Hobert Kennedy pioneered the Subaru to Vanagon engine swap, the Subaru engine proved to be an excellent choice because it fits the compartment like it belongs there and provides a good increase in horsepower and reliability. Kennedy Engineered Products manufactures over a hundred different engines to the Vanagon transaxle but nothing fits as well as the Subaru engine in this vehicle
When Volkswagen’s Vanagon first came on the market, magazine writers referred to them as the best handling, best riding and most utilitarian of all the available vans. Many owners have stated they love the vehicle. The lack of adequate power was the only real complaint. Since then, owners have added to the complaint of poor engine reliability and cost of engine repairs. Common expense is two thousand to three thousand dollars to rebuild a VW waterboxer and that is largely due to the high price of parts. Good used VW engine are scarce because the vehicles outlast the engines. After a couple short-lived engine rebuilds, most owners give up having them repaired.
In September 1995, we applied for California smog approval of this adaptation. This required two years of testing, after which a satisfactory combination of clean exhaust, quiet sound and low backpressure were attained. Your modified Vanagon can now be taken to a local smog station instead of the state referee. The California Air Resources Board Issued us an Executive Order allowing the installation of the ’90 – ’94 dual port Subaru 2.2 engine into the 1980 – 1991 Volkswagen Vanagons. It requires that the Subaru engine be used complete, from its air flow meter to its O2 sensor (except for exhaust manifold piping and optional section of the intake air duct.) The Subaru ECU and wiring are retained, but modified per KEP instructions. A check engine light must be installed on the dash. The Vanagon charcoal canister is retained. The CARB Executive order refers to a complete kit, and is to be sold this way, not as individual components. Kits will include copies of the Executive Order and a self-adhesive label to be attached to the body in the engine compartment. Individual pricing of the parts is available for out of state applications as well as for customers wanting them for use on other model or year Volkswagens that do not need to be CARB compliant. The Executive Order does not cover 1979 and earlier vans, the air inlet duct interferes with the gasoline tank on these vehicles.
When ordering a ’90 – ’94 Subaru 2.2 engine at your local wrecking yard they will need to know that you need it complete. The principal tools necessary for removal are: Philips screwdriver, dikes (wire cutters) 10mm, 12mm, 15mm and 17mm wrenches both socket and open end.
For this installation, it must include the rubber motor mounts, O2 sensor, throttle cable, air duct and air flow meter in addition to the engine computer with its four plugs and associated wiring. If your Vanagon has power steering and air conditioning then you will want these pumps on the engine. There are three other small items that must not be forgotten. The ignition relay and fuel pump relay are located near the computer above the drivers left knee. The igniter is a black plastic item 2” square and a half inch thick centered on the firewall directly behind the engine. These little items are expensive if you must buy them. There will be a small wire harness on the engine. The computer harness should come from the same car or the two large square gray plugs may not match. Removing the wiring harness requires removing the entire dash from the Subaru and removing the left front fender or at least the apron under the fender. The headlight wires may be cut behind the fender near the front after they separate from the engine sensor wires. Another bundle of 15 wires going to the tail lights can be cut. The fuse and relay box is not necessary so all these wires can be cut or just remove the box. Temporarily save the gray 67 pin firewall connectors in the harness. If the harness came from an automatic car then it has 35 wires going to a box that looks like the engine computer. You may cut all those wires and leave that box at the wrecking yard. Most of the water hoses from the Subaru and VW will be useful. You will not need any of the Subaru exhaust system except the O2 sensor. The pipes hang down too low and go the wrong direction.
Manual Engine Adapter Kit
The basic adapter kit consists of an adapter plate, flywheel, pilot bearing and hardware to bolt the bare engine block to the bare transaxle.
Automatic Engine Adapter Kit
The basic adapter kit consists of an adapter plate, flexplate and hardware to bolt the bare engine block to the bare transaxle.