Adding water cooling

A big issue with adding a Subaru engine to an aircooled Vanagon is the complete and utter lack of water cooling (obviously). We did some research and opted to install a later factory water-cooled Vanagon radiator in the front of the van. We didn’t have any of the mounting hardware, but we found one place in the UK that still had the lower brackets. We bought a pair, fabricated our own fish plates to install them in the later factory mounting locations, and then set the radiator on to check the clearance.

Once we were satisfied with the fit, we sourced a good used upper bracket that had been cut out of a later van and mounted it in the front of this vanagon with some custom tabs. We are concerned about the lack of the secondary grille opening that the water-cooled Vanagons had, but we will be testing our system thoroughly and if we can’t achieve enough cooling we’ll have to do some bodywork and add the grille.

We sourced a powerful 16″12v fan that will pull 2500 CFM through our radiator. We also took the dashboard apart so that we could install the relay package that will power this fan while being controlled by the factory fan switch in the radiator.

Another issue is that we didn’t have any way to get the coolant from the engine to the radiator. The conversion kit came with a special manifold which reversed the coolant hose connections but we still needed to source some factory water-cooled pipes (seen below) to carry the coolant to the front of the car. Some slight modifications had to be made to the underside of the chassis in order to accomodate these pipes. They are shown unsecured but will be tied to the body in various locations to eliminate vibration and keep them securely in place.

Yet another issue to solve is the lack of heat in the Vanagon with the elimination of the heat exchangers. We have sourced a good used water-cooled heater unit for the front of the van and will install that, but we had to plumb about 30 feet of heater hose to and from the bypass connections on the engine. Again, these will be secured in place more properly once the heater box is installed.