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Previous Next Up Topic Public / Dune Buggy Build Advice / Front wheel drive engine and tranny (31172 hits)
By Justin S 1204 Date 2010-05-11 01:24
Has anyone ever seen a buggy with a front wheel drive engine and transmission transplanted to the back? I was wondering if it would be possible to back halve a shortened beetle chassis to accomplish this? I have been googling, but haven't come up with anything yet. I'm thinking automatic, fuel injected, lightweight v6. Could keep necessary wiring harnesses from donor, but I cant picture it fitting...yet anyway... I also thought custom chassis, but I think it would be easier to just build off the back than start from scratch. I knew if anyone could scrounge up pictures it would be here. Thanks for input in advance
By Brad H 1498 Date 2010-05-11 14:31
One thing I've learned from building cars over the years. IT'S NEVER EASIER TO RETROFIT SOMETHING INTO SOMETHING ELSE. Start with the back half subframe for your drive train and build a chassis to fit it and the body. A buddy of mine is doing a turbo Honda FWD transplant. I haven't seen it, but the guy helping is a mechanical genious, so great things are expected. Don't expect to keep a lot of the fiberglass body in the rear of the car, I imagine you'll lose just about everything inside the tub at the back.

Just asking, but why a V6 swap? The car will be horribly unbalanced and for a lot less work you could drop in a turbo Subi motor or build a killer flat 4 VW. Even a "light weight" V6 and auto tranni will be about 500lbs heavier than what you are starting with and unless you are planning to mod it to the 9's, won't give you much more power than what you can bolt onto a VW tranni. My 2332 is  knocking on 180 horse and only weighs 15 lbs more than stock and I'm expecting 25K miles out of it before I take it apart.

Don't want to discourage you from your project, but if your going for horsepower there is a lot easier ways to go about it.

By Justin S 1204 Date 2010-05-12 02:43
Thanks for the post back. I really appreciate your advice. I too had thought of just building a frame starting with the whole front cradle. The weight of the transmission I have not investigated yet. I know the engine itself is only approx 25-35 lbs heavier than the corvair that the ghetto square inch tube chassis had on it. I have also considered just bolting the engine to a VW transmission, but the engine is rated at 240 hp and 280 ft lbs of torque. Now I know places like Rancho can build a vw tranny to handle, but the cost is my concern. That is what sparked the interest in using the factory fwd transmission. I for sure want to use the engine, but am somewhat nervous about the transmission. In the same breath, I am nervous about all of the fabrication to build the chassis necessary to use the FWD transmission, but don't want to pay an outrageous amount of money for a transmission that could be replaced with the factory FWD one. Any ideas on the cost of a vw transmission capable of that? Strictly street use. Or you know if you have the skills to build it, shoot me a cost estimate. There is a guy locally that has two bugs each for $250 sure would be easier to start with one of those....
By Jeffrey P 655 Date 2010-05-12 12:58
If the cost of a Rancho tranny is a concern for you then I don't get how building a custom frame, with custom suspension pieces, custom brakes, custom cooling system, custom shifting system, etc can be something you plan to pursue.

All this custom work is gonna cost some serious cash. For the cash you are talking yo can buy a very well built VW engine that will be so much easier and cost effective.
By Brad H 1498 Date 2010-05-12 14:32 Edited 2010-05-12 16:27
Yup, Look at spending 7-800 dollars just for steel to build a basic chassis, hundreds of hours to figure out "small stuff" And if you have to pay someone to do your fab and welding, forget about it you'll be into thousands $$$$$ in a heartbeat.

My very simple tube chassis took 120 man hours to build and that was using the factory torsion housing in the rear and link ppin front end. After that it was another 60 hours to figure out and fabricate shifter mounts, park brake mounts, pedal mounts, make it everything look good. .

A well built tranny from Rancho will set you back about a grand, but will handle all the horsepower your talking about and then some. But honestly with all that weight hanging behind the rear wheels the car will be undrivable except in a straight line

I'm not being an ass or mean, but unless you have a full fab shop at your disposal, are a competent welder and a propper chassis table to make sure it is put together SQUARE, then I'd seriously think about going back to a shortened VW pan. This isn't a weekend project for a beginner, you are trying to engineer a vehicle from scratch. You have the body and power train but thats such a small part of the project. Remember, you have to builld it so that if (god forbid) you are ever in an accident, it doesn't fold in half  or come apart like a house of cards. Safety First my friend

By Jeffrey P 655 Date 2010-05-12 14:50
And don't forget the cooling system. if you think your gonna find a junkyard radiator to both fit and cool your livin' a pipe dream. Custom stuff there for sure.
By Jeff GS Date 2010-05-13 00:38
I think one of the biggest hang-ups with the mid-mounted FWD drivetrain idea is you can't re-use the original IRS trailing arms and hubs, etc.  The engine has to sit right about where the torsion housing is - so you're basically stuck with back-halving the whole car.  Sure, it can be done but as everybody has stated it will be a major project!  I guess the extreme version of this was someone who stuffed a FWD Toronado drivetrain and engine in the back of an 80" Manx clone!  Talk about......  scary!

If you really wanted to do this you should talk to Dave Barrett.  A while back he was designing an 80" chassis to use a FWD set-up in the back.  Purchasing this chassis, then building the car around it would at least make the project conceivable - as in just a few years build time!

By Jay H (X-20) (ManxVair CC) Date 2010-05-14 01:15
LOL Jeff,
I remember seeing that unfinished project on Craigslist.

By Matthew C 1804 Date 2010-05-14 06:13
Just buy a Fiero, remove all the body panels, and force a buggy body over the sub structure, and fiberglass it till it looks right. Problem solved, lol
By Brad H 1498 Date 2010-05-14 14:17
LOL :-)

By Justin S 1204 Date 2010-05-15 01:10
thanks for the posts guys. def will be going w short vw and a built vw trans. i think the fiero was the best idea.... a guy abt an hr away has two beetles not sure what year, but both have irs trans. 250 each or 375 for both. wish i could find a buyer for the other. thanks again guys
By Brad H 1498 Date 2010-05-15 14:54 Edited 2010-05-15 14:57
A Fiero drive train? OMG that couldn't be a worse powertrain to use!!!!!!  2.8s were anemic pieces of S&!$ you'd be luck if you were getting 110 hp out of it, (that's what my 1776cc VW motor made) the tanni's were gawd awfull heavy heeps of hippo poop. So don't feel bad about not doing that swap. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE I worked on Fieros at a Chevy dealership.

Your buggy will fly with a stock tranni and a 2 litre VW motor. The stock tranni will handle up to 140hp before you have to start changing stuff, so spend the money on engine parts. Mine is bone stock and handles my 2332 with no problems.  Put in solid mounts and seriously consider using a mid-mount of some time, whether it's a weld in Berg style, or a bolt on snubber style. Anything you can do to keep the tranni solid will help.

Good luck and keep us all posted on your project and remember to ask LOTS of questions, it's much cheaper that way LOL

By Justin S 1204 Date 2010-05-17 02:53
Brad the "..." following my agreement was meant to show sarcasm... :-) I will hopefully be picking up the donor car this weekend, and begin slowly working on it. I wish I had the cash to just do it, but o well at least I finally get to start. I've only had the body for about 6 years now. Don't worry about getting lots of questions out of me; I like to get LOTS of opinions before screwing stuff up. Thanks again guys.
By Brad H 1498 Date 2010-05-17 16:25
Always glad to help or give my opinion.

By Bob E 1463 Date 2010-05-21 22:30
Just as a point of interest, there is a Speedster replicar manufacturer that as a spec built chassis using the FWD Subaru engine/tranny in a mid-engine configuration, as well as the front suspension.  FYI, the Speedster is roughly a 82 in wheelbase.

It's pretty popular and I hear that there is a 3 year wait list for complete cars.

The disclaimer, I have no association, no experience or connection to this company.

Boston Bob E
Boston Bob E. - -
By David L 2084 Date 2010-05-25 01:23
This is a link to a fiberglass buggy with a 3800 Gm v6.     If you google 3800 fiberglass buggy, you will get some results.  I am currently building a vw based Bush Buggy, but I really wanted to build a Gm v6 powered one.  The main problem I was running into is the lenght of the short body buggys.  You need about 12 extra inches between the rear axles and the interior compartment.  I will one day build one, but it will need to be with a full length body.  I intend to use the front cradle from an intermediate GM car such as an Alero or Grand Am, 3400 v6 and the 4 speed automatic.  It will take some engineering, but that is all the fun any way.   I can't imagine what it would cost to get a VW based engine to put out 200 hp, and be reliable, but that is what a stock GM V6 does.   Would be a blast to drive!!!!
By Brad H 1498 Date 2010-05-25 13:59
"I can't imagine what it would cost to get a VW based engine to put out 200 hp, and be reliable, but that is what a stock GM V6 does.   Would be a blast to drive!!!! "

You can buy a complete engine kit from CB performance for about $4500 add $1000 for carbs and exhaust and you'll have 200hp that will last about 50,000 miles before rebuild.

If you use a 3800 or 3400 series motor make sure you have good access to do intake manifold gaskets, water pumps and timing chains :-(

By Jeffrey P 655 Date 2010-05-25 14:12
".....but that is what a stock GM V6 does."

These types of conversions are so much more than laying down a couple of frame rails, adding a subframe and laying down rubber. Its a great fantasy....but there is reality you need to deal with.

Your front mounted cradle most likely uses a strut suspension so your gonna need to design...from scratch. It has to be a suspension system that works...meaning stable at speed. It will also need to control the handling characteristics that that all the weight that a VERY short wheelbase is gonna throw at you. Then, don't forget the exhaust system which will require all the computer control systems needed to run the engine.

Ohh...and the cooling system. Take a close look at a buggy thats built. Now imagine where you would place a radiator. Up front? Don't forget your gas tank...the custom one you need to run your fuel injection. Where is that gonna go?

You will need to create some abomination which will end up not looking like a buggy at all.

So if you really want to do this then realize you will in all likelihood not be driving this creation for years...and years...and years. While you struggle through all of this I will be cruising in my buggy. Enjoying the waves, fielding all the questions, and enjoying doing annual upgrades.
By David L 2084 Date 2010-05-25 17:24
Jeffrey and Brad,   all these are great points!  I am sure that if I ever get to that kind of project it would take quite a bit of time and ingenuity.  I can't believe the time and money it is taking just to build my VW based buggy.   I was hoping to have my Bush Buggy going by the 4th of July, but that is highly unlikely now.   
By Jay H (X-20) (ManxVair CC) Date 2010-05-25 17:29
Jeffrey, you make interesting points an d all are valid. The flip side of the coin would read, you get to stand back and know you accomplished something different. While it may take years to put together, you end up essentially "fnancing" over time if you will, since you spread your cash outlay over years. You also end up with something no one else has.

Your statement about fabrication is not only valid, but may be under rated. You will need fabrication skills for something like this. Its not impossible though and some buggy body styles lend themselves to a radiator better than others. That wouldn't mean its hacked though.

By Jeffrey P 655 Date 2010-05-25 17:40
Jay, your absolutely correct. They personal sense of accomplishment when you can create something totally unique is indeed a joy. I have absolutely none of the skills needed to ever create such a combination of drivetrains, suspension design, etc. Heck....I am darn pleased with myself when I can manage a simple repair on a fiberglass body.

I guess my main point of just plain building them is rooted in seeing all the old, abandoned, abused, and hacked up buggies and kits out there. I personally would love to see more of them on the road. In fact, when I complete my Avenger, Deserter, and Aztec 7 (if I can still handle a wrench!) I plan on just redoing buggies at an affordable price. My plan is to crank 1 out per year and sell them relatively cheap so more people can enjoy them. I won't make money of course but I will break even and enjoy making something new, unique & simple each time.

So...for all those interested in alternative powerplants.....go for it! Just realize what is in store for you.
Previous Next Up Topic Public / Dune Buggy Build Advice / Front wheel drive engine and tranny (31172 hits)

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