Our Engines

Vanagons originally came with a 4-cylinder boxer engine from the factory, just like all the vans before it and all the air-cooled vehicles before that. Unfortunately the engine didn’t hold up well and was far more prone to problems than other Volkswagens and was considered under-powered like every bus before it, maxing out at 95 horsepower for the last 2.1 liter Vanagons. The Vanagon Wasserboxer engine is a dead-end road, unlike the air-cooled engines before it, since VW isn’t manufacturing anymore of these engines. Rebuilds just don’t last as long as the originals, not to mention the aging electronic components.

Subaru is the only other major car-maker to regularly produce boxer engines, other than sport exotics like Porsche or Ferrari. This same style of engine is a natural fit for the engine bay of the Vanagon, fitting centered in the same space with no modification necessary other than the minor task of bending back one flap of metal. The Subaru engines have decades newer technology, produce far less emissions, and the standard 2.5 liter 4-cylinder we use makes about 170 hp. This level of power really wakes up the Vanagon and makes it very reasonable and enjoyable to drive, giving it modern acceleration and highway cruising ability. Even with all the additional power, we still see similar or improved fuel economy in addition to the far better emissions.

Additional Services

When you contact the partner shop nearest you, they will be glad to collaborate on work you would like beyond the normal conversion. The conversion comes with basic standards, like power steering hookup and full new stainless steel exhaust.

Many customers choose to complete additional upgrades while their van is undergoing so much work. The most common update is a rebuilt transmission with altered gear ratios which take advantage of the extra power delivered by the Subaru engine. The use of alternative transmissions is also possible. One customer, Dave, chose to mate a Subaru transmission to his Vanaru Engine System. You can read about his experience here.

Frequent add-ons include updating the coolant system with stainless coolant pipes and a new radiator, upgraded brake systems, suspension overhauls, and creature comforts like cruise control and air-conditioning. Your partner shop will alert you to anything that might need addressing and you can decide what works best for your plans and budget.

Click the links below for additional product descriptions.

air conditioning

cold air intake


VANARU supplies our partner shops with a full parts kit specialized for this engine, resulting in a custom install that looks as if the original manufacturer installed it. The shop installs the converted Subaru engine and any additional work you desire. See additional services for common upgrades and view our project gallery for visuals.

Custom components

Our VANARU parts are built of corrosion free materials like stainless steel and aluminum, with quality specially sourced fasteners that fit right and last like OEM parts. VANARU parts are designed by an engineer to fit right the first time, built with both ease of installation and future servicing in mind. Countless hours of design and prototyping have gone into the production of each and every part of the conversion, and over a decade of continuous improvement. The resulting parts are professional-grade, supplied to professionals and designed to be installed by professional mechanics, at our partner facilities.

VANARU is proud to state that all of our parts are made in the USA or Canada. The only component not of our own design is the transmission adapter set. This set is made with the same high quality, no-nonsense ethic at Outfront Motorsports in California. Some of the exhaust is sourced or manufactured at a shop in Canada, at a company which is proud to use top-quality, heavy-wall 204 stainless steel from US manufacturers. Our components are assembled and welded for the most part at a small operation on the East Coast, run by an old-school hot-rod builder who is an expert-level welder. The rest of the assembly and electrical work are done here at VANARU.

Partner facilities

VANARU only supplies replacement component parts to our partner shops and as support service to customers with a VANARU conversion. The VANARU component parts are designed to work together as a complete set and therefore not for sale separately. I have visited my partner facilities to do their first VANARU conversion, many of which already have experience with other Subaru conversion options. Your partner shop will source a used salvage engine with the lowest mileage possible. Most recently we have been using the 2010-2012 Subary Legacy EJ25 engines, and can often provide engines with less than 50k miles. Using factory engines assembled by their robots, and that have been broken in already has served us well. Occasionally we can get essentially brand new engines with extremely low mileage, even in the low hundreds, which we can offer for a surcharge. Likewise, if you would like a rebuilt engine, talk to your closest partner facility about making that happen.