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Thread: Suburu Conversions

  1. #1
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    Default Suburu Conversions

    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
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-25-2008 at 05:26 AM.

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  3. #2
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    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.
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-27-2008 at 07:08 AM.

  4. #3
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    May 2001
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    California, USA
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    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.

  5. #4
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    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.

  6. #5
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    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.
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-25-2008 at 05:26 AM.

  7. #6
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    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.
    John Seehorn
    Subaru powered westy

  8. #7
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    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!

  9. #8
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    Apr 2002
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    Corona del Mar, CA
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    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.
    Joe
    1990 Syncro Westy Subarized

  10. #9
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    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.
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-25-2008 at 05:26 AM.

  11. #10
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    Does any one know if the subaru turbo engine can be fitted with this kit?

    matt.b
    Last edited by Capt. Mike; 11-25-2008 at 05:27 AM.
    matt.b

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