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'83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up
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poiz87
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:45 pm    Post subject: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Hey all,

I was looking to sell my truck last year when I got a request to trade my truck for an '83 air cooled Vanagaon. I was hesitant at first; but after two days of doing some research, I took the offer and did the trade. I enjoy working on vehicles and I have done builds on JDM and USD cars; this will be my first Euro vehicle.

I got the van while I was in Virginia about 6 months ago. I drove it around and took a few trips to Virginia beach and D.C., was fun to putt around in a slow moving van. It's now with me in Florida while I have a bunch of downtime and I can work on it. It's been about a month since I started the build and I've documented it all thus far. I'll upload photos and descriptions while I have downtime in the evenings. The plan is to have a near new and mostly stock suspension, freshly built EJ25 engine, and then finish with interior/body. I suspect another month till I'm driving and breaking in the motor in a Vanagon that should ride like a dream.

Some exterior photos. The guy before me had it for a few months before trading it off to me. He was artistic and decided to paint the back and add a bunch of stickers. Very hippie-vibish.

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Not much rust on this vehicle that can't be touched up. The undercarriage was very nice to what I would expect for a vehicle that was driven on salty roads. Only major rust issue is the floor pan on the front driver side where the accelerator pedal attaches.

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The old air cooled motor. It ran well, but has an oil leak at one of the seals I believe. Still made it up the hills of Virginia at 45-55 mph.

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Some interior pics that reminds me of the 80's with the Yoohoo colored drapes and cushions. Makes me think of the old house I grew up in with wood panel walls.

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All my photos for recent upgrades and work are on my phone. I'll get them uploaded to the PC and start posting what's been done and the headaches I've had along the way - along with any issues/questions instead of guessing or finding out a problem when I get there. Enjoy.
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poiz87
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:19 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

It took me a while to figure out if I was going to just rebuild the current AC motor or do a conversion. Toss-up between an EJ22 or EJ25. I wanted an EJ22 so it could be California good-to-go, but came across a good deal on a 2001 Subaru Forester for $1k. No issues on the vehicle, just an EJ25 motor with nearly 230k miles. Wasn't sure what was done on the engine, but figured it was never rebuilt before.

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Best practice to take as many photos as possible of something you are about to disassemble and reassemble on a later date. Especially if it's nearly 1-2 months out.
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Solo, took about half a day to get everything unhooked and engine hoisted out of the vehicle and on the stand. Went with the harbor freight hoist, cheapest I could find.
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The pistons were pretty rough with some caked on oil, especially in the grooves where the rings sit. Good sign of mileage and lack of proper oil changes.
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The ole garage dog guarding the car parts
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Took about a month for the turnaround of the engine parts to get back to me from the machine shop - busy people. Total of $300 to ensure everything is within specs and cleaned-up real nice.
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Once I finish up the suspension this week, I'll get to building the motor. This will be the first time I've built a boxer engine, kind of a neat design and lots of videos on how to diss/ass. Best walk-through videos I've seen are from ratchets & wrenches for an EJ25 tear down and build. I got a buddy that has a turbo EJ20 WRX; the dealership said his headgasket is headed out the window, so we will replace that next week along with his cam seals and a few others things while in there. Should be a good test run for the heads before I start my build.
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poiz87
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:44 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Didn't take long to drop the AC motor. Pretty sure it's the stock 2.0L. Strange to see how the heat comes from the engine/exhaust to keep the cabin warm. My heat selector switch got stuck on the ride back from VA Beach last year, so I was out of heat/defrost since then. I like older cars, so much simpler and not an electrical wire nightmare like the subaru - but rather with much room to work.

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The transmission was rebuilt by MOFOCO at one point in time. I called them to ask if they had any historical data on the transaxle, but they didn't. They keep documentation on their inventory/rebuilds based on last name and not by serial number, which I thought to be strange. Too bad I don't know the previous owners' last names that would have gotten the transaxle rebuilt, anyone tracking previous owners on this Vanagon?
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Will be doing some engine bay maintenance while I'm at it. Wash/degrease and paint with a high heat Satin black to help hide some of the oil and grime that will build up over the years.
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On the cold, wet days (which are few and far in-between) around here, I would work on the wiring harness inside with the heat. I did much research, a lot from busaru, and after much thought and research - I took the plunge and started the hack-job on the harness. Pulling it out of the car was a half-day job. Turning it into a usable, non-bulky harness took muuuuuch longer.

This is a before pulling the harness from the car, I'll try to get a pic of the aftermath. The car is definitely an unusable car after I got done with it... at least in a safety aspect with my cut job of the dash brace.
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The bulk of the harness on the dinner/bar table
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De-lumming and cut'n up
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Some leftovers, there will be lots of it. Shouldn't have to go to the parts store for wires anymore.
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Make sure to label all the parts and sensors. I wanted to keep the A/C, heat, cruise control, fans, and a few other things with my build. Using the wiring diagram and ECU pin-up was a must. These can be downloaded by PDF via a simple google search.
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If unsure about which wires to cut, double check the ECU pin-out and wiring diagram. If all else fails, ask someone before you cut and if you cut, leave at least ~6 inches so you can solder the wires back together if necessary. I don't throw any parts away until I am completely done with a build, better safe than sorry - and I've been sorry many-a-times.
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jimf909 Premium Member
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:45 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Neato! You appear to have the right attitude, skills and dog ( Very Happy ) to bring one of these vans into your life. (Attitude probably being the most important).

Enjoy.
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Current: 1990 Westy Camper - Bostig RG4, 2wd, manual trans w/Peloquin, NAHT high-top, Flash Silver, seam rust, bondo, etc., etc.

Past: 1985 Westy Camper - 1.9 wbx, 2wd, manual trans, Merian Brown, (sold after 17 years to Northwesty who converted it to a Syncro).
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poiz87
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:55 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

While I waited for the engine parts to come back from the machine shop, i tackled the suspension. I've done complete suspension before, so I know it can be no joke. This was more of a PITA than usual though, the way the control arms and knuckles are contoured and shaped made it difficult to use my shop press to push out the bushings and ball joints. After much review, I got the large C-clamp ball joint/bushing removal tool from autozone rental and went to town on the suspension.

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One of the worst issues was this outside bolt/nut assembly on both rear trailing arms. I didn't know at the time, but these bolts get rusty as all hell and practically become seized on the bushings metal rod. I tried banging it out, loud enough to wake the entire neighborhood; I also tried pushing it out with the removal tool, no success. Actually, some of the banging and pressing caused the mount for the the trailing arm to become out-of-round. I ended up having to bring out the angle grinder and dremel, cut the heads off both sides of the bolt, and then wedge/pry the mount wider to allow the seized bolt to pass through the mount with the trailing arm. Lots of cursing to help persuade it as well.
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Got the transmission out. Thought about having it rebuilt, but there is no-one within six hours that I have found that are able/willing to overhaul. I would have to have it sent off but I figured since it was shifting smooth when I pulled it, might as well keep it in and have it rebuilt in a few years and closer to a transaxle rebuilder in California.
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Took out the fuel tank and other parts so I could get to the shift linkage. It's pretty beat-up and I ended up buying all new parts to replace the bushings and extras.
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Making the bushing extraction happen. Use the recessed guides to help push it out. Improvise with PVC pipes/attachments and sockets when able.
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The van on stilts, all 'round.
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Getting the cleaning/degreasing done. The ole dog likes the water hose.
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After wash, degrease, and rinse, it went to the paint booth (driveway)
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Got the engine bay painted, had some leftover satin high-heat grill paint. Scuffed up the old paint and applied this.
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There were two difficult portions on installing a set of bushings and ball joint. The trailing arm bushing took me a while till I got the adapter from ACE hardware, was about a buck-fiddy. One front ball joint went it with some ease, the other ball joint gave me hell. I probably spent about an entire day trying to figure out how to get this ball joint in on the steering knuckle. I almost brought it to a shop to get it pressed in; but with a lot of force, a cheater bar, and my shop press as a vice, it made it's way through. I destroyed one ball joint in the process.
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The transmission mount is a little confusing on some websites. It says it's an automatic transmission mount, but looks like the one that came from my manual transmission. After cross checking the numbers, I guess the automatic and manual transmission mounts must be the same.
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Got around to doing the brake caliper rebuild. I thought of just buying new calipers but then thought, "Can't beat OEM German parts off the original". Man, these things were rusted up pretty good. I went and bought an air compressor (needed to get one anyways since selling mine before the last move). It was to help push the pistons out of the caliper... 100 psi and no budge. I read about the grease gun trick and after finding fittings, I made it work. One piston on a caliper would push out, but it was suuuuuch a mess. I do not recommend the grease gun because you will spend the next hour or 2 trying to blow, wash, and push the grease out of every crevice and canal - and it just keeps on coming out when you think you got it all. Because the brakes are seized, it's best to get a c-clamp and compress the pistons in slightly. Once I heard the initial "pop" I knew the piston was seized anymore and lightly to move more freely. Sure enough, with some oil and compressed air, the pistons on the second caliper came out.
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Calipers all cleaned and ready for paint. I did have to pry/tap one of the pistons out with a screw driver and ended up cracking one of the lips off in the process. The pistons just didn't want to come out simultaneously. So I ordered a new piston for one caliper halves via Rockauto.
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The rear end is fairly easy to do, not much issues here. The not so easy part can be the half shafts/CV joints. I don't have a torque wrench that can reach 300+ ft lbs, so I will wait to do the rear brakes and drum internals when I can drive the van to the hobby shop down the road. I'm typically a stock kinda guy, but with the H&R lowering springs being cheaper than any of the other springs, I went with them and they arrived purple with a 1.5" drop. I read up about pairing the lowering springs with Koni shocks, so I did - and sure enough, they came in red. Not the black scheme that I prefer, but it looks good. I also spent the time, while wearing eye protection (safety first), cleaning the undercarriage and spraying it down with rubberized bed-liner style spray - wheel wells and all. This should help with road noise and also help prevent future rust.
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I don't like to sweat much, but what had me dripping from head to toe were these damn stabilizer link bushings. Oh man, what a pain. Use lots of grease and oil while angling, twisting, and applying your body weight on the stabilizer bar to get the bushing/link assembly on the bar. Good luck for anyone who has to do this cause I never want to again.
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Did some renewing of the gear shift rod. I still have to replace the universal bushing (forgot it when ordering from vanagain.
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I have the center shift rod bushing in its correct location, but I wondered what I could use for extra support closer to the transmission. I rigged an old trailing arm/control arm bushing, pressed out the metal rod, and used the bushing and lubrication to help support and guide the shift rod. Will see how she holds up.
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Got the paint did on the calipers. Decided to accent the Koni shocks with some red paint on the calipers. Installed new pads while at it.
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The old discs were nasty and rotted with rust. I figured with as much problem as I had with the calipers, I'm just going to get new rotor assemblies. I looked up a lot of info on Jaguar, audi, etc bigger brake systems. But with new 14" tires on the van, I figure I could stick with stock brakes for now. Since everything is practically new, then I shouldn't have much of a problem with the braking. Packed the hub/rotor assembly with high heat grease and new bearings/races.
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While doing the lowering spring/Koni research, I decided to go with the less of a raked look on the Vanagon stance. I added a spacer to the setup using a cutting board that measured around 3/8" thick. It goes above the spring insulator at the top. I then cut and grinded the bump stops as you can see.
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The front driver side suspension all complete and buttoned up. Some good looking color scheme going on right there. I plan to have the passenger side complete tomorrow and then I can go grab the remaining parts from subaru for the engine build.
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With stock bushing material, yet aftermarket shocks and springs, this thing should ride like a dream when back on its wheels. Speaking of wheels, anyone have any good ideas for VW rims that are in the size 14 that will fit the stock brake caliper? Right now I have the basic steely type that has a Volkswagen hubcap pop over it. The tires look brand new and is why I'm trying to stick with 14s for now. If nothing stylish VW is out there, then I may wait till I get some mileage on the tires I have now and when it's times to replace tires, I'll upgrade to a bigger sized rim and brake system.
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poiz87
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:07 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

jimf909 wrote:
Neato! You appear to have the right attitude, skills and dog ( Very Happy ) to bring one of these vans into your life. (Attitude probably being the most important).

Enjoy.


Absolutely Jim. And a lot of time to go along with it!
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:16 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Pack the tranny in a cooler and ship it off to one of several good rebuilders...

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?p=8562812


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Great thread!
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Current: 1990 Westy Camper - Bostig RG4, 2wd, manual trans w/Peloquin, NAHT high-top, Flash Silver, seam rust, bondo, etc., etc.

Past: 1985 Westy Camper - 1.9 wbx, 2wd, manual trans, Merian Brown, (sold after 17 years to Northwesty who converted it to a Syncro).
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[email protected]
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2020 5:31 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Great post, thanks
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porschevw
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2020 6:51 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Looking good!
I just finished my air cooled to Subaru conversion a few months ago.
I LOVE IT!
https://mojovantravels.blogspot.com/2019/01/
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1966 Beetle
1970 Westfalia (sold)
1973 Westfalia (sold)
1974 Porsche 914 (sold)
1976 Westfalia (sold)
1981 Westfalia (EJ25 Subrau conversion)
2007 Passat 3.6 (daily driver)
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2020 7:42 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

I truly love seeing this post as I am going to be getting started working on mines also. I have a 85 Wolfsburg weekender westfalia. I'm super excited I know it's going to be a lot of work, and I need to do basically the same you are doing with redoing the suspension, brakes, tank, and I need to get a motor in there as there isn't a motor, I only paid $500 for my vanagon so I'm excited to get it working.

Great job though I love it please keep the info and pictures coming so I can get better ideas and just be more prepared.

Also beautiful dog, thats on the list to get also....lol

Lem
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2020 9:52 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Nice work,

I'm also in the process of revitalizing an AC Vanagon. Hoping to get a season out of the original Air cooled motor and do a Subaru swap next winter.

keep up the good work !
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1982 Vanagon Westfalia - 64k miles
2016 MK7 GTI - Summer daily - 45k miles
2003 MK4 Jetta Wagon - Winter Dialy - 147k miles
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2020 10:17 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Fantastic work! The suspension is no joke for sure. Back when I did that job on my 2wd, those lower ball joints beat me...I gave up and took them to a VW shop to be pressed in.
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'86 NAHT Vanagon GL Syncro/ supercharged ABA 2.0
'85 928S
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"get metaphysical with it. if it's simply a means to get to and from places, it will let you down. if it becomes your zen, it can't fail you." -dabaron

"Still, it's good to be afield."--VWagabond
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poiz87
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 19, 2020 7:40 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Finished up the front/rear suspension and front brakes today. Buttoned her all up and torqued to specs.
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The only torque I couldn't find was the rear upper shock bolt. I read that it may be 65 ft lbs, so I attempted but didnt feel comfortable going up to 65 ft lbs after a few ratchets of the torque wrench. So i loosened it up and went with the "good and tight" approach.
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Here are the 14" steelies with hubcaps. Nothing special, probably stock. But the guy who had it before me just put new tires on the rims; so to save some money, I'll stick with these wheels till I run them down some.
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Replaced the old white shock absorbers with these GoWesty black versions.
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To help prevent the rust on the miserable outside trailing arm bolts, I got these nifty rubber grommets to fit over the bolt heads. I also added the dog ear grommets to the rear of the rear drum brakes.
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Brake reservoir: before and after spray down with the hose and bucket. Lots of grime.
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After torquing everything down, I finished the day with cleaning the fuel system. Also started the reseal process of the fuel tank and rollover/evap system. I did not plan to reuse the plastic canisters for the fuel catch/recycle/rollover/evap (whichever) system, but I read that it may be necessary due to preventing fuel from sloshing out of the tank while driving, resting on hills, and during refueling. Can anyone confirm if I need to reuse this system or can it be tossed?
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All in all, a good day's work. I'll be at work all day tomorrow so no play time with the VW. Mardigras celebration is this weekend so I'll likely be preoccupied with the festivities in NOLA. Going to do the head gasket on buddy's car next week so I probably wont be posting much for the next 2 weeks. Next in line for the build will be to start the engine rebuild process. If all goes smoothly, I'll have it complete in less than a week and hopefully installed in the van soon after. I'm trying to be cost effective and build efficient, so I plan to go with the KEP watercooled crossmember, adapter plate, and heat shield. I'll reuse the exhaust manifolds, oil pan, intake piping, and other items that are usually bought new with the conversions (even though these items sit low on the vans). I also plan to have the setup use the stock subi radiator in the rear of the van like I've seen others do. This will save on costs and prevent having waterlines routed all the way to the front. These are all future ideas. Till next time Samba.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 6:37 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Had some time to give back to the vanagon due to awaiting parts for buddy's subaru engine. Ended up tackling the remainder of the undercarriage with the fuel system and shift linkage.

Best way to get this bushing on the early vanagon shift linkage is by pressing it in with a C-clamp. All early vanagon replacement parts can be had at vanagain and vancafe for a decent price.
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Fuel tank with the rollover catch canisters in the wheel wells. Routed properly. Just need to finish the job with somemore hose clamps. That tank was annoying to reinstall until I figured out that you install it first on the ridge closest to the front of the vehicle. Then lift it up at the rear to install the braces.
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Took the old pressure plate and clutch off the aircooled. Looks like it's practically new and ready for reuse on the new setup. I ordered the KEP 6500 adapter assembly, so this clutch should have no issues matching up with the conversion. KEP makes the parts to order and have a 1.5 to 2 week turnaround.
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Brought out the engine parts for the build. Did some bearing clearance checks with plastigauge to make sure everything was within specs. And everything is. Connected the crankshaft assembly and will be ready to drop it in the block in the coming week or 2.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 10:28 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Maybe flip this shock over...so water doesn't go down in there

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"Jo Ann" - 1983.5 Ivory Westfalia 1.9L 2wd
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VicVan
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 29, 2020 11:40 pm    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

Hi,

Nice write up, great pics!

A couple of things:
I'd clamp the hoses on the bottom of the fuel evap tanks.
Also, you don't need to remove the axle nuts to overhaul the rear brakes. You can remove the drum and have access to the hardware (springs, shoes) and cylinder.
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poiz87
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2020 9:30 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

[quote="shagginwagon83"]Maybe flip this shock over...so water doesn't go down in there

Good call. I was too busy looking at the directions for fitment/placement that I didnt use any common sense to realize it may be best to flip it to prevent water and rust issues. I'll do some research to see which way is best.
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poiz87
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2020 9:34 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

VicVan wrote:
Hi,

Nice write up, great pics!

A couple of things:
I'd clamp the hoses on the bottom of the fuel evap tanks.
Also, you don't need to remove the axle nuts to overhaul the rear brakes. You can remove the drum and have access to the hardware (springs, shoes) and cylinder.


I ran out of usable clamps on the hoses, but they will be going on. Dont want any type of fuel leak cause I've seen what that can do to Vanagons.

I'll look through the pub somemore on overhauling the rear brakes. That drum wasn't budging at all, so I figured I had to remove the big nut to get it disassembled. Thanks for the advice.
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valvecovergasket
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2020 10:14 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

in for more updates

looks like itll be a really solid van after youre done
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VicVan
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2020 10:54 am    Post subject: Re: '83 Vanagon build thread : from the bottom ----> up Reply with quote

poiz87 wrote:
That drum wasn't budging at all, so I figured I had to remove the big nut to get it disassembled.


Same on my first rear brake job. But I persisted. It required some serious beating with sledgehammer+piece of wood to get the drum out of there. The noise was so intense I had to wear ear protection, and bang for God knows how long.
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