Vanagon Sunset

Vanagon Sunset

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Engine Upgrades

Well, Ferdinand has come a long way since June and he's working well.  I've managed to take him from being a shell in a field, to a fully running and (mostly) functioning Westy, albeit slow Westy.

The 1.6l diesel engine is a great little motor and I'm all about diesel, but VW didn't factor in the importance of "time" when they made this motor.  I enjoy driving it, and getting 30mpg, but it sure takes a great deal of time to get anywhere.  Just a few weeks ago, I had my son time us from a traffic meter on an onramp to see how long it would take to get up to 60mph.  1 minute, 20 seconds!  Amazingly slow.

Our intentions for this van from day 1, was to get him all working, driving and then slowly move towards a motor upgrade.  I've been researching since June on what will work/not work, the costs, the "time", longevity, ease of work involved, etc.

A few weeks ago,  came to the conclusion that the best route for us at this point in time, is to do a Subaru 2.5 swap into Ferdinand.  Then, as it happens, we did some car swapping and ended up being able to afford to take on the conversion project a little sooner that I'd anticipated.  So, I've nailed down all the details on the motor, the conversion, the transaxle and the when, why and how it will all come together.

The Motor:
I'm going with a 2.5 naturally aspirated SOHC motor from 2000-2004 and having it fully rebuilt here locally with new pistons, polished crank, etc... a full rebuild kit.

The Parts:
After talking in great detail with many people who have done this conversion, and endless emails and Facebook posts with manufacturers of various products, I've concluded that though all of the conversion kits/parts have their pros/cons, that I'm sold on the Rocky Mountain Westy package.   I really like to attention to detail on the parts and their service has been amazing.  I'm also very fond of the fact that their focus is mostly geared towards creating awesome products for the VW Vanagon.  Mike, Mark and Joe have been very helpful and easy to work with.  My parts kit will be ordered up within a few weeks and they should have my wiring harness in their hands around the same time.

The Transaxle:
I was originally going to pick up a gasser transaxle (diesel trans won't work easily with Subie) and get it rebuilt and re-geared before installation.   After much discussion about gear ratios, ring and pinion, tire sizes, RPM's, etc, I think I'm going to go ahead and install the stock gasser trans with the Subie, drive it a bit, settle in on a tire size and then re-gear accordingly.  Yes, I'll have to pull the trans again, but I think this is a better approach.  The 2.5 is definitely going to need a higher 4th and probably 3rd, but I may swap some tires around and don't want to commit to a certain ratio just yet.

I have to leave for a work trip and won't be back until around Christmas, so my plan is to get everything lined up and begin the "production" right after Christmas and into January.  I hope to get it all dialed in before Spring rolls around so that we (my wife, kids) can get in some good road trips this summer.

Being that I have diesel, there are a few things that need to get addressed.
1. The lack of a fuel pump... going to have to add one.
2. I need larger coolant lines as the diesel uses 1.5" lines and I'll probably swap out the radiator at that time.
3. Battery is in the engine compartment and I might try and leave it there if it doesn't hinder the motor.
4. Need to install a charcoal canister and vent the fuel lines into it.  Diesel tanks just vent under the body.

Little piddly stuff that just needs to get addressed, but all in all, it should go well.  I have 3 good friends, all with Subie 2.2 conversions who know the trials and tribulations of conversions, so I think I'm in good hands.

Definitely looking forward to having some power.  The stock diesel puts out about 55hp and the upgrade to 2.5 triples that, which means I'll also want to address the brakes and make sure I can stop all that mass.

I know that I'll probably get booted from the Vanagon-Diesel group once they read this, but a TDI build just isn't in the cards for us right now, especially since all my Van friends that are helping, drive Subie powered rigs.

Keep your eyes peeled for the process in a month or so and feel free to add comments below.

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