Or how a wacky idea became reality... Of course, I didn't do the project all by myself, but enrolled the help of various people, shops, and firms along the way. I'll mention them in the text.

I got the engine and inspiration from Wm. Kennedy, a former vanagon listmember who did the same 2.2 liter 911 conversion on an early vanagon, hence proving that such a thing is possible. (Search 1994-96 vanagon archives for his posts regarding the conversion.) He later upgraded to a 2.7 liter engine and again to a 3.0. I bought the 2.2 from him, as well as an oil tank. Bill seems like a level-headed and rational person and that perhaps, more than anything else, convinced me that committing my time and money to such a project did not necessarily mean I was crossing the line to insanity.

My bus is (or at least was?) fairly nice and with a properly running type4 engine it would have been comparable to busses I've seen go for $4,000+. It was clear to me from the beginning that cutting up the bus for the conversion had the potential to ruin it, especially if the work was done sloppily. The 911 is a dry-sump engine which draws its oil from a separate tank. Making room for the oil tank is the first big step of the conversion after pulling the old engine and psychologically it's the hardest. You need to cut off the air filter support bracket, cut a large hole in the right battery tray, and cut out most of the sheetmetal that is hiding the fuel filler hose and conceiling the FI ECU. If you don't have an air compressor, the best tool for the task is probably a sawzall, which I rented.

When it comes to the transmission, one faces two choices: use a 901 or 915 tranny (Porsche 5-speed) or use the VW tranny. The 901/915 option is undoubtedly the better one, but budget constraints had me keep the VW one. Hence, instead of changing the halfshafts, I needed a special flywheel. The custom flywheel came from K.E.P. (www.kennedyeng.com), a Southern Californian company that makes engine to tranny adapters. It's basically a VW flywheel for the '76+ 091 bellhousing (and 228mm clutch and pressure plate), but with the 6-bolt pattern for the early 911 crankshaft. I also bought their stage I pressure plate to help deal with the bigger torque.

Note: My bus is a '75 with the 215mm clutch found in '74 and '75 models only, but KEP only makes adapters for either the 200mm clutch or the 228mm clutch. I could have gone either way, but figuring that VW increased clutch size as their engine gained power, I decided to go with the more expensive 228mm clutch and flywheel option. The "228" flywheel actually has the same diameter as the "200" or the "215", but it is thicker, hence does not fit '75 and earlier bellhousings. Swapping bellhousings turned out to be very easy, but with the different bellhousing, I also needed a different starter. (Marginal note: although the 091 was also used on vanagons, vanagon starters do not fit. Only '76-'79 starters will do.) Karl von Salzen sent me the starter for free! (Thanks, Karl!)

After shortening the tranny driveshaft by about 1/2" with an angle-grinder, the engine was mated to the tranny. With the help of a friend, the assembled drivetrain was put into place and the bellhousing attached to the transmission carrier. The rear of the engine was supported by the floorjack, while waiting for a custom rear crossbar.

The rear engine crossbar (actually a plate) was fabricated by Rick Babor (Mangobus@aol.com) in St. Louis, Missouri. I couldn't have completed the project without his help: he's clever AND he knows how to weld, a required combination you're unlikely to find just by browsing the Yellow Pages. He also brought a friend along who happened to be an engineer and together we came up with a design that is both solid (at least according to the engineer and I do trust him) and easy to implement. Instead of trying to follow the type4 crossbar model, we opted for a design similar to the way the engine is supported in a 911, basically suspended from above. Rick cut off the sleeves at the ends of the original Porsche crossbar and welded them onto a plate long enough to span the bus's engine bay. The ends of the crossbar rest on the stock Porsche rubber mounts which, together with custom spacers, sit on the corner shelves (the one just right of the left battery tray and the other just left of the right battery tray). The spacers are necessary to keep the rubber mounts "floating".

Because the original air filter setup is too tall to fit in the engine compartment, I bought a new K&N air filter setup from Steven at Stomski Racing (Jstomski@aol.com). (Steven also provided me with various used Porsche parts, such as the rubber motormounts --they normally cost $100 each new!-- and a fuel pump. He's friendly, helpful, and thorough and his prices are low. Of course, this is a relative concept: parts in the Porsche world seem to be five times that of their VW equivalent, if not more. By the way, I'm not sure I ever told Steven that his parts ended up as transplants into a lower lifeform... :) Anyway, the K&N system was a straightforward installation.

Update (November 6, '98): I finally got around to working on the ignition system, which is of the Capacitive Discharge variety. I got the one from Universal Corp. recommended by Bob Hoover. After getting it hooked up, cleaning the points, finding TDC and installing the distributor accordingly, and last but not least getting the sparkplug wires hooked up in the correct firing order, the engine finally came to life. Took the bus for a short 5-minute (but quick!) drive and was relieved to make it without catastrophic failure. Acceleration is nice, very much like that of a "normal" car, say, a late eighties Honda Accord. However, the exhaust was unbearably loud and some oil leaks need attention, too. That and other little bugs will be worked out over the winter, which is rather long up here. I'm looking forward to Spring, which, they say, starts early in May...

Update (December '98): Custom exhaust is installed. I'm not thrilled with the design, noise, and performance, although it does fit neatly.

Update (July 12, 1999): The last few months were chaotic. I've had to deal with a whole series of mechanical problems:

1. The first problem was ignition-related. It turned out that what I thought was a regular coil was actually an "ignition voltage transformer" and this part was not compatible with the aftermarket CDI: indeed it fried the module's capacitor.

2. The second problem was that the Zenith carbs were impossible to tune. They had major vacuum leaks at the throttle bushings and needed to be rebuilt. I was not willing to take the risk of letting a local shop mess with that, so I had the job done by Motormeister in California. The job cost $700.

3. The third problem had to do with the distributor. The rotor failed and had to be replaced, but Marelli parts are NLA anywhere. Thus I had no choice, but to buy a *new* distributor, a Bosch. Another $700.

4. Now there's a problem with low oil pressure at idle and a problem with excessive fuel consumption (12 mpg). I hope the first problem is just the gauge acting up and that the second can be resolved by putting a fuel pressure regulator between pump and carbs...

Update (August 5, 1999): Except for a broken accelerator cable and a flat, the bus had no further problems on a 2,000-mile trip from Montreal to Alabama (with some detours). Hills are gone. So are tailgaters...

To finish, here's the cost to date. I'm not including shipping cost for parts. My own time spent wasn't labor, but pleasure (well, at least at the beginning...), hence is valued at $0.

1971 2.2 liter 911T engine
November '95 
expect to pay more, say from $1,500 for a used 2.2 up to $4,000 for a used 3.0. Expect to spend another $4,000 to have it properly rebuilt.
oil tank
$ 50
Nov. '95
KEP flywheel
$ 290
Nov. '96
KEP 2000 lbs, 9" pressure plate
$ 140
Nov. '96
VW clutch disk
$ 75
Nov. '96
Capacitive Discharge Ignition (Universal Corp.)
$ 85
Dec. '96
used 091 bellhousing 
$ 25 
$ 0 
rubber motormounts and AN bolts 
$ 50 
May '98 
fuel pump 
$ 55 
May '98 
crossbar and spacers 
$ 70 
June '98 
What a deal!
K&N air filter kit 
$ 135 
Oct. '98 
oil return line 
$ 75 
Oct. '98
custom exhaust system 
$ 275 
Oct. '98
rebuilding Zenith carburators 
$ 695 
May '99
new Bosch distributor 
$ 695 
June '99
I think one can buy a freshly rebuilt type1 engine for that kind of money... 

Grand Total so far is about $3,800. Depending on how you slice it, the engine ended up costing $2,600 and the actual conversion only $1,200.

I'd like to conclude by stressing the fact that this was not a particularly difficult job. The required level of technical skills is moderate: if you have learned to adjust your valves and have helped a friend pull an engine, then you're ready. The more difficult segments of the job can be farmed out, but you'll need time to find the right person. Being a member of your local VW club can be a considerable help. Time is a fairly good substitute for money, too: not only because you can do much of the work yourself or wait for bargains, but also because you can come up with clever and cheaper solutions to your engineering problems. Hence the project can take a week and $10,000 (take your bus to Dieter Wanderer or your vanagon to MSDS, for example) or take a year and cost under $2-3,000. However, this is the Porsche world and parts and properly trained labor are very expensive. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions at sdakhlia@cba.ua.edu.