I get e-mail questions.

Here are my replies to some.

Yo Capt.

You asked: "I know you've already put a Toyota into a loaf bus, so I'm wondering why you didn't consider another Toyota for your Vanagon..... and....  I have a fuel injection-phobic mechanic who is a lot more interested in putting a carbureted 1.6 4A Corolla engine than a Golf or Subaru."
Well, first off...  deck height.  My 1971 loaf was the last year with the upright blower/fan which meant a high deck and enough room for the Toyota 3TC even including its stock air cleaner!  I did cut a opening into the deck, under the bed, and installed a removable hatch out of a VW station wagon but that was so I could service the engine; check the dip stick, add oil - if needed, change the air filter and check the valves about every 60,000 miles!  ;-)

Yes carbureted engines with distributors are wonderful.  A simple engine for my simple mind!  That way, when I break down out there in the vast wilderness I can at least pull the air cleaner, look down the barrel of the carburetor, rotate the throttle a couple of times to see if I am getting gas, then pull the distributor cap and "flick" the points to see if there is spark!  But, alas, those days are winding down.

Also, I was able to "get away" with installing a Toyota engine in ROADCOW because I bought that bus in Californie with a running VW engine in it and got my Californie license plates while it was still stock.

AND, big "AND" here; I live in a rural area of Californie where smog checks are not required, at all, until I go to sell the vehicle.  Of course this means that ROADCOW has a bigger chance of becoming a storage shed than being sold - the smog people would never pass my VW-Toyota (Besides I ripped all that smog crap off the engine when I installed it)!!

(Note:  I did sell ROADCOW in 2001 and it was old enough that it no longer required a smog inspection.)

Okay.  Enough of the good old days.

Now we're talking "new-age".

1.  My 1984 "full camper" Vanagon has a low deck.  No way you can put an "upright" four or five cylinder engine in there without framing up around it to make room for the engine.  Then you have to raise the bed or learn to sleep draped over a lump!

2.  Subaru Legacy 2.2 engine.  Key word:  "Flat Four".  Just like the wasserboxer (in shape only).  The Subaru engine looks like it was designed for the Vanagon engine compartment.  I have raised the lid to show folks my new engine and they want to know where it is!  They think they are looking at a stock VW!!  Of course those folks were not real "volks"!

3.  Smog.  We found and bought my Vanagon in Washington State.  We drove it to Californie on three cylinders.  No problem.  I wanted a Vanagon with a broke engine for two reasons; one, lower initial cost for the van and two, I wanted to put in a Subaru engine anyway.  But this meant that I now had a Vanagon in Californie with a engine running on three cylinders that would never pass smog.

The conversion kit that Kennedy Engineered Products sells has been approved by the California Air Resources Board!  It took Kennedy several years and much paperwork to get the approval but they did get it and now a Subie WITH the Kennedy kit is accepted in California.

Also, another reason I installed a Subaru is that I got to drive Kennedy's 1984 Vanagon/Subaru during it's development stage one time when we were coming back from a trip to Baja.  I had bought the adapter kit from Kennedy for ROADCOW and just wanted to stop by and show off and kick tires.  Kennedy tossed me the keys to his Vanagon/Subie and I fell in love.  Power, quiet, smooth.  I wanted one.

Now the scary part.... computer, multi-port injection, distributor-less ignition, 16 valves, anti-knock sensor, cam position sensor, crank position sensor, air bypass sensor, throttle position sensor, check engine light....

Piece of cake!  Once I got through "wiring hell", got my wiring harness sorted out and the conversion up and running it has been sweet!  The computer runs things back there and if there is a problem it lets me know and even tells me where to look for the problem!!

For example:  A couple of months ago I was rummaging around in the engine compartment tightening the hose clamp on the fuel return line.  Later in the day I made a run to town and, what's this?  My check engine light was blinking  2 - 4, 2 - 4, 2 - 4!!  I whipped out the page of trouble codes, looked up #24 and read:

"Air control valve inoperative. (Abnormal signal emitted from monitor circuit)."

I opened the engine compartment and sure enough, I had knocked the connector to the Air Control Valve loose!!  I plugged it back in and voila!  Trouble free motoring!!

I tell you Ray, it's a whole new world when your engine tells you what is wrong with it!!  The Subaru computer not only has "self-diagnostics, it also has what is called a "learning control system".

Anyway, you get the idea.  I think the Vanagon/Subaru is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

My lady friend has a weaving conference at Ghost Ranch, in New Mexico, the 24th, 25th and 26th of this month.  I'm going to drive her over to that event and back.  We are talking a 2,800 mile round trip in 10 days!!  Let's see if I still have a grin on my face when I get back!


Hi Sidney,

Well, here goes.

You asked:

Q. Are you still satisfied with the Vanaru conversion?

A. I love it.

Q. Got any particular advice not mentioned in your website article?

A. Only that I should have replaced the crank seals, cam seals, oil pump seal and timing belt before installing the engine.  I didn't at the time because I was in a rush.  It is easier to replace those items when the engine is out but still possible with the engine in place; I did this recently. Also, if I had the extra money at the time I would have put in a fresh clutch plate, clutch and throw-out bearing.

Q. Do you know of any source for an engine?

A. The one I mentioned on my webpage, Redding Auto Center  1-800-424-2002, is where I got mine.  Recently I got an e-mail from a guy that went a different route that sounds promising.  Here is what he wrote:


"Kennedy says a whole engine should cost $1300 from a wrecking yard.  I don't like dealing with wrecking yards. Could a low mileage engine really be found complete at that price?  I came up with another solution.  There is a national company that auctions off salvaged cars for insurance companies and one of their auction yards is only 5 miles from my house.  They have a web site where you can search by make, model, and year and they will list what they have, where it is, the mileage and when it is to be auctioned.  This past week I bought a 94' Subaru Legacy w/ 38k miles for $930 (my winning bid was $700 but tax, towing, and auction fees pushed it up).  The car had been rolled but the engine/drivetrain is perfect!  It has taken me one long day to pull the engine and the wiring harness.  After I sell off the rest of the car (one of the other bidders has expressed an interest in buying the remains) and buy the stuff I need from Kennedy, I think the total cost of the conversion will be $1500-1600.  Selling off the old Vanagon engine should bring down the cost even further.


Here are some other auction web sites.

Planet Salvage oversees 400 savage yards.


Q. You mention the water plumbing, not included in the Kennedy kit.   Did you document your bill of materials, design, and layout?

A. No.  The cost of the items - solder, flux, copper pipe, elbows and one "T" was something less than $100.00.  After buying the Vanagon, the Subaru engine and the Kennedy conversion kit it seemed like petty cash!   Also, making up the plumbing was fun after wrestling with the wire harness - just measure, cut and fit.  Then solder.  Basically it is just a "connect the dots" game!!  It happened so easily and quickly that I forgot to take pictures!  Then, after it was in place it was hard to take pictures of it because of stuff in the way and it being dark in there.

Q. Should the rigid water plumbing be installed before the engine is lifted into place?   ie. did you subsequently have to re-lower the engine to get access to attach the plumbing?

A.  No, you have to have the engine in the Vanagon so you know what length you need to make the pipes and where to put the elbows.  Once the plumbing runs were made up it was just a matter of connecting them using radiator hose material at the ends where it hooks to the engine and the other ends where it connects to the bus plumbing.  I did not have to re-lower the engine.

Q. Mine has air and power steering.   Do I need custom hoses or just adapters?  do you have a source?

A.  I don't have air conditioning and so I removed the air conditioner pump that came on my Subaru engine.  The power steering did require a special hose which I bought from Kennedy.

You wrote:  PS - just saw the Feb. 13 update about Amie's South African conversion -  Seems perfect for a California conversion, maybe I shouldn't think about changing to the Kennedy kit, but what do you think?

A. I don't think Amie's would ever pass smog in California.  Kennedy seems to be the only company who has gone ahead and spent two years wrestling with the California Air Resources Board to finally get approval and an Executive Order issued for his conversion kit.

Q. How about Amie's change to the water outlet?

A.  For one thing Subaru obviously makes different engines for export to different countries.  That was a strange looking Subaru engine to me.  The power steering pump was on the opposite side of his engine compared to mine. On mine, to change the water outlet around I would have to remove the intake manifold and probably re-route some of the hard line fuel plumbing.  And, it looks like if the outlet was turned 180 degrees it would interfere with the bellhousing.  Also remember.  I have a Vanagon.  He has a Syncro.  There is more room between the "firewall" and the engine, in a Syncro.

But the main reason I would not do that is because I needed the coolant piped across the back of the van and forward along the right side of the engine compartment so I could have the expansion tank in position to do it's job of removing air bubbles from the coolant.

Q. Also do you know a source of alloy wheels?

A.  No.

So, Sidney, there you go.  Stay in touch and let me know what you decide to do.  Did you also click on Tom and Richard Myers homepage?  You must have if you noticed Amie.  Anyway Tom addressed the plumbing problem quite well. For some reason he thought it was a big deal.  I didn't.  Richard thought the wiring harness was a snap.  It drove me crazy!  I guess it all depends on what aspect of the project you are comfortable with.  Anyway, the end results of my conversion are well worth it to me.  Like I said.  I love it.

Great documentation of the joys and pains of such a conversion! I am considering such a venture myself . I have been considering the Kennedy kit . My question is how your finished product went at the smog station? 

Thanks  Ed


Hi Ed,

I knew Kennedy had gone through all the hassle to get the conversion okayed by the CARB, California Air Resources Board.  A certificate of compliance comes with the kit, an aluminum plate with the compliance information on it
which I installed in my engine compartment.  All set.

I went to the one and only local smog station and they took one look and said, "No way".  I later found out that they had recently been busted for passing something iffy and so they were walking a thin line.  They said I would have to take it to a referee.  I e-mailed Hobert about this and he said "Do NOT take it to a referee!"

Hmm?  What to do.

Fortunately my travel partner teaches weaving and one of her students has a husband, Jim, who is a smog official at a Chevy Dealership in Sacramento. It is about a 120 mile drive to Sacramento from where I live but I called him and he said, "Bring it on over".

We went to Sacramento on a weekend and had a nice visit and went out to dinner and had a tour around the area.  We camped in their yard.  Jim did a pre-check on my installation, made sure my gas cap sealed, that I had a check engine light that worked, looked over the neatness of the installation, read Kennedy's CARB certification.  He was impressed.

Monday morning I followed him to work and I checked into the front office to sign up for a smog test.

Then I sat in the waiting room for the results.

After about half an hour I got my paperwork.  It passed with flying colors, of course!

So, to make a long story short.

Some smog stations stay current with CARB bulletins and should be able to find the Vanagon/Subaru conversion information residing in their computer database.  Other stations, especially small hometown stations are not
current and too busy to want to do their homework.  Plus, if they are running scared about passing something "different"...  forget it.

Find a large dealership and talk to them about it and show them the certification of compliance from KEP.  See what they say.  There are no problems if you find a dealership willing to be interested in your conversion.  There is nothing shady or illegal about the conversion.  It took Hobert two years of wrestling with the smog bureaucracy to get compliance approval but he did finally get it.

By the way.  I think the Subaru engine is a cleaner burning engine than the waterboxer.

Good luck,

Click here for the continuing story.

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