Vanagon diesel to Golf/Jetta 4-cyl gas engine conversion

With the passing of my Bug in 1987, I was VW-less for several months until bought a 1980 Vanagon. What a wonderful vehicle! I am still hooked on those things today. I sold it after a few years to purchase another VW, this time a 1965 Notchback.

My 82 Westy Vanagon.

Today, I still own the Notchback, and now also have a 1982 Diesel-powered Westfalia Vanagon. This is a vehicle I have lusted over for several years.

Diesel engine.

The main reason that I wanted this specific model was the engine conversion possibilities. This picture shows how the Vanagon diesel engine is basically the same engine as the Rabbit diesel, just tilted over on its side. And since the VW diesel engine is similar to a VW gas engine, I have always wanted to install a Rabbit/Golf GTI engine in a Vanagon.

Well, that project is now underway!

Saturday, October 26th, 1996:
Pic of hoist engine & trans out of Van

I removed the diesel engine from the Vanagon. I decided to remove both the engine and the tranny together as a single unit. The collapsible engine hoist that I bought from Harbor Freight Tools was a big help in removing the engine.

All told, it took me about 4 hours to remove the engine and tranny as an assembly, and separate them once out of the Vanagon. I also removed the muffler. If I had to do it again, I would remove the muffler while the engine was still in the car. I also removed the alternator just to get another spot to attach the hoist's chain to.

Another thing I noticed when removing the engine/tranny, is that the grease in the CV joints was nearly dry. I guess now will be the easiest time to service them. I plan on replacing all of the boots (even though they look fine, they are almost 15 years old) when I repack the joints.

Sunday, November 3rd, 1996:
Gas engine from 86 Golf hanging from hoist

I removed the gas engine from the donor 1986 VW Golf. Removal was pretty straightforward, with just some minor "persuading" so separate the engine from the transmission. Now the task of transferring parts (exhaust manifold, oil pump & pan, etc.) from the blown diesel engine to the gas engine can begin. I also plan on replacing the O-ring seals on the fuel injectors.

front view, looking into the bell housing side view of trans

I also snapped a few pictures of the diesel 4-spd manual transmission. It is essentially the same as the gas-engined models, except it has different gear ratios, bell housing and input shaft. I will be swapping the bell-housing and input shaft over to a transmission from a gas powered Vanagon before re-installing the engine.

Sunday, November 10th, 1996:
Today I removed components from the diesel engine that need to be transferred to the gas engine. I also spent time degreasing the gas engine that will be installed. No cool pictures, though. :(

Saturday, November 16th, 1996:
Gas engine on a stand Got a lot of work done today! I started by installing the oil pan & pump and exhaust manifold on the gas engine. I have decided to retain the stock diesel exhaust system, as opposed to fabricating a custom exhaust for the van. Exhaust manifolds As you can see from the picture to the right, the diesel manifold (on the left in the photo) is quite different from the gas manifold. There is no doubt that the diesel version is much more restrictive than the gas exhaust. While this will probably hurt the performance slightly, it will make for an easier install. If I am not happy with the power after test driving, I might consider swapping then. I also replaced the fuel injector O-rings. The gas engine is looking pretty complete, and will be ready to install next weekend!

transmissions transmissions
I also received a replacement trans from an early '80s gas powered Vanagon. Fellow Vanagon Listmember, Ken Wyatt, found it in a salvage yard and shipped it to me for a very reasonable amount. Thanks Ken! I took some pictures of the gas and diesel transmissions side-by-side so the differences would be visible. Note the shapes of the bellhousing to accomodate the different engines & starter motor locations. On the diesel powered Vanagons, the starter is on the top of the trans, and on the gas models, it is down on the side slightly. The gas trans also has thicker and more pronounced ribbing on the case.

I also spent some time sevicing my Constant Velocity, or CV Joints. I took several photos and documented the process on Tom's CV page.

Page 2 of the Vanagon diesel to Golf/Jetta 4-cyl gas engine conversion

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Please stop by soon to see pictures of my VW's, past and present!
Tom Carrington