VW Engine to Subaru Conversion

October 04, 2016

VW Engine to Subaru Conversion

Driving a Vanagon Westfalia is an experience.  Sitting up high over the front wheels with only a huge windscreen and the open road ahead of you is a unique experience.  Generally there's always open road ahead because sometimes the 95 hp 4 cylinder waterboxer has a hard time keeping up with the modern flow of traffic.  Westy drivers quickly become familiar with momentum driving techniques and are always on the lookout for the next uphill grade.  Pulling out into traffic with a fully loaded van can also be dicey even with all 95 German thouroughbreds on tap.

Many owners would argue that just rolling along is part of the Westy experience.  I agree that rolling along and taking in the country side is definately part of the appeal of Westy life BUT who says you can't do that with the added power from a modern engine sway?  Just because the added power is there doesn't mean you have to use it all the time, but it's nice to have when you need it.

Subaru Donor Engine

Enter the Subaru engine swap for Vanagons!  A search on the web will reveal many different swap and coversion options for our vans.  As with any modification or upgrade there are pros and cons.  The nice thing about the Subaru engines is they share the same "flat 4" or "boxer" design of the original.  Once the conversion is complete the new engine looks right at home.  Subaru engines are also readily available and reasonably priced from various auto recyclers. There are also numerous vendors and online resources to make this particular conversion a breeze.

Like any mechanical component, proper maintenance is key to performance and longevity.  There are a few issues to watch for when selecting a used engine for your swap.  Early EJ25 Subaru engines were prone to headgasket issues that if neglected could lead to costly repairs or a new engine alltogether.  The four cylinder Subarus also use a timing belt that should be changed at the prescribed interval.  If the belt is left too long and breaks, the pistons will come into contact with the valves leaving you with a bad case of "valve salad" and a ruined engine.  Oil change neglect and overreving of the Subaru engine will almost always lead to a spun rod bearing.

In another blog I will go into greater detail on the specifics of the conversion process.   For now though, let me fill you in on what you can expect when you put the rubber to the road in your Subaru powered Vanagon! 


  Engine out and ready for install  Engine installed

Firstly it will start...everytime.  The modern fuel injection system and computer of the Subaru are an improvement over the original.  Greater performance and reduced emissions means your new engine is better for environment.   Next it will sound very familiar, the engine layout means you won't lose the boxer rumble.  What won't be familiar is the added pep in your step as you press the long skinny pedal with your right foot.  Not only is the 167 hp of the Subaru EJ25 immediately apparent,  you can wind this engine way past the original 5000 RPM redline to almost 7000 RPM!  The added power gives you the confidence to pull out into traffic, conquer any hill, and even overtake other motorists if you feel the need.  The Subaru engine swap undoubtedly adds another dimension to the Westy experience.