Vanagon World Tour

A Subaru Boxer Diesel EE20 in our Vanagon!

A Subaru Boxer Diesel EE20 in our Vanagon!

Jan 23 2011

Published: lng: 0, lat 0


Greg has been working behind the scenes to get us a Subaru Boxer EE20 diesel engine for the van, and it’s finally here!  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, read on to discover how exciting it is! 

Vanagons need flat-four engines.  That means the pistons are lined up horizontally, with every other one facing a different way.  It’s supposed to remind you of two boxers taking turns punching each other, thus the name Boxer. We wanted a diesel engine so that we could run on a 50/50 biodiesel mixture.  VW makes an in-line diesel engine for Vanagons, but since there wasn’t quite enough space to put the pistons vertically, they’re all slanted just a little bit in the same direction.  Here’s the problem with an in-line engine:

Thanks to Newton, we know that there will be an equal and opposite force to each piston’s movement. When the pistons are in-line, they all move in the same direction, so they all create an equal force in the opposite direction.  You have to add extra parts to balance out the extra force, which increases friction and decreases efficiency.  Plus it’s loud.  No good.

The best solution is a boxer, or flat-four engine.  As the pistons are oriented in opposing directions, they cancel each other out.  No need to add parts for balance.  Less weight, less friction, less noise.  Plus it’s flat, so it has a lower center of gravity.  Bingo!
Now, to find a boxer diesel…not as easy as it sounds.  No diesel engine had been made in a flat-four configuration (outside of aviation) until Subaru came out with its EE Series Boxer turbodiesel engine in 2008, the very first of it’s kind for the automobile industry.  Greg had his heart set on it.  The only problem is that it doesn’t exist in the US…once again, most people would give up and compromise…flat-four gas, or in-line diesel.  Not Greg. When Greg decides to do something, he does it! He figured out where to get a new Subaru Boxer Diesel EE20 in good condition.  Then came the piles of paperwork and endless phone calls to get it imported, through customs, and shipped to Nashville. When he got a call telling him that his engine was waiting for him in a warehouse, he dropped everything and headed out there.  Ever since, he’s been in the garage admiring and caressing his Subaru Boxer Turbodiesel.  Frankly, I’m starting to get a little jealous.
Those in the know might comment that an engine from 2010 won’t be compatible with our decades old Syncro because of computing issues.  Don’t worry…Greg’s got tricks up his sleeve.  He’s bent on being the first to do this conversion, and he’ll do it.You’ll find out more later…

Just dropped in the car

Custom built engine mount

Perfect connection to VW transmission

Hello you shiny engine!!


About Katie and Greg

Katie & Greg

World Travelers and extraordinary. This couple goes together like gears in a transmission. Far from german engineering but wired like farrari.