Part 6 - Aircooled Vanagon Chassis Prep

In this article we will walk through the process we took for preparing the aircooled Vanagon for the Subaru EJ22 motor. This part includes cleaning up the engine bay of grime and unnecessary items, as well as installing the radiator pipes from the engine bay to the radiator mounted up front.

This step can be challenging if using stock radiator pipes as it is necessary to drop the fuel tank to fit them through the steel bulkheads and in between the shift linkage, among other things. If you take your time and walk away from the project when it gets frustrating you will thank yourself. Follow along as we dive into getting this Westfalia water cooled.

Overview and Approximate Time Needed :


Process Description

~ Time (hours)


Clean engine bay and strip chassis



Install radiator tubing



Install radiator



Clearance engine bay, install water temp gauge






* Approximate Total Time =


*When you factor in rest and prep time, a mechanically inclined person should reserve a full day to complete this process.  For someone new to working on cars, this may take 2 or 3 days of work.


Tools you may need:

1.       Metric socket and wrench sets

2.       Engine degreaser and parts cleaner

3.       Fuel cans to empty fuel tank

4.       Floor jack and jack stands


Step 1: Clean engine bay and strip chassis

The first step is the get the engine bay cleaned up and free of parts we no longer have a need for. We'll move up front after that and prep the front of the van for a radiator. Luckily on this 82' there were holes ready for all the brackets we'd need to mount the radiator!

Step 2: Install radiator tubing

Once you've sourced all the parts for the watercooled swap it's time to get them installed. Refer to the pictures below for the items we need to install a watercooled motor into an aircooled Vanagon.

This step is the hardest part of the swap in my opinion. It is tough sneaking the stock Vanagon water pipes through the aircooled chassis framework. The notches and holes are in the crossmembers so that it works out great, it just takes a while and requires a lot of patience. 

Step 3: Install radiator 

Now that the radiator pipes are installed we're ready to get the radiator in place. Using some of the original mounting brackets from the A/C equipment we were able to create top brackets for the radiator that turned out nice and secure. Follow along with us!

Step 4: Clearance engine bay, install water temp gauge

This step is pretty straightforward and interesting. The aircooled Vanagons' transmission sits forward about 2" more than the 83.5+ vans. This requires a little modification to the engine bay firewall in order to clear the intake air duct. This proves to be quick work when the motor is out of the chassis, but as you can see from the pictures, I didn't realize this until I had already installed the motor. The water temperature gauge is fun to retrofit in my opinion, and it goes fairly quickly.


In this step we cleaned and prepared the chassis for installation of the EJ22 into the Vanagon. The hard part is over! Now we get to install the previously prepped motor and get to driving our soon-to-be SubaruVanagon. Continue with us in Part 7.