Engine Conversions

Adding a modern engine can make your van into the vehicle it was destined to be.

We pride ourselves in top quality engine conversions. Our specialty is the 06′ and newer Subaru VVL/VVT (Variable Valve Lift / Variable Valve Timing) 2.5 liter “drive by wire” engines.  We also do Turbo Diesel (TDI) conversions.

The Subaru is a boxer style engine (with opposed cylinders, same as the Volkswagen Vanagon).  This allows the engine to fit snugly in the existing engine bay with very little modification; once it’s installed, it really looks like it was meant to be there.

We feel they are what should have been in the Vanagon originally.


Why an engine conversion?

  • Better mileage – Typically a Suby 2.5 offers an increase in fuel economy in the range of 20-30% from the stock gasoline 2.1-L or 1.9-L engines.
  • Greater reliability – The modern design of the Subaru engines mean breakdowns in the back of beyond are less likely than with the stock motor. Plus, you can get all the parts you need right off the shelf.
  • More power – The stock 2.1 motor (years ’86-’91) puts out about 95 horsepower. The Subaru 2.5 puts out about 170 hp, and with a little tuning from us you can go even higher.
  • Lower emissions – Subaru engines are partial zero emissions vehicles (pzev).
  • More smiles per mile – Because every time you put your foot down in a Subaru powered van, you will be smiling!

All our Subaru conversions include a rebuilt, zero-mile engine with race bearings, rebuilt heads, and high volume oil pump.

We do all of our wiring harnesses in house as well as programming the ECU to better fit the needs of being installed in a Vanagon.

We also produce many of our own conversion parts including stainless steel headers, engine mounts, stainless steel throttle pedal brackets and many more. Our goal is to source as many items locally and not outsource production of parts and supplies overseas.

There are several other quality shops who specialize in Subaru conversions, however,  we take a different approach than most.

We never reverse the manifold, it seems that Subaru engineered the coolant system to flow across the engine from side to side, so we’ve kept it that way.   We also keep the coolant bottle in the stock VW location, and last but not least we run the air intake on the factory VW side as to bring cold dense air into the engine. Other conversions are running the intake over the catalytic converter which is the hottest part of the exhaust due to all the unburned fuel being catalyzed and burnt off. Our conversions have been tested by us and many customers in all types of conditions without any over or under heating. With our air intake system we usually see an intake temperature of approximately 10 degrees over ambient, which is very good! Our goal is to take the design ideas of both Volkswagen & Subaru and combine them in a way that makes sense of both systems.

Please call or e-mail for a quote for pricing. We also HIGHLY recommend having your transaxle rebuilt.


Conversions include the following items:

  • Adapter plate for automatics and manuals.
  • New clutch, throw out bearing and pilot bearing.
  • Stainless Steel Header
  • New High Flow Catalytic Converter, Muffler, and Tail Pipe
  • Silicone coolant hoses in the engine bay
  • Modification of the Subaru wiring harness
  • Engine mounting system
  • Shortened high capacity oil pan
  • New rubber engine mounts
  • Synthetic fluids
  • Custom air intake system
  • Stainless steel coolant lines (radiator to the engine)
  • New High Torque Starter (2kW)
  • New Radiator and hoses

Extras for additional cost:

  • Custom Gauge Cluster
  • Transaxle Rebuild / Adding Limited Slip Differential / Higher 3rd / 4th Gearing

Body Repair and Paint

A 30-year-old vehicle, driven in the soggy Northwest, and often thrashing down narrow dirt roads in search of the perfect campsite, is definitely going to take some scratches and grow some rust.

For many owners, the commitment to their Volkswagens extends past mechanical into quality body and paint.

After dozens of restoration projects, some of them on vans that seemed determined to end up in the junk yard, we know what it takes to produce a quality job that will turn heads and create smiles everywhere you go.

Unlike your standard paint shop, we know how to really give the love to your Vanagon. We take out all the glass, door handles, grilles, headlights/tail lights/side markers, mirrors, vents, and middle panel outlets for you Westy owners. This means no hideous paint lines near your windows. Also, those window seals hide a lot of rust from water getting trapped there, and if you’re going to spend the time and money for new paint, then it’s better to get that rust treated to help prolong the life of your van and prevent that new paint from any unnecessary damage.

Full paint jobs start at a base price of $10,000. Final costs may be higher depending on the amount of rust that needs to be treated, body work needing repair, choice of color & color scheme, and if we are also doing a color match top.

Here’s some photos from recent projects.

2WD to 4WD (Syncro) Conversions

Having performed over 20 Syncro conversions you can trust us to do the job right! With the ever sought after Syncro Westfalia getting harder and harder to find, as well as increasing in value, it makes sense to look at the alternatives. It is still possible to find a very nice Westfalia and a donor Syncro to build one of these incredible vehicles for your own. There are many options available during the conversion process from limited slip/locking differentials, lift kits, big brake kits, engine conversions and off road bumpers/accessories.

With our full service shop including everything from paint/body, mechanical and interior let us build you a show stopping dream Vanagon!

Our Syncro conversions start at around $20k, which includes the cost of the Syncro donor parts, but due to availabilty prices are subject to change. Estimated price also reflects additional possible costs including refurbishing/replacing any worn parts including the transaxle or front differential and upgrades.

Syncro conversions include the following items:

  • All labor and materials for the conversion process
  • New front upper ball joints
  • Synthetic Brake Fluid
  • 5 year warranty on workmanship

These vans started life as a 2WD.  Now they’re Syncros and can go play almost anywhere!


Hardtop to Poptop Conversions

If you have a clean hardtop Vanagon you may want to add a factory Westfalia top as many of our customers have done.  Doing so can add a lot of extra room as well as increase the value of your van. For safety and structural reasons we will only do a Pop Top Conversion on a VW Vanagon.

Our pop top conversions are approximately. $10,700.

Pop Top conversions include the following:

  • Factory fiberglass pop top installed closely to the way it was done at the factory. (We use the structural metal and supports from the original camper)

  • New 3 window Sunbrella canvas (Custom color options available)

  • New pop top seals

  • Westfalia decals

  • Updated Headliner

  • Stainless Steel Fasteners

  • Stainless Steel Luggage rack loops

Also available at additional costs:

  • Color matched Top

  • Smooth Sanded Top

Note:  These conversions do not include the complete camper interior.  (But we may be able to help you buy one!)

About the Conversion

Many steps are taken to complete a poptop conversion, this is a major undertaking and should not be attempted unless you have auto body and structural knowledge of unibody vehicles.

Want More Information?

Contact us today!
We welcome your questions and queries. Please see our Contact Us page for complete contact information.

Webasto Diesel and Gas Furnaces

Adding a gas/diesel fired furnace to your Van can make year-round camping a real pleasure, especially in the cool and damp Northwest.

We’ve installed lots of these in various locations in the van, and will be glad to do the same for you. These furnaces are made in Germany and consume an astonishing one gallon per 22 hours of run time.

Please contact us for a price quote.

An installation using a new 49 Liter electric Truckfridge with the furnace installed right underneath.  The heat comes out nicely in the center of the van.

The Webasto furnace is a great model if you do not have propane, and want to run it directly off of your fuel tank. If left on overnight, the furnace will only use around 1 gallon, making it great for overnight camping or winter adventures.


Custom Lighting

While it may have been state-of-the-art when your Vanagon was new, the stock interior lighting has much room for improvement.

Modern LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights draw much less power than the stock lights, but offer pleasant “warm” ambient lighting, a focused spotlight for reading, or even multicolor party lights on a dimmer switch.

Give us a call to see what we can do for you.



We offer full Volkswagen mechanical service here at North Westy! Yes, that means we will even take in your MK2 Jetta or 04′ Beetle. Call to schedule your appointment! Local customers can even bring in their Subaru’s!

Is your vanagon NOT your daily driver? Does that other vehicle need parts? Email or give us a call and let us help you find what you’re looking for.


Specialty Services

Auxiliary Fuel Tanks
For your extended adventures, we offer custom fuel tanks that can be built and fitted underneath your Syncro and connected to your main tank.

Expedition Outfitting
Planning on taking your Van on an off-the-grid, out of the country expedition? Or just an extended road trip? We can help you plan, and outfit your van for everything you’ll need from spare parts, suggested stops along the way, reliable mechanical resources, over-the-phone roadside assistance, vehicle recovery lessons, troubleshooting tips, and all the advice to help make this your grand adventure.

Theft Protection
With recent and numerous thefts in the Vanagon Community, we offer multiple theft protection services. Let us add a modern car alarm, or more advanced immobilizers that also offer GPS vehicle tracking and remote start/shut-off so we can help keep your Vanagon safe and secure.

Undercoating for Rust Protection
We know that rust is a plaguing problem to Vanagons as it likes to get in the seams and underbody. The new and current “de-icer” (magnesium chloride) used on roads is more corrosive than salt and thus, expediting the ‘rusting away’ of your vehicle. We offer several rust protection undercoating and seam sealer options for your Vanagon to help meet all budget needs.

Vehicle Appraisals & Inspections
Looking to insure your newly purchased or newly modified Vanagon? We can help facilitate your appraisal needs. We can also perform comprehensive vehicle inspections for future buyers.

Wheels and Tires

We feel that upgrading from the stock 14 inch tires to 15 or 16 inch wheels/tires is one of the single biggest improvements you can make for handling and road safety.

At North Westy, we typically have an assortment of modern 15 or 16 inch wheels on hand.  These are often salvaged from Audi or Mercedes cars.

Adding a non-stock wheel  onto any vehicle can be tricky.  You need to often use spacers, the correct lug nuts, and perhaps new studs to get it right.  You can be assured that after swapping wheels onto dozens of vehicles, we’re going to do the job right.

Choosing proper tires for Vanagons also requires some knowledge,  Unfortunately, this expertise is often not found at your local tire store.  No matter if you are driving 95% pavement, hard-core off-road, or somewhere in between, we have our opinions on the best tires for these vehicles, and we will be glad to let you know what we feel is best for your wheel size and driving style.

As of 2013 we are now a tire distributor and can help you purchase new tires at a competitive price.


An assortment of wheels at the shop.


Now those are sharp looking wheels!