Soob Swap II: The Car

This saga began last spring, when for months I trawled Craigslist looking for an early 1990s Subaru for sale. My criteria were typical: the car had to run, the engine had to have less than, say, 90,000 miles on it, and the price needed to be under $1,000.

I knew a junkyard engine would be cheaper–Crazy Rays, just up the street from my house, sells engines for a couple hundred bucks–but the you-pull-it experience means removing the lump under duress, outside, and these engines generally require a large and complex raft of sensors and wires and computers to work properly. That stuff is scattered about the car, and I wasn’t at all confident I could grab everything I needed all at once. So I figured it would be best to pay out for a complete running vehicle so when it doesn’t start on the first try after I swap it in, I’ll know the problem is something I touched.

await1

Lot of cars out there in the 1990-1996 range.* Not so many with less than 160,000 miles though, let alone 90,000.

And even those high-milers tended to be priced in the $1700 to $2500 range.

Like I said, it took weeks. Finally I found an ad for a car–$1,200 and “needs brakes.” I called the guy and drove out to Westminster one afternoon after work. The kid said he was a car-flipper and this was one he didn’t think he’d spend any time on. The brakes were no good and the battery was dead; we jump-started it and it ran OK though: no weird sounds, no leaks of any kind, and the exhaust smelled like nothing at all. I offered $1,000 and he accepted. I hired a flatbed to get it and home it came a few days later, after a very long, rush-hour ride ‘round the beltway. Getting her into the garage with just the emergency brake was a bit fraught but I got it done.

83k miles

The power windows even work on the car! (Mostly)

I knew from a Speedster buddy, David Stroud, that the EJ22 engine fits just about anywhere a 1600cc Type1 VW engine does. But “just about” is a relative term, and Bridget’s engine bay is substantially smaller than the Speedster or the Bug. I measured the distance between the frame rails and the height above the crank center to calculate if the alternator would fit behind Bridget’s spare tire. Looks like there’s actually less to worry about up top than with the Type 1, whose generator pulley has rubbed the cover just a bit.

Underneath the story is more complicated. Type 1 engines have no oil pan, allowing the crank centerline to be placed very low in the engine bay. That’s great for handling but not good if you want to run a Soob in a low vehicle. By my measure the Soob pan was going to run less than four inches off the ground. More like three and a half. I ordered the Small Car pan as soon as the company’s web site showed they were in stock. The $350 cost seemed steep but, having once tried to make a lowered Chevy II go with a 7-quart Moroso pan than hung 3.5 inches over the pavement, I learned my lesson.

The pan came in and looks nice.

small car pan1

Supposedly this saves over two inches ground clearance compared with the stock pan. Oil capacity remains the same.

Ordered the KEP adapter and hit the internet for advice on how to wire the new engine into the engine bay. My friend Stroud suggested the method he used: sparks from a Megajolt crankfire kit with a Ford EDIS coil pack from a 1980s Ford Escort, along with a homemade trigger wheel welded to the crank pully. Fuels from a Holley/Weber 2-barrel progressive carb, as fitted on four-cylinder Mustangs and Pintos back in the day. Just remove the throttle body, block off that hole with a plate, plug most of the vaccuum bungs and bore a hole in the manifold where the stock coil packs are. Then weld up a VW-style two-barrel profressive manifold mount and put the carb on top. Hook up your stock fuel line and stock accellerator cable and drive on!

Strouds carb

Stroud had done this two years before and ran his car straight to the Florida Keys and back–from Ottawa. He claimed 38 mpg on the trip and had not even modified the transmission, which was still geared to run an air-cooled motor at revs befitting that design–about 3500 rpm at 70 mph.

That was my initial plan. I ordered the EDIS kit from an ebay seller–$100, and a new Megajolt e for $175 more. I picked up the sacrificial VW manifold for $30.

And then I kept reading.

*Early ej22s are the gold standard for back yard swappers. They are “non-interference” engines, meaning that if the cam belt breaks the valves won’t crash into the pistons and wreck the engine. Through 1994 they feature OBD-I electronics, which is said to be a simpler and less finicky system than the later OBD-II. The 1996 and later engines have more power, and a lower torque peak though. My 1995 is non-interference but with OBD-II engine management.
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About stuntmidget

I'm a poor mechanic and general wisenheimer. I love old cars and the stories behind them, true or not.
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