Vanagon – syncro bash plates project

I left the entire syncro drivetrain protection bars off my van after the propshaft business with a mind to installing some bash plates. The transmission is left pretty well fully exposed in the stock set up, and today I started doing a bash plate in that region. I had some scrap yard sourced 5/16″ aluminum plate to use.

Here are the stock skid bars/rails, transmission end. See the added tabs?

I had my first go at TIG welding…I still have a Β long way to go.

A real welder (good friend Dave) did the stainless to plain steel weld (609 rod).

Pretty heavy gauge aluminum, but it was cheap.

I match drilled and countersunk holes in the plate to match the nuts on the rails. The tabs with nuts were not located with any special measurement in mind.

Other side view. I’ll offer the assembly up to the van and see how much of the plate I’ll cut away. Rough sketches on plate sort indicates my thinking, “wings” towards the rear to provide a little protection to the inboard cv joints.

Project finished, blog post here.


  1. #1 by famillysyncro on June 23, 2012 - 6:33 am

    I’ll be looking at your work since it is next on my to do list.
    I am still waiting as I monitor my conversion and I don’t want anything in my way so I can check everything since I made the engine carrier by myself.
    Not sure how I am going to connect those skid plate to the carrier.
    I was thinking at aluminium too for plates but with the salt we have during the winter, I might go SS instead.
    Good work as usual.

    • #2 by albell on June 23, 2012 - 7:48 am

      Hi Jerome,

      I’m kinda making it up as I go along, but I am taking some inspiration from this on Campervan culture (
      It is not raining today (not a great summer so far out here on the coast) so I hope to get under the van with the plate and see where I can trim it up. I’ll probably make some holes in it too.



    • #3 by albell on June 23, 2012 - 8:05 am


      I don’t think you need worry about salt and the aluminum. I can’t tell you what alloy is in the plate I used, but welder friend figures it was an off cut from local shipyard. The stainless I used was 316. Electrolytic corrosion of the Al plate won’t be a big issue, very large surface area compared to the more noble ss tabs – any electrolysis will be spread over a large area. If any part of the set up will corrode I think it will be the stock steel skid rails where I ground off the paint, adjacent to ss tabs. I need to paint and wax those spots well, before install.


      • #4 by famillysyncro on June 24, 2012 - 5:37 am

        I wasn’t thinking about electrolytic corrosion but only corrosion of aluminium if there is no protection at all. I made aluminium protector for those push rods tube on the WBX and with the salt during the winter I found them 3 months after in really bad shape. Of course, there was no anodization at all.
        If you look at the motor case itself (or the trans case especially in winter country), it might take some years but the result isn’t great. So, on the top of those bash plate, mud, salt and humidity might stay there for a while…..

      • #5 by albell on June 24, 2012 - 7:43 am


        I’d suspect most of the corrosion you’ve seen was exacerbated by electrolysis or galvanic corrosion. It is a hodge-podge of metals in the engine area, with a range of nobility.

        And besides, the bit of aluminium I’m using is an off cut from a shipyard – presumably the rest of the plate is sitting in salt water all the time πŸ™‚



  2. #6 by Burley on June 23, 2012 - 9:04 am

    Nice Tig welding there Alistair. You are for sure a man with many talents.
    We all appreciate your sharing and documentation of your projects.
    It is very helpful and encouraging.
    Keep up the fantastic work. Burley

    • #7 by albell on June 23, 2012 - 9:14 am

      Thanks Burl, but my TIG welding was only on the nuts, welder Dave did the nice welds on the tabs. Boy, did I find it tough to do the nuts. Was my first time with TIG (and I haven’t done any other kind of welding since junior high). I found it hard to keep tip at right angle and distance, and not overheat the nut. But when it did work for me, it was a great feeling.



  3. #8 by Harry on June 26, 2012 - 2:01 am

    Regarding corrosion, its very much a matter of which duralumin alloy it is, so of course the marine industry would be making wise choices, more concerned with general properties (e.g. corrosion) and less concerned with absolute structural properties than the aircraft industry Say, the latter would at one time for instance use say a mainly copper aluminum dural for a tensile load (where fatigue matters) and a zinc one for mainly compression e.g. a bottom wing skin

    The zinc one happened to corrode worse, but the weight saving of course mattered more.

    • #9 by albell on June 26, 2012 - 6:10 am

      Agreed, but tell me Harry, why do you Brits often use the old name Duralumin?

      Never, or seldom hear it used over here. Rather, the stuff is referred to by alloy number, ie 6061, 6064 etc


      • #10 by Harry on June 26, 2012 - 7:21 am

        Ah, good question, habit and…. differentiate it from common or garden pure or non age-hardening aluminium; because it was the first trade name for a copper-based age-hardening ally alloy and because it was still being called that in general conversation in the UK aircraft industry in the 60’s and 70’s (my formative years!)

        After all, in general conversation, why would you specifiy which dural (age-hardening ally alloy), when all that mattered was an abbreviation for ‘age hardening aluminium alloys’ in a general sense. You’d have to say ‘… for instance’ everytime you mentioned 6061 alloy as 100 others are like it
        Another correct term is of course ‘precipitation hardening aluminium alloys’, as that’s what solutionising is short for… putting the grain boundary blocking precipitates into solution (temporarily). But dural is shorter… ?

        Alclad is another one, not used much, if at all, now, dural with a coating of pure aluminium, for corrosion prevention.

        NB. The T postcript is the Temper or hardening state (delivery) (O is annealed I think) and of course frequently changed by subsequent solutionising or working

        Without these alloys, perhaps accidentally discovered around the turn of the century in Germany , modern monocoque and stressed skin metal aircraft would not have been possible (due to forming the parts, and indeed the rivets, without cracking).

        Best Rgds

      • #11 by albell on June 26, 2012 - 8:08 am

        Point taken, and yup, when I’m casually talking Al alloys I don’t use the entire spec, ie 6061 instead of 6061T6, or 7075 instead of 7075T6. I’m just an amateur, dabbler.


      • #12 by albell on June 26, 2012 - 8:18 am

        Oh BTW Harry, I’m going to give the vibration dampening trick on propshaft a try – I found some self adhesive bitumen impregnated fabric (yes, seems like a fabric).



      • #13 by Harry on June 26, 2012 - 2:43 pm

        Keep us informed on the prop dampening (damping?)… if you find a solution with that stuff, it would be nice to try it here as well

      • #14 by famillysyncro on June 26, 2012 - 7:22 am

        That term isn’t only used in UK but in other parts of Europe and in China too but not sure if it is whole China.


      • #15 by albell on June 26, 2012 - 8:06 am


        ok ok πŸ™‚ Perhaps i choose not to hear the word duralumin because I find it a bit of a tongue twister to pronounce.


  4. #16 by Harry on June 26, 2012 - 2:35 pm

    Hehe, tongue twisters! Not as much as (US) AluminUm instead of (UK) AluminIUm

    ..and don’t get me started on the first truly composite aircraft, obviously built in the UK, like all other genuine trend setters πŸ™‚

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