Turbocharging a 70's VW Bus/Van -- Can it be done?

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I want to buy a used VW Bus/Van from the mid 70's. I've heard that most of them don't get passed 60-65 mph, and that they don't go up hills well or run at high altitude very well. I was wondering how easy it would be to install a turbocharger, and if there was anything else I could do to get it into the 70-90 zone.

posted by  Aeoleon

well, not only are those vans deathtraps in head-on collisions, they were never meant to be fast.

you have to consider the wear on the engine. a 30+ year old engine most likely will not be able to handle the extra wear a turbo will bring.

if you want something fast, don't get a bus.

if you're partial to VWs, go with the GTI.

posted by  BMWGuru

There are turbo setups for the old VW motors. Not sure how fast your going to get a big ole brick moving down the road though.

If you really love the bus man, sit back and enjoy the ride. You don't need to get there fast. :smoke:

posted by  theman352001

Bernie Bergman has a number of turbo kits for that engine. But they are expensive. But you can get upwards of 400 hp if you want to spend the money.

There are a lot of things you can do for relatively cheap that will improve the speed of those Busses. The '70s versions are all Type 4 engines (just like in the Porsche 914) so all the things you can do to them, you can do to teh Bus. To start with, the Porsche heads are much better (and cheap), so start with a set of those. Then use one of the off the shelf big bore piston/cylinder sets. Factory replacements go to 2 liters, and you can cheaply get up to 2.1 liters. That, with a simple cam and dual carb upgrade, will make the bus much more fun to live with. Of course, you can also have the heads and case machined to accept piston/cylinder kits that go from 2.3 to 3 liters, but they become progressively less streetable and considerably more expensive as they go.

Ive played with a lot of these engines, but Vwhobo has played with more.

posted by  ChrisV

why wold you want to install a turbo charger in a vw van you would be the laughing stock of the race world and you wouldnt win anything at any car shows :banghead:if you do go to a car show this will be the crowd :sleep: and this will be the guy next to you mad at you for parking your pile next to him :cussing:

posted by  toyota

yeh and im going to turbo my lawn mower :orglaugh:

posted by  smokin' joe

yeh get a fast car like a honda or toyota :ohcrap:

posted by  smokin' joe

People like you show just how closed minded and ignorant the world has become.

The car world revolves around more than just import shows and drag races. Get that through your little heads. But just for you, a selection of VW busses that do well at both...




posted by  ChrisV



There are more fast VW Busses out there than you probably know, from turbo Type 4s, to buiult Type 1s, to ones powered by Porsche 911 engines...

This one, in fact, is getting a turbocharged 3.3 liter 911 engine...


posted by  ChrisV


posted by  toyota

You could fit it with some other engine tough.

posted by  MultiJet

Yes you could, but the question is... Why?

posted by  vwhobo

It would be cheaper.

posted by  MultiJet

You've tried it?

Dude, turbo VW engines already bolt in, so you don't have to do any adapting. You don't have to run a radiator, or all it's associated plumbing, or modify the vehicle to fit the engine.

I love swaps of dissimilar engines into cars they were never meant to be in, but in this case, there's no gain, and usually more cost to swap than to build up the stocker.

posted by  ChrisV

I really dig the old VW bus, I'd love an old 21 window or something. I remember flipping through a buddy of mine's Hot VW's last year sometime. There was a bus in there that they owner had swapped a 911 turbo motor into and an Porsche AWD system as well (the bus visually fit it's new drivetrain quite well).

Here's my thoughts, if you're just going for a little extra "umph", do a simple grassroots turbo swap and call it a day. Do a draw-through carb attached to the inlet of the turbo, no intercooler, your motor will probably only handle 5-6psi without serious mods anyway (at very least a rebuild). All you have to do is locate a reasonable sized sidedraft carb (DCOE 44 or 48 might do), fab up some simple tube manifolds and tackle hills at will. But, for the love of Pete, don't drive the bus fast, definitely not a design intention and you should put a lot of money into suspension if you think that's what you need.

Oh, you didn't say what size your motor is, but for turbo's I'm thinking a 12b from an early Volvo, an RHB5 from a Ford Probe or 323 GTX (the 323 GTX being larger), or a 13G from an early AT DSM.

A guy on a different board I'm a part of is turbocharging an '81 Honda Wagon... and it's not the first he's done.

posted by  Bino

VW Bus vs Mercedes - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dllbx-GhLSg

VW Bus vs Porsche GT3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKV9PVHw2xA

VW Bus Turbo Engine - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qba5VnL5Wlk&feature=related

posted by  21windows

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