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Thanks everyone. It's a consideration...the motor and transaxle for an air cooled motor  will cost me about $9K total so a Subaru set up sounds like $2-$4K more. So not much more really. Now I'm trying to determine the advantages to Subaru power versus air cooled. I supposed the biggest benefit is reliability. 

Bwkirk posted:

Thanks everyone. It's a consideration...the motor and transaxle for an air cooled motor  will cost me about $9K total so a Subaru set up sounds like $2-$4K more. So not much more really. Now I'm trying to determine the advantages to Subaru power versus air cooled. I supposed the biggest benefit is reliability. 

I'm the resident air-cooled retrogrouch, so you'd think I'd try to talk you into going with a nice, tasty Type 1

... but I'm not going to do that. The Subaru platform is not perfect. There are some problems with any "boxer" engine configuration, be it air-cooled VW or Porsche, or watercooled Porsche or Subaru. They have a tendency to use oil- some more, some less. This is a function of the engine layout. Guys hope that by going with the Subaru platform that they will get 100% bulletproof reliability. The engines are much more robust than a Type 1, but they are still installed in hand-built cars, and are adapted to the application. Nothing custom is fool-proof. 

But if you are the kind of guy who would pay somebody to do the work, then I'd recommend going with the Subaru. It's heavier and more complex, but there is an advantage besides reliability, and that is torque.

The engines most builders are putting in these cars now are EJ25 2.5L motors, and they have the advantage of modern combustion chambers, a robust bottom end, and better cooling characteristics (which allows higher compression ratios). This yields a torquier powerband with more "driveability" with a 4 speed transaxle.

I just ran in the mountains with a mix of air-cooled and water-cooled cars. I like some of the advantages of my air-cooled mill-- I like the weight advantage, and the retro-vibe of the package. I can guarantee that my engine makes as much or more HP as a lightly chipped EJ25. But I can also guarantee that I've got 2+ times as much in the engine as a Subaru, and it'll last about 1/2 as long. I love working on this car, and I still got off 10 hours late for the trip because of the king of all plugged idle jets.

For gearheads, I'd say that there's something to talk about regarding the various available engines (Type 1, Type 4, Porsche 6, Subaru). For everybody else- it's a no-brainer.

Get the Subaru.

Stan pretty much covered it all. To add to it- if you're a tinkerer (at times it'll seem like you spend as much time in the garage messing with it as you do driving) and can't see a car like this powered by anything else, then aircooled is the only choice. If you're not mechanically inclined then there's lots to weigh in, including the fact that finding someone to work on an aircooled car (especially someone who knows or is willing to learn the hotrodding part of it) isn't easy these days. For some guys, as Stan said, Subaru is the way to go. Al

All my text  disappeared.   Anyways, the video is of my 2.2 L Subaru back in 2012.   It had a mild cam and good exhaust,  about 150 hp.   It ran great and sounded awesome.   In 2015 I decided to go crazy and upgrade to a 2.5 L turbo engine.   It's overkill for most but sometimes power is just addictive.  The  175 hp variety is really all you need and it's much less complicated to build.  


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Last edited by Marty Grzynkowicz
I’m one of only a few people that can say I’ve had both and AC engine and WC engine in the same car.

I started with a 2010 Beck with a 2054 CB, 140 hp engine that I drove for 6 years.

I now have a 2.5L EJ253, 175 hp engine.

My car gained 83 lbs in the conversion.

The biggest issue that I had with the AC wasn’t tinkering, but variability of Powertrain performance over the range of ambient and operating temperatures.

We’re pretty spoiled with modern Powertrains and it’s hard to go back. Most of my driving is enjoying running errands around town, most under 15 minutes. By the time my AC engine was warmed up, I had reached my destination.

The Suby runs perfect every time all the time.

The torque is awesome, which is what gives me my jollies accelerating from stop lights.

I haven’t noticed any difference in handling other than it feels more grounded.

The only real issue I had was the twitchy drive by wire throttle. I’ve been driving manuals all my life and never burned a clutch like I did during my first season. I thought I’d get used to it, but didn’t.

Last Winter, we installed a small electronic device between the pedal and the ECU that allows you to pre-select throttle response curves. I have mine set to off-road 1, which tames the first 30% of travel and has made a world of difference. I had to train myself to put my foot into it when I wanted it, but that’s easier to train than backing off. Now it feels like a turbo kicking in.

When I said $10K, I mean $10K more than an AC setup.
Tom Blankinship posted:

When I said $10K, I mean $10K more than an AC setup.

Can we clarify this please ? BWKIRK says it might cost him about $9K for his AC engine and tranny.....and Tom says add $10K more to that for a good basic Soob conversion ?  In other words....and I just want to clarify, if a person brought a car to a capable shop with no engine or transmission in it and had a 2.5 L Soob engine and a suitable, beefed up VW transmission put into it the cost would be in the $19K range ? 

Low mileage Subbie engines are readily available from wrecks or JDM for around $1k.  Many are low mileage and won't need a rebuild). You do need the wiring, ECU and many sensors.  Just getting the wiring harness modified is $600 then there is the Subbie engine to vw trans adapter and flywheel another $600 --- then the radiator/cooling lines. Using a Subaru 5 speed transmission (6 speed is now available) is ideal but you'd have 5 reverse gears so you need to replace the R&P with reversed gears plus a mount and shift linkage - this adds up fast (see SubaruGears for details - mount $500, rebuilt trans $4k).



What Stan says is truth. Torque. You also get mileage, because modern EFI systems are no-compromise. You also get ease of maintenance. No annual valve adjustments, etc. No nonsense about zddp in your oil, and where do I get the green Brad Penn, etc. Just change the oil and filter about once a season with a decent dino or synthetic, as specified on the oil cap. No points. No Pertronix failures: you have a modern crankfire ignition, so if it's good, it will likely stay good for another 100,000 miles at least. 

For $200 you can plumb in a real heater, which will work. A/C also.

The downside: You'll need a radiator. In the front. That eats up precious space, maybe where your spare tire was supposed to go. (You need this thing up front, not back with the engine. This is a fact and should not ever be discounted). You'll be obligated to change out the coolant every few years. This can be a chore, depending on how your coolant lines are routed. It's also likely to be very tricky to anyone who has never worked on the car before. So learn the technique, write it down and keep that paper handy for reference.

More weight: 75-100 lbs. Not huge but still.

Costs: The additional install cost should pay back within a few years because of all the saved regular maintenance, plus the relative lack of unscheduled gremlins like clogged idle jets and such. 

Engine: $1,000

stuff for the engine (short oil pan, oil separator plate, head gaskets, timing belt): $1,500 

KEP: $700 or so

Electronics: $800 (or more)

Cooling: $1,500

Exhaust: $1,000

Type 1 box with 3.44 R&P + normal beef-up: $1,500

Contingencies (custom intake box, new MAF, throttle cable or whatever etc. & soforth) @10%: $800

Total: $8,800

Install: 20-25 hours. What's your mechanic charge per hour? I'm gonna low-ball it at $100, because, even though the guy who can do this could rightly charge $400 an hour for the custom work, the type of guy who actually does do this kind of thing likes doing it so much he's most often apologetic about asking for the hundred.


Total pro-forma Edstimate (TM): $11,300

Obvs if you're swapping out a stout AC engine you can skip the trans job and sell the old lump for something: $3,500, say, at least. So a swap is gonna net-out more in the $6-$7k range.

And of course if you're David Stroud you can do the whole thing for like fifty bucks and a case of Strohs....



Last edited by edsnova
MusbJim posted:

In the K.I.S.S. world of Musbjim, and to lessen the high probability of this topic becoming a 20-page filibuster... just buy a Subaru and have it wrapped to look like a 356! 

It's starting to feel like this might be a good alternative! Thanks everyone for the information. I felt compelled to consider it bcs as some of you know I'm planning on buying a roller from Vintage and then doing the motor and transaxle separately so seems like the time to consider a Subaru alternative. I'll probably stick with the AC motor setup partly for initial cost and mostly bcs it seems that's the more traditional approach and I think there's something to be said for that as we move toward driverless cars and everything else going more modern all the time. 

I have had both a/c and water-cooled engines in different replicas.  Each has its own positives and negatives.  

A/c pros: cost and availability.  You can readily buy different levels of HP from local builders, whose main source of income is derived from VW Type 1 engines.  Displacement and corresponding HP start as low as 1600 cc and 40 HP, up to 2332 cc and 180 HP or so.  There are still a few quality engine builders available, with Pat Downs being one of the reliable stalwarts of the industry, and an active member of this forum.  Of course, as HP increases, so do costs.  Most, but not all, of our replica owners live within driving distance of a repair shop that still offers service on Type 1 a/c engines.

A/c negatives: Despite the current availability of a/c shops and mechanics, the trend is that the number shops and mechanics offering a/c engines is decreasing, as water-cooled versions of VW and Porsche engines, as well as water-cooled Subis, become popular, and the older shop owners and mechanics retire. 

As the market segment contracts, parts become more difficult to obtain, with cheap Chinese imports for a/c VW's becoming the bane of reputable engine builders and replica owners.  An additional concern for some is the lack of air con and reliable heat for the cabin, which can shorten the driving season.  

Water-cooled pros:  Modern engineering and design enable a 2.5 L platform to develop huge HP, if that's what the owner wants, as well as supply real hot water cooling and compressor-driven air con.  Availability of parts and tuners is practically unlimited, with younger owners driving a vibrant after-market industry with an adequate supply of trained mechanics/technicians.  Parts are readily available at reasonable cost.  If you keep HP limits reasonable, i.e., at 200 HP or lower, reliability is almost assured.

Water-cooled cons: While Japanese second-hand engines are mentioned as economic alternatives, many buyers are uncomfortable with "running take-outs", and will only consider rebuilt or new engines.  Cost can quickly escalate if high HP becomes important.  Effective cooling can be costly, especially as HP increases.  Proper cooling system design is critical, and our replica platforms don't offer the ideal environment for radiator location.  In addition, expect at least a slight weight gain with a Subaru engine.

On a personal note, I have encountered and overcome almost every problem imaginable with a 350 HP Subi turbo engine in our replicas.  Those problems were difficult and expensive to rectify.  Overheating was the most persistent problem I had to resolve.  Be aware that our cars are neither fish nor fowl.  There are a number of automotive-related shops and businesses that will not touch our cars, even with a/c VW engines.  A number of reasons are given for refusal: insurance, unfamiliarity, etc.  This refusal ratio increases with a Subi or other water-cooled engine.

If you're not a wrencher, and you have a favorite shop that you currently use, go have a chat with the owner.  Tell him your thoughts and options, and find out if he and his guys will continue to provide service, and if that service is predicated on an a/c or water-cooled engine.  If he opts out, find out if he can recommend someone in your area, and then go talk to him.  

There is no single platform, engine, or tranny that does it best for all of our needs.  Determine what's important to you by ranking reliability, cost, service, longevity, miles/year, and all the other facets of replica ownership.  What makes sense for me, at my age, may not make sense for someone else. 

The supply of parts and technicians/mechanics for our replicas is driven by demand.  Air-cooled engines still have enthusiastic hobbyists, but the trend is toward water-cooled.  Nothing wrong with bucking the trend, as many of us have done for much of our lives, but the reality, IMHO, is that the air-cooled market segment will continue to contract, making reliable parts and service more problematic in the future.

Best of luck in whatever you decide!

Last edited by Jim Kelly

I advocated for a Subaru, now I'll tell you why I have an air-cooled science project.

The single greatest advantage for guys like me is the almost limitless flexibility of the platform. A 1500 single-port and a 2332 ground-pounder take up the same real-estate, use the same mounts, and are probably built on the same case. Most of what applies to the little feller applies to the big-boy. You can cut your teeth on a 1776, move up to a 2110, and eventually end up with a twin-plug, dry-sump 2276 using a lot of the same parts (if you plan ahead).

... or you can keep your head screwed on straight and just do it once. A nice 2110 with Panchitos and a 120 cam, 40 Dellortos, and a 1-1/2" sidewinder is not cheap by any means, but it won't approach a Subaru in cost, and it won't likely break (much). The fancier you get, the more stuff you deal with. The sweet-spot for everything is about 130- 140 hp. Try for more, and the cost starts climbing the bell-curve pretty rapidly.

Jim Ignacio keeps it simple, and just enjoys life. I want the hammer of Thor under my right foot, and (occasionally) flog my engine like a rented mule. My approach costs more in time and treasure, both initially and in terms of maintenance, but I'm not using my car the way anybody else I know does. You're never going to build something like this, so it's irrelevant. You strike me more as a Jimbo-guy.

That's it. Don't go to the lowest bidder. Don't fall for some huckster's promises. Intermeccanica and Beck use CB Performance for Type 1s for a reason-- because they are businessmen, and when they put a Pat Downs engine back there, they don't have a ton of hassles. That's a good approach- buy once, cry once.

I'd still recommend a Subaru unless you are mechanically inclined.

Last edited by Stan Galat


BW, as you can see, there are lots of good, hard mechanical and money reasons on both sides for going with either the VW or Suby motor. You could probably load all of those facts into the right algorithm and come up with the definitive answer for which one makes more sense.

The problem is that nothing about this hobby is based on cold, hard facts, logic, or common sense. It's really more about what puts the biggest grin on your face.

I think most of us start with the notion that if we're going old school, we need to do it right - somehow, these half-baked, plastic recreations aren't 'right' without that poketa-poketa and whirring fan out back. And those of us who can remember the sixties are maybe also pushed that way because we have this vague memory that VW motors are cheap and easy to maintain, and dead-nuts reliable.

Well, a lot has changed in 50 years. VW motors are no longer cheap and our standard of what's 'reliable' has been rocked by modern fuel-injected and computer-managed engines.

Truth is, with a dual-carb, high-performance air-cooled Type 1, you will be fussing a lot to keep it dialed in - by today's standards. Some of us still think this is 'fun', some of us get bored with it in time and move on - either to Suby power, or to Boxsters, Miatas, or to straight jackets and little, padded rooms.

You're really the only one who can decide which way to go. No one can tell you which is better - for you. And sadly, you just have to drive a VW motor for a while and put up with its quirks to really understand it. While trying to decide, you should be driving as many of these cars as you can to get a taste of what lies ahead.

As we sometimes say here, it's all about the journey.


Well as the madness goes Will, you layout the costs on both side of the equations... you evaluate and look at yourself in the mirror...

if you choose AC you have to sing...

"I AM A MECHANIC, I LOVE TWEAKING CARBS" ... (to the tune I am a walrus)

if you choose the subie... you get in the car in the morning and sing

"Good Morning, Good Morning it's great .... the blue pill song  

You get the song... : )  

Just kidding !

On a more serious note at least your getting educated and listening to our experiences you'll be able to choose your own medicine. Ray

WOLFGANG posted:

I thought a VS Roller came with interior, painted body with brakes, axle stubs and wheels - but NO transaxle, cvc axles, or engine?  The axle stubs are all that needed for it to be rolled or even flat towed.

Thanks Wolfgang- just to be clear on this point because I'm learning many people here like to be specific - I'm ordering a car with everything, minus engine, transaxle and exhaust. On the build sheet Kirk sent me he calls it a "roller". I'm having him build an IRS rear end (thanks to the help of Tony on determine that). 

I appreciate everyone's thoughts and comments. I'm really trying to make an informed decision and I've taken everyone's advice seriously thus far, which is what's gotten me to the decision of buying the car separate from drive train and sourcing those various components out to specialty builders best suited for those parts.

I suspect in the end I'll go air cooled with the mindset that if I really get hooked - for my next car (which would be a spyder) I'll go with Subaru power.

I didn't grown up in the 60's, although I was born in the 60's and spent most of the 70's riding around in my dad's 68 Beetle that he referred to as his "German Corvette", not sure why but it stuck with me and I've always like the sound of those motors. 

But an informed consumer is a smart consumer so thank you all again for indulging me with all your knowledge.

I'm still hung-up on color choices though....I really like the stone grey and slate grey but will likely default to my safe zone of black exterior with tobacco interior. 

I have to weigh in with the WC side of things, in the year or so that I rode my ride with the inline 4 WC 2.0, I loved it. It may not have the open the engine bay wow factor that a 2.5 Subaru engine may have, but damn, they're cheap as chips, wiring harness is a doddle and it's great to tinker around with and for the weekend mechanic, it's a dream to service and maintain. I get about 25-30mpg on mine as the gearbox is the downside, which will be updated soon. 

My main reason for going WC was the price of substandard AC parts on the market. I'm now getting top quality German parts for a fraction of the Chinese knock off AC parts. I'm in this for the long haul and I wanted a ride that would be hassle free and easy to maintain. 

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