Tell Me Your Most Unholy Engine Combinations For this Buggy

Posted September 25, 2018

By Dean Larson

There’s just something about a nearly completed project that gets the gears turning inside your head. With just a few critical pieces missing, my brain goes off the rails imagining all the unorthodox options for engines, transmissions, wheels and more. In this case, its buggy roller on Craigslist that is, quite literally, a few hours from running and driving. The buggy was clearly designed to utilize a VW donor, but the absent Type 1 engine opens doors in the mind, begging the question, what sort of unholy engine combinations could power this buggy?

To instill a small amount of order into the flood of ideas, I think it’s best to focus on the most feasible ideas first, before diving into left field. Since the Buggy is currently equipped with a VW transaxle and VW-type suspension, it would be most reasonable to stick to the obvious first. Upgrading from a Type 1 engine to a Type 4, 2.0-liter flat-six would be quite the improvement, roughly 60 more hp, but would require some handiwork, as the engine rotation would need to be reversed to account for the change from mid-engine, to rear-engine.

Keeping the Volkswagen transaxle in place, you could opt for a four-cylinder Boxer engine from a Subaru, as has become common in Porsche 356 Speedster and 550 Spyder replicas. These engines are easy to come by, tough and relatively simple to work on. Bolt up a Subaru EJ22 or EJ25 engine, and you’ll have 140 to 165 hp on tap and liquid cooling to keep temperatures down when you’re thrashing this buggy in the dunes.

My choice for a tried-and-true powerplant in the buggy would be a 180 hp, air-cooled flat-six pulled from the Chevrolet Corvair Corsa. With an aluminum block, aluminum heads and optional turbochargers and high-performance carburetor versions available, the Corvair engine is a versatile and tough air-cooled engine. Builders have been hanging these off the back of VW transaxles for decades, and I can visualize a turbocharged, 180 hp engine in the buggy easily.

With the rational choices covered, I’m open to suggestions. What’s the wildest powerplant you could feasibly cram into this buggy in the pursuit of full-throttle thrills? What about a high-revving Mazda 13B rotary engine, or a Hayabusa sport bike mill? Or maybe you think “Miata is always the answer.” The options are literally endless, so tell us what you’d do. There’s no wrong answer, except a Cummins 12V, that is 100% the wrong answer.

Find the buggy for sale here on Lexington Craigslist for $6,500.

Engine photos:

By John Lloyd, own work, CC BY 2.0, https://www.flickr.com/photos/hugo90/42589655740

By Tennen-Gas - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/...

By Pahazzard - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/...

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Buggy Engine Swap