .......

I see how you used the spacers.



Herman said...

Hi gator 70, yes that is correct.
If I use the later Audi 100 or A6 rotors up front, I will have to install the spacer between the wheel and the hub. With the rear rotors I am still experimenting, depending on what is the best way to make the bracket.

Gator70 said...


About the rear rotor selection. You have a bit better knowledge. Maybe you could look here: .

What rotor selection did they use, in your opinion?


Herman said...

Hi, the 269x22mm rotor is mostly used on Audi A8 and S6, Smallcar says that they use a 264mm rotor which is really close in size.
It could be the same rotor.

I just found out that the Jetta that my calipers came from is probably late 2004, I don't see a listing with a VR6 in 2005 anymore.

tom said...

Good lookikng project. I am just starting one. I want, need, have to have front diff locker. where do I get one???


Herman said...

Hi Tom, thanks. I have seen one on The Samba the other day, look under parts and search for "syncro".
Last time I saw it they wanted $1100.00 for it.
Another option would be to install a Peloquin limited slip differential in there.
You can contact Daryl at:

Very nice person, I bought my gear set from him.
Now if you can find a Syncro core tranny, than you can have your front diff housing machined and have somebody install the locker in there and set it up for you.

Gator70 said...

About the front diff locker. I have sold a few. Maybe I can get more.

Marcus said...

These brake ideas are great! I want to upgrade the brakes on my '76 bay window camper. Many of the stock Vanagon parts interchange with bay windows. Do you have an idea which of your brake configuration may be adaptable to bays and which not?

Herman said...

Hi gator70, If you could get some of the gas version ones, I am sure that you could easely sell them.
The diesel ones will be harder to sell.

Herman said...

Hi Marcus, it's been quite a few years since I worked on a bay window, but I am sure that you can make some brackets for a front and rear disc brake conversion.
Best look on The Samba, I have seen some posts about rear disc brake conversions there.

Anonymous said...

Any news on the rear brakes? Many people could use this and I have not found an affordable or easy to make setup. Pre-made adapters would be the ticket as the rest is doable. TIA, Walt r39o

Herman said...

Hi Walt, I will ask for a quote from the machine shop how much it would cost to have a bunch made on the CNC mill, the next time I am out of town.

martin said...

Hiya Herman,

very nice work over there, i really like to see someone actually doing much more than experimenting a syncro to death :)) Affordable adapters for rear calipers would be interesting for me aswell... :)

Thanx, greetings from Berlin, Germany,


ebc brake rotors said...

Installing Audi brakes on a Syncro is amazingly simple, inexpensive and an amazingly effective brake upgrade for the Vanagon Syncro. I find these brakes superior.


Jan said...

Hi Herman, thanks for sharing all your great ideas with the rest of us, so freely.
My father has had Syncro's since they came out here in South Africa. Has done his own mods on the tranny to overcome weak areas. would like to share it with you when i am better prepared. only starting my own project now.

Herman said...

Thanks Jan, I hope that you can share what your dad did with his transmission, I am sure we can all learn from his modifications.

German Paz said...

Hi Herman,

Thanks for your work and sharing it with the community.

I already install the SA big kit but I can't really feel a big diference. Mine is a Westy Syncro with 16", OME and springs.

Breakes still a weak point so I'm decided to improve front and rear. I would like to buy the brackets from you, both ends, and buy the rest of the parts online.

Besides my purchase from you I will be more than happy to make and extra donation to support your investigation.


German Paz.

Herman said...

Hi German, thanks.

I would install the BMW brake booster first, you will notice a big difference.

The rear brakes on a 16" Syncro use the brakes from a LT and they should work OK as they are.
I decided not to market the brackets for the rear disc brake conversion, too many people get sued in the US, you could buy a kit from Small Car Performance if you want but I would try the BMW booster first and see how you like it.


Anonymous said...

Looks like it's been a while, Herman. I'm in Calgary and have an 88 Syncro that's up in the air with the axels off. I've got a set of Girling 60s for the front and am trying to figure out what to do on the back end. What are your thoughts? Have you seen this:



Herman said...

Hi Jeff, sorry for the delay as we were travelling.
That looks like a beautiful machined set.
The only drawback with most of the conversions is,
that the emergency brake doesn't work as good as the drum brake does.

Cheers Herman