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Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/28/21 7:41 p.m.

Prologue: As some may know, there's a 1985 VW Vanagon Westfalia in the fleet. I bought it almost exactly 10 years ago. It's been on a number (but not enough) adventures ranging from overnight to a couple of weeks. This is what it's for.

It's featured in a few threads over the years, such as a "little big brake kit" upgrade that involved a set of Wilwoods (I need to revisit that) and a drive-by-wire project that is still ongoing. I've messed with the suspension, swapped wheels, upgraded a bunch of stuff inside (solar, Truckfridge, a propane furnace, various tweaks) and done a few other things. But I didn't do anything with the engine for a long time.

When we got it, it had a Subaru 2.2 conversion that seemed to work pretty well. A little down on power and economy compared to a coworker's 2.2 powered Westfalia, but only slightly.

But it was still attached to the original 4 speed transmission that was used on the 83 hp VW engine, and that's probably the same one that was originally specified for the 70 air-cooled units. The gearing is funky with a massive gap between 3rd and 4th. So I decided it would be cool to install a Subaru transmission thanks to the reverse rotation ring and pinion offered by Subarugears. Five years ago, I pulled the trigger on a Black Friday deal for a 6 speed conversion setup.

They shipped me a 5 speed kit. From Australia. Some back and forth and I got a 6 speed kit delivered. This is almost foreshadowing. I'd chosen the 6 speed because I liked the gearing combo it would give me - a slightly taller first, very similar 2/3, a new gear between the old 3 and 4, 4th was now 5th and a big tall OD. 

The "split case" trans I chose is pretty rare, having only been used in the 2010-11 Legacy and Outback in the US. I bought a low mileage transmission from a 2010 Legacy and started making the changes to the case. Around this time I was also having to rebuild the trans on my Mini, so it was a lot of transmission work. I know I have some pics, I'll post them.

Until one day in the middle of Utah when the 2.2 done gone blowed up. And I bought a new house. Over the next year and a bit, I built a new "frankenmotor" for the thing using a 2.5 bottom end and the heads from the 2.2. High compression, low flow, lots of torks. It's a pretty happy engine now that it's broken in, to the point where it actually takes some conscious effort to keep it below 85 mph on the interstate. I don't know what the power numbers are on the new mill, but the 1999 Subaru Outback that donated the block was rated at 165 hp.

Obviously, the transmission was set aside during this period. But now it's time. Let's do this thing!

 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
12/28/21 7:50 p.m.

Subscribing.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/28/21 7:50 p.m.

The transmission build itself was a bit of a PITA. I had to make some parts because Subarugears didn't have them for the 6-speed. The most obvious was the plate for the end of the trans, which I made out of a chunk of aluminum plate.

When I finally got around to doing the final setup, I could not get the preload to work. It really looked like a dimensional problem with the main shaft. I contacted Subarugears and was told basically this was not possible. Since I didn't want to take the chance of filling my transmission with debris from an expensive ring gear self-machining, I decided to hand this over to a pro. No trans shops in GJ were willing to take it on so I dragged it over to Denver and left it with ZF Design.

Zach did a beautiful job. The cost was a little higher than expected because he had to do a bunch of machining. The Subarugears parts were not quite correct. Also, I hadn't quite taken enough material off the case. Some new synchros (so much for my low mileage trans) and a shift fork, some STi case studs and I was handed this beautiful thing on the left. Those are 5-speeds beside it, note the extra length. This will come in to play.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
12/28/21 7:52 p.m.

I am very curious about those 108mm-to-Subaru adaptor flanges!

At least, they seem to be 108mm CV flanges.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/28/21 8:00 p.m.

Next step, clutch. I'll just point you all to this thread: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/subaru-clutch-question/190135/page1/

Basically, I'm using the clutch assembly for a 1999 Outback 5-speed. Why not a 2010 Legacy? Because I have the flywheel from the Outback and these parts are a lot more common than the 6-speed ones.

I also have a new slave cylinder. I'm sure I'll learn more about this as we go.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/28/21 8:03 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

I am very curious about those 108mm-to-Subaru adaptor flanges!

At least, they seem to be 108mm CV flanges.

My trans has "Subastubs" in it. I didn't take the flanges to the trans shop so they wouldn't get lost. They'll mate to some off-the-shelf halfshaft. Left side automatic Vanagon used on both sides IIRC. We'll find out eventually if I can get the originals out :)

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/28/21 8:16 p.m.

Shifter!

Had I chosen the 5-speed, I could have continued to use the extremely long rod shift mechanism from the VW. It just needed to be reversed, and there's an off-the-shelf option for that.

Not for the 6-speed. I asked Subarugears and they said "we usually use the one off the donor car". I talked to Wayne at Way Cool Parts about Subaru 818 solutions and he told me about a K Tuned shifter they like to use. It's intended for some swapped Honda and is suuuuper sexy.

Here they both are.

The Legacy shifter is OE engineered. It has a nice reverse lockout. But the cables exit the front and I need them to go out the back. So I'd have to rework that, plus extend the lockout mechanism so I could actually reach it from the Vanagon driver's seat. I could keep the cables coming out the front and doing a 180, but then they'd have to do another 180 at the trans. 

The K Tuned setup has more options. I can adjust the rotation of the shift lever, the length of the lever (and extend it easily) and even the throw of the cables. It has no reverse lockout but there are a couple of threaded holes where I could mount...something. Basically, it's more flexible. And it's sexy.

I've decided to use the K Tuned setup. I spent a bunch of time under the van looking at possible cable routings and locations - the side gate selector (I don't know the term, but it's the one that moves when you move the lever sideways) is on top of the trans and that's not amenable to good cable routing. I figure the best solution is to change up the arms - which would have been easier before I had a fully built trans, but I can work with it. I've ordered some cables of what I think are the correct length with appropriate fittings on the ends from Midwest Control. 112" and 120", if memory serves.

We're basically caught up at this point. I want to get the cables in hand before going further so I can mock everything up on the bench. The next step after that will be to drop the drivetrain out of the van, get rid of the adapter...stuff...that lets the Subaru engine spin the VW trans and figure out how to mount it all. More on that when the time comes.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/29/21 7:52 p.m.

Spent some time puttering...I mean planning the job ahead. Installed the new sleeve for the throwout bearing (that took minutes!) and added Loctite on the set screw. Then I started looking at how to remove the rear halfshafts.

The rear axle nut on these things is torqued to 360 lbs. And then corroded. Yowza. But there's some sort of stub in there that bolts on to the CV joints with a half dozen screws. I can get access to those inside the control arm, hopefully, which would be easier than dealing with that big nut. Or maybe unbolt the hub from the control arm which would allow me to remove the halfshaft and hubs from the control arm - I think. The Bentley manual isn't a huge amount of help other than having a nice exploded diagram of what's in there.

Of course, to remove those CV bolts I need an 8mm triple square socket. I could swear I had one but I can't find it. I'll see if a friend has one.

vwfreek
vwfreek Reader
12/29/21 10:50 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Spent some time puttering...I mean planning the job ahead. Installed the new sleeve for the throwout bearing (that took minutes!) and added Loctite on the set screw. Then I started looking at how to remove the rear halfshafts.

The rear axle nut on these things is torqued to 360 lbs. And then corroded. Yowza. But there's some sort of stub in there that bolts on to the CV joints with a half dozen screws. I can get access to those inside the control arm, hopefully, which would be easier than dealing with that big nut. Or maybe unbolt the hub from the control arm which would allow me to remove the halfshaft and hubs from the control arm - I think. The Bentley manual isn't a huge amount of help other than having a nice exploded diagram of what's in there.

Of course, to remove those CV bolts I need an 8mm triple square socket. I could swear I had one but I can't find it. I'll see if a friend has one.

Removing the CV bolts is probably going to be easier than the axle nut. I use a pick to make sure the bolt heads are clean and hammer in the triple square socket so seats all the way to the bottom, because that's one place I don't want to mess with a stripped out bolt.

I'm in the middle of a reversed Subaru trans swap in my Vanagon also, but will be using the 4EAT.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/29/21 11:41 p.m.

Good tip!

 I have sourced the socket, I shall  begin bolt extraction tomorrow. 

preach (dudeist priest)
preach (dudeist priest) Dork
12/30/21 7:17 a.m.

I am interested to see how mych metal you need to cut off the vanagon to clear the 6mt.

bgkast
bgkast PowerDork
12/30/21 8:15 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Re: Shifter

I have never messed with a Subaru transmission, but I have moved a cable shifted transmission that is usually in the front to behind the driver. If the K swap shifter moves the cables in the same directions for a given gear that the stock shifter does and you simply run the cables out the back instead of the front then you will need to swap the arms on the transmission 180 degrees for it to work. If you use the OEM shifter and install it backwards then the transmission arms can also stay in the factory orientation. 

In my project I stubbornly was stuck on using the OEM shift lever, but couldn't put it into the car backwards as the shift knob was fixed and couldn't just be spun around, causing my need to modify the transmission arms. More Here from 2013 when I was working on that part of the car. I need to buckle down and finish it! crying

If the Subaru knob threads on, the easy (and cheap) but not as sexy option is to use the OEM lever backwards.

Edit: I just realized that you are also installing the transmission 180 degrees from the original position which should reverse the orientation of the levers automatically.   Carry on (and don't start technical posts at 4:45 am!)

 

 

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/30/21 10:52 a.m.

The cables are all moving the right way (you got there eventually, I have the benefit of generally messing with the trans on the bench), but there are parts of Vanagon that may interfere. I think the side selector would require the cable to pass through the passenger compartment under the seat to make it work with an unmodified arm. It looks like the solution will be to rotate the arms about 90* so I can run the cables in from the side. 

Using the Subaru shifter backwards would work if I didn't need reverse. Unfortunately, it has the effect of moving the reverse gate from beside 6 to beside 1, and the trans don't work like that inside.

There will be some sheet metal surgery but maybe not much. There's a crossmember right in front of the trans and my measurements make it look like the trans will juuuust clear it. Maybe. I'm going to have to stick it all in there to know for sure. I can move the engine back slightly without too much trouble, I may do that.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia UltraDork
12/30/21 11:41 a.m.

Was  the idea of a Porsche 915 gearbox out of the question because  of gear ratios ?

There is a Vanagon that I need to look at that has a 3.8 Chevy V6 and 915 box.......

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/30/21 11:58 a.m.

The van has a Subaru engine, Subaru transmission made sense. It's closer to a full OE implementation now, with all off-the-shelf consumables. Although I am going to have to make notes as to which clutch pack I used for future me.

paddygarcia
paddygarcia Reader
12/30/21 1:52 p.m.

Any chance that a Porsche cable shifter would a)work and 2) help?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/30/21 2:08 p.m.

It's unlikely any off-the-shelf Porsche shifter would have cables long enough, as they rarely have a few rows of seats between the driver and the engine :) If there exists one with the same gear setup (reverse on the far right) maybe - but I don't see the potential value. The angle of attack of the cables will remain a constraint no matter what's at the other end. 

I have a shifter that will work, I just need to come up with a good reverse lockout concept. I can see how to lock it out permanently, I'm just working through ideas on how to make it release. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/1/22 7:01 p.m.

Some work has been accomplished. Once I finally managed to get the correct tool from my friend (we're trying to figure out why he even has a 10mm triple square instead of the 8mm needed for VW axles), I started working on the halfshafts. Clean up, tap the tool in and the first 6 came out easily. Possibly because they were lubricated. This transmission was going to need some attention before long.

The bolts for the outer CV are inside here.

They were much grosser. I decided to pull the hub assembly off so I could get a look. Much more gunk removal required!

Luckily, it's not too crusty, just goobered. I was able to remove it with a flathead screwdriver and a pick. And voila, the old halfshaft is off the driver's side. It's not pretty but it's only cosmetically haggard. Now it's time to repeat on the other side. I'll keep these off the van until the new trans is in place as it'll make it easier to work.

I also summoned my superior woodworking skills and made a cart for the engine/transmission to sit on. The last time I pulled the engine, I lowered it on to a pile of wood on a furniture dolly. This should be a lot more convenient and stable. It'll make it a lot easier to position everything with the drivetrain 30" off the ground.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/1/22 8:38 p.m.

Halfshafts are both out now. Not an single bolt put up a significant fight, thank goodness.

 While I've got various bits apart, I'm chasing all the threads with a rethreading kit. Just good practice with old cars. 

obsolete
obsolete HalfDork
1/1/22 8:51 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Those thread chasers are a godsend. I have the same ones, love them.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/16/22 8:28 p.m.

Midwest Control Products has a very promising catalog, but they're struggling a bit with execution. I ordered a specific cable set and got this response - all emails are quoted in their entirety other than signatures.

WE are out of stock on the MSF-4 to make both of these cables.  We would like to know if we can use the MPF-4 in stead so that we can get these built and shipped to you.   Please let me know.

Okay, the MPF-4 rod end looks to be a step down in terms of durability, and these cables were specifically called out as being good for transmissions. So I respond after spending more time with their catalog and checking actual published stock levels.

Do you have a rod end stud that is compatible with the MSF-5-4?

Alternately, we could substitute the MSF-4S and remove the SB250. That would be my second choice.

The answer was not a lot of help.

 I do not have enough of the MSF-5-4 to do that.  They are all spoken for already. 

OK, online stock levels can be difficult. I know that very well.  Not a lot of extra information, though. So I ask for suggestions.

Do you have enough of the MSF-4S?

I don't have a window into your inventory. Any suggestions? This will be a set of transmission shift cables. I will be building the arms, so I can add the appropriate studs. All I need is the rod ends and studs to match.

 The answer?

No we do not.

So, the moral of the story is not to actually go to these people for assistance. Just order out of the catalog and then accept whatever substitutions they come up with. 

Cables showed up this week...and one of them is missing the fittings on the end. Let's see how long it takes to get that sorted out. Luckily it's just a matter of screwing whatever hardware they happen to find sitting around on to the threaded ends of the cables.

At least I have one set of ends, so I can start working on adapting the shifter. Some measuring and drilling and playing around and I've got this going on. Some tweaking of angles and changing out of various inserts to get them fully mounted, but we're looking good and I can make stuff move.

I really should clean up the workbench when taking these pictures.

Unfortunately, that's the easy end. These cables are listed as having a 6" minimum bend radius but I'm not buying that. I think it's close to 3 times as large. I'm going to have to rethink my cable routing. I may end up having to run one of the cables through the rear bulkhead and under the rear seat. That's not as big a problem as it sounds, but I think it will make service challenging if I have to drop the trans again. I also have to figure out the arm lengths so the shift pattern is an appropriate size once the ridiculously long shift lever is attached. Honestly, it looks like the next step is to pull the engine and transmission, clean everything up and stick the new drivetrain into the hole. 

 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
1/16/22 9:49 p.m.

Of course, NOW I can offer this information, but this weekend's wrenchennany brought to my attention that R50/53 Mini shifters are cable shifters that bolt in from under the car and have the cables entirely under the floorpan.

Not sure how this jibes with the viability of being turned around backwards to control a 6 speed Subaru trans pointed backwards.  I also seem to remember that Vanagons have a lot going on under the vehicle in the middle so it may not really matter anyway.  The shifter seems to largely be plastic so you can't really extend the arms, so by the time you have a shifter long enough to reach without bending down, your shifter throws would be through the dashboard to into the rear seat...

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/16/22 10:25 p.m.

Turning both the shifter and trans around works. It's when you only turn one that things get awkward. 
 

The van is actually fairly clear underneath. There's a vestigial passage through the fuel tank that used to carry tepid aid for the heater on the air cooled vans, and the stock shift mechanism is rods. So I've got a pretty straight shot until I get to the trans. The problem is that one of the arms the cable attaches to is on top of the trans, and there's no good way to get the cable up there. 
 

Since I have to redo the arms on the trans, I do have the ability to choose my throw somewhat. And the Vanagon shifter has throws of about a foot anyhow, so "as good as stock" isn't hard to hit :) 

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/17/22 12:37 p.m.

May not be any help but just wanted to let you know, Boxster uses 2-cable setup and they're fairly long. MonZora is wearing a set, courtesy of AAZCD

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/17/22 12:59 p.m.

Do Boxsters have three rows of seats? :) I didn't expect to find anything off-the-shelf. The cables I ordered are 112" and 120" long.

I have the cables now, just not the fittings at the ends. Pricing was not bad, about $170 shipped.

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