These Subaru engines are very impressive. They are state of the art with 5 main bearings, 4 valves per cylinder and two overhead cams. They feature an engine management computer capable of learning as you drive with input from crank and cam position sensors, knock sensors, oxygen sensors and it controls the spark, fuel injectors, and timing. It has no distributor, cap, or rotor and the 2010-2012 don't even have plug wires! The outstanding reliability of these engines is evident by their popularity in light aircraft.
The 2.5L Subaru engine makes 165-175hp and is perhaps the perfect Vanagon engine. It has great torque throughout the rpm range and keeps up with traffic easily, even in the heavier Westfalia and Syncro and runs extremely well behind both the manual and the automatic transmissions. Fuel mileage has proven to be better than with the stock engine, even with the additional power, and all run beautifully on regular gas. We can use most of the 2.5L motors up to the 2012 Subaru models. The 2010-2012 is a particularly torquey motor and is possibly the perfect engine for the heavier Syncros.
As a horizontally opposed four, the Subaru motor fits like it was meant to be there and all the original Vanagon options can remain functional; cruise control, air conditioning as well as the Syncro skid plate. All of our conversions include an extensive list of parts that we have developed to make the conversion fit and function better than the original engine. A few years ago, no one would have imagined the number of parts we would eventually develop to make these motors a perfect match for the Vanagon. Here is a partial list:
Cast aluminum bellhousing, 4 different cast aluminum oil pans, 5 engine mounts, 5 stainless headers, stainless exhaust system, flexible dipstick, brake upgrades and numerous cooling system and other parts.
There are a number of cheaper conversions for the Vanagon, but there isn't one that compares with the fit and function of the Subaru engine using SmallCar parts...... it's a perfect fit!
See our completed Vanagons page for more photos, and our FAQ for answers to common questions.
If you have any questions about a Subaru conversion, don't hesitate to contact our conversion expert, Brian, at 253-473-2474 or by using our conversion contact form.
OBD1 special: Completely rebuilt high torque 2.5L engine with 160 hp and 155 lb/ft of torque. Recommended for California and built to order - $6,895.
All engines above have a one year warranty on all internal parts.
The cost to install a Subaru four cylinder non-turbo into a water cooled Vanagon 2wd or Syncro is $7990 plus the cost of the motor. There are no hidden costs, just a few options shown as optional items below.
Yes! We also convert the air cooled Vans. The added cost to convert an 80-83 air cooled Van is $4975. This includes an updated dash and a real heater. Dash air conditioning is optional and works very well.
Diesel Vanagon owners, please call for information.
"The van is running great. I put it into 4th leaving Tacoma, and never geared down until the border. There is a hill on the main road of our island that the other Syncro Westy on island with a Waterboxer performance 2.5L can almost make in 4th. This van sails up the hill in 4th gear. I'm very pleased and barring the unforeseen I'll be back next fall or winter for the brake up-grade and the drive shaft with the de-coupler. I'll do my best to send more vans your way."
Update: May 10th, 2011 - The owner with the G..Westy 2.5L blew the engine and now has a Small Car 2.5L Subaru installed. Look out Don!
"I wanted to give you a progress report on my Vanagon to Subaru conversion that you did just before Christmas 2001.
First, as you know I have always kept close track of my '87 Vanagon's gas mileage. For the entire six months before your conversion I averaged 17.5 miles to the gallon with the 2.1 VW engine. I now have 100,000 miles on the 2.5 Subaru engine you put in and I am happy to report I am averaging over 20 miles to the gallon! And that is with 50-50 city/highway driving. I am sure I will do even better this summer when I take my cross country trip.
The engine is running beautifully, and it is so quiet at idle that I sometimes have to look at the tach to make sure it is still running when I am at a stop light. The extra power is the added bonus that is hard to believe. I remember that I use to have to downshift to get up most of the hills in my neighborhood. Even in cruise control on the highway the engine would lug and I would have to downshift up the steeper grades. Now if I set it at 65 it stays there with no sign of slowing down.
I guess the greatest statement I can make is that I have grown so accustomed to my new Vanaroo that I hardly notice that the change was done. Except for less noise, improved gas mileage, and the acceleration, one wouldn't notice at all.
Thank you for being so helpful with the conversion. You were always there to answer questions and to make things right if I had any concerns. I will gladly answer any questions anyone might have about the conversion you did for me. I really think your onto something big, and I am proud to be the first 2.5L Vanaroo in Western Washington.
Update: September 2015 - Dave stopped by to check out our new shop and let us know that his 2.5 now has 220,000 miles since the conversion and is still running strong with no signs of slowing down anytime soon!
Before arrival of your Vanagon we generally get a deposit of approximately the engine cost to acquire and prepare the Subaru engine. Upon delivery of your Vanagon for the installation work, a 50% deposit is required with the balance due upon completion of the work. There is a $15.00 per day storage fee after 5 days unless prior arrangements are made.
For all new parts, we have a one year warranty. Used engines have a one year warranty on internal parts and 90 days on externals. Extended warranties may available on some parts manufactured by us. For the full warranty to be valid, the vehicle must have a 500 mile service performed by Small Car. Please be sure to allow time for this after you pick up your car.
If the vehicle cannot be returned to us for warranty service, repairs at another location should be authorized with us before the repairs are completed. Diagnosis is covered only when performed in our shop.