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What Kind of Engine Can You Really Afford?

May 10, 2016
47 minutes read
What Kind of Engine Can You Really Afford?

I know, it’s an old joke and not any more funny today than it was yesterday, especially if you’ve got a pile of paperweights bolted to your transmission and you’re sitting on the side of the road trying to find a buddy to come haul you away. So, old reliable is up for replacement, huh, and you’re just going to run out and buy the first pretty engine that bats its eyes at you? Hold your horses, as your problem may not be something as terminal as a ventilated block, but when you’re feeding your car so much oil that OPEC sends you a thank you note and your exhaust clouds can be seen from space, it may be time for a complete overhaul or replacement. If oil consumption is below 500-miles-per-quart, you’re probably just in the market for new rings and/or valve guides instead of an new mill. A compression test should provide you numbers between 75 and 150lbs. per cylinder, but don’t lose too much sleep if pressure is low across all four cylinders, just if two are much lower than the others.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking that your engine’s just fine to go from Point A to Point B, but you’ve got the sudden urge to be able to chirp the tires in fourth gear. Maybe you want to impress a girl, humiliate a Honda or just be a general nuisance to your home-owner’s association. Ask yourself this: How much do you need to spend? Rather, how much should you spend? What if you want to hop it up a little? Or a lot? What can you expect to get for your money? What’s out there? There are too many scenarios for every person’s situation, but generally speaking, most will fall into these stages:

Stage One: Duck Tape and Twine
If your VW is sidelined because of a simple problem like a cracked cylinder head, you may be able to affect a short-term fix by having a garage repair the offending part and leave the rest of the engine alone. This is fine if the rest of your engine is healthy and you know the source of your problem (and you know it’s the only problem and not the tip of the iceberg). However, if the problem is deeper–if a bent pushrod tweaked a valve which knock into a piston…, etc.–the cost of labor can easily exceed the cost of buying a new rebuild kit or remanufactured short/long-block. Besides, if the engine is tired, as soon as you fix one problem, another will often spring up and you’re on the sidelines again. Like a chain, you simply keep moving the weakest link from one area to another. For instance, if your rings are fatigued and the car has low compression, it could be masking other problems such as worn bearings. If you’ve just replaced the cylinders, you may start to hear a rod knock due to the new-found compression putting more strain on other engine components. You can be sure it’s not bad gas!

If your engine is tired, patching one problem after another is time-consuming and expensive. Too many people nickel-and-dime themselves out of the hobby by paying serious money to have their engines (or parts thereof) rebuilt, when it would have been much cheaper to buy a used or rebuilt engine on an exchange. If you decide to fix the engine yourself, parts are available in both new and rebuilt form from a variety of suppliers. Count on spending $150-$200 for a set of forged 85.5mm pistons and cylinders, $100-$150 for a crank, and $50-$100 for a set of remanufactured rods. Add about $80 each for rebuilt heads. And don’t forget machine work, gaskets, sealant, bolts and bearings. Yes, it can add up quickly.

One reason to rebuild your original engine is if you have a rare model in mint condition, which might appeal to a collector. For instance, an early Cabriolet or Ghia is better left with the original 36hp engine than updated to later power plants, provided it is original in all other respects.

Stage Two: The “Pre-Owned” Motor
Your engine has died–smoke, fire, sputtering heap–dead, and you need another one as soon as possible to get you to back on the road to wherever your “Point B” is. Your VW is stock and you like it that way. No dreams of heel-toeing around your local track or dropping the hammer at the stoplights for you. You car serves you the basics needs: solid transportation, economical gas mileage, or perhaps it is a big carrying case for your mobile theater system. Whatever your “it” is, you don’t want it changed. Oh yeah, payday’s not until next week and you’re dead broke. You sound like an ideal candidate for a used engine.

Used engines are available from most VW wrecking yards and some VW repair shops. Since 70 percent of accidents involve the front end of cars, the engine probably survived whatever it was that put the car in the bone-yard. There will usually be a set price, which, at VW repair shops, can be reduced by trading in your old engine for a small refund (if the refund is tiny, you may want to keep your old engine for spare parts or a dummy engine to practice your rebuild skills on). The advantages of buying a used engine are price and turn-around time. You want it today, you need it today, you get it today. Used, running VW engines cost between $150 and $700 (and sometimes more), depending on the model and degree of completeness (long-block vs. short-block, but Type IV engines are the most expensive).

Averres in Longview, Wash., offers rebuilt engines that include a reconditioned case, crank and rods. The stock 1600cc setup is most popular with their customers and runs around $1100, but includes new heads. For a used 1600cc, expect them to charge you around $550, but each engine is test run, checked for leaks and end play and compression tests are done.

Pick-a-part places are the best sources. The cheapest used motors are found at these self-service salvage yards. Here, used VW motors can be had as cheap as $150 with your old motor as a part exchange. You will still have to pull it out, haul it and install it, though. If you are doing your own work, then you are home free. If you are paying a mechanic to do the installation (which can run around $50 for an R&R), you are still doing well from a financial point of view. So what’s the problem?

Selection is often limited when buying motors from self-service yards, and odds are they won’t have the exact model that you have. Although the motors may interchange (remember six- vs. 12-volt), you will have to make sure yourself, as the employees at these yards are lucky to care about the differences between a VW and a Buick, much less a dual-port 1600 and a 40-horse single-port. Aside from compatibility problems, you will want to pay close attention to the yard’s warranty (some yards charge extra for them). Even then, it will usually only guarantee that the motor will start when you get it home. If it doesn’t, you will have to yank it back out and take it back for another try.

The down side, of course, is that you will have no idea if the engines in salvage-yard cars were on their last legs to begin with or reasonably healthy when the “Big Wreck” came. So the odds are at least fair to good that you could be back in a salvage yard much sooner than you would like.

Buying used motors makes sense in several possible scenarios. Perhaps you are not planning on keeping the car for a long time or you are going to trade it or sell it soon. If you are on a tight budget and don’t have the money for a rebuilt or new engine, a used motor can keep you mobile while you save for your dream motor. It also gives you time to assemble a new motor yourself and then swap them in a weekend or two. When that happens, you have an “e-motor” (emergency motor) or one that can probably be sold at only a slight loss from what you paid for it.

Stage III: The Kit, a Big Box of Parts
There are many advantages to buying a basic rebuild kit over a used engine. For starters, you know all the internal parts are new or rebuilt, and the company selling the kit has seen to it that the parts will work together. As well, most companies today have money back guarantees, and there is a certain degree of comfort when there’s a warranty involved. One downside is that you may still need to have some machining done on the block, heads and/or other parts, but the silver lining to that is there are always several sources for machining in most areas.

If you haven’t built a motor before, you will want to bone up on VW books and talk to experienced mechanics. You will need a clean, orderly place to do the work. You will need to have a reasonable tool kit, complete with metric sockets and wrenches; an accurate torque wrench; and the Bentley factory service manual for your car (as well as copy of Bug-Me-Video’s engine rebuild tape is essential not to mention copies of past issues of this magazine that takes you through the whole process). If you are a member of a VW club, you may be able to find someone in the club who gives advice to fledgling mechanics. Knowledge is your power, because you won’t have the experience to catch some problems that a seasoned builder would notice.

There are numerous suppliers that sell “kits” to rebuild a VW engine, more so than could ever be listed here. These are available in a variety of configurations from basic to near-complete, and since the manufacturers have done the work of matching the parts for you, you can pick from bone-stock to radically modified.

One supplier of such a package is Mofoco, in Milwaukee, Wisc., which sells a basic kit of parts for all aircooled VWs. These kits include a reconditioned crank, main, rod and cam bearings, reconditioned rods, a reground cam and lifters, a flywheel seal, a piston-and-barrel set, a gasket set, and pushrod tubes. You can choose either dual or single relief, but the package doesn’t include a flywheel. If this is all you need to fix your problem, the price will be about $400 for Type I motors, and there are a few options to choose from at this stage. If you are interested in the hydraulic package, add $499. This includes a hydraulic cam and lifters already installed, a set of pushrods and a new case (the new case option by itself is an extra $399).

Another supplier is SCAT Enterprises in Redondo Beach, Calif., which offers a Volkstroker II Super Street Engine Kit for $1095. It includes all new parts needed to build a street performance short block: pro-street 4340 crank, lightweight racing lifters, performance grind camshaft with gear, CIMA forged pistons and cylinders, double-thrust camshaft bearings, all bearings, and steal stroker rods. Case, heads, pushrod tubes and flywheel are extra, and the size is from a 1914cc to a 2275cc displacement.

Larry’s Off Road Center in Dayton, Ohio, has their Basic Engine Kit, a 85.5mm piston, 1600cc displacement kit that includes pistons and cylinders, main, rod and cam bearings, gasket set, main seal, rebuilt crank and four rebuilt rods. They have a crank core charge and a rod core charge included in the $272 price. You can opt for oversized bearing for an additional cost and a counterweighted crank for another $125. They may not offer as much as the first two listed, but the price directly reflects some savings if performance isn’t your bag. If it is, check out their Big Bore Basic Engine Kit with a 1915cc kit for $382.

Kustom 1 Warehouse in Orange, Calif., has several kit packages in their line of products. These include pistons/cylinders, crank, rods, lifters, rod and cam bearings, pushrod tubes, oil pump, gland nut, oil screen, gasket set and main seal. Missing are main bearings and the camshaft, but the kit is an economical $195 for a 1600cc kit all the way up to 2332cc for $595.

Some major components can be purchased in pre-assembled form (known as short-blocks and long-blocks), and this is always a good idea to start with if you are a novice engine builder. A short-block usually consists of a crankshaft, rods, a cam and lifters assembled into a crankcase. This saves you the setup hassle and can save you a great deal of work. Of course, you will still have to install the flywheel, pistons and cylinders, the heads and ancillaries. In most cases, the crankcases have been remanufactured, which includes align-boring to make sure the bearing saddles are true, and most companies routinely install case savers, which are threaded inserts that keep the head studs from stripping. A stock cam is reground, along with the lifters and connecting rods. All bearings are replaced with new ones, and a new oil pump rounds out the package. Expect to pay between $350 and $700 for this without a flywheel.

Chirco Performance and Restoration, in Tucson, Ariz., offers a complete line of short-block 1600cc engines. They are all line bored and assembled with new bearings and reconditioned rods. Along with a 12-month unlimited-mile warranty, they have a core charge and freight charges.

If you’re doing all of this because of a tired engine’s internals, chances are your heads may need help as well (always replace the exhaust valves when you rebuild an engine, as they have a tendency to break most). Rebuilt heads add about $160-plus to the total, depending on the company you choose them from. Of course, this is assuming that your case and other small parts are okay and that you are capable of doing your own assembly. Then again, if the engine doesn’t work after you’ve build it, it’s your problem. If parts included in your kit are defective, the companies that sell them will replace them, but the assembly is up to you. Warranties cover only the parts, not your handiwork (or lack thereof).

The third category for engine kits are found under long-blocks, which include a short-block as described above, plus new or remanufactured cylinder heads, reconditioned rocker arms, new pistons and cylinders and a resurfaced flywheel. All these components come assembled, so all you have to do is pull your old engine; swap the exhaust system, carburetor, ignition system, clutch and sheet metal onto the new motor; and reinstall it in the car. This is a lot easier and faster, particularly for home mechanics. However, expect to pay a price.

Run-of-the-mill long-blocks as described above (using some reconditioned parts) retail for $700 and up, but new long-blocks using new parts are about $1,000-$1,300 from suppliers like Aircooled.Net, which offers two lines of long-blocks and a long list of options. Their entry-level long-block uses a new factory VW 1600cc dual-port case and are completely new from valve cover to valve cover. What is missing is the clutch, pressure plate, distributor drive pinion and any fuel systems, intake, cooling, etc. Single or dual relief are available, starting at $1250. However, if you want more power, Aircooled.Net can handle every one of your performance needs with quality parts and direct service. As well, California Imports Parts, in Blaine, Wash., offers their Zero-Mile Factory New 1600cc long-block for $1299, and can be used with fuel injected Beetles (1975-79) with a little work on your part (fuel pump block-off plate and the temp sensor isn’t drilled and tapped).

BeetleMex, Inc., in Nogales, Ariz., handles direct imports of Volkswagens from Mexico and has a long list of engine options, including long-blocks. Their Dual-Port Long-Blocks come with solid or hydraulic lifters, a dual-relief case, cast crankshaft and flywheel (for 12-Volt starters), dished pistons, stock camshafts, 1.1:1 (stock) rocker arms and a doghouse oil cooler. For $1295, it can be shipped directly to you. GEX, in Booneville, Ark., offers most all sizes engines, either long-block or complete turnkey, and they cater to most every size budget.

Unfortunately, due to demand, new long-blocks like these are sometimes in short supply from most of our advertisers (as they sometimes have to be built to customer specs), so be patient if they get a run of orders, especially at the beginning of the show and race seasons.

A word of caution: Even though all the major parts may be new or rebuilt, if your distributor or carburetor is worn or incorrectly adjusted, your new motor still won’t run right. The final tuning and adjusting is up to you. Some companies offer buy-backs for old engines. However, if you have to ship your engine, the freight costs can come close to the trade-in value. When the old engine arrives, the company will check it for parts that are not rebuildable. For instance, if the block is cracked, you may not get credit for it, and you will have paid the shipping for nothing. In addition, ask about warranties. Since you are assembling the rest of the engine (and the company doesn’t know how experienced you are), many companies do not give any warranty other than for defective parts. Find out the details before you buy.

Stage IV: Install It and Go, The Turnkey Option
If you like things cut and dry simple, then this is the best option for you. Literally buy an engine, install it and drive away. As well, a turnkey engine is a good option for you if your engine is completely dead, or you are led to believe that all of the major components have been fried or have not run in years. Say you bought your next project car and it was missing an engine altogether. You don’t even have anything to start with. Most turnkey engines have been tested and tuned by the company you bought them from, and some have even started down the “break-in” period. Turnkey engines include all the parts in the long-block assembly plus a new fuel pump, a rebuilt (or new) carburetion, a new coil, wires and spark plugs, a fan shroud, a distributor, new heat exchangers and a test run. Turnkey engines is not the way to go if you intend to sell the car, but for those who are in love with their VWs and plan to keep it forever, this can be an attractive proposition. Expect to pay more than two grand plus shipping for one of these babies in stock form.

Turnkey engines are a way to go if you don’t have that much mechanical experience with your cars and would like to simply bolt-on and go. Strictly Foereign in Grants Pass, Ore., offers a wide range of longblocks and turnkey engines. Their entry-level 1600cc comes with a stock Solex carb and Bosch generator for $1960, while the top-of-the-line 2400cc turnkey comes with 44IDFs for $4700. The great thing about Strictly Foereign is the fact that they don’t offer a core trade-in, so when you buy a new engine, you’re getting exactly that, not someone else’s trade in.

A popular company that sells stock 1600cc engines is BeetleMex in Nogales, Ariz., and their complete engine (minus the air filter and exhaust) retails for $2152, and comes with electronic ignition as well as everything explained in the long-block section above. Most advertisers in this magazine offer a turn-key engine, such as California Import Parts, C.B. Performance, Gervais Engines, AutoCraft, etc., while some companies also carry a wide variety of kits that will increase performance and/or upgrade your reliability. Gene Berg and Fat Performance, both in Orange, Calif., also have a large line of engines available for most any street and stripe application.

Stage V: More Power, More Power
Although many VW owners are perfectly happy with the stock engine’s excellent gas mileage and inherent reliability, while others crave more performance. If you’re not one of them, you can’t blame them. The stock VW, by modern standards, is pretty slow and can be a heart-stopper on freeway on-ramps. Perhaps you would enjoy weekend competition at a local dragstrip or maybe you just want to smoke a Honda from time to time. Since the VW is imminently tunable, an endless supply of engine options have been created by the VW aftermarket industry.

The first thing you must realistically decide is your vehicle’s use. If your car must spend all week ferrying you through heavy traffic to work and back, you will be limited in how far you can go with your mods. On the other hand, if it is a weekend cruiser and is only driven on open roads and at the track, you have a lot more options. We won’t be discussing full-bore racing at this point, as that would be a book in itself.

One easy upgrade for an early-model VW (1200/1300cc) is to install a stock 1600cc engine. This works well on several levels: One, you get 10-20 extra horsepower with little or no decrease in reliability. Two, since the earlier cars are lighter than the later models, the stock 1600cc will probably push the car faster than the VW the 1600 originally came in. Three, you won’t have to worry about encroaching emissions-control checks because you are dealing with a stock engine. The downside is that the swap can be pretty involved on pre-’66 VWs with six-volt electrical systems. You will have to make numerous changes to your electrical system and perhaps modify the transaxle, exhaust system and (maybe) inner body panels. C.B. Performance makes a 12-volt changeover kit with all the electrical parts needed for around $200.

If you want more power, most companies that sell rebuild kits for stock engines also have performance options. For instance, high-performance cylinder heads with big valves, matched springs, and retainers can be added onto a kit. C.B. Performance sells its Competition Eliminator heads for less than $1000 a set, and the sets have 48mm intake valves and Chevrolet valve springs. They also offer their Super Race Rod Engine Kit in a variety of two-liter sizes starting from around $900.

Performance long-blocks from a wide variety of companies will include the usual new and/or rebuilt items, but will also have your choice of reground cams and larger cylinders. For example, Aircooled.Net offers their “Rice Beater” long-blocks that include a new case, balanced assembly, SCAT I-beam rods, new WebCam and lifters, blueprinted oil pump, full-flow oiling system, zinc-plated pushrod tubes and a wide variety of options (such as straight-cut gears for $125, 1.4 rockers for $150, drill and tap all oil galleys for an extra $60…visit the Web site for the complete list). Prices for a 1914cc long-block start at $3600 and a 2332cc will run you around $4325.

California Import Parts has their “Hi-Performance” 1835cc long-block for $3500 which include (partial list): 69mm “Volksstroker-III” crankshaft, 4340 forged connecting rods, Melling 30mm oil pump, 5/16-inch steel push rods, 40×35.5mm bored Pro-Street heads. All parts are 100 percent brand new and have been selected with its relationship to the engine in mind.

You will have to do some research before ordering, as what you use your car for will determine which cam you will need. For instance, a drag racer may need more top-end power, while an autocross car will need more torque and a broad powerband. Bear in mind that any changes in cam will have to be adjusted for in the form of improved carburetion and exhaust systems. A higher performing short-block assembly with a stock crank will run about $500-plus without a flywheel. A counterweighted crank will increase durability, but be prepared to pay another $200 for the privilege. Other options you may want to consider include heavy-duty gland nuts ($30 extra), a crank flange setup with eight dowels for more positive flywheel retention ($40), and conversion to a full-flow oiling system ($50-plus). If you prefer a new case, add on about $550 extra. For serious competition, you will want to have all reciprocating engine parts balanced (about $200).

Stage VI: When Bigger is Better
If you are planning on a performance engine the options you can choose from are limitless. In addition to your choice of cam, crank, and so on, you will also choose from a bewildering assortment of piston/cylinder sizes, which equates to a myriad of displacement calculations. Also, you must choose the right combination of parts and accessories that will only benefit your combinations. Using 48IDA with a stock exhaust is like filling a bathtub with a Niagara Falls and emptying it with a thimble.

The easiest way to get immediate pep out of a older 1200cc 40hp engine is to install big-bore 83mm pistons and cylinders, which pops it out to 1380cc. These are still available, but you have to look for them. They do not require block machining to install, and the cost runs from around $200. They work just fine with stock carbs and intake manifolds (although you will have to rejet), and they respond well to a mild cam improvement. These sets are famous as “cheater” parts for Formula Vee racing.

C.B. Performance offers a 1500cc stroker kit for the 40-horse 1200 that includes a 1500 crank, special pistons, rebuilt stroker rods, bearings, gaskets, oil pump, seal, nuts, and a new gland nut. No machining is needed, and the price is an economical $400. Don’t bother trying to bore/stroke the 1200 any larger than this. It’s possible, yes, but it doesn’t make economic sense. If it doesn’t have enough beans for your soup, opt for a bigger engine.

The most popular performance engines sold are usually based on the dual-port 1600cc engine. By juggling piston/cylinder sizes with various stroker cranks, you can build any combination engine from 1641 to 2500cc displacements. Although you can be as creative as your budget will allow, it is best to buy engine combinations suggested by the manufacturer/ engine builder of your choice. They tend to carry popular combinations their customers have been happy with, plus they know what works and doesn’t work.

For mild performance applications, a long-block assembly might include big-bore pistons and cylinders, new cylinder heads, reconditioned rocker arms, blueprinted rods, resurfaced flywheel, balance job, eight dowels for the flywheel, reground lifters, a performance cam, a remanufactured case (sometimes these are align-bored and with case savers installed), a high-volume oil pump, and a reground crank. Expect to pay between around a grand for this package.

For even higher power outputs, the next step up in a long-block assembly might include a new crankshaft and other heavy-duty parts. Prices can climb to $1700 with extra-cost options like big-valve heads ($200), a counterweighted crank ($150), a lightened flywheel ($60), swivel-feet valve adjusters ($60), and solid rocker shafts ($50) pushing the total to more than $2500.

A counterweighted crank makes the engine run smoother, and is advisable on engines that will regularly use over 5000rpm (this is for a street engine, not a race mill) but will work great on anything streetable. Don’t forget, you will still need some beefed-up carburetion to keep up with your muscular motor, and expect to pay $600-700 for a dual Weber (40 or 44 IDF) or Dellorto carb kit including manifold and linkage. A progressive Weber single carb and manifold kit will run about $350. And now that the exotic 48mm IDA Webers are back in production (see BUGPACK or EMPI), all of the people who have hoarded the originals are kicking themselves for not selling when they were worth more. It is a good idea to buy your carburetor from a dealer that will agree to exchange jets, chokes, and tubes until the carb is correctly adjusted. Otherwise, you can end up with a fortune in used carb parts floating around your garage.

With the intake side taken care of, you will need to get a high-performance exhaust system as well. There are dozens of variations available to fit any configuration of car/ engine/modification imaginable. Expect to shell out between around $100-200 for a good one. In addition to being widely available in turnkey form, high-performance engines are offered by some dealers in kits for do-it-yourselfers. SCAT has a variety of kits with stroker cranks that range in price from about $700 to more than $2400. The big price increase relates to the use of special big-valve heads, competition connecting rods, and a forged racing crank in place of the cast crank used on the less expensive kits. The top kits include everything you need to build a serious 2332cc street machine quite capable of doing anything you set your mind to.

As we stated earlier, Aircooled.Net’s “Rice-Beater” Engine fits well into this category. Their 2332cc option runs approximately $4300 and includes an 84mm crank, 94mm pistons, Chevy rod journals and I-beam rods. They suggest at least 44IDFs and a 1-5/8-inch header. You can opt for a host of different things that will only increase your powerband.

Old Speed Engines sells a similar package in turnkey form. Its 2007cc or 2110cc powerplants are balanced and have new heads, pistons, and cylinders, as well as dual Weber carbs, for about $4000. Like most big-bore motors, they have decked cases, rebuilt cranks and cams, and ported and polished heads.

Bernie Bergmann in has an even bigger mill. In fact, he has the largest derivation on the Type I VW engine-2500cc. By juggling a special 90mm version of his Full Circle counterweighted crank and reworked Chevy connecting rods, Bergmann has come up with a big-inch motor that can be sold at about $6000 outright or $2545 in long-block form. To get everything to fit, spacers are fitted to the barrels, which makes the engine one-inch wider than stock. Ported, big-valve heads handle the breathing, with mixture provided by carbs or fuel injection.

So what kind of power can you expect from this type of package? Although each cam/crank/piston size package will vary, you can expect about 90hp from a “mild” package and up to 130hp from the hotter street packages (the Bergmann 2500cc mill pumps out around 200hp). This will not be as tractable as the stock VW, and you could expect a bit of a lumpy idle and reduced gas mileage. It may not be able to pass emissions regulations in some areas. This is outside the envelope for the VW transaxle, so care should be exercised to prevent full-throttle burnouts that will chew up the engine in short order.

For even more performance, semi-streetable VW mills can be made to pump out more than 200hp, but longevity and reliability will be sacrificed, and providing sufficient cooling may be difficult.

Stage VII: Money is Not an Object, Power Is
For those who feel that anything worth doing is worth doing to excess, turbo charging can provide even more power. C.B. Performance has built fuel-injected and turbocharged VW engines for street-driven kit cars pumping out more than 400hp on pump gas. The $8000 price tag (with intercooler) should give you a clue that this is serious machinery. It is not 50-state emissions legal and produces more power than the stock VW transaxle, brakes, and chassis are capable of handling without beefing up.

For more reasonable street performance, C.B. has built turbo engines with its fuel-injection systems that pump out around 270hp. These two-liter motors feature a special turbo MAP sensor, different programming and high-flow injectors. Boost is a streetable 10psi.

A turbo kit that will fit under the stock VW Bug decklid is available for $2000, which should surprise a Mustang GT or two, from Turbo City in Orange, Calif. As a bolt-on kit, their Rapid Response Turbo kit will fit most any application and provide between six and 15lbs. of boost.

If you’d like to go beyond the Type I case, Raby’s Aircooled Technology in Georgia, offers a 2613cc Type IV high-performance engine that is not for the faint at heart. Starting around $5000, the kit comes with 78.4mm welded, counterweighted and balanced crank, H-beam connecting rods and host of other specialties. The heads are cced, and port work is included. Raby dynamic balances his engines and offers a cryogenic treatment to all moving parts.

As long as you keep adding non-stock parts to your Vee-Dub mill, why not go whole hog and replace all of the VW parts so nothing’s left but the logo? That’s what the folks at Pauter Machine Company decided to do. They had been making a line of modified high-performance VW parts but were dissatisfied with the limitations of working with stock design deficiencies. Finally, the company made its own motor, which looks superficially like a Type I engine but uses no VW parts.

A specially cast block accommodates 4.25-inch cylinders and a stroker crank to produce a 3.5-liter engine. This big-block mill accepts a billet crank with oversize journals that fit Ford main bearings and cross-bolted bearing caps. The beefy cranks (available in a choice of strokes) swing billet aluminum or chrome-moly forged rods. Specially cast heads mount Chevrolet-based valve gear with roller rockers and Vasco jet springs. Horsepower figures for a turbocharged sandrail motor can exceed 800hp at 8000rpm.

You have probably guessed that this much gusto can’t be free. Expect to pay more than 10 big ones for a setup like this. And don’t even think about mounting such a mill in a VW for street use. However, Pauter can mix and match parts from its line of modified VW Type I and Type IV parts to come up with a killer street motor as well.

So, there you have it. From junkyard to race-inspired radical setups, the best advice we can give is to decide what your requirements are in terms of budget, durability, mileage, and performance. Don’t get too carried away with horsepower figures or compression ratios unless you plan to only use your car on the track. Select a reliable supplier/engine builder, and ask for their advice on cams, pistons and carburetion (unless you are an experienced engine builder, you can get in a world of trouble mixing and matching components from different manufacturers. Good luck and VW Speed!

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Aircooled Magazine is the premier online magazine dedicated to Volkswagen Cars, News, Reviews, Tech, Tutorials, and more. Our publication is completely free to use and is brought to you by VW owners and enthusiast with a passion for the Volkswagen brand. We offer the latest news and reviews of models as well as information about the car world in general.

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