BF Classified: 1990 Volkswagen Vanagon

Location: Coos Bay, Oregon
Mileage: Unknown
Title Status: Clean

Seller’s Description: It’s a beautiful van, but it’s not running. Motor turns over, sputters, and pops but won’t start. I took the camshaft timing belt off to install a new water pump and haven’t been able to get the belt back on the camshaft, and driveshaft pulleys correctly (I’m no mechanic).

The OEM, notoriously unreliable VW “water-boxer” engine has been replaced with a Subaru EJ 2.2 liter, 4 cylinder “boxer” with overhead intake and exhaust valve timing cams. The EJ 2.2 is a “non-interference” motor (

“Non-interference” means that even if the camshaft timing belt is out of position that does NOT cause the intake or exhaust valve push rods to interfere with the piston stroke, and therefore does NOT cause damage to the engine.

But it’s my inability to reinstall the timing belt correctly that’s causing the engine not to start and run. So if you can’t fix it on the spot where it is, then bring a trailer with a winch.

The 1990’s Subaru “boxer” engine is mounted in a Kennedy Engineering Products (“KEP”) ( conversion frame and accessories. The Subaru engine is superior (in-service life, fuel economy, output torque and H.P.) to the OEM VW “water-boxer”

The 4-speed manual gearbox and 2wd transaxle is a BENCO rebuild that cost $2,650. (

The gearbox is wedded to the Subaru engine with a “Small Car” ( conversion housing.

The Subaru engine is not the only upgrade. This van was a passenger van when it left the German factory. I bought it in February of 2020 and began to convert it to a camper by removing the rear bench seat and replacing it with a 2/3 folding bench/bed and mattress taken from a 1980 VW Westfalia pop-top camper, along with all the closets, bins, tables, and kitchen furniture and appliances (including the Westfalia countertop sink, two-burner propane cooktop and a Dometic propane / 110 a.c. refrigerator).

The Westfalia propane tank and lines are not included. I don’t know if the Dometic refrigerator works; it was only marginally useful when new and is now far past its “useful” life. I haven’t plumbed it or wired it because I always planned to replace it.

The Westfalia polyethylene water tank is included but remains uninstalled, as does the DC camper wiring. A 110 amp AC 3 prong “shore power” hook-up box is mounted on the exterior and wired to a two-socket plug box inside the living area.

Maintenance and upgrades done since buying the van are:

•BENCO rebuilt 4-speed manual transmission and 2 wd transaxle,
•new Bosch radiator,
• new thermostatic switch for the electric radiator fan,
•new genuine Subaru coolant pump,
•new genuine Subaru thermostat,
•new aftermarket coolant temperature sensor,
•new GoWesty aluminum coolant expansion tank (,
•new coolant hoses,
•new aftermarket timing belt, (subject to the above-mentioned issue),
•Two new GoWesty steel bumpers,
• Two new GoWesty LED side marker lamps,
•A GoWesty high-mounted LED brake light
• An uninstalled GoWesty replacement antenna.
•A new Evil Energy stainless steel straight-thru muffler (

The van is fitted with four wide tread Audi alloy wheels.

The exterior paint is a combination of the original burgundy and a respray of metallic bronze. There are body and paint issues (chips, dents, some Bondo, and two paint runs).

There is no significant rust. There is a rust bubble adjacent to the windshield gasket, a tiny area at the bottom of the sliding door track, and a pinpoint on the passenger rear fender.

The horn, fuel gauge, speedometer, odometer, and tachometer don’t work. The last time the engine was run the coolant temperature gauge worked, as did the oil pressure and alternator idiot lights. The copper foil circuitry in the instrument panel in these vans fails often. A modern printed circuit upgrade ( is usually available on eBay for just over $200. GoWesty sells a fix for the horn for a pittance.

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