• April 2024 Update

    Hi All,  

    First, updates on the latest product announcements, then some ongoing and future items.

     K24z Honda conversion parts for Vanagons!

    The second K24z beta group parts are being powdercoated now!  We're up to 10 members of the two beta groups, and the second beta parts saw a revision of the main engine plate from a single piece into 3 parts so the bottom plate can be removed for easier access if needed. It's also much less expensive in terms of shipping costs. 

    Used to be you had to pick either the reliability of the Zetec, or the power of a Subaru, now you can have both reliability and power in your van!  

    There will be a couple turnkeys available this summer, but they are *not* cheap. Going the K24z DIY route has an even proportionally bigger savings than the DIY zetec/turnkey. Expect the K24z turnkey to run in the 17k-20k range. If you are interested, contact us now, as with them being so limited they will almost certainly sell before any online announcement. 

    The Gunny rack (Rugged aluminum roof rack for tin-top vanagons)

    The Gunny rack is another one of those "this is what I want for my van, but it doesn't exist" projects. It came out great, and is crazy strong, light, and crazy good looking!  

    There is only 1 rack left from the first run (that can be coated/painted to a custom color if you like) currently available here:


    The Zetec conversion

    People ask if the zetec kits are still available, yes they are!  


    As intended (almost 20 years ago now), Zetecs are still readily available for short money. We just sourced a 65k mile engine for $300 for a summer turnkey build, making it the 4th in the last 6 months under 70k and under $500.  

    They are still the kings of reliability, being a lot like tractor engines in their simplicity and robustness, but also rev out to take advantage of the extremely short gearing of the vanagon driveline. With almost 1000 zetec conversions sold, they are the most numerous on the road, that like to stay on the road. Just like the vanagon itself, they are more tortoise and less hare, for exactly the same reasons. 

    They are being done in batches again, with the spring batch just having been completed and sold out!  The fastest way to get one is place a deposit, as you might be the one to place the deposit that kicks off the group build. 

    Having been the first company to introduce turnkey engine swaps to vanagonland, we've added them back in as an option again.   


    Supercharger for Zetec

    The SC beta is still underway!  It's a loooooooong slog, but we're getting the results.  Looking forward to this season and the beta guys working on them now getting going! Much better to go slow and get good results than move fast and leave the wreckage of customer value in your wake.  At least that's our philosophy. 

    We may not be making money hand over fist, but we do have loyal and supportive customers.  It's never been a money grab for us like it is for most, it's always been a barter, we make your dreams of using your van like you want to a reality, and you allow us to play with and develop cool stuff for work. Pretty good trade. 

    Technically, the first stage of the SC beta, which is new MAF, injectors, and ECU/tune will likely become the naturally aspirated future of the Zetec conversion, and offer improved performance for naturally aspirated engines too. 

    Project Z

    Was named project Zion, as in Zion national park, as the end goal is to visit Zion in a project Zion van!  But it's now just project Z.  The developments here are pretty great! Why? Because the biggest road block to it is current battery technology.  People that want to sell you electric vans or conversions right now won't tell you that current EV/hybrid battery technology sucks, but we will. It's heavy, dangerous, and will burn you, either literally or figuratively down the road with cell, module, or pack failures. 

    We dodged a bullet on project Z, as we had chosen the Chevy Bolt battery modules to use, and had a pack in an ebay cart. Then all the fires started hitting the news.  Everyone can see what could have happened if we had already been moving, or pulled the trigger faster. Oof. 

    Fast forward to today, the new Ultium from GM will be the first large scale LFP battery platform in the states and the chevy Bolt EUV will have it next year. It means yeah they will still be heavy... but more importantly they aren't prone to thermal runaway and self-sustaining exothermic reaction = your van burning to the ground while you and the fire department (hopefully) watch. They will  be both safer (#1!!) and cheaper (bonus!!).  And both traits carry to the aftermarket. Since project Z is a hybrid, the pack weight won't be massively impacted vs Li+.  

    For engine swaps we chose engines very carefully to maximize customer value over making marketability/sales easier for us.  We do the same for the true foundation of the hybrid project, which is the batteries. 

    Opus One

    The last new product announcement is still not ready to be announced. But we can say this: it won't be branded Bostig, and isn't related to vanagons at all (other than it is kinda angular/boxy, and is technically internal combustion). We do think (and hope) though, that a lot of you folks will still be very interested in the Opus One as well!

    Jim personal notes

    The last 6 months have been pretty tough for me personally. My fiance and I both lost our dogs about a month apart, Lefty made it to 13, unfortunately cancer took Gunny at 9. It's always tough to lose dogs, they really are family, and in my case coworkers.  As most of my time is spent alone in the shop, Gunny was really helpful despite being terrible at turning wrenches, answering emails, and in particular, scheduling. 

    Working now truly alone for the last 6+ months, I think I'm just beginning to understand how much of an impact his loss has had on me. Both how it has affected my life in general, and my work. I am hopeful that the depressive effects will continue to wane, as they haven't been overt or even recognizable, but looking back have certainly been there and have been weighing me down pretty heavily.

    Looking forward, I've got an upcoming trip to Colorado, end of May, first week of June to take advantage of Colorado's self solemnization laws with my fiance. Neither of us were ever too impressed with the idea that someone with a title or funny hat needed to be the one to officially commit ourselves to each other, so being able to hike up a mountain and call it ourselves seems like a really cool option. Plus, then I *need* to buy a newer, faster, more capable drone to capture it obviously. 

    Ok, that's the blog update!  Maybe another one in a few more years? 

  • Lastest updates Mar 2021

     Well here's my sexennial blog post. I really am terrible about keeping up with the blog and making videos, but I'm convinced to make a better effort at it. My guess is that it will end up helping customers and helping Bostig. It might even be entertaining!

    So here we go on the latest updates on things people would like to know about by subject.

    The SC (Supercharger)

    The supercharger dev hit a number of showstoppers along the past 5 years, luckily none of them were insurmountable. They did however brutalize the speed of the project, which when you're at this scale of operations is pretty easy to do. 

    Sure I could have shoved something out the door faster, but trust me that's not good for anybody. We are still in the private beta phase of dev. The phases of Bostig dev tend to be Proof of Concept (POC) -> Private beta -> Public beta -> Retail.  The private beta in this round was speeding up last fall, when we again hit some real slowdowns. Slowdowns in the form of 2/3s of private beta guys getting injured to the point they couldn't participate!  All unrelated, none having to do with vans. 

    Despite that setback, we did overcome a MAJOR showstopper in the fall in the form of finding an ECU guru who is not only fantastic at calibrating, but who can actually hack the ECUs and gain customized control over the factory ECUs to a level I haven't seen in my entire working life with cars, which is ~30 years.  This advance may actually carry back over to the conversion itself since it allows us to once and for all delete PATs (Passive Anti-Theft) from the focus ECUs meaning we can use them again. And could give us some great new capabilities like controlling the radiator fans speeds from the ECU etc. 

    Currently I'm onboarding a couple additional folks into the beta, which will be the first change in group size in over a year. I was hoping to be at this stage in the early winter last year but man, if it isn't one thing, it's a pandemic. 

    The best news on the SC front that I can share via text is that the hardware is pretty dialed in now, very few changes. This combined with consistency in tuning/calibrating across the group is what gets us into the public beta phase.

    I'll add some new pictures of the current setup for the next post. 

    The PZ (Project Zion)

    Me with the 67 hp ZF75 motor from a Zero SR

    This is the codename of one of the other "power adders" that I've been working on. All cool projects should have codenames, and this one is great because Zion is one of my favorite national parks, but also because it really is the ultimate type of power adder to achieve. 

    PZ is a parallel hybrid drive system from Vanagons. There, I said it. I've been , researching, waiting, and working on it since early 2019. The POC is quite a thrill! So are the benefits to such a system:
    • Hugely Improved acceleration
    • 2wd -> 4wd
    • Improved braking via regen
    • Only way to add power and *lower* loads on other driveline parts (300-400 hp vanagon now possible without instantly destroying transmission)
    • Errand or Emergency pure electric range
    • Huge GINORMOUS house battery for camping
    • Improved MPGs during city driving
    • Great for rock crawling, (max torque at 0 rpm up front)
    • CA legal right out of the box
    • Rear powerplant agnostic
    See why I would call it Zion? Plus "Zion" sounds vaguely electrical. Anywho the POC is a blast to drive as the test mule is both the SC test mule and the PZ test mule. For the POC I wanted to test a smaller, lighter, lower voltage aircooled setup. I did so with the drivetrain from a 2017 Zero SR electric motorcycle. That setup is great because the whole thing would add under 500 pounds, and for the DIYer would be much safer than the typical 300+ volts you deal with in electrics. 104 volts can nail you, but isn't nearly as likely to insta-kill you if you really screw up. The 106 ft/lbs right off the line is really great too. The POC was a test to see how a single one of these motors does, with the intent to use two of them eventually. But while the Zero drivetrain is great, it just isn't up to the sustained kW output levels I want to see to climb mountains etc. So the very first day I had it up and running and tested I hit the drawing board again to upsize. (here's a video of that very first little jaunt around the parking lot) 

    For my next blog post I'll go through some of how I did the POC and share some more pictures and get some more video. In addition, I'll also start getting into how PZ has the potential to help syncro owners and 2wd owners looking to go syncro with suspension and brake upgrades for the front end as well. Syncro parts are of course made of unobtanium. Things like new forged uprights are not possible at this scale, and machined chromoly parts are just ludicrously expensive without truly offering the value they cost. But I'm working on a solution for all that too and just today actually, it passed the very first hurdle. Please email me with any specific questions you'd like answered in the blog, or encouragement! blogstig@bostig.com

  • Power adder

    Since I started working on them in 2006, the goal was to add power without sacrificing the reliability of the NA zetec/conversion.

    Right now people have to choose, although many don't realize what they are leaving on the table. Most people have the viewpoint that with a Bostig they are leaving power on the table, and they can get Bostig reliability with a subaru based conversion. In reality with a 2.5 Subie they are leaving reliability on the table, and with a 2.2 they are leaving both reliability along with no power advantage on the table.

    The current turbo rev has been in testing since 2009. It is not dead. There have been 4 major revisions, non-intercooled, 2 air/water intercooled, and the air/air intercooled ones that have been running since 09. I don't like the turbo as a power adder for anyone. It has the upside of having upside. If you want to do a crazy build and make 400HP, you can, and break everything in your driveline as often as you want. But it has downsides in that its number of points of failure, modes of failure, and severity of outcome of failure are still such that not anyone can just run it and have it be reliabile, its compeltely subjective and varies by owner. That is not the solution that Vanagon owners need.

    The alternative is the opposite, very few points of failure, very friendly modes of failure, and very low severity of outcome for even the most catastrophic modes of failure. Driving a syncro with 180HP and 200ft/lbs of torque that just keeps going and going is so great, more people need to experience it. I'd also like to help avoid more cases of the few unfortunate folks that inadvertently commit Subicide with a gremlin riddled setup after dumping ton's of money into the project to then perhaps scrap the whole idea of a van. People pull Subarus for Bostigs for reliability increases, they learned the hard way the extra 30HP wasn't worth the risks they didn't fully understand. People only pull Bostigs for more power. Like my original plan back in late 2004 called for, we need a good power adder. And I'm almost done.

  • Groups and Customer Pull

    Bostig manufactures in small batches or groups. Because the marketplace and Bostig itself are so small in scale, we try to make it a point to not carry inventory of kits either. This makes changes to the kit itself faster/easier and has contributed to the success and quality of the system.  In addition, because cashflow is extremely important in small businesses, we try not to tie up cash in inventory. It is better used for ongoing R&D etc.

    Instead of the traditional customer push model that you are used to in larger or mainstream markets, we use customer pull. Customer push is what most people are familiar with, build a bunch of product, and keep it in inventory, then use price incentives and marketing to move product out of inventory or "push" to the customer. The customer pull model allows us to build a group essential "on demand".  The cycle time is longer, for the customer but the results are much better. Value is higher to the customer and the product itself gets updated much more often.  We *sometimes* carry kits in inventory, however those kits are usually reserved for documentation work and internal use, however we will sometimes allow people to buy reserve kits for an additional surcharge vs the group purchase price. If you're really in a pinch, you can always ask us if we have any reserve kits available. The surcharge runs $500.

    Someone also asked what the differences were between RG2 and RG3, and the answer is yes, but all RG1 and RG2 can be made to RG3 spec with minimal extra time/purchases. The main change is the airbox moving to the driver's side, a change which speeds up airbox modification for fitment and retains the intake resonator which quiets the intake noise even further.  Other changes are tune based, and can be updated via email and reflashing of the ECU.



  • It's not just the actual work

    I just saw a hilarious image on imgur that I'm sure many people can relate to. It's got profanity, so sorry if you're offended but man is it funny:

    It reminds me that it's not just the time spent actually bolting things together in most automotive projects that really takes up most of your time. It's also easy to forget just how much of a time suck and headache inducing situation it is when you aren't all planned out and organized, especially when you are doing a project for the first time.

     Without knowing what is in store when setting off on a project, it's easy to miss things and honestly, you can't know what you don't know. Because every other conversion available in the market is essentially a one-off each time it is performed, no two are ever identical and therefore the project itself is never identical either. Add to that the fact that no other vendor offers a truly complete, repeatable, formula for success with their parts, and you might not anticipate what it really takes to pull off a DIY engine conversion in your vanagon.

    This is an area where a system like ours really helps, we can guarantee the outcome, and you can avoid huge amounts of wasted time and effort. Not even to mention having the most proven, simplest, and reliable engine possible in your vanagon!

  • Reply and tickets

    This is an open reply to two threads on thesamba, rather than repost, I will post here, and past in links:

    Sorry to Marvin if the replies to the MCHS ticket thread were insufficient, they were much slower than I had realized and sorry we didn't answer all your questions.

    The reason we don't support variation to the kit is that we don't have experience with it, nor can we support things we didn't sell/develop. We don't oppose it at all, in fact we welcome it (the airbox dev work people have been doing is great, and we will likely shift to one of those variants) don't get me wrong, but we can't support it unless that is part of the specification.

    For instance, in the MCHS thread, it was posited that the fasteners for the MCHS were installed heads up for appearance, but the reason is for access/convenience. It you put the head the other way through, the head will spin when you loosen the nut. Having captive nuts behind it makes this easier.   We've also flipped the fasteners and weld two stainless bolts to a strip and then have the nuts on the front, it is unclear which lasts longer currently.

    Also we used to use all stainless hardware for it, but unless copious amounts of anti-seize are used (which is not typical, even when specified) they gall and break. So we have to mix the material to avoid galling.

    In the case of the exhaust, anytime you have stainless that gets exposed to high heat, even the highest grades, it loses much of it's corrosion resistance with carbide precipitation. So your quest to find a "do it once" solution unless you go with extremely obscure (read expensive and hard to source) materials is often a second runner up to doing it such that the maintenance interval is acceptable.

    But I still think yours happened very quickly, I looked through the ticket system and my email and I can't find have any datalogs from you Marvin.  If you could send or resend a recent drive log, we could see if perhaps there is an issue and you're overfueling which causes excess radiant heat as the extra fuel is burned in the catalytic converter. This would also cause the melted loom in the picture I saw.

    By the way (not directed at Marvin specifically) someone asked me the other day "do I really need to send a datalog?"  to which my reply is: it's like coming out of heart surgery and asking the doc, "do you really need to monitor my vitals?"  The answer is actually of course no, but you have the capability with the kit, and expertise on this side that's already paid for so why wouldn't you?

    Lastly, as Jeff relayed I prefer the questions that are kit/install specific to come through our systems. The close feedback loop is one of the things that makes everything better than the alternatives. If we just offered the parts and said "here's your adapter plate and flywheel have fun" like many others do, then there wouldn't be vendor specific questions, nor would we catch any additional criticism for having incomplete docs because we aren't even trying. Our goal isn't to simply sell parts, our goal is to keep vanagons on the road and owners driving along happily. We are trying to achieve what nobody else is attempting, and it is made more difficult if information is all over the place.

    As far as visibility of problems,  it depends on the nature of the problem. If there is a systemic problem, then sure it should be known to all, if however it is a specific problem to the user then it should not. It can cause extra work and worry for people that shouldn't have either. As far as determining which is which, only those with the most data can actually determine that. That would be us, and our customers pay us to know the right info, and make those calls so they don't have to and that's what we work hard to do.

    If one wants to go along the route of it should all be unmanaged/non-currated public information and we shouldn't be the first touchpoint and authority on information (which is perhaps the single most valuable aspect of the system) then there are plenty of options that will allow one to figure out every aspect for him or herself and post endlessly online about it and wade through answers. That's what we're trying to avoid from the start as that does *not*, despite what anyone believes, provide the best results.

    Luckily it seems we aren't wrong about that or the two of us wouldn't have any ability at all to support the now 423+ kits out there, but we do. Unfortunately not as quickly or perfectly as we or anyone else would like all the time, but it's not for lack of concern,  please understand that.  I also still think that comapred to just about anything else including big companies, our support is very good. You have to remember there are two human beings back here though and we do have lives, problems, and troubles too, there is actually no such thing as Bostig except to the government and the lawyers, and most of the time I try to avoid their perspective. We like the arrangement very much of our customers supporting us, and us supporting them. It allows both to achieve things that neither would have been able to do without it.

    Jim Akiba

  • No Regrets Rebate up to $1000 off the RG2 Bostig Conversion System!!!!

    Tax refunds and no regrets rebates! This spring is the one to stop making yourself promises and start getting out there and travelling in and enjoying your van. We've all done it, we say this is the year I'm going to make that big trip happen. Of all the customers that have finally done their big trips, they almost all say the same thing afterwards... Why didn't I do this sooner?

    In thinking about why that happens, we decided we could help!  We're offering the "No Regrets rebate".

    With MOST automotive projects, people start to collect parts before there's a project plan. This often leads to lots of part collecting dust for years, and leads to questions like "Honey, what are you going to do with these parts, can't we just get them out of here so we can have the space back?"

    Yeah that happens to all auto aftermarket niches and all enthusiasts, and for all kinds of reasons.  SO what we've decided to do is offer a rebate for your miscellaneous parts that you may have started collecting for your engine rebuild or even another conversion!  Things like:

    • Engine cores
    • Bellhousings
    • Adapter plates
    • Exhaust parts
    • Coolant parts
    The way it works is this:

    1. Take up to 5 digital pictures of your parts
    2. Fill out the online form here
    3. We review your story and make a rebate offer up to $1000 off an RG2 Bostig Conversion for your parts
    4. Free up that space and send us those dusty unused parts!
    5. Buy that RG2 Bostig
    6. Finally hit the road and rack up those (s)miles
    Make sure to really tell us your story.  We've all been there, and the more we relate, the more likely we are to get all sappy and give a bigger rebate. And yes, we might even pay you more than the parts are worth :)

    This offer will run until April 17th 2014, and is only good for RG2

  • HC Oilpan draining, and Bostig as Apple

    I just replied to a recent thread on theSamba that might interest some folks, it was about not being able to get all the oil drained when doing an oil change with the High Capacity oilpan. Original thread is http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?p=7119695

    On the draining of the HC Oilpan, without the skidplate you'll get just about eveything out other than the height of the threads and gasket radius needed to seal when level. If you put the driver's wheel up on a ramp or jack it you can get more, but it shouldn't be enough to be worth it.

    If you have the skidplate installed all the time, then you need to lift the driver's side and use a bit of cardboard or plastic with a crease to drain it. This is so that no low point (as seen in OEM stock pans) is needed, which increases cost, adds a lower hit point, and would require the entire skidplate to be that much lower.

    If you are still suspicious you aren't getting enough, call, email, or submit a ticket and we can figure out if anything else/weird is going on.
    furrylittleotter wrote:

    I am pleased my stock Subaru pan drains just fine and is still higher that a bostig. Cool 

    Neil2, if you're game: with your van on even pavement, can you measure your ground clearance at the lowest point, along with the distance from the ground to your wheel arch (body panel, middle of the bottom edge of the arch) height?

    If you have subie stock pan, you should be a couple inches worse off than a Bostig with the HC Oilpan. Early versions used to have worse ground clearance but we are now equal or better to recent subaru based installs we have data for. For instance Syncro Bohttps://www.facebook.com/SyncroBo gained .5" when it was converted from a 2.2L subaru based RMW install, and the Bostig has significantly higher departure angle than all conversions, 1.8t being the lowest departure angle.

    I don't take offense to your comments about Apple, I take it as a compliment, and you have an excellent point. The evil part isn't true, but we are very much like Apple. We offer a unified system that will definitely work for anyone that wants to use it. The other options like subaru based installs are more like DIY PCs. You can indeed get excellent bang for the buck if you know what you are doing and put in the time, but you'll have to do a lot more work, and have a lot more expertise to do it. In addition the risks will be higher down the road, just like the Apple vs. PC debate except in gremlins not viruses/malware.

    You can read about our philosophy in the blog on the site as to why we believe this is a better approach for those less interested in building/modding vanagons and more interested in travelling/driving vanagons, which is who we build for.

    As for the slogan. We just have more conversions/miles than any other vendor (and we are not nearly the oldest either), and all those people trusted us and our products with their money/time/effort. They wrote it for us.

    -Jim Akiba

  • The point of a Vanagon!

    A quick note I wanted to share from a customer that I just got:

    Headed up the Oregon coast to Portland and then back to New Mexico. >3000 miles round trip. I'm no "mechanic" (had troubles with burping the cooling system), but I have learned about every system with the Bostig and don't really feel like there is anything that can't be fixed. So, why not stray far from home? That's the point of a Vanagon!

    Couldn't put it better myself!

  • Getting Vanagon priorities straight when it comes to DIY engine conversions.

    I just ran across a post on theSamba in which conversions were being discussed. One quote popped out at me because while it's not uncommon, it is the single root of so much known and largely unknown misery in vanagonland that it needs to be addressed!

    The quote was (in reference to the Bostig):

    "what about power Wise ? 
    fuel economy ? 

    I understand the reliability side ,...but reliability without other qualities is so/so ...... "

    This is exactly upside down. Without reliability, NOTHING else matters. It doesn't matter one bit if you've got loads of horsepower potential but the engine isn't running! It also doesn't matter what fuel economy potential you have if you aren't running.

    People often make the mistake if thinking as follows:

    "Well, I'm going to a lot of trouble and expense to re-power my vanagon, so I need to make sure that it has enough power so I don't regret it, decent fuel economy and miles per tank, and it would be great if it was the same shape as the original install (or anything else arbitrary, like country of origin for instance)."

    The trouble here is that the most important aspects of the whole project are assumed! Namely: reliability and consistency of result!

    Ask yourself these three questions:
    1) Is there such a thing as a perfect system that will never experience a problem?
    2) Which is easier, troubleshooting consistent systems, or inconsistent ones?
    3) Will you be allowed to fail?

    The answers are:

    1) No
    2) Consistent systems are easier to troubleshoot
    3) No, we ensure our customers don't fail

    Without reliability and consistency of the product you're purchasing to install and use in your project, you simply have no basis for an expected outcome, good or bad. That is what sets the Bostig apart. No other offering can guarantee an outcome because they fundamentally lack consistency. Sure Dave's subaru 2.5 conversion might have been trouble free and awesome for the last 25,000 miles... so therefore your subie 2.5 will be also right?  

    Absolutely not. In fact they may be so far divorced, that the best analogy would be to say that since Grandma makes the best cookies, and she uses eggs in her cookies, if I use the same eggs... I'll make the same cookies. Would anyone in their right mind claim that?  No, and guess what... engine conversions are a LOT more complicated recipe to prepare and execute than cookies. 

    Roll the dice, or roll with us, entirely up to you. 

  • Organically grown car guys/gals

    We want to avoid turning Vanagon people into car hobbyists organically. That's the hard way. Eventually we all learn that as the car hobby depth increases, it actually turns into more down time and less travelling, for a painfully long period of learning the hard way.  Worse, it wastes a lot of money. It doesn't mean you won't reach the point where it can go the other way again, but many people can't bridge that gap and abandon the whole idea of the vanagon if the failures are frequent or large enough in cost.

    The phenomenon of cars being worked on until they're totaled (like in an accident, and the car is so screwed up by the owner that it no longer has any value) is little known outside of gearhead circles. The worst one I've witnessed personally was about $80k poured into the car before eventually being parted out to try and recover.

    We remove the hard part of the learning curve to ensure success in things you set out to do to with your Vanagon to begin with. If you want to geek out on upgrade paths, cool, there are lot's of options and loads of people to talk online all day about finer points with. If you want it to work so you can get out there, and stay out there till you're done, come talk to us.

  • Optimal Torque Curve for a vanagon

    Someone recentaly asked this question on the Samba, and I replied with the following. It reflects my philosophy on building vanagons:

    I've seen several charts showing power bands but what would be optimal? The westy is heavy and bad uphill. 

    Good question. First you have to define "optimal". It will be subjective. For many on this board, optimal will simply mean "most" which is literally self-destructive and very costly to embrace as a philosophy.

    My answer would be: You should shoot for as little torque as you can stand to drive with if your top priority is to use/travel with the van and keep costs/maintenance time as low as possible. If you are a local only driver, have more than one car, go to lot's of shows, really enjoy having the most baddass thing out there as a top priority, then that comment doesn't apply and go for the gusto but don't exceed 220 Ft/lbs of torque.

    It is really important to understand the entire system as well. The vanagon actually *isn't* very heavy at all for a light truck. The issue is that they have so much room, they can be loaded and made VERY heavy.

    VW designed the vanagon chassis and the entire powertrain to be very lightweight, and use gearing over a large torquey powerplant. Hence the 96 HP 2.1 liter and final drive ratios *starting* at 4.86 The final drives are the real clincher of this point. Even 4 cylinder wranglers are at 4.10. If you talk to any American truck guys, they will be shocked to hear that our final drives regularly go to 6.17 to accommodate 31" tires.

    If you look at the components of a vanagon transmission compared to other light trucks or even passenger cars, it's obvious that they built for light weight and gearing not torque and low revs. This is the reason why when you try to do something like a 5 cylinder TDi, or go to 31" tires you start breaking things, and will continue to break things until you concede and go back. Many people will also "upgrade" parts like move to 930 CVs to reinforce perceived weak parts of the driveline. While the individual portion of the driveline is strengthened, the rest won't be, and has very low limits so the end result is really just moving failure points around. You're only as strong as your weakest link, and in this case you're quite lucky to be able to *choose* that link ahead of time, so you know where it is going to fail before it does so you can be prepared for it, and manage the risk/outcome.

    In the case of 930s you move it from an external easy to get at part (the CV) to the flange/internal break, which my good buddy John just found out the hard way, and almost took Daryl with him at Syncrofest!

    So while there are many ways to approach an answer to that question, I *strongly* urge most people to be boring when building their rigs. As most people are in it to use the rig, and then start to get caught up in the hobby of modding their vans. If you transition from using your van to modding as your primary motivator, the outcome will reflect that, and your use of the van will go down. You cannot have two top priorities unfortunately. Yes it is less glamorous, yes it won't get you as much credit at a show, but if your primary objective is to travel and camp in your van, then keep a laser focus on your decision making and put it there.

    So the answer for what is optimal will be subjective, however I restate it: You should shoot for as little torque as you can stand to drive with if your top priority is to use/travel with the van and keep costs/maintenance time as low as possible. If you are a local only driver, have more than one car, go to lot's of shows, really enjoy having the most baddass thing out there as a top priority, then that comment doesn't apply and go for the gusto but don't exceed 220 Ft/lbs of torque.

    The needier you get, the more problems you're going to have. I'll gladly stand up as the voice of boring let's-not-push-it because I've been in the auto aftermarket for a long time, and I've seen how badly so many projects can go for people when they lose their focus and fall into the "need more" cycle or the "while I'm in there" feature creep. It's possible to work on a car until it's totaled, and there is literally *nothing* to show for the money and time. Seen it too many times.

    The whole point of a vanagon really is to "need less" and if you try to flip the script, you'll pay. The people that can do with less are the ones telling me how happy they are with their rigs and sending pictures of where they are travelling to. Laying rubber is fun, but if you find you really enjoy that, get another car to satisfy the need for speed... or do like Benny, Brady, and myself do and get a fast motorcycle to offset that need. Don't try to squeeze blood from a stone, you're only going to hurt your own hands.

    It's foolish (but cool) to hotrod a vanagon for 99% of the people here. Because most of the folks with them weren't gearheads to begin with... don't get sucked in!! Keep your eye on the independence, mobility, and self-reliance that you got into it for, and don't get corrupted by the more, more, more. You'll be happier being who you are.

    Folks may disagree with me, that's ok. My voice comes from managing and supporting more vanagon powerplant swaps than any other individual in vanagonland far as I know. Let me tell you, the bludgeonings of reality have certainly dulled my sense of adventure when it comes to build ups... but I see consistent results too, which is worth it's weight in gold. So learn from my experience, even though I also realize that more people will actually need to find out for themselves before they believe in this rather boring philosophy. What you decide to do sitting front of a computer will eventually be related to how you feel out in the world using your creation, and what gets you excited here, won't often translate well. Know your purpose. Set your goals. Execution is everything.

    Hope that helps or at least offers contrary opinion,

    Jim Akiba

  • Engineered Independence

    In trying to capture what exactly it is that makes our philosophy unique, I considered all of the attributes that we hold close. Systems thinking, modular design, simplicity, and documentation are all important pieces of the puzzle that make who we are, how we operate, and what we produce different.

    The end goal of all these things that is uniquely Bostig is independence, carefully engineered. Independence in parts sourcing, independence in maintenance, independence of information from us or others by providing good and complete information. This ultimately produces true independence for the customer to go wherever and whenever they choose to go.

    People often make the mistake of making the engine swap itself the goal, or performance the goal, or one subset of capability the goal (going fast, looking good, mpgs, off-roading, handling) they can’t see the forest for the trees and make trade offs that can end up leaving them less independent. That’s exactly what we don’t do, and that’s why we have the most happy customers with the most miles of any company in the market.

    Systems Thinking

    Systems thinking is a central tenet in the Bostig philosophy. In designing something like a replacement engine option, traditional thinking considers things like the engine itself, fuel choice, horsepower, torque, fuel economy, and fitment. These are important considerations, and often sufficient selling points for the inexperienced, however it falls short of genuine customer needs.

    The powertrain is a system. That system is part of a larger system, and both systems change over time. The drivers and installers are also part of the system. The part supply infrastructure, maintenance model, business, production, delivery, and support models are additional systems that are part of the whole that determines the final result and its potential, both negative and positive.

    In the same way that a holistic approach to medicine is showing to be important, the more capable you are of considering and answering the problem set in multiple dimensions, the better the solution can be.

    The result of good systems thinking is superior in some obvious, but mostly nonobvious ways. Nonobvious in that when the larger design scope comes into play, it may not result in enough error for the condition to cause a noticeable change (ie you only "notice" when you break down). That saves people every day from expense and failure, but most of them will never realize it.

    You can have the best engine in the world, but if it isn't running for a reason that was not considered during the design phase, you won't have the freedom you paid for. A system is truly great when it fades out of the way allowing you to focus on your goals, not system requirements, allowing real independence.

    Modular Design

    Modular design helps increase flexibility, ease of use, and increases efficiency of both design and implementation. It also increases customer value. Modular design is a form of “chunking” and controlling interactivity between the chunks of the system. The chunks can be addressed independent of the whole while still being part of the system.

    In auto manufacturing, the assembly line is part of modular design philosophy with specialists focusing on just their areas. In software, modularity increases quality by lowering error rates. Both of these benefits are things we see even at our micro-scale level of manufacturing. Both translate into benefits for customers.

    Customers benefit by the superior consistency and control that modular design offers. Customers also benefit by the ability to purchase and use in modular fashion. For instance the engine cradle that supports the engine, is also the base component of the skidplate system to which one can add engine and/or transmission protection. The turbo kit is designed to be added to the existing Bostig Powertrain system. Modularity of development, design, and documentation is a trait unique to Bostig.


    "We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through." -- Steve Jobs

    Simplicity is worth it's weight in gold. It can mean the difference between success and failure, reliability and unreliability. Our happy customers and their now more than 5 million miles support Ockham’s Razor: when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.


    We literally wrote the book. We have the most comprehensive factory manual for an aftermarket powertrain system, and we're very proud of it. It is one of the reasons we are the only vendor that gives our complete documentation away openly and for free online.

    Good documentation is one of the most important and neglected elements of development. Documentation saves users time, frustration, and money throughout the life of the product. No matter where you are, you can have access to information you can't possibly remember. It can reduce showstoppers to minor inconvenience.

    It can also help others help you like nothing else. People suppose all the time that random mechanics will never work on their now "customized" vanagons, but hand a mechanic your factory manual and let him thumb through it and listen to the answer.

    Documentation is another form of communication with the customer, and neglecting to do a good job is a disservice. We think that having a book that details the information about the powertrain in your glove compartment is just as important as having the right powertrain to begin with.

    One of the key reasons that we can have good documentation is that we also have consistency. If you lack consistency you will also lack accurate documentation, and the customer will not have the same level of value, capability, and protection.

    This is overlooked by customers just as often as it is overlooked by vendors. Knowledge is power, and our glovebox factory manual gives customers the power to easily, independently, and inexpensively build, maintain, and enjoy their investment.


    The idea is simple, we do as much work as we can when the ball is in our court to save you having to do work when the ball is in yours. We work smart, systematically, keep things simple, support and document better than anyone. The result is a faster/easier learning, a more robust/reliable system, easier/cheaper maintenance, and less to worry about. Those things ultimately allow people to really travel with their vans when and how they want, and that is real independence, engineered.

  • On consistency and reliability

    Visit google and type in "define: reliable".

    You'll see the definition for the word reliable that comes back is "Consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted."  The very first word is "Consistently".  I believe this is crucial to understanding the problem people face in understanding and evaluating the reliability of various options out there when it comes to vanagon engine conversions.

    Head of the class

    "Consistently" might be scoped to an individual instance of a type of thing. Someone that infrequently has problems might consider their setup reliable. When someone is trying to decide if an entire class (group of instances similar to each other in property or nature) of things is also reliable, they sometimes transpose the instances of reliable that they have heard onto the entire class. That is where the potential problems lies.

    They are trying to judge if their own eventual instance is going to be reliable, based on the reliability of the class. The problem is that unless the class is highly consistent, there is very little relationship between the instance reliability, and the class reliability. The more similar, close to identical, or consistent the instances of the class are, the stronger that relationship is, and the less error prone that transposition would be.

    This is the very same concept as all bees are insects, but not all insects are bees. Bees are an instance of the insect class.  Bees are also a class themselves in that all honey bees are bees, but not all bees are honey bees.

    Take another instance: "the Subaru Conversion".  It is a very common term in researching engine swaps. Vendors themselves have also taken to using it. However there are a few real fundamental problems. Firstly, "the Subaru conversion" doesn't actually exist as a thing, it is a class of vanagon engine conversion. "the Bostig conversion" is an instance of vanagon engine conversion. It is a thing. It has a production model and each instance is consistent with the next. Within the class of things that are Subaru conversions, the instances  can be very different. These differences are the entire basis of competition between the many vendors that sell parts to build conversions based on subaru engines.

    For example, someone might hold the opinion that "abc company makes a better exhaust for the subarus than xyz's".  If this opinion is true, then it is also true that the sub-class of subaru based conversions with this exhaust all have better exhausts and are different to another sub-class using some other exhaust. You have a sub-class created because you don't have consistency in that aspect.

     If it were just the two sub classes, it would be pretty easy. But Subaru based conversions aren't actually consistent down to very low levels of granularity. The number of combinations and permutations amongst them, even from the same vendor, are extremely high because they contain so much variation from nuts and bolts to the wiring harness.

    Harnessberry Finn

    People in the vanagon community and in most auto aftermarkets hate wiring. It is tedious, detail oriented and time consuming work. It can be overwhelming, and takes a good investment in time and effort to complete. This is one reason why having a used Subaru wiring harness reworked isn't cheap. You're paying for expertise, time, and detailed work. The wiring harness is the nervous system of the powertrain, and is in every way as important as the engine itself.  A used wiring harness also has a story.

    It was born in a factory, its parts were born in other factories. Someone pulled and cut its wires. A machine crimped on terminals. It was nailboarded, and then the seals, backshells and retainers were all assembled onto it. The harness was carefully taped, loomed, wrapped and boxed. At another factory it was installed into a chassis by someone, and connected later to the engine.

    It was transported by ship or truck. It was then sold to someone along with the car it came in, and lived with them for however many summers and winters. It heat cycled, it oxidized a bit, its wire jackets and loom hardened and it did its job acting as the nervous system for their powertrain. Then something happened.

    It was in an accident, or sold as part of the car again. Perhaps it sat for a few more summers or winters. Then someone came along, and pulled it from the chassis it had been installed in, and had conformed to. It then made a trip elsewhere.

    There it was carefully and expertly dissected and unwrapped. Some wires changed in length, some removed. Many cuts, crimps and connections were made, and then it was routed, taped, loomed; rewrapped, rebundled. Perhaps it was error checked, and verified.

    Then it made its way into a new chassis, this time in the back of the vehicle. It was then reunited with the same engine it came with way back at the factory (hopefully). Then a whole new chapter in the story begins. The one most relevant to us, and how it plays out exactly isn't known yet.

    The important part of this story is that the harness's "life experience" isn't guaranteed to be very consistent after the first paragraph. This means the resulting harness itself isn't very consistent either, certainly not guaranteed, and nowhere near the same level of consistency as if the story had ended four paragraphs ago, like a brand new harness's story does.

    Was Consistentinople, now it's Istanbull

    Given that even the nervous system of the engine swap cannot be guaranteed consistent, the consistency across the class cannot be guaranteed unless the guarantee is that they are not consistent.  If that were the only example of the variation, then perhaps it's too nit picky to be of much concern although this is how gremlin eggs are laid.

    The problem is the variation is wildly larger in scope than just the wiring harness's story. From flywheels, to engine mounting options, mufflers, cooling manifold designs,  intakes, bracketry, adapter plates, hose choice, engine management, ECU mounting, throttle cables, drive by wire utilization, engine preparation, engine options/ECU combos, fasteners, clamps... the list of variation is enormous and covers almost every part that composes the whole.

    All of those variations multiply the number of sub-classes, and each new sub-class further weakens  the validity of statements across classes by lack of consistency. You don't have "subaru conversions" you have ABC company's conversion, Dave's conversion, or Bill, Bob, or Mikey's conversion and they are not consistent. Even ABC company's conversions can't be very consistent since no shops that build subaru conversions have complete control over the entire system's design and composition, or settled on one.

    Make no mistake, in no way am I saying it is not possible to have a lovely reliable instance of a subaru based conversion that will give you years of trouble free ownership. What I am saying is that you can't expect the result of your instance to match anyone else's unless you're already aware of why that combination yields the result it does, and can then replicate it. The problem is, even the experts struggle to do this themselves which is precisely why the variations exists in the first place. If there was no problem present, there would be no demand for the variation.

    One benefit of being the only product company in the space,  is that we have controlled an entire production model since we started. This unique level of consistency has been key to our growth, and delivering what the customer pays for. We have achieved such high levels of consistency, that we can reach levels of documentation that nobody else can touch, even across huge mainstream auto aftermarket segments. We can guarantee even complete novices can perform the install successfully, and we can  support more customers on the road than any other vendor in the market, while also being the smallest vendor in the market. The key to all of that is reliability, and the key to reliability is consistency.

    There is a lot to know and understand about doing something like an engine/powertrain swap. Unfortunately most folks doing research in vanagonland have very little experience with it. So if you see a vendor expounding the merits and reliability of "the Subaru conversion" you'll know to ask the details about THEIR subaru conversions specifically.  Hopefully you'll see why the question "how does the Bostig compare to the subaru?" is really a comparison of Apples to Fruit, deeply more complex and less valuable than an Apples to Apples comparison. Since we started development in 2004, we have remained the only Apple in the marketplace.