Volkswagen LT Buying Guide

The LT is VW’s forgotten and usually overlooked bus gem, so if you’re fed up with paying high split and bay window prices and need a bit more space for a custom camper conversion, look no further…

The Volkswagen LT broke cover in 1975, the LT standing for Lasten-Transporter – or cargo transporter. What it lacked in charisma, it certainly made up for in terms of load lugging capacity, its commodious boxy shape and the clever space saving feature of locating the engine over the front axle (forward control), making it the perfect light commercial for business use. Indeed, the short wheelbase LT offered an impressive 7.85m3 of load space and a floor area of 5.6m2. Of course, the fact that the sides were virtually flat, a sliding side door was standard and there were double 180 degree opening rear doors added to it flexibility.

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It initially came in three versions, the LT28, the LT31 and LT35 – the numbers referring to the gross vehicle weights in tons (2.8-3.5). And there were two roof options – high and low top – with a variety of body options including a pickup. Of course there were also a number of camper conversions available, including the VW sanctioned Westfalia (the Sven Hedin and later Florida) and the Karmann, as well as a number of custom coachbuilds.

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The first facelift took place in 1983 and mainly featured improvements to the interior. In 1985, VW released the LT55 with a gross vehicle weight of 5.6 tons. A four-wheel drive version was also made available, courtesy of Sülzer initially, then VW after 1985. The next facelift in 1986 resulted in the original round headlamps being replaced by rectangular units, then in 1993, minor styling changes were accompanied by the introduction of a more efficient non-turbo ACT and the turbocharged DV was given an intercooler to become the ACL. It was replaced by the altogether more modern looking Mk2 in 1996.

Engines
At launch the LT featured a modified 2.0-litre Audi 100 engine which produced 74bhp. A four-cylinder 1.6 diesel making 64bhp was also available, which was joined by a 2.7-litre diesel from 1976. In 1978, a 2.4-litre six-cylinder diesel delivering 74bhp, an engine shared with Volvo, replaced the four-pot unit. In 1982 a 101bhp turbodiesel was added as well as a 89bhp six-cylinder petrol option. An intercooler was added in 1993. None of the engines are exceptional, but given the size of the vehicle, the later six-pot diesels work best – especially when given the benefit of a turbocharger. Apart from the usual valve guide wear and the prospect of bust turbos, problems should be relatively few and far between – and the good news is that service items are still cheap and readily available.

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Bodywork
The condition of the body will inevitably be the real deal breaker on the LT and to be honest you’ll struggle to find one that hasn’t had some restoration work done. The main areas to concentrate on are the sills, the front footwells, the rear arches and the door bottoms. The body seams should also come under close scrutiny as making good corrosion here can be a tricky procedure. Take time up on a ladder to inspect the gutters too – often they get clogged with muck and rot out. The bottom corners of the window frames can also corrode badly, so give these a good eyeball while you are at it. The bottom of the sliding door can also rust. Bear in mind, if an LT’s totally rotten, it won’t be worth undertaking a long and expensive restoration – you’ll never get your money back.

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Running gear
There’s shouldn’t be too many surprises when it comes to running gear, and an LT that’s suffered abuse in a former life as a working vehicle can usually be brought up to scratch as long as the body is ok. Suspension wise, the LT28 and 31 has coil springs at the front, the bigger vans have a leaf-sprung beam. There’s leaf springs and a Panhard rod on the back. Really it’s just a case of making sure the vehicle sits evenly (not sagging on one side) and that there’s no leaks from the shocks or broken springs on vehicles with them fitted. Brakes are all good, although watch for duff automatic adjusters and leaky brake pressure regulators at the rear. Meanwhile, transmissions are generally bombproof, with most issues responding well to fresh fluid. Incidentally, early LT’s had a four-speed ‘box – but don’t be put off because the final ratio’s the same as the five-cog unit. Rear axles were available in different speed ratios, so it’s a case of taking a vehicle on a motorway to make sure it’s able to cruise comfortably. As for the electrics, it’s a case of making sure everything works, not forgetting the fact that the youngest looms are now 20 years old!

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What to pay
Condition is everything and our advice is to buy the best LT you can find. Projects will start at just a few hundred pounds, while the sensible starting price for one with a camping interior will probably be between £2500-£3000. The best coachbuilt conversions might be as much as £8,000 – but for that you’re getting an awful lot of camper for your money. If you want one – move fast. The way Split, Bay and T25 values are going, it’s only a matter of time before LT prices start going the same way and the early round-headlamp examples now have plenty of classic appeal.

Ian

The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of VW Heritage

41 responses to: Volkswagen LT Buying Guide


  1. Hı sir ı have LT 35 armored car ,I Can not find Any Photo or information about this car can you help me pls.

    1. Hello Mehmet,
      Just joined the group and read about your armoured vehicle. Can you post a photograph please? I lived in Africa during the 1970s and drove a military VW-powered armoured vehicle conversion there which was called the “Cheetah”. If I see a photo I could tell you if yours is the same model.

    1. This is a tough one Bruce. We don’t have the VW figures available and there are a number of variables.
      A smaller engine in a smaller van, with least amount of weight, would be great.
      However, a larger engine carrying weight may use less fuel overal, than if you were to labor a small engine van.
      Also, to take into account is the aerodynamics – they are shaped like a brick, and some with coachbuilt or horsebox bodies are even bigger.
      Personally I’d advise you buy one on the overall condition of the vehicle, and worry about MPG second.

  2. Interesting to see that my 2007 LT is not mentioned and is quite different.
    It was originally an ambulance, retired from service and sold to a chap who converted it into a motorhome.
    He then had a change of personal circumstances and put it up for sale.
    Now known as Ambrose, he is my little money pit.
    It’s a pity I can’t see a way to share a photo on here.
    I have recently had the passenger ramp and its motor removed to allow weight of water to be carried.
    I have kept the ramp motor but I’m unsure who might want to buy it.

  3. I have a 1988 Karmann LT28. I’m struggling to find out which LT chassis this camper was built on, as parts for it are specific to the chassis (platform, box or bus). It seems logical that it would be the platform chassis (flatbed). Is that right?

  4. What About parts availability. They are about 30 years old and I don’t think parts for them are still being manufactured

    1. Hi Joseph, parts availability can be tricky, but it all depends on what you need. Whilst we don’t publish a parts listing for these vehicles we can source many parts through our connections with VW Classic Parts in Germany.
      There are also cross over parts from other VW models of a similar age. Andy

  5. My grandad has a LT 35 A reg camper like the one above. All rewired with new batteries, 5 water tanks and it’s been looked after! He wanted to know the best place to get it valued or to sell… does anyone have any ideas?

  6. Does anyone know of a suitable more modern replacement engine that I could have fitted In an lt28 year 1981? Or point me in the right direction please? Thanks!

  7. hi . found this page while on the search for a righthand front headlight for a Lt35 1993. so far i have had no look in finding one. any help would be hugely appreciated.
    thanks

  8. Looking at a LT31 anything special I need to look out for it’s a 1983 2.4 would love to refit it any planns or ideas thanks.

  9. Hallo I have a Camper Italia on the LT 35 Type 28 .Rhe dish oars is. Token I would like to have a new onw of the new model ecc where I can find ? Thanks 🙏

  10. Hi,

    We converted our 1989 LT35 2.4 non turbo diesel over twenty years ago and it has been a reliable workhorse.

    However, a recent engine problem (vibration at mid revs) has developed that has defied local diesel engineers. If anyone knows of a specialist for the D24 engine in the South West, I’d love to hear.

    Thanks,

    john.

      1. Hi Declan,

        Apologies for this very late reply to your query posted in September 2019.

        The vibration, which occurred at mid revs in all gears and which we had lived with for over three months, completely disappeared following an MoT test! So we never really got to the bottom of it. The thinking is that it was probably a valve sticking at a particular engine speed and this was cleared when the MoT garage ran cleaner through the fuel system to pass the emissions test.

        Since then the engine has been run on several tank fulls of Super Diesel and is sweet as a nut.

        Much relieved,

        John.

  11. Hi
    My names Jen and I’m from Australia.. a new Volkswagen owner
    I have a 1976 LT35 camper – left hand drive which is unregistered but in not too bad a condition I think.. I am wanting to sell it to someone who will appreciate its uniqueness but really don’t know where to start. Any advice?

  12. We have bought a VW LT motorhome and are unsure which model. The docs doesn’t state the model only the year 1978. On the plate in the cab it states “‘vehicle type 28” but the motorhome has a twin wheel base and didn’t think a 28 had a twin wheel base? Been told its possibly a 34 or a 35 but how can I tell? The motorhome was bought with a Perkins diesel engine and we would like to upgrade the engine to something faster. The serial number on the plate doesnt seem to match anything either? Looking for any help identifying the old thing and ideas what engine would fit and power a motorhome for a conversion

  13. Hi, I’ve searched all over but can’t find the dimensions of the LT. Deciding whether to upgrade in size from the t4. Any help would be hugely appreciated. Thanks in advance

  14. Hi,
    LT45 that was converted into motorhome, looking for ideas to improve life also to know how tall is it with regular roof..

    Thanks
    Avi

  15. Thanks for posting. Nice memories! We first had an early for UK P reg, 76. Then a R reg. (Campers were affordable at the time) with Audi engines.
    Both were good, petrol was cheap at the time and we enjoyed touring Europe! Unfortunately our second one whilst parked outside our house was smashed beyond repair by a tipper truck!
    My question is, I seem to remember later ones had 5 cylinders engines?

  16. My VW LT31 1990 Karmann conversion motorhome is no longer roadworthy (brakes mainly). I am considering a complete mechanical overhaul plus a few minor bodywork jobs, e.g. there is one hinge missing from the gas bottle cabinet.
    I may also consider a cab respray depending on the cost.
    Once completed my intention is to drive a very few miles (less than 250 a year) and to live in my van for part of the year in a rural location.
    My question is: is this refurb likely to workout cheaper than if I buy a similar size or slightly smaller camper van. And any other advice would be welcome.

  17. I have an 1986 LT31 converted from petrol to diesel. Added a turbo and intercooler to make it somewhere near usable. Have used it for transporting horses on long trips in Europe. It’s nice to drive now when it got a little bit more powerfull engine, but mostly on flat ground. When in hilly terrain or highways with long hillside slops, I really wish I had money to buy something better and more powerfull. The wind noise in the cabin is not up to todays standard att all, so it can be very tiring on long trips. On the positive side, everything is fairly simple and it had never ever let me down or got me stranded in the 15years I owned the thing. Very important when animals are transported.

  18. Hi I have an Lt28 1978 camper van 20 petrol Devon convertion High top with everything in it hot water heater shower water tank etc I have the gas water heater and its a 4 berth / 5. I have tried to check out the vans history and keep coming up blank. It seems to be obsolete. Van is totally complete and original where can I get more info for this van.

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