Tech Series: New Wave 1.8T Swap Part II

As stated in Part I, there is now an easier and much less expensive way to swap the 1.8T engine into an earlier Volkswagen.

The methods currently used to swap the 1.8T all have pros and cons. One current answer to the engine management question is to adapt a later model ECU to an earlier car. This has its fair share of wiring problems, including a ton of cutting and splicing, the possibility of an immobilizer getting in your way, and finally results in nothing more than stock horsepower. Even though the horsepower situation can be solved with chip tuning, when all is said and done the entire process ends up being very expensive.

The other solution is to install an aftermarket stand-alone engine management system, but this also involves a lot of custom wiring, usually doesn’t comply with state or provincial emissions laws, and requires someone to tune it properly to achieve full potential.

No matter what engine management is installed, wiring problems cause the most aggravation for most people attempting a 1.8T swap. I’d always thought it would be nice if there existed a true plug and play alternative. To me it’s seemed achievable, as, for the most part, the 1.8T is just another VW 4-cylinder engine, meaning it bolts up to the older cars so nicely – it’s just the complicated management swap that’s in the way… So, after much serious thought, and many late nights, I finally came up with the simple solution no one had yet discovered…

To prove my newfound idea, I needed to perform my own 1.8T swap – makes sense, right? The car I ended up with actually came to me by accident. I had originally bought for the swap a 1995 Jetta GL with a missing transmission. That plan changed when I found a fellow Vortexer with a 1997 Jetta VR6 for sale that needed some work. Hmmm, I had a plain ol’ GL; while he was offering a good deal on a GLX with leather, power windows, larger brakes, 5-lug, H&R springs and Bilstien struts … It was a no-brainer decision to buy, and a deal was made.

I picked the car up a week later with my adventurous (patient, saintly) girlfriend, and my good friend, John. We loaded up his truck and trailer, and then headed off to collect my new baby on one of the coldest days of a typically frigid New England winter. We were expecting a major storm that afternoon, and were rushing to make it back in time.

Our first problem was getting the car to roll. Even though the tires were holding air, they were all frozen to the ground from sitting in the same place for seven months. The starter was bad, so we ended up pulling the car from its icy grave with the truck, and then winching it up on the trailer. The drive home was comfortably warm, and uneventful. We made it home just in time, because it began to snow just as we were rolling the car inside the shop. (Total accumulation for that day rose to 14 inches. That’s New England for you…) As an added bonus, we all survived with our fingers and toes intact (no frostbite), and the front spoiler was the only casualty we suffered the whole day.

After my new baby had a day or so to defrost, I took my first good look at it. I was well aware of everything that was wrong with it when I bought it, but I discovered a few additional issues on my first full inspection. The front passenger’s side door didn’t open, the sunroof didn’t work, the interior was a mess, and there were lots of dings, dents, and oxidized paint. However, the only thing I was concerned about was the shell itself, which was straight and solid. The car, as far as I was concerned, was a perfect specimen, and my experimentations began…

Everything was coming together now and I was very confident I’d soon be on my way towards showing the VW world there would soon be a new, less-expensive, almost hassle-free option for the ubiquitous 1.8T swap.

Coming next week… “The Hunt For The Right 1.8T Motor.”

Part I of this series can be found here: New Wave 1.8T Swap Part I

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