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Testimonial: Engine & Transaxles & wheel changes

Lucas: You asked me to provide you some feedback on the engine, tires and transaxle set-up on my 1987 Vanagon Westfalia.

First, my background is that I have been driving passenger vehicles for over 33 years.   A number of those years I operated as a professional long-haul trucker, driving tandem axle conventional tractors with sleepers and pulling 48' trailers loaded with steel products throughout Canada and the United States. Recently I have been hauling an enclosed trailer that houses a Mercedes ML55 with attached robotically operated arm and a gyro stabilized fight head between film locations in British Columbia and Los Angeles.  Probably because of my trucking experiences, I tend to enjoy driving the Vanagon Westfalia for pleasure, as the Vanagon Westfalia best mimics the feel of a truck with it's driver position, the way the vehicle moves on the road, and the sweet sound of the engine cruising for hours on end.

My 1987 Vanagon Westfalia has experienced two differing set-ups:

1) Original 2.1L engine with original 4-speed transaxle and original 14" wheels;

2) GoWesty 2.4L engine with GoWesty 5-speed transaxle and GoWesty 16" wheels; and

The following are comments on the two differing set-ups:

When GoWesty’s largest engine was the 2.4L, I purchased that engine and was very pleased with it.  When GoWesty started producing the 2.5L engine, I had to play head games with myself to justify its purchase and installation.  The increase of torque and acceleration from the original 2.1L engine to the 2.4L was extremely noticeable.   The increase of torque and acceleration from the 2.4L to the 2.5L was noticeable but of course not to the extent as from the original 2.1L engine to the 2.4L engine.  In my opinion, most people would be pleased with the improvements in performance with the 2.4L engine, but for me I was willing to spend the extra few dollars for the most power available.   

What I have noticed is that my highway speeds are increasing, that I’m always able to keep up with the traffic speeds, and I appreciate the extra engine compression for slowing the vehicle while descending on long steep roads, as I do a lot of driving in the mountains.   To climb steep mountain passes the gear is dropped to 4th, the engine is run well below “redline” and the van climbs easily at 70 mph.

Regarding the highway speeds - with the original 2.1L engine and on the flat portions of the highway and without headwinds the road speeds driven were very close to the posted limits, i.e. 55 mph, 60 mph, 65 mph and 70 mph.    With the 2.5L engine the highway speeds are lurching upwards with cruising speeds of 75 mph and the odd time catching the van traveling with the traffic at about 90 mph – bad van!

Transaxle: (I removed the reference to the trans being a Syncro trans, that is not correct)
In May of 2005, GoWesty built a 5-speed transaxle for me with a 4.86:1 ring and pinion, and a gear set of 4.11/2.33/1.48/1.02/0.82.  As mentioned, since this vehicle is driven in the mountains a lot, there always seems to be the right gear at the right time for either the flats, climbing the hills, or engine braking down the hills.   I’m sure that a 4-speed transaxle would function just fine, however having an extra gear to use is a luxury.  One caveat though is that the 5-speed transaxle is a little difficult to shift from 1st to 2nd gear.   I’m now somewhat accustomed to shifting from 1st to 2nd gear, but find that it has to be done with conscious effort and if I’m in too much of a hurry shifting from 1st to 2nd, then I’ll often miss the shift.   From 2nd through all the other gears is not a problem.

16” x 7.5” wheels and tires:
Aesthetically these wheels/tires give the van a great look.   Also, the tires hold the road fantastically in the dry and in the rain.  GoWesty also determined that the larger tires correct the speedometer/odometer error present with the original 14” wheels, so the speed and distance that the van shows is now a truer speed and distance.   These wheel/tire combination were a great improvement to the van.

Fuel Mileage:
I have kept schedules of the fuel mileage for each engine/transaxle/wheel combination. There are a lot of variables with each schedule, i.e. local versus highway driving, mountains or flats, headwinds or tailwinds, speeds driven, etc. Generally though the numbers seem to show that with each large engine that has been installed, that the gas mileage has been improving even though the driving speeds have been increasing to as fast as 90 mph. Thus, the van seems to go faster, and, give better fuel mileage. The fuel mileage is shown below:

1) Original 2.1L engine with original 4-speed transaxle and original 14" wheels – 17.54 mpg.

Old 2.1L Engine        
Odometer not reading correctly supposedly due to original 14" wheels
Original 4-speed transaxle      
miles  gallons miles/gal liters  liters/100k  
        232    13.2      17.50        50.1      13.52 local and highway around Vancouver, then to GoWesty in Los Osos
         241    13.2      18.31        49.9      12.92 "           "
        178    10.1      17.55        38.4      13.48 "           "
        231    12.9      17.90        48.9      13.21 "           "
        121      7.0      17.39        26.4      13.61 "           "
        223    13.2      16.97        49.8      13.94 "           "
        135      7.3      18.59        27.5      12.72 "           "
        228    13.2      17.30        49.9      13.68 "           "
        151      9.2      16.41        34.7      14.41 "           "
1,741  99.24      17.54    375.66      13.49  

2)       GoWesty 2.4L engine with GoWesty 5-speed transaxle and GoWesty 16" wheels – 17.86 mpg.

New 2.4L Engine & new 16" wheels
Odometer now supposedly reading correctly due to 16" wheels
GoWesty 5-speed transaxle      
 miles  gallons miles/gal liters  liters/100k  
        124      6.3      19.65        23.8      12.04 Return from GoWesty, highway, slowed for Cities
          78      4.7      16.45        17.8      14.38 "           "
        200    11.1      18.09        41.8      13.08 "           "
        211    12.2      17.25        46.2      13.72 "           "
        174      9.6      18.11        36.5      13.07 "           "
        199    11.7      17.03        44.3      13.89 "           "
        175      9.4      18.67        35.5      12.67 "           "
1,161  64.99      17.86      246.0      13.25  

March 30th, 2007
Gerry S. - Vancouver

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