With the new plan hatched, and loads of confidence from the Baby Blue project, I found a Syncro tintop listed here on thesamba. It already had a Subaru engine swap installed by a forum sponsor. Owned by a Syncro lover, and pretty low miles and a great price! Body was purportedly rust free. I immediately called the owner and told him I would be out the next day for it. Got there and the van was indeed rust free, ran like the bejesus, and looked solid. I had previously looked at shops to do a tintop to westy conversion, and factored that cost into my build budget. Went to the bank, got the money, and drove home to Chicago without issue. The van was previously named “Britney”. And needed some body work for some small nicks and parking lot dings, and a respray from the clear peeling off.
Exterior Chassis/ Body Preparations
We immediately set out to prep the foundational elements. On the exterior, we took the van to a pro and had it prepped for paint. We wanted to take it back to dove blue metallic, but a slightly darker version, but something that wouldn’t clash when you opened the door to the old paint (which was perfect on the interior). Painting it proved challenging. There were two main options, a restoration level paint job, where it would be a full strip of the vehicle inside and out and then paint it all. The estimates were in the 8-15k for that. All the way to just a scuff and spray option on the other end for a grand. I decided to fully strip the exterior, pull the windows, and paint the exterior and put in new seals all around. The paint turned out great.
Our van came with a Subaru 2.2 engine installed by a major vendor and we were mulling a lot of potential options for the van, from moving to a 2.5, Subaru Diesel, TDi, and the 1.8T. We spoke with most of the vendors and a bunch of owners, in addition to reading every thread we could find on thesamba. We were looking for a solution that was proven, simple, and well understood. We even contemplated staying with the 2.2. But small issues slowly started to crop up with our 2.2. Erroneous sensor readings, wiring gremlins, just small items tied to the initial conversion and simply time passing. But the problem was we couldn’t figure out what had been done and why/ how, so we had a terrible time trouble shooting and figuring out the system. Even when we called the original installation shop, they couldn’t remember exactly what had been done and how. And while they were very helpful and tried to help us, it was simply a matter of each Subaru conversion being slightly different from the next. We could drive the van several states over and get their help, but what would happen in Mozambique if this happened. We needed to be self-reliant. Ultimately we decided to go with a Bostig. We wanted a simple conversion, worldwide parts availability, full documentation of the system, and of course reliability. We are super happy with our choice. The biggest thing is that every nut and bolt and wiring diagram is known in detailed in their “blue Bentley”. We are 100% independently capable of sorting problems if/when they arise on the road without Bostig’s help. There is no “chain” back to the shop. And if we can’t fix it ourselves, we can pass the book to someone else who can. After dealing with gremlins in our suby conversion, we learned quickly this is a huge asset if you are truly taking your vehicle far away from home, whether on a single trip or an expedition. And of course Zetec engines and parts are CHEAP This has worked wonderfully for us. Bo is not a light van, and the Bostig has taken us 20+k miles, on and off road without issue. One day we hope to add a turbo to the set-up but for now it gets us where we need and want to go and still manages 17-20 miles per gallon. In addition the guys at Bostig are REALLY into support and think like a small car company. They have answers for every aspect of their conversion and have been an awesome resource.
Great job, sounds like a good choice. I’m redoing an 86 Syncro Westy. Body needed significant work. Had a 2.5 installed but still chasing down gremlins. Z-tec sounds like an option
Yeah we love the bostig! The 2.5 had a bit more low end torque, but we were happy to have a very easy to maintain and stupid reliable engine.
What trans did you use behind the Zetec? that is an interesting swap.
It’s the same VW trans, with a conversation plate sold in the Bostig kit. It’s pretty cool I have a Bostig kit in my 85AW.