Volkswagen Transporter (T4)

1990–2003 — The first officially designated “T platform” vehicle, the Volkswagen Transporter (T4) dramatically updated the Volkswagen van line by using a front-mounted, front-wheel drive, water-cooled engine.

The Volkswagen Transporter T4 (known in North America as the Volkswagen Eurovan) was the first front-engined van produced by German automaker Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, and is the successor of the Volkswagen Type 2 van. It is built on the Volkswagen Group T4 platform.

As early as the late 1970s, Volkswagen began to think about replacing their rear-engined Type 2 vans with a more trendy, front-engined, water-cooled design, as they had very successfully done with their passenger cars earlier in that decade. The reason why in 1980 they still introduced the new rear-engined Type 2 (T3) / Vanagon instead is unclear; the front-engined van was delayed until 1990.

T4 (1990–2003)

The first Volkswagen vehicle to use the ‘Transporter’ name, known correctly as the Transporter T4, was released in 1990, and was the first Transporter without a rear engine. It was now available in two wheelbases, with the front engine layout allowing greater diversity for special bodies – from wreckers to three-axled minibuses to large box-bodied ambulances. Transversely mounted engines with four, five and six cylinders, and the Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engines, were available. The T4 ceased production in 2003 after 14 years (making it second only to the T1 for length of production in its home market).

There was one major model change to the T4, in 1994, when the re-shaped front end was introduced. This was needed to fit the six-cylinder VR6 engine into the Transporter’s engine bay. The commercial variants, however, which were not available with the VR6, retained the old look (although they were changed as well, they just still looked almost the same). Keeping with the Type 2’s tradition, these two versions are informally called T4a and T4b by enthusiasts.

The engine range has become rather too large to elaborate. T4a were available with inline four- (I4 or R4) and inline five-cylinder (I5 or R5) engines, both petrol and diesel; the T4b saw not only the VR6, but also the five-cylinder Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) engines that since have replaced the traditional normally aspirated diesels.