Piston Slap: Polly Want a Subaru-Powered Vanagon?
TTAC Contributor David Holzman writes:
Sajeev, my friend Polly, an avid sheepdogger, wants to know how much weight her early to mid-80s Vanagon can pull. Specifically, she is interested in buying a 700 lb trailer, in which she would haul up to six sheep, each of which weighs 100-150 lbs. Thus, she could end up pulling as much as 1,600 lbs, and who knows, maybe more. How much can she pull without damaging her pride and joy?
The Vanagon has a ’94 engine from a Subaru Legacy–she doesn’t know which engine–but is otherwise all old Veedub. 212k miles on the car, less on the engine, but how much less is unknown. No rebuilds that she knows of. I don’t believe she’s going to be doing any major hill climbing.
How much “cool” can be stuffed in a Subaru-infused Vanagon? Even unloaded, that’s one sweet vintage ride. Switching to a Subie Boxer motor is certainly a step in the right direction, but towing is less about the engine and more about the transmission and brakes. Transmissions are the weak link, and brakes will either make or break the whole vehicle in an emergency situation. Even if Polly had the soul of a WRX…
According to the Internet, a 1986 VW Vanagon has a maximum (braked) trailer weight of 2,000lb or 1,320lb (unbraked). In this case, there’s no way I’d pull 1600lbs without trailer brakes and a modern electronic brake controller mounted under the dash. If she wants to pull that much weight sans braking buddies, keep it under 55mph: the Internet also says these VWs have a tough time accelerating and braking above that speed. In its current configuration, the Subie-Vanagon will easily break 65mph. Stopping is another story, so leave plenty of space between you and everyone else on the road. And have a brake job with performance friction pads done before even attempting this.
Maybe I’m a safety snob, spoiled by the mass quantities of pickup trucks available in the Lone Star State. I’d buy a real truck or SUV: Tacoma, Explorer, Blazer, F-150, Silverado, Ram or whatever. Leave the frou-frou (so to speak) German niche vehicles to those who don’t need to tow, cause this ain’t Europe. Americans drive fast, drive like idiots, and you need a better (stopping) tow vehicle to stay out of trouble.
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May I invoke this article: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-great-american-anti-towing-conspiracy/ The answer I think is quite simple as stated in the original article: "According to the Internet, a 1986 VW Vanagon has a maximum (braked) trailer weight of 2,000lb or 1,320lb (unbraked)." So, for 1600 lbs. the trailer will need to have brakes. For what it's worth, in Germany, the 60hp (!) T3 Vanagon was rated at a towing capacity (braked) of 1300 kilogramms. That's about 2800 lbs. if I am not mistaken.
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