Project Little Van - Daily Vanagon/Adventure Rig


Engineer In Residence
A bit of advice regarding the windage tray . Because it is a bit thicker than the standard gasket, the two bolts on the oil pan which connect to the bell housing won't line up perfectly. so before you go to install the engine oval the corresponding holes on the bell housing by approximately the extra thickness of the gasket. this will make it possible to get all the bolts finger tight before torquing them up and reduce any risk of cracking.

The stock oil cooler on these engines is pretty effective. I never saw any issues with excessive high temps on my van.


Yeah I am not really concerned with engine temps.
This engine could very likely run with no oil cooler as evident by the number of early vw I4s that had no such device.
I have a number of reasons for ditching the stock set up.

1. I am not a fan of the whole coolant/oil interface.
If I have a radiator problem or thermostat issue then I also have an oil cooler issue.
If my oil cooler fails I may very likely now have an engine coolant issue. I am just not a fan.

2. As I mentioned I have seen people struggle with line routing from the water pump with the stock oil cooler while trying to mate up with the Vanagon lines.
It's is totally doable but some of the solutions seemed a little hack jobbie.

3. I wanted to add capacity to the system.

4. I wanted to add filtering capacity to the system.
This van may see some seriously dusty conditions from time to time and I would like to increase the oil service interval while also being able to take on those conditions.

5. I want a system that can be easily repaired in the field.
There is not a single part of this system that can not be bypassed to keep the system functioning in order to limp it to a suitable repair site should something fail.

6. It looks cool and makes my van a race car.
Whats cooler looking than two giant oil filters and a big ol' blue oil cooler with a big fan whirlin' away when things get hot?

There you have it.
Bill's six reasons why his oil cooler set up is cooler (figuratively and maybe literally) than the stocker.

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
Hey are you dropping the front fuel tank to replace the seals? I have an extra kit you can have for free if you haven't bought it yet. Just pm

I have been restoring a VW Westfalia Syncro part time for the last 3 I know what you are going through. At this point, pretty much everything on a Vanagon has to be replaced to make it reliable.

But when you are done, you are really going to enjoy driving this light 2WD version - with the extra power, it's actually going to be really fun.


I do appreciate the offer but my plan is to upgrade that mess as well.
Dropping the tank is in the plans but I am not going to use the stock stuff.
I am not super sure what I am going to do but there will be permanent fittings attached to the tank so I never have to do the seals ever again.
I may actually cut open the stock tank and fill in the hump to bump the fuel capacity and braze or weld in fittings to bail on the grommets.
It really baffles me as to why VW decided that all those grommets and lines were a good idea.

Yeah I am pretty stoked to drive one of these that has anything close to the power that it should have come with from the factory.
I am a little bummed that its not a manual trans but I don't really want a 4 speed and the auto apparently can handle more power anyway.
Besides for a daily and the things I think I am going to do in this van an auto makes more sense.

I think, once my 4x4 Vanagon is done, I am going to build a low and fast high powered street Vanagon
Then I will have all of my bases covered.


I have made Some progress but it's never as much as I would like and none of it's that exciting.
I have been working on a couple of house things as well as some non car related garage stuff so that has slowed me down a little.

It started getting cold so I had to sort out how to rearrange things in the garage so I could fit two vans in there.

As you can see from this crappy pic, they fit but there is not a ton of room.

It was quite a chore moving the 4x4 van project with no suspension under it but it's moved over about as far as I can get it and packed full of stuff.
I also jacked it back up pretty high so I can store its engine, trans and axles under it.

I will say just interacting with the 4x4 project again and finally having the engine and trans in the garage really gets me excited to work on it again.
Gotta get this 2WD on the road then its back on the 4x4.

Anyway I do have a little room to work on the 2wd.

I have the propane thing for heat and just bought a little diesel heater to try to make it a little more comfortable in there.
been kind of slacking until the other heater shows up.

I was out there a couple days ago and got the engine nearly ready to remove.
Its hard to actually tell that there is in engine in there somewhere.

Even after removing some stuff its still hard to tell.
You might never guess that this engine is nearly ready to drop out.

I got the hoist in place.
I just need to sort how to attach it to the engine.

All that is left is to undo the 4 bolts for the engine mount bar, remove the trans mount and it will fall right out.
Probably wrap that up tomorrow or saturday.

I don't have work from Dec 19th to Jan 2nd so I have been making plans to make some serious headway over that time.
I am trying to think ahead to get some of the things I need that might be tricky to get over the holidays.
There are a few more seals and gaskets I need for the trans so I am trying to go through what I have to see what is still left.

I also shipped off my engine harness to have it modified to work with the van.
Here it is snipped and stretched and whatever else needed done.

The fella was even nice enough to label a bunch of stuff and send instructions on how to wire it.
I will get it installed and make sure the engine runs then wrap the whole thing real pretty.

I managed to source some decent used Porsche 944 axles to swap with the stock Vanagon stuff to give me a few extra degrees of axle/CV joint angle.
I am going to tear those apart, clean them up, put some new boots and grease on/in them and they bolt right in place.
Who knew?

Some of you may have seen the solar panels in one of the above shots.
Probably jumped the gun a little bit but my wife is in the solar biz and got me a screamin' deal on some 295 watt monocrystalline panels.
You may have guessed that those are for the vans.
I have been working out how to lay those out on each van.
I was thinking about making a portable stand alone set up that could be transferred from the 2wd to the 4wd so I don't have to buy everything twice.

Of course 1200 watts of solar may be a little overkill for the 2wd and fitting 4 of the panels on the roof will probably look a little awkward.
Anyway that whole thing is another story and I will cover all that in more detail when I actually need to.

Other than that I have been working on the suspension design.
I am a fan of air suspensions so naturally it made sense to put an air set up in this van.
It's not terribly complicated but is a little different than the regular lifted 2WD set ups and should net me a little more wheel travel and control.

Hopefully that's enough for now and I can have something more exciting for the next update.


New member
Interesting concept for engine removal, I have only used the two floor jacks (or trans jack) method. Since the trailer winches are designed for pulling, have you experienced any issues with control on lowering?


Interesting concept for engine removal, I have only used the two floor jacks (or trans jack) method. Since the trailer winches are designed for pulling, have you experienced any issues with control on lowering?
Looks like a worm gear winch so it's self-braking in either direction. Should work a treat.


It does brake in both directions so there is no issue with controlling it.
I used it to drop the engine from my other Vanagon.

I think I paid like $30 for the winch from harbor freight.
The crank mount did not last long so I had to fix that.
I will probably end up welding it on at some point but it is working just fine now.


Taking a advantage of a little break from my jobby job to get some van stuff done.
Of course all this holiday junk occupies some of those days off but I'm going to make the best of it.

Anyway, I finally got the engine dropped out of this beast.
Down but not out.

There we go.
Now it's out.

The more I tear this thing apart the less space I have to work on anything.
Getting pretty tight in here.

And here she is.
2.1 liters and 94 HP of German fury.

I wish I could say I was sad to see it go but I can't.
Our relationship was short and she let me down when I needed her the most.
I am sure somewhere in her 230,000 mile history she has see some sh.... stuff and did her fair share of not letting people down.
Anyway I digress.
SEEE YAA! little crappy engine.

Now I need to get the engine and trans separated post haste so I can ship the torque converter off to Precision Of New Hampton and get it rebuilt.
Of course I also need to rebuild the trans which I hope to make some progress on over the next 2 or 3 days.

Speaking of torque converters and trans rebuilds, I did manage to get the last couple of seals and some new converter bolts that I needed to complete such tasks.

I recently decided that I needed to rein in my spending on this project so I decided to scrounge the nets in search of some used Porsche 944 axles.
Not sure if I mentioned that the 944 axles are a direct replacement for the Vanagon parts but they can tolerate about 5 degrees more CV joint angle than the Stock Vanagon stuff.

Since I plan to lift this van a little and add an inch or two more suspension travel then the joint swap seemed only fitting.

So search the nets and find some joints I did.
A gentleman on one of the Porsche forums had some "good axles with usable joints and boots" for $30 a pop.
Sounded reasonable enough so I jumped on'em.

Well I got my parts and SURPRISE, this was one of my "usable" joints.

No biggie I simply contacted the gentleman and he shipped another complete axle before we even agreed on a solution.
Ok cool the new axle shows up.
I had them all lined up on the table and realized that one of these things is not like the others.
I had two axles with boots that looked like this.

And the odd ball looked like this

I also realized that the axle itself was shaped a little different than the others.

Oh I should also point out that I found a flaw in one of my "usable" boots as well that you can see in the form of a tear all the way around the lower axle in this pic.

I decided to pop a joint off of each axle example that I had and sure enough they are not the same.
One is a 33 spline (the one I need) and the other is a 25 spline.

Also noticed that the 25 spline joints is about 2mm shorter than the 33 spline unit.

No problem I will just contact the fella again and see what he can do.
Well that was 2 days ago and I have not heard from him yet.

I know its the holidays and not everyone is on the forums 24/7 so that may slow things down a little but if you are trying to have a legit business selling Porsche parts online then you need to pay attention a little bit.

I am going to give him a little holiday break but if I don't receive a part or a message after that I will take the next steps, whatever those may be.

In other news I have been tinkering with a cheapo diesel heater that I found on ebay for a deal that was worth taking a chance on.
I found this 2kw diesel heater for $82.50 plus $15.99 shipping and decided to take a chance.

These heaters are all over ebay but normally they sell for at least twice the price.
This was some kind of screw up on the sellers part and you are not likely to find them that cheap ever again.
It was a little scammy at first but with ebay and paypal protection it all worked out.

I know some of you are thinking there is no way I would take the chance and put some cheapo flaming thing in a vehicle with me.
After much debate on the Vanagon forums about these heaters and watching countless videos on youtube about them, it seems they are legit.
Not legit as in brand name but legit as in they work and work well.

Since I have two vans, a 4 Runner and tents I decided that I am going to make this a portable unit that I can use to heat any of them.
Since my 4x4 van will be the only one with house power I decided to build a battery pack/charger set up that can be carried with it to run when there is no other 12 volt source available.
I took advantage of a 15% ebay discount and picked up a couple of Nissan leaf batteries to build said battery pack.

This portable heater build is probably best left for another thread so once I get all the parts I will probably post that up somewhere on here.

It does relate to this van build a little bit so I thought I would mention it.

Well that's all for now.
going to clean up a space to work on this trans and see what I can remove and clean up in the engine bay over the next few days.
hope to make more progress than normal since I have some time off work.

Until then...
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Just quick update.
Got my engine and trans separated and started work on the trans.

Getting the two trans parts separated involved liberal use of my rubber mallet, a little heat and a brass bar.
Oh and like 20 old shop rags since I did not drain anything but hey that's how I roll.
I'm wreckless.

This is the bit that will get a full rebuild.

However after a little clean up
I found a pretty legit issue with the differential side of the transaxle.
I am fairly certain that these cracks were not engineered from the factory.

These are the lower two bell-housing bolt holes.
There are only 4 total that hold the engine to the trans.

I thought I might be able to fix them but decided to check out the internals of this unit before I tried.
It was a good thing that I did because 230,000 miles has not been good to this trans.
There is so much metal dust in the oil that it is practically a ferrofluid.

The ring gear teeth are worn pretty good across the entire face of each tooth.

I don't have pics but there are dips worn into the teeth of the spider gears and the pinion gear teeth are nearly worn to a knife edge.
I have not looked at the bearings but given the other details I think it's over for this trans.
It's toast.

So now the hunt is on for a reusable diff section that is close enough to Ohio that I can drive to pick it up.
I assume the heavy nature of this slab of cast iron and steel would make it prohibitively expensive to ship from the lands where Vanagons are plentiful.

I will be shipping my torque converter off tomorrow to be rebuilt and cleaning up the engine bay while I send out the calls and wait for a used auto trans.

That's all I have for now.
More later.


I am not really even into Euro vans, but I love this thread. Your dedication and attention to detail is inspiring. Keep up the excellent work! Look forward to the updates and can get that bad boy on the road.

b. rock

Active member
FWIW I've gotten whole vanagon (stick shift mind you) transmissions through greyhound before. I think they have a 75lb limit. Otherwise Fastenal ships anything on a pallet between their stores pretty cheap.


Engineer In Residence
Hmm, that's rough... The housing can likely be welded and provide a good repair (of the cracks). If the housing is salvageable, it might be worth while to get a used ring and pinion. That would give you the option of changing ratios, though the I4 isn't crazy powerful down low.