1989 Vanagon GL Wolfsburg Edition

We purchased this van in May 1989 and are the original owners. It has been the most reliable automobile  we have ever owned and until recently we have only had to replace routine items - tires, brakes, battery, that kind of thing.  It's unbeatable for camping and road trips - as long as you're not in a big hurry.  The van has always been garaged and the paint, body and interior are in excellent (near mint) shape.  In 2004 at 159k miles the heads started to leak.  Rather than just replacing the heads we decided to have the engine rebuilt; we didn't really need to but wanted to gain some power.  From that point we have only used it to move the kids to school a couple times, and drive it once a month or so during good weather.  We finally decided to quit screwing around and start replacing parts and pieces to make it as reliable as possible.


I researched this quite a bit and found there are a number of people doing all kinds of engine conversions replacing the original Wasserboxer engine with engines from Subaru, Audi, Porsche, there's even a new in line 4 kit available from VW in South Africa.  This is a fairly rare model so we decided to keep it stock, but with subtle improvements... What can I say... I have a horizontally opposed engine fetish!  

The project so far...

In 2004 we shipped the engine down to Go Westy in California for the rebuild deciding to kick it up just a notch horse power wise going with their 2212 cc option, but keeping the original block so the serial numbers match.

Here's the details on the rebuild:  

  Engine cases (block), machined.

  New cylinder head studs.
  Specially machined, counter balanced & heat treated crankshaft with 78 mm stroke.
  Specially machined connecting rods for 78 mm stroke.
  Camshaft re-ground:
  Proprietary camshaft grind specifically for this engine.
  Hydraulic lifters match-ground to camshaft.
  All new tappet adjustment screws.
  All new bearings: main, rod, and camshaft.
  New oil pump.
  New, 1 mm larger (95 mm) pistons and cylinders
  New cylinder heads  - See Detail below
  Completely disassembled.
  All the valves are scraped.
  All new OE German quality intake and exhaust valves.
  De-burred intake and exhaust ports, precision three-angle valve grind.
  New water pump.
  Machined flywheel or flex plate installed and adjusted.
  V-belt pulley, coolant x-tube, connection hose, & steel elbow installed.
  Valve covers re-painted and installed.

  Displacement 2212 cc   (Original - 2110cc)
  Horsepower  105           (Original - 90 HP)
  Torque  140 Ft-Lbs        (Original - 117)
  Requires 89 octane fuel
  Passes tail pipe emissions test in all 50 states

Head Detail -
 New Spanish made AMC cylinder heads (heavier casting than original heads) were sent to Lesco Machine in California. Lesco removes all of the stock AMC valves and scraps them. All ports are smoothed just past the valve seats for better air flow, and they performed a high quality three-angle valve job, then installed brand new OE German intake and exhaust valves.  The heads were also flow-tested.  

In our experience so far the 2212cc engine is smoother and has more power; I can drive over the pass without down shifting!   We still need to put more miles on it, but so far it looks like we are also getting better gas mileage than the stock engine.  As of 2009 we still do not have many miles on the engine, but it still seems to be running well with no issues.  That said... Knowing what I know now - if I were to do it again I would go to Vanistan or Rocky Jennings for the re-build.  

2010 - 2013 -    

You name it...  Brakes, all new coolant hoses, stainless steel pipes and junction kit, new aluminum thermostat housing, radiator, all new fuel line, fuel pressure regulator, rebuilt injectors and new seals, Koni shocks, 15 inch wheels & tires, front and rear wheel bearings and brakes, new CV joints, coil, distributor, and last but not least a new OEM windshield.  

This Spring we had Porbug & AA Transaxle rebuild the transmission.  I can't say enough about both shops - both George and Daryl took the time to answer a lot of questions and did an excellent job... The van shifts as smooth as it did when new.   What's next?...  Road trip!  and...Maybe an iPod compatible sound system, rebuild the front end including new springs followed by an alignment.  At some point I'm going to tackle replacing the front heater core, and am thinking about a headlight upgrade.  I found a decent used set of E-code H4 rectangle headlights, which would have been stock for a European model.  


Vanagon Links  

AA Transaxle   -    High quality rebuilt VW, Porsche and Audi manual transmissions. Best there is.  

Porbug            -    George is the best VW / Porsche mechanic period.   Nice new shop in Edmonds.

Dragonfly Vans   -  Rent a classic camper van...  Scott is also a Vanagon expert if you are in the Idaho / Montana area

The Samba       -   Discussion forum with a lot of helpful info

Vanagon.com   -   Home of the Vanagon mailing list; great info and a ton of other links

WetWesties   -     Great group of camping and VW van enthusiasts.  Monthly camping trips rain or shine...   

Vanistan - Tencentlife   -   The Better Waterboxer - Chris Corkins builds the best Vanagon Engines and other items

Rocky Jennings -   Another great Engine builder and machine shop

Van Cafe         -    Great source for Vanagon Parts - Best customer service, fast shipping 

Terry Kay        -    Stainless coolant pipes  - other parts and accessories

Go Westy        -   Parts, Westy camper restoration, engines, develops replacement parts -  great customer service



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