Life with Vanaru
November, 1999

I will use this page to compile what is going on since I got my Vanagon/Subaru up and running.

I have been getting e-mail from folks wanting to do a Subaru conversion and also e-mail from folks in the process of doing theirs.

Turned out there were two brothers over in Grass Valley, Ca. converting their busses and since it is only about 200 miles to Grass Valley, off I go to visit them.

This is Richard's 1988 Vanagon.

This is Tom's 1985 Vanagon.

Both busses were receiving 1990 Subaru 2.2 Legacy engines.
Tom had to finish his first because he had to get back to Seattle, where he lives. Two days after I took the image of his bus (on the right) he was on the road, heading North, a smile on his face!

A couple of days later Richard fired up his and had an even a bigger smile than the one you see on his face (above left)!

Richard had a lot of neat additions to his bus including a Gel Cell auxillary battery, additional reading lights, custom made bumpers and a neat awning.

Here is the awning on
Richards bus folded up.

This is an image of it on another
bus folded out.

The awning is small in size, light weight, yet free standing when folded out.
I thought it was pretty cool and may get myself one. It's called Shadyboy.

Anyway, my visit was well worth it. They got to see how my engine was installed, which saved them some planning time, and I got to meet some great guys and get some ideas for my bus. Richard had a very informative Subaru engine manual and I got a copy. Also, Richard and Tom discovered I had my exhaust crossover pipe hard up against my engine mount support!

E-ha! They had discovered where my rattle was coming from. It had been driving me nuts looking for it and I was pretty well convinced it was my shift rod rattling. Not so. I repositioned the Subaru engine mount back about a quarter of an inch, for clearance, and the noise was gone! They also pointed out that I had my throttle hooked up wrong and was only getting half throttle! There are two options for hooking up my throttle (my Subaru engine originally was set up with cruise control) and of course, I had hooked up to the larger diameter one! Wrong!!

Thanks guys!

We promised to gather up out there in the vast wilderness, one of these days, with our Subaru powered busses.

November 13th.

Tom is back in Seattle. He sent me this image he took during his drive North. Remember, he was driving his fully loaded camper including his mig welder, tool box, pregnant wife and the wasserboxer engine he had removed!

Note the speedometer and tach readings!
95 mph at 5400 rpm.


I'm sure he was only doing that in the interest of science!

November 15th,

Here is a Syncro getting the Subaru treatment.


November 17th,

Tom sent me this image that will be familiar to all who have done the Subaru/Vanagon conversion. It's our "wiring harness monster". Above his left hand is the Subaru computer wrapped in a waterproof bag. Tom put a face on the bag! This is the final phase where we wrap up the wiring harness and make it neat and waterproof after first trying it out in the Vanagon.

Here are some thoughts and observation from Tom
about his Subaru/Vanagon conversion:

"From what I can tell by seat-of-the-pants, from idle to 3000 rpm, there's
maybe 10% difference between the 2.1 wasserboxer and the 2.2 Subaru.  From
3000-4000 there is a noticeable difference.  For example in normal driving,
hills that took me down to 25 mph and second gear with the wasserboxer I
noticed 48 mph in 3rd gear in the Urabus.

At 4,100 rpm the wasserboxer signs off, but the Legacy motor doesn't even
notice revs.  It revs freely to 6500 rpm building a substantial amount of power
all the way up with little noise.
The redline band for this motor is 6500-8000.  I've yet to rev it past the 3/4 fuel
tank mark on the tachometer (1985 Vanagon), but rpms are still building mightily!
To me it's the perfect engine because it's smoother and quieter,
but if you want action, just rev it out.

Also, my brother and I converted two vans in 12 days.  There were lots of midnighters
involved, not really a "one week" conversion.  Besides, my brother is an
electrical wizard.  This complicated wiring harness was easy for him, but
still time-consuming.  And Subaru's year-to-year variations make it hard
for the non-wizard to follow the schematics.

Stuffing the 2.2L in the bus was very straightforward and only took a
couple hours, and you have to drill two holes.  It's the cooling system,
brackets, heatshields, exhaust brackets, and of course the mammoth wiring
that take the time.  Doing it in such a manner that it becomes a reliable
conversion is important and the *thought required* adds to the time


Tom's Vanagon conversion page:

Tom has an interesting website at

or e-mail him at

Click here for the continuing story.

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