my gowesty 2400cc engine conversion

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my beloved 1991 vanagon westfalia camper (savanah) was starting to get rusty. i had to face up to the fact that i either needed to fork out some cash on a new paint job or let it slowly rot to death.

i called a few places in san francisco, but finally opted to get the work done at gowesty in los osos, ca.

as you probably know, these vans are horribly underpowered and while browsing around the gowesty web site i noticed that they offer a 115 hp 2400cc high output engine, for around $5.5K. This engine promised greater power, efficiency and reliability.

how could i resist? i couldn't. i decided to go for the complete make-over; new engine, new paint. so on late January 2006, i shipped her down to central california to have the work done.

the folks at gowesty were extremely organized and helpful. they kept me informed (by email) of the work being done on my van, offered me options on the restoration and engine, and completed the work on time and to spec. by the first of april, the van was ready to pickup and i made the journey down to los osos to pick her up.

from what i could tell, they'd done a great job with the restoration, the paint job looked great. they'd replaced all the tired and worn trim on my van. i was very happy. i paid up and headed for home.

the van didn't run as well as i would have liked. when cold it had hardly enough power to get moving at low engine speeds and even when warm, was extremely sluggish. on the drive back it completely lost power on several occasions, forcing me to pull over to the side of the road. i began to feel a little foolish, since my van had run perfectly for years and was still running perfectly when i decided to improve the engine.

i did make it home on my own steam and the next day contacted gowesty, who were again, extremely professional and helpful. they arranged for me to take it to a local shop to diagnose the issue. the local shop were unable to do so, and i arranged to send it back down.

it's been down another twice since then, and, to be honest has never really run properly. it only runs o.k. when completely warmed up, which makes it an annoyance to move the 1/2 block to accommodate the bi-weekly san francisco street cleaning. it developed the dreaded highway hiccups, which was solved by removing the AFM and converting to the hotwire system. this had the unfortunate side effect of reducing the cold engine power to the point where i need to run it for several minutes before driving it or it stalls as soon as you give it any gas. gas mileage has dropped only slightly from around 18mpg on the highway to 16-17mpg.

in summary, i'm very pleased with the body work done on my van but slightly regret having the engine conversion, since the original 2100cc engine ran better. shipping the van back to them several times was inconvenient and expensive. i do believe that gowesty tried hard to resolve my issues, but were ultimately unable to completely do so. i understand that engine replacements are complicated and that not every job goes to plan.

i've read accounts of people very happy with this conversion. i guess i just got unlucky.

if you've had an vanagon engine replacement experience, at gowesty or elsewhere, i'd love to hear it.

update feb 01, 2008: recently lucas from gowesty contacted me, offering to help fix any remaining problems with my van. he also wanted to point out, in his words:
  1. that their engines are not “conversions” or “swaps”. their engines are just high output versions of the original design
  2. that my running issue is not related to the engine at all, but is rather a drivability issue, probably associated with a component of the engine management system—maybe the hot wire program
  3. That gowesty is not satisfied with how it is working, this is not typical, and they are eager to get to the bottom of it and make run properly under all conditions.

it's also worth noting that, other than the cold running issue described above, my engine has been completely reliable and performs well after warming up for a few minutes.

Just came across this have

Just came across this have to add I have a 1987 syncro with a gowesty 2.3 they did it in 2006 its has now 48,000 miles on it never had any problems starts fine even cold. So not everyone has problems. later,joseph

Holy Cow! Am I glad I

Holy Cow! Am I glad I happened upon all of this fantastic information. I was leaning towards a GW upgrade. But I will definitely continue my research...again. I have heard real good things about Stephan's Autohaus in Sac and since I am up that way very often, I think I am going to stop by and have a chat with them. One thing is I hear about the 1.8 I4 conversions is how much easier they are to work on than the waterboxers. This is serious decision making factor for me as well.

I too would like to know

I too would like to know more about GoWesty customers' experience. The total work that I would like to have done appears to be $30k plus; to imagine one would still have problems has quickly perturbed me. I am starting to think an all VW solution may not be a solution. I have read great things about the Bostig Zetec conversion, with no known unhappy customers. The fact there are half a dozen unhappy GW customers here is disappointing.

Ok, it's been three years

Ok, it's been three years since most of these comments were expressed... So now it's July 2010. I've got an 88 Vanagon 4 speed I live in the mountains with steep passes and lost of flats in between. I want to upgrade my engine from the 2.1 Waterboxer to either a 2.5 Gowesty or 2.5 Subaru EJ-25. I will also upgrade my transmission with either a new 5 speed or a modified 3 and 4th gear. The big question is has GoWesty cleared up the issues with the 2.5 engines? and if so do they compare to the Subaru 2.5 EJ-25 conversion? which is the best way to go? Can somebody offer me some updated advise. I've recently installed the S.A. Big brake kit up front and is was a worthwhile investment, along with the 16" tires and wheels.

I installed a Volvo B23F

I installed a Volvo B23F into my 1985 vanagon. 2wd. It has been awsome! I have a lot more power all across the rpm range. Ive only driven it about 2 tanks of gas, so no long term or true mpg yet. One downside is the hump for the engine cover. I have pics of my project at The engine cover is raised about 5-6 inches.

Im in Oregon if anyone has interest in this swap, post on the almun. A volvo turbo motor is also a possibilty, but I have plenty of power with this high compression (10.3:1) 2.3L.

I am about to install a

I am about to install a Tiico engine into my 84 2wd van, taken from a Syncro. I am very concerned about vibration problems at 3000 to 4000 RPM's. Did the installation of the liquid filled motor mounts help in your I-4? What mounts did you use and where did you get them from. Did you have to modify them, to get them to fit? Thanks. It is hard to find/get information on the subject. Bob

I've read all the above

I've read all the above comments. From GoWesty I recently bought an '86 camper, completely restored with a 2.5L GoWesty engine, rebuilt tranny, with low gearing and locking rear diff., no transfer case, yet. It also has progressive suspension and off road lift kit and offers a great ride. The conversion was done 15K miles ago (for the previous owner by GoWesty) and I've had it for about a month and a half. I've run it hard on the FWY, have no cold start problems, no high idle or rev loss and great acceleration. And this with the old AFM or "flapper box" fuel delivery. 16 mpg is a let down but I was warned of that by GoWesty as well as other owners via email. Of course it's understandable since I'm not easy on the gas pedal. The hot wire system will most likely find it's way into my engine soon. And, judging by GoWesty's easy to follow online instructions I can install it blindfolded and should offer better acceleration (which would astound me) and possibly increased fuel economy. Sorry to hear of the bad luck some have had, I am quite the happy GoWesty customer!


Hi Fellow Vanagon lovers, I

Hi Fellow Vanagon lovers, I have a 90 Syncro Westy and a 90 Westy and do all my own mechanical work. Engines are not cheap to rebuild. Presently I am building a 2.3 waterboxer like Gowesty sells for my Syncro. The parts add up fast and if you did your own work you would understand the prices better. They are reasonable considering what you are getting. I have driven a Gowesty 2.4 vanagon with a 5 speed and was very impressed with the smooooth running engine and the great power! I have visited their shop and have bought parts from them. They are always professional and friendly, and would take my van their for service if I didn't do my own work! I would like to add that my 90 Westy has 130,000 miles and has been a great vehicle. The Syncro has taken me to places you could never get to with another vehicle and has 230,000 and has never not gotten me home even when it developed problems on far away trips. The present VW factory rebuilt engine has developed a head gasket leak after 100,000 and so its time to do it right!!! The VW factory rebuilts had a reputation of 50% problems and so did mine when it was newly installed. The factory rings didn't "Seat" and had to be done over again. I didn't own the vehicle when this happened. I have enjoyed learning and working on these engines and consider them to be stout for their size, addequate power in most situations, and dependable. Yes, they have their limitations, 90 hp is not going to make it a sports SUV, but the 2.3 if done right will be a great improvement. I have ceramic coated the matting surface on the head were head gasket meets and this should solve the ELECTROLYSIS PROBLEM that is present wilth all aluminum heads and coolant environments. Engines dont go forever and 100,000 miles is reasonable considering the Syncro weights 5500 pounds and is aerodynamically challenged. Thank you for time and consideration, Hans

I've had a 2400 engine built

I've had a 2400 engine built and installed by Wolfsberg Motorwerks in Seattle. Absolutely no problems. I love it. Wasn't cheap however.

I did a Eurospec inline 4

I did a Eurospec inline 4 cylinder 2.0L (overland parts) conversion about 10 years ago. I now have about 25k on the motor.
The conversion fits perfect and looks and runs amazing! However, the vibration and noise level are just over the top.
I have insulated and soundproofed the engine deck. I also retro-fitted the installation with fluid filled motor mounts.
Still the sound and vibration are not acceptable. I am considering pulling the motor and going with a Subaru EJ22 which will pass SMOG in California. $9000 total invested in conversion for about 25k noisy miles. Live and learn.

I am very interested in your

I am very interested in your statement about the motor mounts..."liquid filled. " I am going to put a Tiico engine from a Syncro into my 2 wheel drive van. I know from driving the Syncro that there is a vibration/drumming between 3 to 4 thousand RPM's. Did using those mounts make any difference in your van's vibration problem? Also what car/model mounts did you use? Did you have to modify them? Thanks!! Hard to find info on this subject. Bob

I have had a 2.4 L GW engine

I have had a 2.4 L GW engine for about 2 1/2 years. I live in South Texas so cold start up isn't an issue. However, I too was very disappointed paying almost $7K for a new engine, maint and install @ GW and having a camper van that runs so poorly. Since the installation, I have replaced the AFM, idle stabilization, injectors, fuel regulator, idle valve, sensors... in search of why my van idles so poorly. I wish I had spent another $5K and gotten a 2.5L subaru conversion. At least then I could plug in a reader to see what is wrong, if I had a problem.

On the road, the 2.4 performs very well and I average 18 MPG before and after the conversion.

GW has always been very supportive and helpful.

Where in south Texas are you

Where in south Texas are you located?? I am in Hosuton, I have a 91 Vanagon and am considering getting a rebuilt engine, long block, or having mine rebuilt. I read so much about engine rebuilding on the web that I am not sure what to do. I would love to hear from you.
Jaime Forero

I think the problem with a

I think the problem with a larger displacement engine is with the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) that controls the engine performance. The Dijet (83-85) or Digifant (86-92) are not very intellegent and simply cannot autocompensate for cold start enrichment with a bigger engine. Once the engine warms up and the O2 sensor provides feedback to the computer, it runs fine if you Airbox is not defective. GoWesty is a fine mechanic shop, but are not electronic experts. I wish they would retrofit their larger engines with a GM aftermarket ECU that is self learning and tuned for each engine. Not only would the performance be better, but fuel economy as too. That is if you don't drive like a race car driver with all that new found power? Regardless a little tuning of the old system should provide reasonable performance with a few adjustments (like cold start) to your driving habits.

The advantage with a Subaru conversion is that the ECU and engine are matched and more modern style engine (as are Bostic, Tiico or VW TDIs)

I just rebuilt my 1.9L 1985 Westfalia and made it a 2.0L engine - I too have hard starting and cold performance issues as the engine is more powerful (102 hp vs 80). It took a little tweaking to get it to run right, but cold engine fuel enrichment will always be a problem if I do not replace the ECU with something to match the engine. The problem is that non-OEM ECU replacement must be CARB certified or it is againt state & federal law. So are external or internal engine changes.

I installed a 2.1L Boston

I installed a 2.1L Boston Engine in my 88GL in JAN 2008. The engine I purchased from Bob Donalds cost me $3,200. This included all attaching hardware which Bob packaged in a kit. I also had Bob install new clutch and water pump.I also purchased all the coolant hoses for the engine compartment and the distribution T from Bob as his prices were reasonable and necessary for warranty guarantee. I installed the engine myself and Bob mailed me specific instructions with the engine that detailed his method of valve adjustment and break in procedures. I have not had any problems with the engine I purchased from Boston Engine. All of the problems I've had since the engine installation have been caused by other components (electrical) which required attention anyway. My oil pressure is 60psi cold and 30psi when hot. I used Shell Rotella 15/40 for break in oil as the Rotella oil has zinc and other metals required for break in. I switched to Castrol Syntec blend 20/50 after break in period. I use the Castrol Syntec Blend because it contains zinc and is not fully synthetic oil. I am completely satisfied with the Bob Donalds engine. No leaks and doesn't use any oil.

I considered a GoWesty engine but I didn't want an engine that didn't have standard pistons and cylinder kits. I just wanted a stock engine which would burn standard grade fuel. Bob did all his own machine work(rods, heads, etc), and he knew the weak points of the 2.1 and reinforced the weaknesses where needed. Like using diesel rod cap bolts and machine honing and fitting the connecting rods. Bob was very competent. Sadly, Bob passed away in Oct 2008.

Hi John, I am glad I found

Hi John,

I am glad I found your very positive article on the web.

My 1988 westfalia is running ok but as most i would like some more power.

Do you have the Bostic 2.0 conversion?

I am curious about the ground clearance.

Is it better than factory 2.1?

Also how are the up-hills with all the extra power?

Please it is not to much trouble send mw some pics


Why isn't GoWesty

Why isn't GoWesty responsible for the way their replacement engines run? I don't understand how they can't back up their expensive procedures with some guarantee.


Wow, really glade that I ran

Wow, really glade that I ran into this page, I was thinking about doing the same thing, not anymore!

Anyone have other ideas for upgrading the engine?

91 syncro camper w 92k miles mint!

Hello, After reading all

Hello, After reading all this about conversions I need to do more research. I want to buy a used Vw Van and have a Subaru engine in it. What are your thoughts on this and who do you know can do this. I don't really care where, in California, as long as the mechanic is reliable with referrences. Thank you.

i bought an 81 westy from a

i bought an 81 westy from a college student in oregon..while driving it back to montana it began to smoke and use oil..i took it to randys bug works in Worden Mt. he is the original hippy mechanic with dozens of old vws of all kinds shrewn around the yard..he rebuilt it a year ago and i have nothing but praise for runs great, starts when it is too cold for my mercedes or ford f150 and cruises comfortably at 70 mph..if you are from anywhere around here i would recommend you go see Randy..only complaint was that it took about twice as long to fix as estimated but that may be because his helper walked out doring the time the van was there..anyway good ljuck with finding a guy this good..oh, cost about $2000 for complete engine rebuild a year ago..

Sorry to learn of the

Sorry to learn of the difficulties with the conversion. I opted for a completely different conversion, the VW 1.8T. In its stock form it puts out something like 183hp and 175 ft-lbs of torque. With a performance chip (I couldn't resist) it makes 215+hp and 240+ft-lbs of torque! There's a shop in Sacramento, Stephan's Autohaus that did my conversion in fall of 2006, and I've since put almost 25K on the engine. It's been fantastic, no significant issues. And while I like GoWesty for some of the hard to find camper items, I've not heard good things about their engine rebuilds, and their prices are absolutely ridiculous.

How much did the 1.8T cost

How much did the 1.8T cost you?

Yeah, Iv'e called Go Westy a

Yeah, Iv'e called Go Westy a few times, nice people but 5K for their smaller engines is ridiculous!

For the price I just don't see how you can justify paying 5000 dollars to gain what? 10 horsepower! A subaru 2.5 gives you like 70 more horsepower!

John: I couldn't believe

John: I couldn't believe your story: I had the EXACT experience with Go Westy's 2.4 engine, except my 86 automatic went from around 13 mpg to 7 mpg. When cold, it runs like $#@% for about a mile, then seems to work OK. After picking the van up from Go Westy, I noticed that each time I stopped to get coffee or something, it took about 5 or 6 cranks to start the engine, which is NOT the way my engine started previously.

When home, I called Go Westy who told me to take it to a local shop who diagnosed a faulty air-flow meter. A new AFM cost me about $750.00, with about $500.00 in labor. A week later, the van wouldn't even start. I had it towed to another shop who diagnosed a faulty AFM. He did something to it, but now, like you, I have that sluggish initial starting problem, which is embarrassing and disconcerting, knowing that I paid $13,000 for the engine and a new transmission. Recently, nevertheless, the cold start problem seems to be getting better, but now it idles high when in park and neutral.

I think Go Westy's products are grossly over-priced and unreliable.

Hello all, I'm currently

Hello all,

I'm currently considering a GoWesty 2300 series. I've explored the Tiico and Subaru's and because I'm not a mechanic, I think the original waterboxer is my best bet. Interesting to read the info about having to warm up the engine for a bit before it runs properly. That's currently what my original engine that I'm seeking to replace is doing. I was advised by my mechanic, after he spent considerable time exploring, that it was a flat cam. The initial symptoms were that I had to warm it up for a bit before it would get rolling. Now, I'll be driving down the road after a bit and all of a sudden it will drop from 60 to 30 mph and stay there for a while. Needless to say, its very dangerous.

Any comments on this? I really love my van, it has sat in the yard for over a year and I am anxious to get it going again.

Hey John, I have a 90

Hey John,
I have a 90 Westfalia I've babied for over 10 years now. Yesterday, while driving to Salt Lake City to have an engine knock discussed with a newly recommended mechanic it threw a rod clean through the engine block. I've towed it back home, and have been looking for a place to rebuild the engine. Someone told me about the GoWesty BIGGER engine, and I was considering it till I read your blog today. How does the bigger engine deal with the 55 mph based transmission? Can you get better speed at the same or lower rpms?

A rebuilt long-block for a 2100 engine is about $2000 plus labor, and I'm not sure I'll find anyone in Utah to do the work. I live 2 hours from SLC, and I'm not heading anywhere until I decide who to have do the work. Do you recommend shipping it to CA to have it done at Go Westy?



pete, good to hear from you.


good to hear from you. sorry to hear that you're having engine problems.

i've still got the original automatic transmission in my van, and it works quite nicely with the extra power from the 2400 gowesty engine. To be honest, I wouldn't really want to sit on the freeway at 85mph in a vanagon anyway.

as for recommending gowesty, i'd do some web research before you make a decision. all of the alternatives have their fans and critics. it's not an easy decision. there are plenty of people thrilled with their gowesty conversions. given the problems that i had, i'd make a different choice if i could go back in time.

take it easy,


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