February 20, 1998

Hello Volks,

This is a first newsletter to all interested (14 so far) in putting a TDI engine into a Vanagon. This is also a trial to figure out if this direct email list works.

Here is my background:
I have had almost all types of Volkswagens throughout my driving career and have rebuild many of them, including engines, and do all the upkeep myself. I speak German and English among other languages. I am planning to convert my 1987 Syncro with 240 000 kms on the first engine (no head job yet) into a TDI powered Vehicle. Having owned a regular Diesel Van and a TD Passat I certainly can see the advantages of a Diesel in terms of torque (especially off road), fuel consumption and longevity. I intend to keep my self designed Syncro for a while. I live in Western Canada.

Preliminary cost calculations:
I will need to rebuild my engine in the not too distant future. This will cost about $2000 Cdn when it’s done right including me doing some of the work. A TDI engine will give me at least the same power and use at least 5L/100 kms (I think metric) less than the current engine. This will save at least $250 per every 10000 kms per calendar year. In my case (about 25000 kms/year) this means between $600Cdn - $700Cdn savings per year in fuel cost alone. With a budget of about $4000+Cdn for the conversion and I still save money if I keep the car for another 4 years.

If enough people are interested I am willing to coordinate a group purchase of necessary parts.

Preliminary findings:
There are two groups of TDI engines available:

  • a 5cyl 2.5L engine which would require a slight raise in the engine cover.

  • a 4cyl 1.9L which is similar to the 4cyl TD and can be installed in VW Vanagons using parts from the Diesel Vanagons. On a TD engine this means that the Turbcharger interferes with the engine mount for North American engines. In Germany there is a different turbocharger for Vanagons avaliable.

    Note: The 4cyl Diesel engines are mounted on an angle in the Vanagon. This requires different engine mounts, bell housing, oil pan and oil pump. It is possible to covert 4cyl Diesel and Gas engines from Rabbits and Golfs into Vanagon engines using parts from the Vanagon Diesel engine.
    Helmut Zeidler provided a more detailed list of Diesel engines available (not necessarily in North America):

    >Available are from VW/AUDI:
    >1.6l air aspirated
    >1.6l Turbo charged
    >1.7l air aspirated (built into a Vanagon, too)
    >1.9l Turbo charged (TD)
    >1.9l Direct injection, Turbo charged 90 hp (TDI)
    >1.9l Direct injection, Turbo charged 110 hp (TDI)
    >1.9l Direct injection, air aspirated (SDI)
    >2,5l Direct injection, Turbo charged, 5 Cylinder 102 hp (EV)
    >2,5l Direct injection, Turbo charged, 5 Cylinder 115 hp (AUDI)
    >2,5l Direct injection, Turbo charged, 5 Cylinder 140 hp (AUDI)
    >2,8l Direct injection, Turbo charged, 4 Cylinder (made in Brasilia)

    Note: The TDI is basically an electronic fuel injection version of a Turbo Diesel and it injects a more accurate and fine fuel mist directly into the ignition chamber.
    A German Website (in German) provides some information about a successful TDI conversion. The detailed account is still missing, but it shows a picture of the left engine mount. Other parts seem to have come from a Diesel Vanagon (oil pan, oil pump, right engine mount, etc.). The owner is very impressed with the power and the low fuel consumption of the engine (7.6L/100kms or 32+mpg).


    Since the 4cyl engine is on a slant the starter interferes with the fuel tank on Syncro models. One option may be to put the engine into an upright position which would require raising the motor lid somewhat (and the bed in campers). The 5cyl engine may use the same fuel tank in a Syncro, but it requires a slight raise in the engine cover.
    Note: In my camper I used hardware from Germany for the bench/bed which raises the bed about 20cms over the engine leaving additional storage space between engine cover and bed.
    If you want to get some more information about engine conversions use the following website (English) and look up Helmut Zeidler’s 5cyl Audi engine conversion:

    We need access to good engines. The TDI is still new to North America and therefore it is difficult to get good used ones. I am keeping my eyes and ears open. I will investigate the direct import possibilities. There are some German providers of complete kits (including engines). I am waiting for brochures and will keep you posted.

    The following company is just coming out with a new catalogue. I hope it will be here shortly.

    Winkler, Axel
    VW Bus Tuning
    Schuechtermann Str. 7
    D-44628 Herne
    phone +49 2323 8444
    fax +49 2323 82374

    You have to check your local emission bylaws. The TDI can be used with a catalytic converter. This means that there are no more Diesel smells and no more fuming. It is used in Passats and some Eurovan Models (probably in some new Jettas too) in North America. Catalytic converters are however less effective in Diesels compared with gasoline engines. The TDI is a fairly clean burning engine. It is becoming very popular in Europe.

    If any one of you has any ideas or resources, let me know and I will post them in the next letter. Eventually developments will be posted on a website.


    Björn's TDI conversion newsletter #2.

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    Tom Carrington