Conversion choices & non-VW engine conversions (w/o their own topic).

van man

New member
I want to replace the engine in my '70 Westfalia with something faster. I'm not trying to blow the doors off anybody I just want the ability to merge into highway traffic while on the ramp and not in the emergency lane. I'm considering an engine by Bernie Bergman. The engine is 2500cc, 200hp, 180 ft lbs. torque. Bergman advertises: "engine will bolt up to aby 12 volt type 1-2-3 or VW Bus transmission without any modifications to transmission or starter". Is this true? With my old transmission hooked up to this engine will I still have to shift at 10-20-35mph, or will I just get to 10-20-35mph faster? Will my stock transmission wear out a lot faster with this much bigger an engine attached to it? Is this too much engine for a bus in the first place? Have you heard about Bernie Bergman,if so what do you think? What about AVP? Any suggestions or information regarding making my bus faster is greatly appreciated!!!

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New member
Here goes - before we start, we need to understand a couple things about your bus. A '70 VW Westfalia is basically a bug motor - a 1600 cc engine, and if I recall, a single port head engine as well. So you have a number of options to choose from. My recommendation is "not to get to big!" The bigger they are, the more they cost and the more heat they generate. With more heat, more wear, etc. Being that a bus is a big bread box on roller skates - wind drag and aerodynamics are also a factor in speed. So since we can't do much on the aerodynamics, then a decent engine will help. I have built a number of engines ranging from 36 hp engines all the way up to the 2.1 in Vanagons. I personally run a 1776 in my Baja Bug, which runs just nice and on the freeway, get almost 30 miles to the gallon. So you need to decide how much you want to spend and what you have to deal with. I would probably suggest getting a 1776 engine, standard crank or even a counter weighted standard crank, install 90 mm thick wall cylinders and pistons, which basically a thick wall 90 mm set is the same bore as a thin wall 92 mm set. A 92 mm set makes the engine an 1835. This is about the biggest I would even consider, but would recommend the thick wall 90's for you situation, due to heat and not have the best cooling system being that you are a bus. The other improvements of course is carbs, whether single or dual, duals can really be nice when sync is correct, and singles can be a lot less headache. A good, quiet type header exhaust system is also a power improvement. I don't mean a noisy, loud exhaust, the more noise doesn't mean faster - you need an exhaust that still has some back pressure in it. An 009 distributor is nice, and on & on. In regards to the transmissions, the bus trans is stronger than a bug trans, and so the additional power from an 1835 or 1776, will cause no problems. If you start getting into the 2500 cc class, then you stand a chance of having transmission problems. One other thing that is highly recommend is the dog house style fan shroud - this is far better than the fan shroud the 70 came with. Come to think of it, I think the '71 was the first year dual port heads came on your bus - so getting dual port heads is also a plus. A good semi-head cut in the heads also makes for better fuel burn & power. Anyway, the dog house fan shroud off sets the oil cooler and doesn't cause the #3 cylinder overheat on those hot days. Even though you might be in a hot climate, also install the factory louvers in the fan shrouds, they are designed to help flow air better across the cylinders as well as getting the engine to operating temperature quicker. I hope this helps and good luck in your decision for a better running bus. CGOTTS
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Capt. Mike

Transferred from another post to consolidate similar topics.

Drivetrain Conversion -84- General Advice

Marshall Junior Member # 2447 posted 10-01-2001 08:47 PM

I have a 84 with 225,000 original miles and original waterboxer engine and transmission. It's still running, but living on borrowed time. I am considering replacement with rebuilt of same engine + trans or conversion. I will need to have a mechanic do the work. I would appreciate general suggestions on the pros and cons of different options including conversions.

Capt. Mike

Since you are looking at all options, there is a major discussion on the ENGINE forum under "Reman vs. Rebuild". You really have about 4 to consider. Reman (same as new original); aftermarket rebuild (VERY wide range of quality and warranty); rebuilding your own (a very viable option if your original has never been abused); and the Conversion. The latter reintroduces all of the quality & warranty problems of an aftermarket rebuild but adds a host of other considerations such as parts, service and compatibility.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topics.


azoutdoors Junior Member # 2847 posted 11-30-2001 09:49 PM

I would like to know of the best conversion for my 84 vanagon that is aircooled....any body?
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Capt. Mike

This is not a new post -- just a consolidation of choosing a conversion option and resources the help make the decision.

Engine conversion resourses

jonc Member # 37 posted 06-03-2000 07:24 AM

Vanagon Engine Conversions

There are several reasons that several Vanagon owners have removed the stock engine and replaced it with another. Some were originally powered by diesel, some by gasoline. Usually, the diesel Vanagon owners desire a power upgrade from the stock 48hp engine. The gas powered Vanagon owners either want more power or to escape the dreaded "head gasket syndrome" that can plauge the wasserboxer engine. Either way, there are many choices for engine swaps.
A word of warning to potential "swappers": Once you convert the engine, be prepared to do all the future repair and maintenance work yourself. Many professional mechanics will not work on a converted vehicle unless they were the one who did the conversion.

If the current engine is a diesel, the owner must first decide on the fuel that the new engine will use. Some have installed more powerful diesel engines, and others have converted to gasoline power. Just like any other choice, there are advantages and disadvantages with either option. When it came time to replace my sick diesel engine, I had a hard time deciding between installing a 1.6 turbo-diesel or the 1.8 gasoline engine. Listed below are some pages that outline swaps from diesel to gas engines.

TomC's Vanagon diesel to VW Golf/Jetta 1.8L gas engine conversion.
David Hammontree's Vanagon diesel to VW Golf/Jetta 1.8L gas engine conversion.

David's Hammontree's info is a "must read" for important conversion insights!!
Tom Gray's Vanagon diesel to VW Golf 1.8L gas engine conversion.
David Andrews' Vanagon diesel to 1.8L gas engine conversion.
Jim Digennaro's Vanagon diesel to VW Golf/Jetta 1.6L engine conversion.
Otmar Ebenhoech's Vanagon diesel to VW Jetta 2.0L gas engine conversion.

Otmar is also "stretching" his Vanagon - Check it out!
Michael von Hoegen's Vanagon diesel to VW VR6 (V-6) engine conversion.
Rick Sherrods's Vanagon diesel to Chevy V-6cyl gas engine conversion.

There are others that decided to get more power from diesel engines. The basic options seem to be installing a turbo kit or swapping in the 1.6 TD or 1.9 TD (Turbo Diesel) or VW's new engine, the 1.9 TDI (Turbo Direct Injection). It has been over 2 years since I started the swap on my vanagon - But if I had to do it again, I would install the TDI. They just were not available in the junkyards when I started the swap project. Here are some pages where the owners upgraded to a more powerful diesel engine.

Martin Schulte's Vanagon diesel to VW TDI engine conversion.
Bob Bellanca's diesel to 1.9l VW TD conversion.(Courtesy of Martin Jägersand)
Henry F. Dunlap's 1.6L diesel with aftermarket turbo kit installation

Björn Ratjen has been researching the possibility of getting new TDI engines for conversions. He has written several newsletters, which can be accessed below:

Björn's first TDI conversion newsletter.
Björn's TDI conversion newsletter #2.
Björn's TDI conversion newsletter #3.
Björn's TDI conversion newsletter #4.
Björn's TDI conversion newsletter #5.
Björn's TDI conversion newsletter #6.
Björn's TDI conversion newsletter #7.

Björn has also started a TDI conversion mail list at for people intersted in the conversion process.

Regardless of the engine upgrade chosen, another issue that diesel Vanagon owners need to deal with is the transmission gear ratios. The diesel Vanagon transmission have very low gear ratios. Even with the additional power a engine swap provides, the top speed of the Vanagon is limited by engine RPM. There are a few options for dealing with this. Taller tires can be installed, but due to wheel-well clearances, the result is only a modest change in engine cruising RPM. Another method is to replace the final drive (ring & pinion) gears with a higher ratio set. This needs to be done by a transmission shop with the proper fixtures to shim and set the preload/backlash properly. The last option is to purchase a transmission from a gasoline powered vanagon, and install the diesel bellhousing. This last procedure is what I did, and is outlined in the details of my engine swap. To help identify transmissions, Helmut Zeidler has prepared a table of different transmissions and their gear ratios.

Helmut Zeidler's transmission ratio page

Gasoline powered Vanagon owners typically have to choose between engine cooling methods. To convert to a water cooled from an air-cooled engine requires the addition of cooling hoses and a radiator. An interior heating system must be retrofitted to the Vanagon as well. If the Vanagon is already water-cooled, the existing cooling and interior heating system is plumbed to the new engine. Here are some pages that cover swaps from one gas powered engine to another.

Helmut Zeidler's Vanagon air-cooled gas to Audi 5-cyl engine conversion.
William Kennedy's Vanagon air-cooled gas to Porsche 6-cyl engine conversion.

William also wrote up a detailed installation summary on this conversion.
Denny Kahler's Vanagon air-cooled gas to turbo Porsche 6-cyl engine conversion.
Fueltronic's Vanagon air-cooled gas to Subaru 4-cyl engine conversion.
Tim Smith's Vanagon Crew Cab wasserboxer to to Subaru 4-cyl engine conversion.
Ron Bloomquist's wasserboxer to to Subaru 4-cyl engine conversion.
Tom and Dick Myer's pair of wasserboxers to Subaru 4-cyl engine conversions.
Markus Benne's Syncro wasser to Subaru 4-cyl conversion.
Raimund Feussner's wasserboxer to Audi V-6 engine conversion.
Rob Winterkorn's wasserboxer to 1.8L GTI and 1.8L 16-valve engine conversions.
David Marshall's wasserboxer to VW/Audi 4-cyl engine conversion.
Patrick Dooley's Vanagon wasserboxer to Ford 2.3L/4-cyl engine conversion.

Vanagon Engine Conversion Vendors

Fast Forward sells a complete Vanagon engine conversion kit to install a VW 1.8L or 2.0L-4 cylinder engine. They will also sell you the individual parts of the kit if you don't need everything.

Van-Again has VW 4-cylinder and Audi 5-cylinder conversion kits. These kits appear to use parts from South Africa, where Vanagons are still made and powered by the 4 and 5-cylinder engines. You can either buy the complete kit (including engine) from Van-Again, or just the basic kit to install your own 4 or 5-cylinder engine.

MSDS sells a Porsche 911 3.2L engine conversion kit. While the Porsche engine is expensive, that has to be one fast vanagon!

Kennedy Engineering offers engine adaptors, flywheels and other components to put a Subaru or almost any other engine in your Vanagon.

Tii Trading Company has a 2.0L Golf with Motronic engine management Vanagon conversion kit. Their kit is based on the parts used by Volkswagen of South Africa, where the 2.0L is a stock offering in the Vanagon.

Please stop back soon!

jonc Member # 37 posted 06-03-2000 07:28 AM

The url for the resourses did not post so here it is \

donford Junior Member # 107 posted 02-06-2001 01:37 AM

I hope this is not an idiotic question, but where do I find the sites with the information on conversions identified in this post.

I am in a position of having an 84 westfalia that may need some major engine work and am thinking of a jetta engine conversion. It seems to me that the original vanagon engine is getting to the point where fixing is going to be next to impossible. I saw somewhere where the main engine bearings have gone out of production. ouch. I realize Capt. Mike would have me go to a VW dealer, but that is 4 hours away in my case. I would be interested in opinions that are not from vendors. Any thoughts?


Capt. Mike Moderator Member # 11 posted 02-06-2001 07:47 AM

No, I wouldn't send you to a dealer for a conversion. I doubt you'd even find one that would do it. I would only suggest you visit a dealer to get the information to consider a factory reman among your options for the many reasons listed on that topic under ENGINES. Although they might be four hours away, prices of a reman, core charge & labor are pretty much straight out of the factory book so they should be willing to give you rough estimates over the phone. Customer approach & attitude has a lot to do with that sort of thing. My dealer is having cars towed in from considerable distances because reputation for fairness & quality makes the inconvenience and extra expense worthwhile. A recent reman engine job on a 1.9 liter water-boxer passed right by half-a-dozen towns with dealers and independents. And they're so satisfied, they bring it back for follow up service and other repairs.

Finding engine conversion resources is mostly a matter of browsing the Internet and following links from other sites. The first post on this topic lists several you should be able to find using various search engines. I don't 'recommend' companies I have no experience with, and generally don't recommend other sites for the very simple reason they can post links or banners to help support this one but choose not to.

The only VW approved conversion I've heard of is the one done in South Africa. It's 'approved' only in South Africa. The US dealer, TII, used to have a banner link on this site but has dropped it. Last I heard it was . Other personal sites like the 'relitech' site listed above offer opinions & options. Check out the links from non-conversion posts elsewhere on this site and see if they lead to any conversion pages. For instance, under PARTS, you'll find a post regarding one rebuilder who also offers kits. You'll see why I don't recommend them!

Something we constantly face on the site is rumors. Some are deliberate deceptions by unethical shops to sell parts or services they have or prefer (often for purely profit motives) rather than let you go elsewhere. Others rumors fly just because people didn't go to VW or reputable sources. Bearings for the Vanagon in standard and several oversizes are readily available dealer & aftermarket. Perhaps the post you're referring to is one on this site where a questionable rebuilder required a custom bearing because they did something to the case that was not a normal or proper procedure. Most of the internal parts to the water-boxers are readily available at substantial savings aftermarket if you are willing to research manufacturers and quality.

Do understand the differences between OE (VW original) OEM (made by same company that supplies VW) and reproduction or generic aftermarket (which can be any level of correctness & quality). Most of us stay with OE & OEM because of the shady parts out there.

Conversions are new territory with no track record. There's not a lot of qualified experience to draw from, which is but one reason I don't get into them. They have pluses and minuses. Sometimes the minuses are huge, or only show up long term, so what fits or is cheapest today isn't always what's best downs the road. I'd hate to save $1000 on an engine and drop $4000 on a drive train later. And what it does to resale should be considered, too. Originality has more & more value as these Westies get older and become specialty niche markets. See the post under GETTING A WESTY about the old <'68 versions.

So you have my personal opinions on remans and originality, and my advice to go slow and research thoroughly. Best of luck with whatever your decision.


New member
Just curious if anybody has taken a look at the fitting of a 2.5L Boxster or 2.7L Boxster motors into the Water cooled Vanagons. My first thought in looking at some photos is the Boxster intake system and overall configuration is too tall. Porsche seems to have built it with height available in the engine compartment of the Boxster. Sure would be a SWEET motor in the Vanagon. Imagine running at 5 grand and knowing your have another 2grand left, and the sound of that six is music. Dave

I recently completed a Tiico Golf 2L. 4cyl in-line conversion in our '84 manual gas Westy. I'd like to add a few words to the discussion on engine conversions.

We've had our van for almost 10 years, we've maintained it as new (2nd motor, new heads in between). We've put on most of its 340,000km doing family road trips from Canada to Mexico, Arizona, etc, plus daily driving. When our 1.9 finally burned a piston there were no 1.9L rebuilds available from VW. We looked for options.

I selected the Tiico conversion for a variety of reasons, mostly personal recomendations I received from other conversion owners. People spoke highly of Tiico. Also, that the assembly is all-VW and carries a one year warranty is reassuring.

My brother (an engineer) and I (entertainment industry) decided to do the install ourselves - it looked like it might be fun.

On removing the old engine, we were struck by the overall deterioration evident on all of the old engine compartment components. In particular, the old wiring harness showed serious water damage, corrosion, heat damage. This is not an item one would normally service, certainly if we had gone for a dealer installed factory rebuilt the old harness would have been used as is. Likewise the various emission control devices in the fuel and exhaust system, the water pump, the plumbing all showed signs of nearing the end of their service life.

We removed and discarded virtually everything in the engine compartment - all the wiring, all the plumbing. The new unit from Tiico came out of its crate assembled. We bolted on the alternator, installed new injectors, installed the brand new wiring harness and ECU, and lifted it into place. No welding, cutting, modifying (a few screw holes needed to be drilled). There were a few places where the instructions were obtuse. Peter at Tiico was very helpful.

It took us about 2 days of steady work. The result looks like a factory installation. I purchased Ross Tech's Vag-Com computer link so we could do the basic set-up via my PC now and in future (rather than paying the dealer around the same amount to do it once), and away we went.

My initial reaction on start-up was disappointment - it didn't sound like my Westy anymore. I liked the original sound, and I miss it. That's all I miss.

We have now put 8,000km on the installation, including a road trip from Vancouver to San Francisco and back. So far I am more than pleased with the unit. It performs exactly as advertised - considerably more power, better economy, smoother, etc.

The one word my Westy friends and I use to describe driving the conversion is - effortless. It drives like a modern vehicle. I used to think that the quirkiness of the Westy, the relative lack of reliability, the constant gear shifting were all part of the mystique of driving a Vanagon. I must say, other that the distinctive muffler note, I don't miss the waterboxer at all.

The one argument I heard the most frequently against conversion is that mechanics will be hard to find. My experience is the opposite. It was getting increasingly difficult to find a mechanic who really understood the 20 year old technology of the waterboxer. The Golf conversion is essentially a stock installation. Our mechanics don't see anything under there they don't recognize.

Of course, anything could happen. Who knows what 2 or 300,000km will bring? But unlike the waterboxer, the Golf 2L engine is regarded as one of VW's most successful engines. This general type of Van/Golf configuration is in daily use in many thousands of factory VWs in Mexico and South Africa. So at this point, I can't see any reason why this conversion shouldn't allow us to pilot our favorite vehicle well into the 21st century.

If anyone wants to talk about it, please feel free to contact me.

Happy trails.


Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

matt b Member posted October 10, 2002 12:41 PM

has any one ever fitted or knows some one who has fitted a 911 flat six if so can any one advise me on this conversion?????? must have more speed!!!!!


matt b

New member
amy one know how i can contact msds regarding the porsche connversion???? :D

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Capt. Mike

I don't know who "msds" is but here's a couple of comments on installing a 911 engine . . .

Although I understand the request for 'more power', everything is a compromise and you cannot increase one without exponentially increasing all of the others and accepting the consequences of the trade-offs.

I hate to rain on your parade but there is a practical side: Why put in an engine that is worth more than the vehicle itself? A 911 is a complicated, expensive piece of machinery. I know; I've got one. Parts are astronomically high. Service and consumables are outrageous. Depending on model, it takes a lot of special tools. Parts availability, though good compared to some makes, is still far less than VW.

It is NOT more reliable than the original. It's performance characteristics may be unacceptable -- very little low-end torque (where most VW's are driven). Performance curve at the very high-end of RPMs. Peaky. My 2150 lb. 911 gets 13-15 mpg (US) around town. What will it get pushing 5500 lb.? The engine, to avoid fouling those US$17 plugs, demands 3,000 rpm minimum. My 911 tranny is geared for 30-60-90-120-144 mph in the 5 respective gears. Are you going to be driving in 1st, 2nd & 3rd most of the time? You have to be driving 62 mph (100 kph) just to get into 5th.

The rest of a Type II can't handle it. Driveline will not handle the power. Suspension is not capable of the high performance. Aerodynamics will make it tough to drive and perhaps unstable if driven to engine potential. Weight distrubtion changes. It will now require special wheels/tires to handle potential.

Anaylize your driving. Is this need for "more power" real or in the head? Are you looking at 'get off the line' power at a stoplight? Needing power in mountains. I've been to England -- it can't be extended high-speed autobahn style roads. England doesn't have those Kansas Plains stretches.

If you need pulling power, mountains or low to middle acceleration, the answer isn't in a high-revving Porsche 911 engine. It's going to be found in a torque increase, which is usually in a larger displacement and the other factors that determine torque. And those can be found in VW engine modifications. It won't be found dropping a 190hp @ 6,800 rpm engine into a vehicle designed for 67 hp @ 3200 rpm. I realize many of the larger displacement Porsche engines later than mine have better torque characteristics and will function at lower rpm, but they do so at tremendous increases in weight -- a 911 has grown from my 2150 lb. to something like 3,500 lb. Huge chunks of that in the engine.

If it's just a stop-light Grand Prix thing, get a subscription to Hot VW's and see what they're doing for 'street rod' performance.


New member
I recently purchased a 72 2.6L V6 mercury capri engine and was wondering if anyone else has put this in there westy. I have a 75 automatic . Is there any major problems that you had????



lists just about everything he makes a converter is made for.

a note though is that a six cylinder of that age is going to need a hefty radiator mounted in front and the older style water pumps may not handle that.

82 westy


New member
Check this site out for engine swaps they sell kits to swap most engines.
I have already stated what I beilieve is the best alterantive for an Air cooled bus in an different post. The water pump on the v6 would handle the job just fine. But you would have to find a place for the raidiator to get good air flow and your bigest problem would be getting all of the air out of your cooling system.


New member
I am so confused... I own an 81 auto. And have no idea where to look for a new motor. Sadly I know nothing about engines, so any help will be greatly appreciated. All I'm looking is for something better so I can get from a to b then c, d, e, and maybe someday end up at z. I have a couple hook-ups of guys that know everything there is to know about motors. So don't leave out any conversions. Thanks for your time
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Capt. Mike

This topic is for converting from a VW engine to some other marquee. If you just need a replacement engine, there are several sources of VW engines with good reputations in the PARTS forum such as Boston Bob's. (However, there are some with some strong warnings against -- choose wisely.) Only the Subaru conversion, which has its own topic, reasonably substitues another air-cooled . . . with some major 'cons' to go with advantages.

The 2.0 air-cooled engine with AFC injection in the '81 was one of VW's best -- extremely reliable. Replace/rebuild the original is my my personal recommendation. You must also consider what the A/T can handle if you go to a more powerful engine.


New member
'71 Westy engine conversion: Which engine, what process?

Hey everyone, brand spankin' new to this forum, just found it, and STOKED! :)

My question, which I looked for but didn't see (if it's here, kindly let me know, I'm not much of a tech-speaker):

I have a beautiful 1971 air-cooled Westfalia. I currently have the original (and rebuilt) engine in it.

I want to swap it out with another engine, preferably a V6 of some type.

Which engine(s) work best for my year/model, and what other things do I need to do along with just the actual engine being swapped? (drivetrain, axles, joints, cooling issues, etc.).

I appreciate any and all input, and it's good to be here... :)


Dug (& Twinkie the Bus)

[Moderator note: See last 2 paragraphs, post #6 1-30-2002 above! Don't ruin an all-original!]
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