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    Thread: VW Dasher engine swap from 1.5L to 1.6L turbo Questions

    1. 03-03-2012 04:26 PM #1
      First things first.. I am new to VW Dashers! So please forgive anything I say below that is in error! Know that every statement I make is more of a question than a statement!!


      I have known about the early VW rabbit diesels excellent 45+ mpg for years! I love it when so 'greenie' starts talking about what great gas mileage his hybrid gets and isn't modern technology wonderful.. At which point I point out that VW was getting 45+ mpg back in the early 80s without all the whiz-bang high tech stuff.. They always get a very surprised look on their face!


      I decided to get an old early 80s VW diesel to offset my monthly gas bill.. What with the world today who knows.. We may be paying $5/gal this summer. So I figured I better get on it ASAP! During my Rabbit research I came across the Dasher.. I remember these cars and how roomy they were! I'm 6'4" so I need the leg room, that and I have a big dog so I could make use of the station wagon option.

      MY GOAL

      Option 1) Find a manual shift Dasher diesel for sale that needs no work and is ready to go. If that is the case than my story ends here and no need to read further.. But I am leaning towards option 2

      Option 2) Find a manual shift Dasher that may or may not run by has a clean body and interior. At this moment I am leaning towards option two because I really want to get my hands dirty again.

      MY PLAN (OPTION 2)

      I use to love working on cars when I was younger and I am comfortable working on cars with tech that is pre 1985ish. In that prior to that, I could open the hood of a car and not only identify everything under the hood but have a good idea of how it works. But cars after 1985.. Not so much.. Just to many ECM stuff for my liking. I would probably still opt by a long block, but do the installation myself.


      Correct me if I am wrong, but most early 80s Dashers came with the 1.5L diesel.. And correct me if I am wrong the but the turbo option didn't even come out until around 1895ish? With that said.. What would it take to pull out the 1.5L diesel and replace it with a 1.6L turbo diesel, or even a 1.9L turbo diesel? My biggest concern would be the associated ECM stuff, if any. Based on what I have found out thus far (which is limited) there is not ECM stuff to worried about, and not big electric harness stuff to worry about. But.. I really don't know! This is the main reason I am here today to get your experience feedback on that.. Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated!! Also, any electrical associated with the turbo? I think the answer is no?


      I did notice that the engine in the Dasher is NOT transverse mounted, which tells me that none of the Rabbit or other VW transmission would work in a Dasher. With that said, are there any online company that rebuild Dasher transmissions? Note I really want a manual shift, not an automatic, and I would really like a 5 speed if they ever made one? As you all well know the parts for Rabbits are plentiful, lots of after market stuff and plenty of online trany places to choose from. So this Dasher transmission stuff does seem to be the one thing that may be hard to find, if needed a few years from now.


      I found a few online places.. ATKVege that I bought an ISUZE engine from years ago, that went pretty well. But I also found this company called GEX that appears to be dedicated to VW engines, i.e.


      To do transmissions too.. Nice web site, very well laid out, but, when I called and ask them about doing an engine swap, i.e. a 1.5L for a 1.6L turbo.. The guy on the phone seemed kind of clueless.. So any feedback you have on this place would be great, and any advice you have on any other motor and trany re builders would be welcomed too!!

      Anyway, thanks in advance!!


    2. 03-05-2012 03:22 AM #2
      I would suggest swapping it for a complete quantum-TD engine+trans. It is really easy if you have some tools and a crane or something to lift the engine.

      The wiring can stay in place, to convert from gas to diesel you only need a wire to the glow-plugs and maybe build in a little yellow lamp. It's almost plug 'n play!

    3. 03-09-2012 01:46 PM #3
      Thanks Zollie!

      Keep in mind, Im new to Dasher/Quantum/Foxes.. Been doing some reasearch, looking at the orgianl 1.5L and 1.6L diesel options.. Also saw some info on a 1.9L upgrade option..

      But still not 100% clear what TDI means and/or implies? I get the impression that it was a different type of head on later model 1.6L or 1.9L blocks?

      On a related note.. Thanks for the info on swaping a diesel for a gas engine.. As far as I can tell there was not much if any ECM stuff in the early 80s.. So like you I think the most I would have to do is add a glow plug lamp to the dash somewhere if I were to buy a gas and put a desel in it.. Well that and enlarge the tank fillet to accept the larger diesel pumps.. but on that I noticed alot of gas stations these days dont have the larger fillets pumps anymore.. So may not even need to do that

      One more question.. Were the manual trasmissons the same for the gas and diesels? Or was the gear ratio differnt?

      Anyway any info is welcome thanks!

    4. 03-12-2012 06:50 PM #4
      For the european quantum models (passat) the ratio's were exactly the same.

      To put a TDI in it would be a big job, wiring and welding a new exhaust etc.

      I have a quantum with a 1Y 1900 diesel engine in it, fits like a glove if you build all quantum-specific parts on the engine! head and dieselpump are not interchangeable with 1500/1600 engines, the starter, alternator, brackets, pullies etc can be used.

      For changing gas to diesel:
      -12V wire from ignition to the dieselpump
      -Insert glowplug relais on original position
      -Make a thick wire to the glow plugs, original position in CE
      -make a yellow light somewhere in your dash

    5. Awaiting Email Confirmation 1FastB5's Avatar
      Join Date
      May 30th, 2005
      Apple Valley, MN
      04-13-2012 12:47 AM #5
      i've heard good things about a TD swap out of a quantum into these cars so if you must have more power that would be my recommendation.

      and don't be afraid of ECUs on newer cars, they're not as complicated as you might think. i found that the early diagnostics on my BMW 635 are simple as pie, and very easy to diagnose and repair.

      even the modern stuff thats OBD II isn't that bad...often times they make things a lot easier by just being able to plug in your laptop and identify the problem immediately.

    6. 04-16-2012 05:21 AM #6
      Swapping a 5-speed from a Quantum 1.6TD in place of a Dasher's 4-speed isn't that hard; just a bit of work on the underside of the tunnel to remove or flatten out some bumps in a few places, and of course, transferring the complete shift linkage. Even the slightly higher-geared 5-speed from a Quantum 1.7L or 1.8L gasser wouldn't be too bad, because the Dashers weighed about 400 Lbs less than the corresponding Quantum models. IIRC all the 77-Dasher & Quantum 4-cylinder manual transaxles shared the same 1st gear ratios, as well as the 4.11 ring & pinion.

      BTW Dashers got diesels from 1979 to 1981, and in that final year, all Dashers were diesel-powered. 1982 was the U.S. initial release of VW's 1.6TD, and also the first year for the Quantum.

      Usually I hear that the 1.6TD engines beat the 1.9TD engines on fuel efficiency. A buddy (who frequently likes to take 4000-8000 mile trips) bumped his '80 Rabbit pickup from a 1.5 normally aspirated diesel to a 1.6TD, greatly improving his power and also increasing his fuel mileage. He then swapped in a 1.9TD and had bunches more torque, but couldn't get close to the MPG of either of the previous engines. He then sold off the 1.9TD & built another 1.6TD and rates that as the best combination of reasonable power & great fuel mileage. Guessing that may/may not be true for the Dasher wagon also, since with his camper shell & gear, his pickup probably has about the same weight & aero-profile as the wagon (?).

      The Dasher fastbacks (coupe or sedan) are somewhat more aerodynamic and a little lighter than the wagons. My own best highway fuel mileage in a 1.5 N.A. sedan: 58+mpg, while only 54+mpg in the wagon, with the same engine & 4-speed gears. IMHO the wagon's versatility easily makes up for the minor highway mileage loss. Haven't yet tried a 1.6TD with 5-speed in a Dasher yet, but they're supposed to be even better (if driven at economical road speeds) since they push out more torque at lower engine RPMs, allowing one to cruise in a higher gear. That combo is in the future for my own Dasher wagon.

      Good luck with your search for a good Dasher wagon & Quantum TD donor. Both can be nice vehicles if one doesn't need the latest/greatest/biggest/fastest... at least most of the time.

    7. Semi-n00b
      Join Date
      Apr 19th, 2011
      Gales Ferry, CT
      '02 Passat W8 Wagon, '80 Dasher, '56 Beetle
      09-10-2012 09:34 AM #7
      Quote Originally Posted by GSENN View Post
      I also found this company called GEX that appears to be dedicated to VW engines
      I'm replying a bit late to this, but I just want to warn everyone about GEX engines. I have heard absolutely horrible things regarding their "rebuilt" Beetle engines and have been told by many different reliable sources to avoid these guys like the plague. I'm not sure if this applies to water-cooled engines, but I wouldn't risk it.

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