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Engine Swap Nightmares: A 1.9L VW TDI into a Series IIA Land Rover

Deartháir November 4, 2010 In General 37 Comments

The Series IIA being (slowly) put through its paces, prior to the swap.

We have to give this honourary Hoon credit for forging his own trail. And in this case, we’re not talking about his off-road prowess. He’s decided to forge ahead into uncharted territory with an engine swap that has, to his knowledge (and ours) never been attempted before.

The 1.9L TDI out of a New Beetle

Many of us have attempted engine swaps before. While I have never undertaken one all by myself, I’ve performed four or five with the assistance of friends more knowledgeable than myself. Mostly I ask for help because all those fiddly electrical bits just confuse the hell out of me, and the same appears to be true of this intrepid adventurer. As such, he’s undertaken the project with a recent VW TDI that has had all the electronics removed, and mechanical replacements applied. I have to admit, without all the electronics cluttering it up, that little TDI isn’t a bad looking engine!

So what was the motivation behind this swap? Well, simply put, the anonymous author (seriously, his name and information are nowhere to be found on his site) said he was tired of being the one in a convoy of off-roaders who was always holding up the group anytime the going required the application of a little bit of power. Or anytime there was a mild head-wind.

It’s his logic that I find amusing. At some point he test-drove a TDI New Beetle, and decided that was exactly the engine he needed for his off-roader project. He rejected a small-block Ford, a larger rebuilt Rover engine, even some Toyota-flavoured candidates in favour of the engine from a New Beetle. I suspect any of those alternatives would have been far easier options, but one of his top priorities was to improve his fuel economy.

The engine installed in the Series IIA.

Now my first thought was that he had chosen quite an under-powered engine for his project. The 1.9L in the New Beetle was only good for about 100 horsepower and 175 torques. As it turns out, that will provide him with well over twice the power he was experiencing from his stock engine. Maybe he’s not as crazy as we thought he was.

It seems he ran into quite a few snags along the way, and his persistence at solving those problems has progressed from dogged determination into the realm of downright heroic. He has had to manufacture parts, machine bearings, adapt flywheels, scavenge parts from a plethora of other vehicles ranging from a BMW to a Suzuki Samurai to a Toyota HiLux. By this point, most other car-buffs I know would have given up and begun to pursue a much easier project.

Sadly, he hasn’t updated his progress on the page since 2009. If any of you internet ninjas out there can track this fellow down, you should pester him into sending us some more updates. I, for one, would love to know how his project has turned out.

[See the full write-up on .]

  • buzzboy7

    That is one hell of a swap. Kudos. And can I have it?

  • tonyola

    Must you use "torques"?

    • mechimike

      Yeah, I know. I was thinking the same thing. Jeremy Clarkson may be a top notch driver and car reviewer, but he is no engineer. Around the orifice we use the term "torques" pejoratively, usually in cajoling some non-engineering type person. "Torque" is both singular nor plural. And always awesome!

      • Deartháir

        You did catch that both they and I are using the term similarly pejoratively, right? We're all aware that it's foot-pounds, but some hate the sound of "foot-pounds", some hate "pound-feet", and there are people who insist each is the correct terminology. Choosing "torques" on the other hand, is deliberately wrong, so there will be no argument.

        Other than the great big argument that started as a result of me using "torques", of course. Hmm.

        • I prefer to use Joules per radian when measuring torque.

          • name_too_long

            Don't forget Newton-Meters

    • austinminiman

      Well, it's a unit, so presuming there is more than one "foot-pound-unit", then it makes it plural, creating torques. My Physics professor says "torques", and he's bald and wears glasses.

      • tonyola

        By that logic saying "horsepowers" would also be correct. So why is no-one using that plural?

        • Except that torque has multiple units while horspower is itself a unit.

          Saying "powers" would be correct. As would "lengths", "volumes", etc.

          I'm going to start doing this!

        • MrHowser

          Clarkson uses that too.

          • tonyola

            Well, that's an even better reason not to use it.

  • No updates since 2006? Maybe he checked himself into a mental health facility.

  • So say we all!

  • tonyola

    When Paris Hilton said "That's hot", did you start saying it too?

    • Mr_Biggles

      Oh c'mon, there's little parallel. She's never had an original thought and his boobs are probably bigger.

    • Deartháir


  • facelvega

    It's interesting that a few different proposals for using newish old VW diesel engines for project cars have come up lately. The one that interests me most is the new Factory Five offshoot Smyth, pushing the project to turn a TDI jetta into one of these for peanuts if you can get the frame work done cheapish and they finally kit the body work as they keep intimating they will.

    <img src="; width="600">

    • I've been watching Smyth for a few weeks now. They provide regular updates on the Book of Face. I'm actually pretty interested in this since the 2.0 TDI is pretty tuneable and you could wind up with a sporty little diesel-motivated toy.

      • facelvega

        Sure looks like they're going to be a lot of work, though. I'm glad they're building the sub-frames now, but cutting into the Jetta frame is still a pretty big step for a diy guy. But I think it's about time for a kit based on a donor car we can actually get in the US and that is less than 25 years old– I'm tired of fantasizing about mini and 2CV based kits in Europe, and the various old beetle kits hold no allure for me except for maybe a Beck spyder, but that's just a beetle engine.

        • name_too_long

          Ideally you want it to be based on something over 25 years old and readily available in the US… no emissions checks or regulations regarding engine choice.

          Newer than 25 and you're, theoretically, limited to engines that were available in that chassis and EPA certified crate motors. This is one of the issues with importing pre-R35 Skyline GT-Rs.

      • Deartháir

        They're only building it for the MkIV Jettae, so it'll be the 1.9L TDI. Still tunable, but not as awesome as the 2.0L.

        • My understanding is that, while they're designing it for the 1.9L TDI, you can put any engine that will fit in there. The VR6 has been suggested as an alternative for those who still fear diesel.

  • Alff

    What are his pet peeves?

    • Anemic British engines, being famous on the internet, and hot dogs.

      I think it could be the hot dogs that actually did him in.

  • Texan_Idiot25

    It really wouldn't be hard to find this truck. You have plate numbers, pictures, club trips… The WHOIS report says the site was updated last september.

  • I have heard of people doing this with the VW, Merc, and even the 4bt Cummins into Jeeps… but the overwhelming end result is "don't try it, it's not worth it." AEM even did a TJ (I think) with a Liberty diesel, reporting that there was no financially viable way to do a kit for the consumers.

    The backyard engineering and machining is amazing and terrifying…

    Brave, brave, lunatic.

    • There is a Cummins Wrangler that drives around up here. I usually witness it on campus. The thing is plastered with Cummins stickers and sounds, well, like a truck.

      • The question is did he do it or buy it? I'd be curious to know the true level of pain involved and if at the end of the day the work was worth the reward.

    • christauph

      HPA Motorsports just came out with an adapter kit for putting a 1.9 TDI into a YJ, debuting it SEMA right now apparently. According to their website, a TJ kit is in the works.

  • Deartháir

    Actually I think that was part of the problem; he's sticking with the original Land Rover drivetrain and trying to adapt everything to fit.

  • tenthousandfeet

    As McQueen says, it's a popular swap for Samurais. They usually opt for the older, less computery 1.6TD or the rarer 1.9TD, as the computer-controlled injection pump can't be easily made to work once it's outside a VW body, and the mechanical pump swap in this (as in this Landie) is a costly one. Actually, the whole swap is rather costly which is why I haven't done it (yet?) to my own Sammy. A small, torquey diesel engine is perfect for a small off-roader.

    This is a perfect example of the kind of stuff I come to Redusernab for, to answer a question asked earlier.

    • McQueen

      Ooh another Sammy hoon they are great little buggies until the vacuum operated carb starts to develope leaks then the cursing and hair pulling begins along with either a high idle or no idle lol

  • mechimike

    Cummins made a BT (Bread Truck) engine that's perfect for this sort of application. I met a guy in Plattsbugh, NY who was putting one into a 1950's chevy windowless delivery wagon/ van. Hey, if you dig injector clatter and the possibility of running off soggy hamburger drippings, its the only way to go!

  • Slow Joe Crow

    FWIW Dudleigh Engineering in the UK make a lit to install the 2.0L Perkins Prima used in Austin Montegos and Maestros which is similar in size and power output.

  • clunkerlove

    I'm *really* impressed at this dude's attention to anonymity. There's no mention of identity, no email address, no web or IM, nothing at all. Most links are just pictures, sans captions. It's eerie. Maybe he's under the Federal Witness Protection?

  • name_too_long

    "enjoys long hikes back down the mountain"

    Well, driving an old Land Rover he'd pretty much have to…

  • Steve

    To the best of my knowledge this guy finished his 1st project witch was an ALH motor and has now swaped to a AHU witch is the one you described and is running some craze VNT turbo with a monster intercooler he had a video online pulling it out his shed and tore down the road.


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