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newrider3 Reader
10/2/20 10:11 a.m.

Yes, you read that right. I started hatching a plan when I noticed this adapter had become available from subarugears in Aus.


Copart trolling led me to this gem of a donor. Probably paid too much, but I still think I'll come out ahead versus buying a bare engine and then piecing together an ecu/wiring/pedal/fuel pump/etc. 
2002 New Beetle diesel automatic, ALH code TDI. 

Seemingly recently, there are now auctions for salvage title vehicles available to public bidders in Colorado. Last time I had to fly to Arizona to be able to bid. But the Denver lot wouldn't allow run and drive vehicles to be driven away like the Phoenix lot did.


Then, I started checking craigslist and FB daily looking for a suitable host for the TDI. Specifically a Forester. The Denver Subaru market is hot, clean cars go fast and cheap cars with bad engines go fast too. I missed out on a couple 2004ish Forester XTs with bad engines. I found this 2003 Forester with a broken timing belt for $800, texted the guy 25 minutes after the ad went up. It's not as clean inside or outside as I wanted, but it was the only sub-$1500 nonrunner I saw (and runners are $3k minimum these days).


Got this heap drug home with the van on another Uhaul dolly. Yes, I disconnected the rear drive shaft. 
Funny how hoopties are already accumulating the same week that I moved in to the new house.


I couldn't resist tearing into the Subaru the night I got it home. These things are just a pleasure to work on. Of course I'm working in the dark in the gravel driveway like a hillbilly instead of inside the nice brand new 3 car garage.


~several minutes later~


Disemboweling the Beetle was much more work. Partially because I'm less familiar with the VAG, but also because these are a E36 M3 ass pain to work on. 


Did the angle-grinder-quick-release-core-support mod for easier engine in-out.



Then I swung the ALH into the Forester for a test dangle. With the engine held approximately 30mm from the trans (stated thickness of the subarugears adapter) it looks like I have adequate radiator clearance if I switch to pusher fans. This is fairly common for H6 swapped Subarus. The clocking and hood clearance of the engine is wrong in these pictures, just due to the way I had it strapped to the hoist, but it looks like I want the 50 degree Vanagon engine adapter to lay it over and get the hood to close. 



Here is what the engine looks like on the stand at a rough 50 degree angle. Should provide plenty of hood clearance and still  fit easily between the girthy Subaru frame rails. From crank centerline to highest point the TDI is about 2 inches taller than the EJ25 in this configuration, which should clear the stock hood handily.


Donebrokeit UltraDork
10/2/20 10:18 a.m.

This looks like fun.

Patrick (Forum Supporter)
Patrick (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/2/20 10:27 a.m.

Any special needs for the oil pickup at that angle?  I was looking at their adapters a couple weeks ago for mid engine type ideas

orthoxstice New Reader
10/2/20 10:32 a.m.

Wow am I in on this thread. Currently have my gf's retired 2000 Golf rotting away at the shop. 

Swapping an auto car is a good idea; that gives you the 11mm injection pump. 

vwfreek Reader
10/2/20 10:41 a.m.
Patrick (Forum Supporter) said:

Any special needs for the oil pickup at that angle?  I was looking at their adapters a couple weeks ago for mid engine type ideas

Yes. An ALH will require a custom oil pan and rotated pickup. Or spend some money and buy the stuff from http://www.foreignautosupply.com/. If it was an AHU or 1Z, the pickup and oil pan from a Vanagon diesel would bolt on.

ProDarwin MegaDork
10/2/20 10:47 a.m.

I approve of this.

RossD MegaDork
10/2/20 11:04 a.m.


newrider3 Reader
10/2/20 11:09 a.m.
vwfreek said:
Patrick (Forum Supporter) said:

Any special needs for the oil pickup at that angle?  I was looking at their adapters a couple weeks ago for mid engine type ideas

Yes. An ALH will require a custom oil pan and rotated pickup. Or spend some money and buy the stuff from http://www.foreignautosupply.com/. If it was an AHU or 1Z, the pickup and oil pan from a Vanagon diesel would bolt on.

Yep. I think my preferred method will be to either fabricate a steel pan from scratch, or modify an aftermarket steel bottom pan. Stock replacement aluminum pans are super cheap and I suppose I could modify one of those, but they seem like thin pot metal that would be hard to weld.

Why not!?

Watching with interest.

newrider3 Reader
10/2/20 11:44 a.m.

I've also been doing some maths. The stock Forester tire size and 4.11 final drive combined with .780 fifth gear ratio puts me at only 60 mph at 2500 rpm. 

First, I plan to bump up to a 215/70r16 tire. This is generally regarded as the biggest tire that fits well on a stock or lightly modified SG Forester. Also a good selection of all-terrains available in this size.


Then, some Subaru parts bin digging provides me with a 3.70 ring and pinion for the transmission (I think this is from '06 WRX or something) and 3.70 rear diffs are super cheap because they come in the newer CVT-equipped cars. Then I can add a .738 fifth gear from early'00s WRX. This gets me 75 mph at 2500 rpm, much closer to what the Beetle ran and similiar to my wife's '14 Jetta TDI. 

Plus, if I'm rooting around in the transmission and rear diff anyway, I can think about adding a cheap OBX helical LSD in the front and a TORQ Locker in the rear. 

MadScientistMatt PowerDork
10/2/20 12:22 p.m.

I've heard some VW fans accuse Subaru of copying their designs, but this is the first time I've heard of actually putting a VW engine into a Subaru.  What's the plan - commuter, rock crawler?

Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/2/20 12:30 p.m.

Following with interest.

newrider3 Reader
10/2/20 12:32 p.m.

In reply to MadScientistMatt :

Just a grocery getter, very mild forest service trail runner, backup bad weather vehicle. My new house is up a canyon so all the roads are twisty, and driving my Grand Caravan everywhere is a little tiring when I don't need the cargo space. Both our dailies are FWD, they do really well in the snow on Blizzaks but it would be nice to have something with 4wd for truly severe weather. I've had heavily lifted and modified Subarus for off-road use before, this one is going to be much more mild, just all terrains and maybe lifted springs on stock replacement struts. Enough rough road capability to explore unmaintained roads in the nearby Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, but enough on-road civility to carve up and down the canyon to go to the beer store and grocery shopping. The hill climbing ability and engine braking control of the diesel/manual trans combo will be a welcome change from my van with the 3.6 Pentastar + automatic combo that is sometimes infurating in the mountains. 

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/2/20 12:47 p.m.

I'm interested to see how this moves along as well. 

Do yourself a favor and do a timing belt change and intake manifold cleaning while you have the engine out. 

Physically fitting the engine into the car is the easy part. Unless something has changed in the last few years, integrating the VW and Subaru wiring harnesses will be the time consuming bit.  I know a guy who has done a couple of similar swaps and that took the most time - and working on modern German cars is what he does for a living.  After some digging on the http://www.foreignautosupply.com site, it looks like you may be able to source a "cracked" TDI ECU from them or have them reprogram the one you have.  You might be able to get harness adapting tips from them as well.

artur1808 GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
10/2/20 1:06 p.m.

Very cool! I'll be following this with interest!

golfduke HalfDork
10/2/20 1:09 p.m.

This has the potential to be awesome...  following diligently.



newrider3 Reader
10/2/20 1:37 p.m.

In reply to Ian F (Forum Supporter) :

The engine is definitely getting a freshening before it goes in, all gaskets and seals, timing belt and idlers, front accessory idlers and tensioners, etc; lots of cleaning. 


I'm not exceedingly worried about the wiring and electronics. On the VW side, turning the TDI harness into a standalone is commonly done. If I somehow can't get the harness stripped and pruned myself, there are companies that can handle it. The ECU can have the immobilizer tuned out by a company such as Malone, and then if I'm already in there I can add a tune for more power at the same time. 

The Subaru side is also simple, the engine harness bulkheads right at the transmission, then runs separately through the firewall to the ECU in the passenger footwell. Completely separate from the main body harness. 

I should be able to interface the VW ECU to the Subaru body with just a few individual connections like ignition power, brake/clutch switches and cruise switches, power out to fuel pump, etc. 

trigun7469 SuperDork
10/2/20 2:15 p.m.

thats awesome

What a cool idea for an engine swap!

Do you think that lunchbox locker will cause issues with your awd? I'd stick to a helical diff personally, if you want to spend more money. 

ProDarwin MegaDork
10/2/20 2:59 p.m.

Make this into a kit plz.

Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/2/20 3:10 p.m.

It should be noted that Subaru had their own 2 liter diesel engine, but I don't think it was ever cleared for use in the USA.

newrider3 Reader
10/2/20 4:47 p.m.

In reply to thatsnowinnebago (Forum Supporter) :

In the rear, the locker should be basically invisible except when needed. I was actually contemplating creating a frankenstein part-time pushbutton 4wd trans using Loyale parts, which would enable me to disconnect the rear drive and also get me the 3.70 final drive ring and pinion I want. But my experience with other Subarus in the snow with both part time 4wd and full time AWD makes me feel like the AWD works best safely on snowy roads. Now that I'm thinking about it, snow and ice could be the one place where the rear locker would be less than desirable compared to an open diff. Maybe I'm just excited that Subaru lunchbox lockers are finally available, if I weren't a broke college student I would have been thrilled to have a locker option back when I was heavily four-wheeling a Subaru.


In reply to Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón) :

Yep, the EE20 diesel is available from importers, but it's expensive expensive. And there's so far no control system available for it except a Bosch Motorsports standalone ECU that is itself several thousand dollars. Boxeer started a whole company based around importing these engines for Vanagon swaps (and based their company name around the engine), but it seems like they have transitioned entirely into working with VW common rail 2.0l TDI engines instead, because they're so cheap and readily available and you can run them with the standard ECU. 

As a side note, I was very very close to using a newer CJAA 2.0 common rail TDI, I actually found a 2010 Jetta in a LKQ Pick Your Part yard. I could've stolen it for cheap. But I was concerned about being able to get it out in the junkyard, given the complexity and my unfamiliarity with complete VW disassembly. I was also concerned that it was in the junkyard due to a high pressure fuel pump failure or other engine malfunction. My third worry was about the huge DPF and catalyst on the passenger side of the engine, which I would have liked to use but they would have crashed hard into the Subaru crossmember, especially with my required 50 degree engine tilt. 
But, I'm still eying the newer CJAA 2.0CR for other projects, because they're super cheap on car-part.com and also fairly cheap as complete donors at the auctions. Perhaps one will make a home in my '82 Ford F100. 

newrider3 Reader
10/2/20 7:11 p.m.

So, the earlier post where I was praising the simplicity of the Subaru engine wiring harness? Well, my hubris may have gotten ahead of me. The ECU is easy to access, you just have to pull up the carpet in the passenger side footwell. To actually snake the harness back through the firewall hole, you have to unscrew the glovebox, some trim, a bunch of electronic modules, and finally the heater blower box. 

Unfortunately, the nice separate engine harness and nice separate ECU harness end up together with the dash harness at a junction up underneath the dashboard. Not quite as easy to pull out, but I can still work with it.

I started untaping and unlooming the harnesses, but I may actually want to gut the connectors out of the ECU case instead to make a plug-and-play breakout board or patch harness instead of cutting and splicing the wires directly. I'll think about it a bit.



The left bundle is the ECU end, the right bundle is the engine end.


docwyte UberDork
10/2/20 9:01 p.m.

Cool and another GRM Colorado member!

AWSX1686 (Forum Supporter)
AWSX1686 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
10/5/20 9:18 a.m.

This will be fun to watch. 

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