View original topic: 1974 VW Bus Hi top W/Subaru EJ25 swap Pics! Page: 1, 2  Next
jaycanode Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:36 pm

OK everyone, as promised here is my 1974 Transporter/DIY Campmobile Hi-Top with 2000 Subaru ej25 engine. This Bus is a daily driver. It is our second car/pickup truck/RV/guest house/funhouse. This mini write-up is far from a how to...just a show and tell. If anyone has any questions on ANYthing. Don't hesitate to ask.

DSC_0834 by jaycanode, on Flickr

The History:
I bought this bus in 2000 in Flagstaff, AZ. My intent was to gut it and use it as a vending trailer to sell smoothies and whatnot at music festivals. (This dream never came to fruition.) I immediately discovered the bus had already been retrofitted with a 1976 Toyota 2TC engine and it was done quite well. My wife cried during the test drive and the rest is history/ (We actually bought this Bus with gift funds from our wedding that year.)

As far as I can tell all of this original conversion and customization work was done by a guy named Keith Lopeman in Prescott, AZ. It looks as if the bus was used as a high school project "one stop". Cabinets in wood shop, curtains & cushions in Home Ec, engine swap in Auto Shop, etc...The bus looks to have started its life as a barebones transporter in Santa Cruz, CA. It was and still is virtually rust free.

DSC_0831 by jaycanode, on Flickr

DSC_0832 by jaycanode, on Flickr

Over the past 13 years the bus has spent most of its life in Silverton, CO than Paonia, CO. During that time I had recurring problems with proper cooling of the Toy 2TC engine. I deduced eventually that the inline 4 was not the best setup. Number 1 piston always got hot and heat build up in the engine compartment was excessive on long trips. This is because the exhaust manifold never got any airflow over it. Thus it seemed every 3-4 years or so I would do a ring job or replace a piston. I tolerated this because I/we fell in love with this bus and it did perform better than the stock engine...especially on Colorado's mountain passes. But still I was occasionally relegated to 2nd gear climbing the steepest of passes while the bus screamed in heated agony.

Then last year it was time for another overhaul. I found when trying to source pistons that the block (by now upgraded to 1.8L 3TC) was at the end of its life and I was going to have to break into high performance racing pistons if I wanted to continue on with the Toyota engine. It was then I made the hasty decision to abandon Toyota for Fuji Heavy Industries AKA Subaru.

DSC_0692 by jaycanode, on Flickr

I found a totaled Suby Outback for $600, yanked the engine out and sold it for $600. Which leads us to a bit of how and whys....

Nuts and Bolts:

Although there are many bolt on products now manufactured for the Subaru conversion, I opted to "try" and save money and fab up what was needed. I did buy the new Smallcar Header. This thing is a bomber aircraft grade header that I am glad I bought.

DSC_0828 by jaycanode, on Flickr

DSC_0821 by jaycanode, on Flickr

In the above image you can see the header and engine mounts. The mounts were styled after the SmallCar carriers and fabbed out of 1/4" plate steel by my friend Chris Myles. (Chris helped me through much of this process...stripping the wire harness, engineering the mounts, and fabbing exhaust among other things.) The crossmember is styled after a vanagon crossmember. Round Saab 900 motor mounts were used here.

DSC_0818 by jaycanode, on Flickr

DSC_0825 by jaycanode, on Flickr

We also had to flip the intake manifold 180 degrees in order to clear the firewall. I did not flip the coolant manifold but in hindsight would have cleaned things up a bit. (Money saver here.) This created a couple other problems to solve. Igniter/coil had to be relocated to firewall and Alternator had to be "flipped over into the previous location of the AC compressor. (I removed the AC system...boy would it have been nice to have AC in a Baywindow! But I was not that ambitious.) Also note ugly, bulky stock Suby air cleaner sitting there. I liked the idea of a disposable paper filter but have now decided to buy a traditional cone style filter to save space and clean up the engine bay.

DSC_0823 by jaycanode, on Flickr

In the above photos you can see the Saab 900 pressurized coolant expansion tank. This piece is vital for self burbing sytems. I pressurized this tank and forced coolant into the system for initial coolant bleeding. Note also the Fuel Injection "return" line penetrating firewall. This line goes into the stock VW "vent" gas line. Also note relocated igniter/coil to firewall.

DSC_0827 by jaycanode, on Flickr

The above spaghetti mess shows Walbro FI pump and stock Suby fuel filter. All emissions and evap stuff were removed. (I live in rural smog check) Also tapped into stock VW alternator circuitry here.

DSC_0815 by jaycanode, on Flickr

Pic above illustrates my Radiator setup. Crude and functional would be an appropriate description here. My radiator "cage" doubles as a very functional double bicycle rack. Coolant lines are 1 1/4" inch SS and follow much the same route as stock VW heater vents did. Radiator is a double row VW sirocco style radiator.

DSC_0817 by jaycanode, on Flickr

DSC_0837 by jaycanode, on Flickr

Above you can see those coolant lines as well as the retrofitted JC whitney style heater installed in the cab. The heater works great!

DSC_0835 by jaycanode, on Flickr

Above is the CPU "nest" below the sleeping area. Firewall is just behind it. This by far was the most daunting aspect of the conversion. Hours of internet research, diagrams, etc...Should I have just sent the harness out to Tom Shiels in Canada? Maybe, although my friend Chris Myles did a great job sorting and weeding! But heck if I didn't get a masters degree in Subaru electronics during this process! I also had to provide a vehicle speed sensor solution to make this engine happy. I first tried the SamllCar bolt on but it never worked correctly and then, because of its exposed position on the axle, was destroyed by a tumbleweed (Yes a tumbleweed) I ran over. I then opted for a VSS simulator provided by (Works perfect!)

DSC_0833 by jaycanode, on Flickr

Drivers seat above...tach, voltmeter, oil pressure, coolant temp. I will be buying a Scangauge as this hooks directly into OBD2 system in my engine. I trust this engine data more than my gauges. Currently I use an OBD app via bluetooth to monitor engine! (This is just crazy to me!)Note antique purple glass shifter knob. (Have been offered big money by Rodders for this)


The Bus drives like dream. So smooth, so powerful...I can literally pull 4th gear 60 mph on any CO mountain pass (Hairpins notwithstanding!) The downsides are this... gas mileage currently could use improvement as I average 19. I still have the stock 002 transaxle and am currently searching for a good 091 to replace it. Currently 4000 rpm will get me about 65 MPH. My goal would be 75 MPH at 3500. I know, I know, buses should not break the 70 MPH barrier, but its nice to have this option. As you all know NO ONE likes to be behind a VW bus, its like an inferiority complex or something. It is soooo fun to leave tailgaters in the dust now, mouths agape. I feel I can't help myself given the importunity.

I realize the bus is rough, but for me its a fun tool that my family and I use everyday. Does it need a paint job? Of Course... thats next on my list. Is it in any way stock? Ummmm no.... But at its core it is still VW and I would not have done much different given the opportunity to do so! Cheers and thanks to everyone who contributes to Samba as well as NASIOC and the pioneers of the Vanaru movement!

WP_000143 by jaycanode, on Flickr

AmyVanSaw by jaycanode, on Flickr

Stuartzickefoose Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:47 pm

Cool! 8)

my65vert Sun Jun 02, 2013 8:00 pm

nice chainsaw.

Krautski Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:34 pm

I love this kind of work for the grassroots style approach and not being a cryptic internet asshole about it. And using the hell out of it.

Nice curtains! Been to Mexico lately? That color scheme also makes for great bench upholstery. :wink:

Red Fau Veh Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:49 am

My only question is when are we all getting together for the high top meet and greet? :D

jaycanode Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:20 pm

Been a while since I made the Jerome Jamboree. Now that I'm all hopped up and road worthy, we'll try for this year's.

hoagy86 Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:11 pm

looks like you have everything you want love it :)

archemitis Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:50 am

Awesome, thanks for posting! Was that the same radiator setup as with the Toyota?
Did I see a blue DR650 with panniers between your back tires?!

markd89 Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:59 am


Few questions:

1. What trans/gearing are you using?
2. What is your cruising speed?
3. How's MPGs both now and before with the Toyota?


Red Fau Veh Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:01 am

archemitis wrote:
Did I see a blue DR650 with panniers between your back tires?! Sheesh! A tiny blury photo showing blue with a set of black fork boots, yea that's a dr650 alright, but what year? I say 2005 :lol: Oh those are front tires though, you just were not observant enough to notice! :lol:

jaycanode Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:24 am

Dang!...can get get anything by you guys...or maybe I can! You got the displacement right but don't insult my sense of style with a Suzuki insinuation! :lol: Its a 98 KLR 650. Got an 89 " " parts bike behind it.

I am running a stock 002 currently but am searching for a good 091, or maybe a 002 Freeway Flier build with 4.57 R&P. Right now I cruise 65 at near 4000 RPM! This is a bit much and it kills mileage...which is around 18-19 average. I was getting 22 or so with the Toy 3TC. I tell you though the performance difference is night and day. Even at that RPM I can barely hear the engine running! Hope to boost mileage into low 20's with tranny swap.

Same radiator setup as the Toyota although I added a pressurized burp/expansion tank as shown in pictures. Had to cuz of air bubble issues inherent in this motor/plumbing setup.

Klaussinator Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:55 am

I've always been a Subie guy, and I can see one day going this route when my Type-2 is no longer serviceable. Good information.

And yeah, nice chainsaw!


Red Fau Veh Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:58 am

Alright, let me guess the chain saw then. I'll say it's a Stihl 084AV with a 20" bar lol! :D

Stuartzickefoose Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:14 am

Red Fau Veh wrote: Alright, let me guess the chain saw then. I'll say it's a Stihl 084AV with a 20" bar lol! :D

its actually a 20 .25" bar. so there.

shiningstar76 Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:25 am

I like it. Unpretentious, and useful.

BumbleBus Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:39 am

Klaussinator wrote: Inspirational! I've always been a Subie guy, and I can see one day going this route when my Type-2 is no longer serviceable. Good information.

x2. Recently got my 5th Subaru a '94 Alpine Sport Legacy with a swapped Fraken2.5L with '98 heads on an '04 block. Loving the 2.5! I work at a ski resort and it laughs at me every morning on the way to work... "that all you gonna through at me is this little mountain?" 8) Someday I'd love to put a 2.5 into my '72 bay. Thx for sharing!

jaycanode Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:24 pm

Husqy. Rancher 45 circa 1981 (Back when Husqys were still made in the motherland and worth a damn). I'll give you the bar length, its a 21". My wife posses well with it...but thats about it!

archemitis Wed Jun 12, 2013 8:12 am

jaycanode wrote: Dang!...can get get anything by you guys...or maybe I can! You got the displacement right but don't insult my sense of style with a Suzuki insinuation! :lol: Its a 98 KLR 650. Got an 89 " " parts bike behind it.

That blue just screams suzuki! hahaha, looks like you live in the right part of the country to be able to enjoy all those toys.

I ended up buying a whole rusty 78 bus to get the 091 transmission I have.

geopanoramic Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:54 pm

What krautski said - very cool, Strong work in vacation land!

jaycanode Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:07 pm

For those that care thought I'd share what bugs Ive had and their fixes.

VSS....I've tried em all and settled on the RJES inline speedometer VSS. EngineWiring stopped working after 6 month, Smallcar transaxle got obliterated by a tumbleweed. RJES interfaces with my Ultraguage quite nicely and even gives me real time MPG! The gauge enables the engine to run exactly as it should.

I also was having weird cold wx starting issues from the minute I put the new engine in. Basically it just would not start when temps were below 45 degress F. (You can look up my other posts on The Samba.) Also had hesitation starting any other time. Finally determined ignition coil was getting robbed of voltage from my starter(adapted TDI). 6 months it took me to figure this out! I ended up removing THE MAIN ground strap on the engine and the problem went away. I know this makes no sense as I now do not have any substantial ground from block to battery/chassis but it worked and has worked perfectly for another 2500 miles.

Thats about it! I still daydream about a new Freeway flier tranny but as long as I live in the mountains of Colorado the stock 3 rib is doing fine. Happy Spring everyone.

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