Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Welcome to the Tristar Blog

Welcome to my blog about an upcoming adventure involving an eccentric German guy named Hartmut Kiehn who is just slightly obsessed with VWs, his Aussie son in law, Peter (that's me) and an amazing vehicle called a Syncro Tristar. The Tristar is on its way back home via a container ship to the mother country for the 30th anniversary celebration of the VW Syncro in Berlin as well as a visit to Busfest in the UK in early September.
Here is a photo of the vehicle in all its glory.

Does anyone know what a Tristar is? What is a Syncro? I will cover that in my next post but for now a little story about how Hartmut (let's call him Hart like all his friends) came to own his pride and joy.
Hartmut bought the Tristar in 1991 from North Shore VW/Beetle Wreckers and used it on his organic blueberry farm in Comboyne NSW.  The car had been brought to Australia by the VW Australia dealers ATECO as a demonstration vehicle for motor vehicle journalists to drive and evaluate. Its biggest trip was across the Simpson desert in around September 1990. An Aussie 4WD company had bought a Syncro to be used in the desert and for evaluation went across the Simpson. ATECO sent the red Tristar along as a support vehicle and it joined the trip in Birdsville. It performed very well and had a great write up by journos in the October 1990 issue of Overlander magazine.
This photo shows it being tested out in the air by some German engineers who drove it at the VW Nationals at Easter 1990. They did a bit of body damage apparently.

Another Syncro (but not a Tristar) twin cab was imported by ATECO in conjunction with North Shore VW/Beetle Wreckers. It was heavily modified by VW in Wolfsburg and was entered in the 1990 Australian safari run in August from Sydney to Darwin along with another Syncro Camper. The vehicle did very well in the Safari and finished 6th in its class and 36th overall. But it competed in the production utility class for vehicles under 4 litres as there were not enough entries in the under 2.5 litre class. Of these vehicles, it finished first. Not bad for a standard vehicle off the production line.

ATECO decided the Tristar was not suitable for sale in Australia. Most likely because of the cost. It was put up for sale and Hart could not resist. In 1991 he traded in his standard Syncro van for the Tristar. Then off it went to his farm in Comboyne.
But times on the farm were hard and to help with cashflow and he reluctantly sold it in 1994 to an Asian guy who dealt in guitars. Hart's wife Elke said one day that he always looked sad after selling the car and suggested he see if he could buy it back. It had been nearly 2 years and when Hart located the Asian man, the planets must have been aligned as he said he was about to put an ad in the SMH. Hart bought it straight away and has loved owning it ever since.
Finally, what makes it so special? Here is a list of the options:
✯ 4 doors
✯ Caravelle interior with plush carpets and sound dampening
✯ Electric windows – mirrors
✯ Wheel arch kit
✯ 5 x 14” factory mag wheels (later someone along the line always replaced the spare with a steel rim and after 4 car sales gains a spare set of mags!)
✯ Rear window de-mister
✯ Rear cab heater
✯ 1 interior light plus 3 reading lights/panic handles
✯ tacho
✯ 2 diff locks
✯ Power steering
✯ Cloth seats/arm rests

In the next post I will tell the story of the Syncro and then we will track the Tristar on its way to Hamburg.


  1. We loved it when Hartis came home with this beast....had much more character than the spiffy, brand new bronze Syncro he had bought two years prior. This flaming red truck had gap some grunt! I love driving it! X

  2. This car has been part of our lives for so long now - how many moves has it done with us? Can't recount - best removalist EVER! When it was gone for 2 years and suddenly appeared again, the people on Comboyne thought it had just been out of action for a while..... and our children thought we were seriously "nuts" for buying it back.......they should be happy now - such a gem of a car.... :)

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  4. I have been trying to work out how this still struggling....comments I made prior to this just never made it....must be floating around in cyberspace....