What do you reckon? Looks mean, doesn’t it? Well, that’s no surprise given that the once humble wasserboxer in this 1985 T25 has been ditched in favour of a storming 3.2-litre Porsche engine instead. But that’s only half the story behind the rare B32…
We all love the idea of riding around in a vehicle that’s perceived as totally innocuous but packs a hidden punch when your right foot hits the floor. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or in automotive terminology – ‘sleeper’ or ‘Q-car’. It’s not a new concept, of course, and VW hasn’t been shy when it comes to cloaking performance car underpinnings in an otherwise quite ordinary looking body. The Passat VR6 instantly comes to mind. But when Porsche get involved, well, things start getting really serious…
Which brings us to the VW Porsche B32 bus. It’s thought that as few as 10 were made between 1983-‘85, with the first prototype being built as far back as 1981 when Porsche needed a fast and spacious support vehicle while carrying out desert tests in Algeria. That had a 15,000-mile 3.0-litre 204bhp flat-six dropped into it, with the beefed up bus managing the 0-60mph dash in just 8.6 seconds and a top speed of 119mph. It was certainly quick, but the 3.2 Carrera engine was eventually chosen for its extra torque, which allowed the use of a higher final drive to improve both performance and fuel economy.
Visually, the B32 sits lower than the original bus, a chin spoiler’s been added at the front, while Fuchs in 16in sizing and painted matt black add to the visual drama. Less obvious are the two small rectangular air intakes integrated into the rear quarter panels and slightly modified rear apron which was enlarged to accommodate the Porker’s exhaust. Obviously, it could have looked a lot more radical with flared arches and the like, but this would have instantly compromised its Q-car credentials.
Inside, the range-topping Carat Caravelle standard spec remains largely intact, with the addition of a Carrera steering wheel being the main distinguishing feature. Another more subtle difference is the fact that the speedo reads up to 200km/h. Oh, and Porsche designed a special air conditioning system – a nod, perhaps, to that first prototype’s sweltering desert duties. In an ideal world, of course, there would be hip hugging black leather Porsche Recaros sat on the appropriate swivel bases…
The Porsche parts bin has also been raided for the B32’s suspension and brakes. After all, with a top speed of 130mph it’s inevitable that something a little stronger than the VW’s original stoppers would be needed to bring it to a halt. So instead of the standard discs up front, there’s Porsche’s inner ventilated affairs instead, stiffer springs and gas shocks. It also borrows the Porsche’s electrical system and has reinforced driveshafts and modified hubs.
Of course where it really starts to get interesting is when you open up the engine compartment. That 230bhp flat-six fits like a treat, although from what we can see there’s some extra foam to raise the engine cover in order for it to clear the air cleaner. The older Porsche 915 gearbox was used to make installation easier and a front mounted oil cooler, an additional oil sump and a bigger 22.2 gallon fuel tank have also been added. The ‘official’ performance figures for the 3.2 are 9.6 seconds for the 0-60, with an accompanying top speed of 116mph. We think Porsche were being modest because it was obviously much faster. Either way, we assume it was more rapid than the smaller engined prototype and for that reason could obviously put the wind up drivers of much sportier looking metal.
As a Porsche spokesman from the time put it: “Of course you get a lot of satisfaction out of a Carrera or a 928 when people move over because they recognise the silhouette. But the Porsche bus is infinitely more fun because of the surprise effect – nobody expects a van to do 135mph. The Porsche bus not only eats small BMWs, Mercs and Audis for breakfast, on secondary roads it is a serious threat to bigger Benzes and Jaguars which lack the oomph – and the cornering power – of this potential nine-seater.”
It was sold exclusively through the Zuffenhausen dealer network for the princely sum of 150,000 Deutschmarks – or £40,000. They rarely come up for sale, but when they do, unsurprisingly they fetch quite a premium. Of course potential buyers would need to assure themselves that they are getting the real thing not just a van that’s had an engine transplant.
Word has it that Mrs Porsche used one of these buses for the school run. And with all that space inside configuration, we can’t see why not. A lot more classic and classier than a Cayenne!