Suburu Conversions


jonc

New member
jonc Junior Member posted 05-24-2000 04:44 PM

Kennedy Engineered Products has a kit and detailed instructions for installing a Subaru Legacy engine into any Westfalia.. the Model year of the engines is 90 to 94...the computers in the newer years are too complicated... You must get the engine the computer and the complete wiring harness to make it work but the system is recommended by other VW owners...
Has anyone on the Westy homepage group any experiance with this conversion or know someone who has??/

Please Advise
 
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Capt. Mike

Moderator
I've no experience on this engine conversion, but the one owner I've met who did so claimes it has screwed up his drive train (cause unknown) and he can't seem to keep it running long between high-dollar drive train repairs.

The local dealer, who is both VW & Suburu, won't work on it, so it must be a real sweetheart.
 
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rsmdkb

New member
I have an '85 Westy with the Subaru conversion. The '92 Legacy engine just passed CA smog, no problem. The engine is very reliable, with a noticeable improvement in power. The only disappointment I've had is the KEP kit. The flex plate is the part that connects the Subaru engine to the VW tranny. I have replaced this part 3 times in two years. I am now putting in a 4th flex plate, custom made from Kennedy. Has anyone else experienced this problem? The Torque Converter was rebuilt the first time this problem occured. When the flex plate cracks, it causes a ticking sound like a noisy valve after the car has been driven for 10-20 minutes. The noise gets louder over time.
 

hightop73

New member
Ok, boys and girls!!! I HAVE owned one of these things. (1986 automatic,subaru'92)Here is the low down. First, you need to know wiring, know some one that can maybe do metal fabracation, and have time and money. Pros: more horse power-that's all. Cons: KEP has a great idea-KEP has not so great products. Oil pan WILL crack and is a huge hassle to get a new one and he still has been "working on it" to get it to not do that. The exhuast is not so great- not held together all that grand and may crack. The engine needs a bigger fuel pump, it WILL wear your NEW fuel pump out in 1 year. It must be installed perfect! NO one wants to work on it. The engine is designed to go in the front, NOT in the back. This causes a build up of heat and may melt you belt- YES, melt your belt. The exhaust produces too much heat and you may have to put in more heat shields.Get a bigger and better cooling system. The pressure plate will need replacing now and then. Basicly the whole thing conflicts with your VW stock parts.Remeber that when **** hits the fan, you can't call WCM or a junk yard, you have to call them, and they may even have to make your parts. I was in PA ( I live in IL) and threw a rod because of the heat, I was very unhappy and it took 2 months to get it back on the road. If you have the time and money do this. For the rest of us, stick with performance parts and 911 conversions.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Hi, I have an '81 with manual trans and '91 legacy engine. I finished the job in 97.
I haven't had the drivetrain problems as others have indicated on this thread, but have had my share of other issues and challenges.

The biggest problems I had were related to getting it to pass emissions inspection. I had to go through the CA state "referree", who kept complaining about a check-engine light that would not go off (since 2 error codes are expected with the conversion).

I have also had problems with the exhaust system, but changed the attachment points and no longer have problems. I believe they now sell a better-flowing system that what I got.

I also have some issues with either electrical gremlins and/or fuel delivery. On occasion, power will diminish as if it were running out of gas. It was really bad before I discovered a clogged charcoal filter. After replacing the canister, the problem has not gone away, but is much better. It is not bad enough to worry too much about.

My biggest blunder was to buy an air-cooled Westy for the project. I found a westy with a blown engine, so got a better deal, but not good enough to make up for the headaches related to installing a cooling system. I used 1.5" copper pipe and generic hose from NAPA. This was a big pain and very expensive (the hose especially. I originally bought a used radiator, but it leaked upon installation, so I installed a custom-fabricated radiator that KEP had laying around. The plumbing took up too much space to put the spare tire back, so that went on the brush guard on the front. It runs very cool, with no problems so far.

I have had no problems with melting of belts or other heat-related issues in the engine compartment.

I have also found that no one is willing to attempt to diagnose computer/FI -related problems. Luckily the Subaru computer provides plenty of information through the check engine light.

Since the conversion, nothing Subaru has broken down. It passes emissions without problem. It has great power, and easily tows a 1000 lb. trailer/boat.

This project took a heck of a long time to complete, with countless trips to the hardware and auto parts store. Much of it was due to the cooling system. We also restored the interior. If I only were to do the engine conversion, I would do it again.
 
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jseehorn

New member
I have an '83 westy with a '90 subaru 2.2 engine. I did the conversion myself and it took me about a month and a half of weekends and evenings. I have been very pleased with the results. I'd say I have moderate mechanical skills but would not recommend it to someone who does not enjoy this type of project. It is a lot of work. For me it was well worth the effort. The subaru is quiet, smooth and powerful. The main reason I did the conversion was I felt it would be more reliable. So far I have 10,000 trouble free miles, time will tell. I have not had the issues with melting the belts or damaging the drive train that others have mentioned. My transmission is getting close to 190 k miles on it and I expect it will not last forever. So far so good. I tend not to use the additional 40+ horsepower that often (I drive it like used to) and can consistantly get 23 mpg (no air conditioner or power steering). Since I did all the work myself, finding a mechanic to work on it probably won't be an issue. I have no plans to sell it so I'm not worried about resale value. There have been a few minor issues: idle stability, check engine light didn't work right & getting the cooling system bled. I was glad to trade my lifter noise, leaky heads and air flow meter problems from before for these new problems. I should mention that my 1.9 VW engine had 174 k miles on it, took me many places and never completely left me stranded on the road. I was able to keep the total cost under $2000 plus my time. That said I would do it all again.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Hi all,
I have a 91 2.2 Subaru in my 82 4 speed 'til now' air cooled Westy and from some of the other messages on this board I think there may be some of you who may not believe this, I have been running the *&#!$! out of it for three years now without any major problems at all. I have only used the KEP adaptor plate. All other items (exhaust, oil pan, cross member etc.) I've had done locally or made up myself to save costs. The exhaust was put together at my local muffler shop (thanks guys!) for 100 bucks (and that's Canadian pesos folks), I welded up the cross member in one evening and used the standard Vanagon rad, electric fan and hoses from a wreckers for cooling with few problems. So far I've been back and forth across Canada 3 times (I am presently in Ontario on my way to Newfoundland), down to CA twice, all over BC and the north western states from north to south and logged over 70k miles (my CA Westy's speedo is in miles) in my faithfull converted beasty so far. Now to be fair I must admit to being extremly fortunate with vehicles in general (rap, rap, rap)and mildly experienced with mechanics and electronics but I wouldn't think anyone without these attributes would (or should) be getting themselves into a conversion anyways. The boys at the Subaru shop were only marginally less hostile than at the VW shop when I went in to ask them a few questions about routing the cooling/heating pipes, so I suspect that anyone doing the conversion should consider themselves their own chief mechanic. I really love my Volksaru/Subawagon and hope to continue driving it for some time to come. It sure beats the heck out of 2nd gear mountain passes, changing those pesty oil coolers and the occasional engine fire with the original VW engine!
 

Joes4x4BNB

New member
A new member here.... I see postings from last year. I have a syncro converted to the Subaru engine. The install was professionally done by a shop in SoCal that is specializing in this conversion. I had a spate of problems before finding a good place. The problems was that I had an early conversion kit and the cooling system was unbalanced which has now been resolved. KEP also has a newer (as of a year ago?) exhaust manifold that is not prone to the cracking of the earlier ones. I also installed KEP's new lower profile oil pan to give much needed clearance. In my view, esp with a syncro, I love the new power. I have never had a problem passing CA smog. Once I found the right cooling and exhaust, all seems to be fine now. I do worry about repairs away from home, but there is a Subaru mechanic (non-dealer) that will work on it so I have a backup from the VW place if need be. There is alot of controversy about conversions in general. I would do it again, and would do it now that there are some people who have worked out the initial minor problems. All engines have their problems, and if you can find a reliable one, then I think you should be ok. Subaru's engines from what I have heard are reliable, their trannys are not. I understand some may want to keep their VW VW, or German, or use the TIICO conversion or even the Porche solutions. It seems the Sub fits real nice into the existing space, and outside of a little less clearance, I like the power, the speed and the freedom now enjoyed. No, it ain't a race car, but I can cruise 75 nearly everywhere, and on long road trips that's makes a difference. Up hills, even fairly extreme ones, I can hold 55, faster if I want, but I think 55 keeps the rpms right. One person's opinion, from a non-technical point of view, is that it works and it delivers.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Transferred to consolidate same topic.

Radiator for air-cooled Westy

cni273 Junior Member # 3423 posted 04-25-2002 07:06 AM

I am going to try the KEP conversion on my Westy and have located most of the parts needed to do the job.

The conversion will be done on a 1980 air-cooled 2.0L with Air conditioning and an automatic transmission.

My current problem is I need to know what type of Radiator will fit in the space allowed in the van. If anyone has ever converted his or her air-cooled to a water-cooled please send me the info of the radiator you have used. cni273@flash.net.
 
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matt b

New member
Does any one know if the subaru turbo engine can be fitted with this kit? :D

matt.b
 
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warren8

New member
Most of the posts here are old and out of date.

I am the moderator of the SubaruVanagon Group (Yahoo Groups), I know of hundreds of successful Subaru conversions. I have one of them..... with a 92 Subaru 2.2L in my 90 Syncro Westy.... converted two years and about 25K ago.

Go to our Group site and check it out.

http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/subaruvanagon/

Warren Chapman

[Moderator note: This link is a members only site.]
 
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goatboy

New member
When you say any year Westy, does that include an 83 air-cooled? Is there room in front for the radiator??
 

FrankenBus

New member
this isn't Sub-specific, but...

one approach i've seen used for a sano radiator install on air cooled, at least on bay window, is to mount one of those fiberglass-and-stainless spare tire covers seen on Amurrikin conversion vans (think JC Whitney or similar) on nose in location where many bay window folk have spare tire mounted, cut radiator core sized hole in fiberglass cover plate, and put radiator inside it.

obviously needs to be further forward than normal for airflow, need horiz air deflector to keep hot air out of cabin air intake, and maybe some heat shielding on the sheet metal to avoid cooking feet, but from more than abt 20' away, it looks deceptively stock, esp from side. leaves room behind rad to hide electric fan and overflow bottle, and provides great place to mount A/C condenser on front of bus where it gets good airflow and doesn't cut ground clearance.
i saw a bay with GM 2.5 Iron Duke beautifully done this way and immediately decided to plaigarize idea for my conversion project. i have fotos of his setup altho not digital ones.

realize my 1000 words may not convey this setup adequately. if anyone is interested in trying this approach, write me (prometheus@zianet.com) and i'll go get color copies of prints to send. if you got a black vinyl spare tire cover and cut appropriately, then glued in place over this assy, seems you could really make it look stealth.

bw
 
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westydriver

Guest
All vanagons are able to mount the water cooled radiator in the stock position. just get the lower brackets, radiator (recommend new) and the upper bracket (fastens to air intake). then get the water cooled lower grill and carefully measure where to cut the hole.
 
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Yukon_Girl

New member
Okay, so I don't have the tech talk, but I have a 90 Westfalia with a '97 2.5 twin cam Subaru engine and it is delicious. When someone blows by your westy and waves while you feel , that would be, uh, me. <I'm also a bad scrabble winner, too>. Anyway, we had it done 4 years ago and the new engine was from a rollover with only 7,000 km's and it runs great. The guy who did the conversation gave us a little homemade manual to take on the road with us, if we have to stop and have it serviced by Subaru.
 

thecircuit

New member
Is it possible to convert an air cooled westy? What would you do about the heater? Can you hook the heat exchangers up to a subbie?
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Possible? Yes. Within the realm of reality? Flat out NO. This is after discussing such a conversion with the top VW bus tech in the Southeast AND one of the best Subaru techs on the East Coast. Unless you have major fabrication equipment, considerable expertise, and enough funding to buy one of the custom, water-cooled Syncros from GoWesty. (Which would make the question moot.) Same question already answered in the <Diesel & turbo-diesel> topic this forum.
 
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filmcan

New member
My Mechanic said that the Suburu conversion is a waste of effort & money. If you want the most power in a Wesy, just get a stock '88, '89, or '90 and be done with it. I talked to a very proud owner of an '87 Syncro with the Suburu conversion, and although he raved up & down that it was so great, he also admitted that the power difference was minimal. I think if you sink the same amount of money into maintaining a stock '90 Westy, you'd have a mighty sweet vehicle.
 

dwightmag

New member
I drove an '88 automatic with a 2.2L Suburu conversion and it ran like a fire-breathing turbine! It would bark the tires when shifting. And you don't have the leaky heads to deal with every 60K either. These engines will go 200K - 300K miles.
 

Jeffrey Vickers

New member
I own a Subie conversion that I did 80% myself. Let me address some of the issues and opinions that I've read here:

---"screw up his drive train and can't seem to keep it running long between high-dollar drive train repairs." --Hmmm... not sure how it would screw up his drive train since the conversion uses the VW transmission. The extra torque of a 2.2 Subie is nowhere near enough to start snapping axles or CV's or cause any problems. I've been a list member on the Subaru/Vanagon list for over a year and have never heard of that happening with a 2.2L.


"The local dealer, who is both VW & Suburu, won't work on it,".
When was the last time you brought your Vanagon into a dealer to have it fixed? Most have never even SEEN a Vanagon. You want them working on your Vanagon? Someone on the Vanagon List recently told a story of going into his local VW dealer and when the tech came out to check the car in, he was looking for the motor in the front! There are plenty of independent Subie garages that are happy to do the work. Independent Subie mechanics are becoming more aware of the conversion and most are willing to have a look. IMHO, you face a bigger risk going to a VW dealer with a stock engine than an independent Subie garage with a 2.2.

"Pros: more horse power-that's all." Well, I don't know about you but climbing hills in 4th gear instead of 2nd or 3rd and being able to keep up with traffic when it is dangerous not to do so is all the reason I need for having a bit more horsepower. Have you ever met a Vanagon owner that complained that his/her van had TOO MUCH horsepower?

"The engine needs a bigger fuel pump" Not sure where that came from but no one I know that has done a conversion (including the moderator of the Subaru/Vanagon List who has done many) has ever used anything but the stock fuel pump.

"This causes a build up of heat and may melt you belt- YES, melt your belt. The exhaust produces too much heat and you may have to put in more heat shields.Get a bigger and better cooling system.". The cooling system for the conversion is a modified system than works very well and is much easier to bleed and keep happy than a stock system. The coolant manifold is reversed so the flow points toward the front of the van and utilizes the stock overflow and burp tank as well. As far as heat and shields go, there are lots of guys not running any shields at all. I'm using the VW shields myself and they work fine. Never "melted a belt" (which belt?) or have heard of that ever happening. My exhaust temp seems the same or lower than stock. My VW water temp sensor in my dash works with the Subie perfectly. I am also using a 12 year-old radiator so if the system was inadequate, I think I'd know about it by now. By the way, there are now half a dozen vendors beside KEP that make all the parts needed for a conversion. Several vendors offer "turn-key" kits and many offer the entire conversion done at their shops. The quality and variety of parts has drastically increased over the last 5-7 years so there are much better choices for would-be DIYers and the vendors that install conversions.

"If you want the most power in a Wesy, just get a stock '88, '89, or '90 and be done with it." Been there done that. There is no comparison to the lowly 95HP stock engine. Cheaper to fix and rebuild as well. Also difficult to wipe the grin off your face after the first drive.

I did my conversion myself with the help of the Subaru/Vangon community. I'm a graphic designer with average mechanical skills and an average garage and set of tools. I got an experienced Subie convertor to find me an engine and wiring harness and do the intial "prep" work of installing a new timing belt, pulleys and idlers. I did the rest. I stripped the wiring harness, did all the shortening and splicing and then sent it off to an SV List member to test it. I am not very good with wiring and I'm glad I took this step because the wiring works flawlessly. Sold my VW engine and had two friends help me get the old engine out and put the Subie engine in---took 3 hours. Spent two weeks getting all the engine stuff hooked up. Fired right up. Got passed by the California BAR Referee last week---no problem.

Bottom line: its not that difficult to do yourself but it takes time. Don't have the time? Lots of shops are doing conversions now---on both coasts and Colorado, too. The parts and services for the conversion are getting better everyday but the strength of this process is the community---without the help of the SV List lots of guys like me wouldn't have even attempted it.

Still grinning,
Jeff
 

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