Friends of Badunk
Fat and Greasy: Badunkadunk Repairs
March 30, 2003
Virginia Vanagon Overhaul: Update
The whole project really wasn't as hard as we thought it would be, it just takes a lot of time. It's impossible to know exactly what parts you might need, so you never have everything on hand and end up having to wait for parts to be shipped. We several times broke down and paid for overnight shipping just to save a day here or there.
That being said, it's certainly advisable to have everything you know you'll need from the beginning. All the tune-up and oil change parts (belts, filters, spark plugs, wires, some new fuel line, vacuum line), plenty of oil, gaskets, Silicone RTV, etc. It also helps to live really close to a Home Depot and an auto parts store or three.
Once the engine was in and running, our next major hurdle was the transmission. The transmission we put in is not exactly stock, it's a later model (the 091/1 instead of the stock 091), installed in later Vanagons. We did this conversion on the advice of our friends at GoWesty.com. It was supposed to be a simple bolt-on installation with no modifications which would give us smoother and better shifting over the original tranny. It turned out to be a bit more complicated.
The transmission update isn't a kit they typically sell, it's a conversion they do in their shop to their own vehicles and those of their customers. In putting together this first-ever mail-order version of the kit, some measurements were wrong. The 091/1 tranny is a bit longer than the 091, and the engine in an air-cooled Vanagon sits in a slightly different spot. The shift linkage is routed slightly differently too; in the air-cooled there is a bracket and bushing above the fuel tank (very difficult to reach), whereas the newer linkage has a ball bushing bolted to the one of the frame beams just aft of the fuel tank.
So, when we went to install our transmission, the mount didn't fit. The holes in the mount didn't line up with the holes in the frame. Damn. The good news is that GoWesty quickly discovered and admitted their mistake and made haste to make it right. We were very impressed. It's rare these days to find a company so honest and determined to have good customer service, especially when it comes to random, custom car parts. They remeasured everything, made us a new mount and shift rod and sent it 2nd Day Air. Everything fit and everyone was happy.
The toughest part about this whole thing was that we did the engine and transmission at the same time. It makes sense, practically speaking, because nobody wants to drop the engine twice, but on the other hand it's just too many variables. We're still glad it's all done, our entire drivetrain is basically new, and we hope to drive away happy very soon.
© 2002, 2003 Anthony Hecht and Liz Jones. All rights reserved.