Motor story; Bostig. A post by Mike!

Back in 2010 we were in the same position as many Vanagon owners. We had begun to experience issues with the stock rebuild and were looking for something more reliable. We loved our van but just wanted to be able to get up a hill and travel a decent distance between overheating, coolant tank dances, head gasket replacement or another rebuild. We also knew that we were going to keep this one and were prepared to invest in it and make it right. Another criteria for us was the availability of parts in Latin and South America. We needed a vehicle that would be reliable, cheap, easy to work on, and one that we could get parts anywhere once we left for the Pan-American Highway.

We checked into Subaru’s, Ticos, and the Bostig conversion. We settled on the Ford/Bostig conversion. Price, parts availability and the DIY option were the real attractions. I needed to be able to fix the vehicle while out of the country and have ready availability of parts. I purchased a Ford motor with 50,000 miles on it. Bostig gives you all the information to order it and you just start calling/ ordering on line. Really quite easy.

The Ford fits in the engine bay just perfectly. Everything is easy to get at and work on. It runs about 130 horsepower with 200 ft. lbs. of torque. Red line is 6700 RPM’s. I will run at about 5 K RPM’s when I move Alta up a hill. When they (Bostig) say plug and play, they are not kidding. The wiring harness is part of the package. You order a used Ford computer (Ford Ranger) and after downloading the computer specs you are off and running. Well, it really is not that easy but you would be surprised. No need for a different transmission, cooling system or fuel system. I love it.

Bostig kit. Ztec engine in Vanagon engine bay.
Bostig kit. Ztec engine in Vanagon engine bay. Yes, that is the concrete you can see all around that engine.

Today the motor has about 125,000 miles it. It is still running strong with no leaks or issues. My recent work on it was to change the timing belt, which is suggested standard maintenance. The kit cost around $65.00 and took about 3 hours. Mostly because the crank shaft pulley was really tight. If you can get that off quickly it really is a simple job. I have also adjusted the cam shafts, replaced plugs and wires, changed oil regularly. I had to replace the alternator (Ford Contour) and motor mounts (Ford Taurus) since the installation.

first trip on motor
Alta, before her conversion to a hightop! This was our first trip on the new motor.

This engine has done really well for us. After installation we took it on a road trip to Puertocitos in Baja, Mexico.  Then on trips all around the Southwest. We went to Burning Man

Burning Man 2011. Before the hightop conversion
Burning Man 2011. Before the hightop conversion

We drove through New Mexico and Colorado in search of hot springs. Just since July of 2014 we have pushed this slowcarfasthouse up to elevation of 12,000 feet (Colorado) high elevation coloradoand dropped it to locations below sea level (Florida Keys and Evergladeslow elevation florida) We have driven from Arizona to Copper Canyon, Mexico and explored Sonora and Chihuahua.  We also drove down the Baja peninsula to the Southern tip

Alta at the Tropic of Cancer in Baja California Sur, Mexico.  On a Bostig engine conversion.
Alta at the Tropic of Cancer in Baja California Sur, Mexico. On a Bostig engine conversion.

and then back to Arizona.   Next we drove across the Southern USA to Key West.  Then we jumped around a few states as we headed North (including GA, KY, TN, PA and NY).  Check elsewhere on this blog for an awesome map of our travels. We plan to finish our USA tour, and head across the Canadian provinces to Alaska. Then we will return to Arizona and reuse the Bostig kit as we install a newer, lower mileage engine to prepare for the Pan-American journey. This Bostig engine conversion has been an awesome powerhouse for our needs and we expect that it will continue.

engine dirty
This is a dusty, dirty Ztec engine in place.

I have no experience with the Subaru conversion, so I cannot compare. People who have them seem generally happy, but I have heard of these failing in Latin America, without resources for parts or repair. That is what I do not want to happen with us. When people ask about buying a Westy I tell them to get one with a bad motor, then make the conversion decision yourself and invest the funds in that process. And learn to work on your own van, it will save you plenty of $bank$ in the long run!

You are probably going to consider a conversion at some time. Research the options and decide what is most important to you. For me it is the added power, reliability, availability of parts and the knowledge that I can fix it if anything goes wrong. I despise paying someone a lot of money for something I can do or worse yet, they do it wrong and still charge me. At least if I do it wrong myself, I can trace back and figure it out, and learn from the process. I can work on this motor and the Vanagon in general, so it is a reasonable option for us!

As always- Do not try this at home. Do not work without a net. Always wear safety glasses. Use WD-40 sparingly. Drink your Tang and finally, no…. we do not work for Bostig, receive any kickbacks from Bostig or have any sort of sponsorship or endorsement agreement with Bostig (although we tried……) we simply like the product and want to share our information.

Please contact us through this blog or Facebook if you have any questions or want more information.

14 thoughts on “Motor story; Bostig. A post by Mike!

  1. Steve- I think it is great that you want to try this! Mike would love to share ideas and talk to you about it. He says it is simple enough to do in much less time than you have available. And the guys at Bostig are super supportive and helpful. There is also a Facebook group for Bostig owners. Join that if you wish- more help there. Please email Mike at for more discussion. And go for it! You will not regret the new, strong, hassle free engine that you van could have!

  2. Hi Guys
    Read your blog.
    First, thanks for taking the time to inform.
    Really appreciate it.
    I have a 1984 Westfalia Wolfsburg edition camper that I would like to do an engine conversion with. I just discovered the Bostig website.
    I am pretty mechanically inclined, but by myself.
    How big a job is this and can you give me some good links to help me do the job. I am not in a hurry, but would like to do it in about 8 months if that is possible.
    Much thanks for any help you can give me !

    Safe Travels


  3. Kenny- the conversion kit is purchased from The current kit costs about $6,000. The engine can be upwards of $100—depends on where you buy it and how many miles. The process is fairly simple. And for us it has removed almost all of the “hassles” of a Vanagon. Mechanically this van is sound and solid, the reliability of the Ford is well-proven. And parts are widely available if ever needed. Thanks for asking!

  4. What is the costs associated with a conversion? By a mechanic? New engine it used.

  5. Sticking with bicycle camping. All the issues associated with Vanagons stress me out.

  6. I have a Bostig V1.0, installed in February 2008. Still going strong, and it’s been my daily driver since before the conversion. I think I have about 75,000 miles on the Bostig. I’ve also been very happy with the conversion for many of the same reasons you mentioned and would do it again. Reliability was my most important criteria, and it has truly been that, and I do almost all of my own maintenance (and I’m mechanically declined).

  7. Mike says- I learned by reading the manual (called Bentley) and watching YouTube videos and asking people for suggestions. There are great groups (email, Facebook, forums) that people share ideas on. But the best lessons in mechanical stuff, is to dig in and try to figure it out. Then when you can’t solve it, you research the answer. But you have to have a few good tools, makes all the difference.

  8. How did you learn a lot of the auto repair? Just by trial and error? If I end up getting a motorhome, it’s the thing that scares me, I’m not handy like you and Geneva, at all. I”m impressed at all you have learned to do so far!

  9. April-
    We named her Alta because it means tall (roughly) in Spanish. However, I love that it is also a traditional, old-school woman’s name! Thanks for writing!

  10. Thanks for sharing those links. Some great ideas there. It WAS great to see you both! We enjoyed the stories, the beautiful home and the delicious dinner! I hope our paths cross again sometime.

  11. I love that you named it Alta because that is my grandmother’s name. She traveled widely during her prime though she never would have gone via Vanagon. It’s a good ol’ name!

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