Diesel Samurai

revised  13 dec  2008








What does it take to actually convert a Suzuki Samurai to diesel power?  The answer depends on where you live and how badly you want the conversion. Here in the U.S.A., the Samurai was never offered from the factory with a diesel engine.  All American Samurai's had the 1.3L SOHC engine, which was barely adequate for low-speed operations. American roads and highway speeds doomed the 1.3L to an early grave.  If you lived in Europe, Australia or Africa, diesel engines were normal and quite hardy.  Now that the original engines are failing and becoming more and more scarce and much more expensive, diesel engines become a popular choice.

The engine used in this conversion is sourced from a early VW car or truck.  Typically they are found in Rabbits and Pickups.  The earliest version was a 1.5L and was not well liked due to it's lack of power and torque.  The vast majority were produced in a 1.6L version which carries increased reliability and power.  There is also a Turbocharged version of the 1.6L, usually found in A2 Jettas', replaced with a 1.9L, which was found both turbocharged and normally aspirated (NA).  All these engines use common parts with each other and all are considered indirect diesel injection (IDI) engines.  The fuel is injected into a pre-chamber area which ignites and then spreads out into the cylinder proper.  The current VW diesel is called the TDI,  or Turbocharged Direct Injection diesel.  The fuel in the TDI engine is sprayed into a recess in the piston itself which acts as the pre-chamber.  This is much more efficient and results in a greater utilization of fuel and much lower emissions.  However, these engines are not useful for transplanting into other makes of vehicles without a great deal of work due to the electronics installed by VW.

Another word  about using the  TDI engine.  As the supply of IDI engines dries  up,  more  and  more  of the  TDI  engines will  become available in the salvage market.   Currently, we own an A4  Jetta  with  a TDI  and I will say that it is probably the finest car (engineering  wise)  that  I have ever owned.  The  TDI routinely achieves 50  mpg and it is dead nuts reliable.  It uses far less fuel, twice as powerful and just as quiet as  my  friends Toyota  Prius.   Plus I don't have a 300#  Nickel-metal-hydride environmental  time-bomb  ticking in my  trunk....   As you can tell, I am not a fan of junk science - or hybrid cars....

Can  the TDI be used for this swap? Sure.  Is it worth  it? Maybe, that is up to you.   You can use the TDI in  a swap like this in two ways, first you  can  keep all the electronics and somehow  adapt  the  Samurai  to  provide  all the inputs necessary  for the  proper functioning of the engine.   This is now possible, although expensive.  This route will retain all the  great things that make a TDI so great. The other route is to remove the electronic components, pump, VNT turbo,  etc. and  replace them with earlier components that were manufactured before electronic controls were provided.   This will work and is possible.  However, if you  follow  this course, you give up the very things that made the TDI great to begin with.   The converted pump is available  for  $1200.   The non-VNT  turbo  (if required) is another $600.   The TDI block, although similar  to the  earlier IDI, will  require a bunch of custom  fabricating  for brackets  as  none are  common to the earlier  engines.   More work to be sure,  how much?  I don't know, I  have  never personally swapped  one  into a Samurai and  knowing no more  than I do, I probably would not until the supply of IDI engines runs out and they become  prohibitively  expensive.

Horsepower  and  torque is  another reason  folks  may want to go  to a  TDI, believing that  the  TDI will  always produce more HP  and  torque than  any IDI.    I will just add  my 2  cents  here, an internal  combustion engine, ANY internal combustion engine is simply a giant air pump  and the more air you  can get through it, the more power  it  will  produce.  The  air  flow and  fuel burned  knows not or cares not whose name is one  the valve  cover or if  you polished  the motor  mounts...

When  I  overhauled  this engine, KC diesel did  the  pump and the guy that owns the  place,  Rick,  has been  building pumps for 35  years.   Not much he hasn't seen.  He provided  information from Bosch, the  manufacturer of the  pump on the IDI engines that indicated that the VE pump series is capable of producing 25 KW of energy per  pump outlet.  On  a  VW 4  cylinder  engine, the capability is there for 100  KW.  The conversion for us Americans is 1.314 HP per KW.   So that little diesel is theoretically capable of 131 HP!!!

What is required  along with the fuel pumped out of the  that Bosch VE pump is air, lots and  lots of air.   I figured  that in order to produce 131HP you would need about 22 psi of  boost.    The turbo is capable  of providing this amount, although the wastegate would have to be adjusted  and a  huge intercooler would need  to installed as the compressor discharge temperature would quickly lead to engine failure.

I'm not sure that this is the direction someone would  want to  go  in  a Suzuki  Samurai  conversion, although  it would be a lot of fun in a light-weight car...

These  are  the  specs on the  VW diesel engines:

1.5L NA (CK)  48 HP, 58 lbft

1.6L NA (CR, JK,  ME) 52HP, 71 lbft

1.6L TD  (CY, MF) 68 HP,  98  lbft

1.9L  NA (1Y) 70HP,  100 lbft

1.9L TD (AAZ) 75HP, 107 lbft

1.9L TDI  (1Z)  90  HP, 149  lbft

These  are factory  specifications  are  are stolen  from the ACME website without permission (sorry Dave  and  Jeff!).  Anyway, like all good Americans, we can  hotrod these just like any other engine.  More fuel  from  the  pump with  cam  plate  changes, larger injectors, more air from tighter waste gates and bigger turbos.  Intercoolers to keep temps under control....   maybe a  water/alcohol spray bar on the intercooler,  propane injection?  Speed  and power cost money - how fast you wanna go?

There are numerous sources of information concerning this swap on the internet and even on TV - Extreme 4 x 4 did a short series on a WVO (waste vegetable oil) converted VW diesel.  There is always more than one way to skin a cat, this web page describes the method I used.  I'm not a photographer or custom car builder, but if I can do it - so can you!

To attempt to lessen download times and be nice to those folks with dial up internet service, I have chosen the format of many thumbnails, each leading to the full size pics.  Explanations of the pics are placed below the thumbnails.

This is the Suzuki Samurai that I started with, it was actually pretty clean and did not have much rust anywhere so even though the engine had locked up, it was a good choice for this project.

This is how I purchased the vehicle.  The engine was locked up tight, no effort was made to determine the cause of failure.  The engine will be scrapped after being pulled.

Removing the engine was very straightforward, I was careful not do damage anything, just in case someone else may have a need for it later.  The vehicle was moved outdoors and power washed, leaving it much easier to work on.  I noticed at this point that the passenger fender had been replaced due to a battery failure and acid damage.  This happens to Samurais more often than I would think would be normal.  I have no idea why.  Since it was replaced, there was already rust started on the firewall where the fender and firewall meet. The action I took was to strip the front clip, sandblast the rust, prime and paint the engine bay before any conversion work began.


Once the rust damage had been repaired, the front end was repainted and reinstalled.  I chose Emerald Green because the Sammi will be painted green on the exterior when completed.

The left picture shows the completed engine bay.  The center picture shows the correct orientation of the fuel lines and the right picture shows the VW fuel filter adapter in it's new home.

The basic idea was to build a diesel Samurai on the cheap.  I will cover all costs later in a table, however, I already had this 1.6L NA engine and had assumed I could freshen it up with just a few dollars and it would serve.  Wrong.  I always change the head gasket, timing belt, tensioner, water pump, thermostat, head bolts, glow plugs and rebuild the injectors when I have an engine out.  When I pulled the head on this one, it was obvious the the head gasket was leaking badly and that the cylinder bores had worn badly, requiring boring.  So my simple maintenance turned into a major overhaul.  $900 over budget before we even got started.....

When using the ACME kit, one of the requirements is to trim off some of the unused portion of the crankshaft, allowing the use of the modified Samurai flywheel and clutch with the VW diesel engine.  Seems weird, but it does work.  I elected to cut off the end of the crank before it was installed in the block to prevent grinding dust from entering the engine through the flywheel bolt holes.  The crank was cleaned again and then installed. The bolt with the grooves is an old head bolt. I took a cutoff wheel and cut thin grooves in four places along the length of the bolt.  I use this to clean out all the gunk that the machine shop might miss and to ensure that the new head bolts have perfect threads to screw into and no residue at the bottom of the bolt hole to build hydraulic pressure and crack the block.  These cracks are very common on the 1.5L diesel.  Beware...


Any you guys got one of these handy?  Of course not!  This one is MINE!  Actually, this is my better half, learning first hand how engines go together.  She is always listening to me talk about engines, parts and problems.  She  is  a  mild-mannered computer programmer during the day but she is not allergic to real work on  the weekend. So she decided to put one together herself, starting with the bare block, going all the way to firing it up....  she can weld too!  

Here my wife is placing the bearing shells in the block, following up with startup lube to protect the crank before oil pressure builds. This engine  required a  complete  overhaul including  new pistons.  There  are  a couple  of things to look for on water-cooled VW engines. All different  engine  types  have their peculiarities and the VW is  no  different. When  the engine is overhauled,  always replace  the countershaft  bearings,  removing  the old ones BEFORE  the block is tanked.  Also, check to see that  the bushing  that  the distributor/vacuum  pump rides in  is still there after  the block is cleaned in a tank.  If you miss it, your oil  pressure will be ZERO at  engine startup (don't bother asking). 

Here the wife is torqueing down the main caps, following the maintenance manual procedure.  Yes, she got them all up to spec by herself.  She's small - not weak!  I tried to reuse some old glow plugs because I had them around.  It didn't work out though.  They had to be replaced later with new ones anyway.  This is how they look when they are tested, though.  Glow plugs should glow within 7 seconds if they are any good.  However, this has happened to me twice now,  glow plugs can test good on the bench like the wife is showing - and fail immediately when you put the engine into service.  I have no idea why, it really is better just to replace them.

Remember  to use anti-seize on the glow plugs when installing  them.

Here the wife is running a bottom tap into each hole on the block.  Since we have no idea which holes will be used, all of the holes get a tap carefully run through them.  Both sides of the new flywheel are shown next to the old flywheel removed from the Samurai. As you can see, there is a fair bit of machine work done to the new flywheel in order to allow it to mate with the VW crank.  As odd as it looked to me, it does work just fine and seems to hold up well in service.  Many of these flywheels are currently in service and no one seems to complain about them.

A  couple of other tips on VW engine installs.   Before I install the  thermostat, I drill 2 small (1/8") holes in  the  flange  of  the thermostat. The thermostats used to  come with  holes (at  least  one) already drilled, but  every  one  I  have seen  lately comes without holes.  The purpose of the holes is to allow the trapped air  to escape and water to fill the water pump so the  the engine has water circulation  upon  initial startup.  Also, when filling a  VW engine with antifreeze (50/50 cut with DISTILLED water), fill the block first, adding  50/50  through  the  upper radiator  hose.   When  the block is full, then  attach  the upper  hose  to  the radiator  and  continue filling  through  the reservoir  until  the  proper  level  is achieved. The  small bleed  line should  start  'peeing' back into  the  reservoir  when  all  the air  is finally  bled  out  of  the  entire  system.

Also,  a cheap way of making sure that you have oil pressure before you do the initial start is to take an old distributor and take the gear off and install it where  the vacuum  pump  goes, spin it with a  drill  motor  and check oil pressure with a test mechanical  gauge installed in the back of the head.   A pneumatic drill will build about75 psi, allowing you  to ensure lubrication before start-up and  also  to check for gross oil leaks prior  to start-up.

This is the required modification to the transmission to allow the adapter plate to mate with the transmission.  First time I personally have had to do this operation, but it was straight forward.

These photos show how the VW engine, adapter plate, and the Samurai transmission all mate together.  It really is pretty slick.  There is one area of concern I was not aware of and did not get good pictures so read and heed - before you go any further, check the clutch arm for free play!  I did not and just assumed (like an idiot) that all clutches were manufactured to the same dimensions - they are not! I used a good clutch - ZOOM brand and it was indeed heavy duty, so much so that there was no slack between the throwout bearing and the transmission case, causing the bearing to apply pressure constantly to the fingers of the clutch diaphragm.  This resulted in slippage immediately upon the vehicle entering service.  The specs call for about 5/8" inch of free travel at the END of the actuating arm.  If you have more, shim the flywheel back, if you have less, shim the transmission back away from the block.

This advice is given in the hopes of saving you a week of ordering parts from everyone and comparing what will work together.  The guys at ACME already had gone through this and had the correct parts on hand.....

Here is the combo being swung into the engine bay.  I used the transmission mounts as the 'standard' as where I wanted the new combo to be aligned with.  I figured the rear of the transmission has not been modified, so keep everything aft of that point original.  It worked out pretty well, as I had no propeller shaft problems, shifter problems or t-case problems after the swap.

All was not perfect however, as this mis-matched motor mount showed.  A little rework and the motor is in for good.

Here is the engine settled into it's new position.  A couple of things to point out here.  I made up the mount for the alternator and did not appreciate the fact that there was so little driven area on the crank pulley.  This was not satisfactory and required moving the alternator upward.  Even in the higher position (3" higher than shown here), the contact area is still not entirely satisfactory and the belt will squeal when the alternator is under heavy load, as in just after starting the engine after prolonged cranking.

It occurred  to  me that some of the folks reading this web page may not any experience with VW  diesels. One  thing  that is  common  to all  older diesels is glow plugs.    If  you  have a  hard  time  getting your VW diesel  started, (or  Ford,  GM,  etc.) the very first  thing in  troubleshooting is to put a voltmeter  on the glow plug  harness and  check  to see that voltage  is AVAILABLE to  the  glow plugs when it  is appropriate.   The second step  in troubleshooting is to place a clamp-amp  meter  on  the  glow  plug  wiring to  see  exactly  how many  amps are being  drawn while  the glow plugs  are  being powered.    Each  plug draws 15-20 amps,  so  you  should see 60-75 amps when  the  glow plugs are  being powered.

I  can  assure  you  that  if the  glow  plug  system  is not operating  properly, THE ENGINE WILL NOT START.  Under no conditions should you  EVER  use ether (starting fluid) to get  it started.   I  can  personally  attest to the  fact that  if you  use ether, you WILL be changing  a head gasket....

This horror show is what happens when you try to save a 20 year old $5 hose and damage the heater core.  Which I did not have a spare.  The cost of a new core?  $55  New hose anyway? $5  Many hours of labor stripping and rebuilding the interior?  Maddening! You know, if I had a brain, I would stay up all night just playing with it!

This was my solution for the problem of how to get the larger diesel nozzle into the Unleaded fuel neck.  Remember that this vehicle is built under license all over the world, most vehicles using diesel.  So as I checked the restrictor, it was found to be spot-welded in several places around the interior of the filler neck.  I simply took a large pair of duck-bill pliers and carefully twisted and worked at the restrictor until it gave and then removed it.  Sweet!

These pics show the routing of water hoses on the Sammi.  I would like everyone to appreciate the new heater core and new hoses...

Alright folks, the author is the kind of guy that will freely admit mistakes.  I make so many of them that it gets easier over time....  besides the wife will tell them all to you anyway.

There is a clearance issue and I have heard complaints about the water pump outlet dumping directly into the driver's side motor mount. The picture on the left shows the problem.  The center pic shows your retarded author's supposed solution to the problem.  Yes, it does solve the clearance problem, sort of.  But as soon as the vehicle was placed in service, hot pressurized water forced the hoses off the copper fittings and dumped the antifreeze all over the ground.  Time for a new solution.

The solution I came up with was two fold.  First find a way to actually get more clearance and then use better hoses that won't blow off and leave me or my customer on the side of the road (or worse - trail).

The left picture shows hogging out a bunch of material out of the driver's side motor mount itself.  I took care to leave the folded over portion of the metal intact as this is where most of the strength is.  Center pic shows moving the holes (crudely) to actually move the mount itself aft. The result of modifying the mount, moving the mount aft, and using the correct hoses is shown in the right picture.  There is about 1/4" of clearance between any hose and any structure.  Plenty.

The lower hose absolutely in this case required cutting and rotating as shown on the ACME web site and installation directions.  If the vehicle does not have air conditioning, you can use an Audi 80 lower radiator hose without modification

Which hose to use for the center outlet on the water pump?  It depends on whether you have an early or late water pump housing.  All you care is whether the center port is 25mm or 20mm.  25mm is the size of the upper port on all water pumps. So if  both upper and mid outlets are the same size, then the middle one is 25mm.  The best hose I have found for the 25mm outlet is the hose found on the Diesel Rabbit between the head and heater valve.  The VW p/n is 171 121 611 E8 B1.  VW guys call it the 'Sherlock Holmes Pipe".  If you have a 20mm outlet, the correct hose and number is shown below.

The left picture above shows the "Sherlock Holmes Pipe" attached to the rear of the head connected to Gates 28460 with a 1/2" - 3/4" brass connector from Lowes. It can be found in the plumbing dept where PEK hose and connections are found. The other heater core connection is also a Gates 28460 connected in this case to the long hose shown above with a 1/2" to 5/8" brass connector also from Lowes. The right picture I hope gives you some overview of the water plumbing and also the intake plumbing for a Turbo engine setup.

The left picture shows an additional fuse panel added for the cooling fans and has room for driving lights in the future if necessary.  The right (fuzzy) picture shows the location of the relays that drive the fans.  I used a VW two-speed temp sensor in the radiator and used the lower temp position to drive the smaller fan.  The higher temp position triggers the larger fan.  Anytime the A/C is selected, the larger fan is activated.



When using  a NA  diesel application,  the  stock intake manifold  will  not   clear  the  hood, some other  manifold must be used.   On  the  left  is a  TD intake,  on the  right is  a  single  barrel off  of  a  gas  VW engine, it is not large enough  but  it  will  do  for  now.  Acme can supply  a two-barrel gas intake which  would be correct for this application. I thought it would be easy to find one locally, but as yet have not been able to find  one.

These pics  show wiring and fuel  plumbing that is nearly  finished. 

On the  left are  the  choices for  starters,  from right  - stock  VW  starter, new  style VW, Tracker  w/manual  trans  and then  Tracker with auto  transmission.  The  right  picture shows  new  starter installed.

If  you  look closely, you can  see  that  the  oil  pan  is  resting solidly  on  the front differential .  If  the vehicle had  fresh  front springs, it may  be possible to  run  without a lift  although  the  cruise  RPM  would be far too  high.  At  this  point I ordered  a  SPOA  kit  and  installed  it.  A  SPOA lift is  the  easiest  way to  make room for  31" tires  which  is  the  size  required  to return  cruise  RPM  to  original.

I checked all  my spare  hardware to  find  a  plug for  the  VW  exhaust  test  line  but nothing  lined  up  so I  just  cut and welded the fitting to make a  plug.

By this point, you  are  getting  the vehicle ready  to be placed in service.  For what it's worth, this is the  procedure that I  follow.  VW diesel  head  bolts  are 'stretch'  bolts  (except for the wimpy  1.5L).  The  procedure calls for final tightening after the engine reaches operating temperature, which  I'm sure the factory did when they built the engine originally.  What I do in addition to that,  is at 100 miles, I lift the valve cover and  put a  torque wrench on  the head bolts and ensure they are all still tight.   I don't  really add much torque to them, but I routinely find one or two head bolts that are no longer tight, (the bolts 'stretch' at about 90 lb ft).  Another thing  I do to new engines is to change the oil and filter at 100  miles,  again at 1000 miles, and again at 3000 miles.  After  the  initial  3000  miles  I  always  use Castrol  Syntec 10w30  in VW diesels which gives great service, even  in the TDI's. Regardless  of  factory  recommendations, synthetic or not, I  change  oil  and filters at 3000 mile intervals.  Even the  TDI's...  I  cut open  the oil filters to check for metal and it will scare you bad when  you see how much metal is in the filter at 100 miles, even in a brand-new engine from  the factory.  The purpose  in changing the oil and filter at 100  miles, then 1000 miles and again at 3000 miles is  to get the grit and dirt from  the machining  processes out  of the  engine.   It makes a huge difference in the amount of wear over the lifetime of the engine.  There should  be progressively less metal and debris in  the  filter with  each change. After the engine is in service past the 3000 mile mark, there should be virtually no metal or debris on the filter paper, be sure to check both sides...



I ordered  a  SPOA (SPring Over Axle)  lift kit from  Petroworks.  This was my  first on a Samurai  but it was about  the same as any other I had done before. Doing  a SPOA is  pretty straightforward with a  couple  of things to  look for.  The angle that the spring pads are mounted on  the  axle  tube  is very  important.  Vibration in the  drive lines result  from  having  the  angles different.    Mine  has a  slight  vibration in  the rear shaft  when  slow, disappearing  when  the  speed climbs.

These pics  show  the  rear axle and brake  lines.  The  brake line  brackets must be moved  around  to make  room for  the new spring perches. The  lower shock mounts must be tacked  in  place  with  the  axle temporarily  mounted and  the shocks installed.  I  really  like the way Petroworks  designed this lift, it is straightforward  and  it  works well  both  on  the  street and   gives  plenty of  flex on  the  trail.  Notice this is a  later Samurai  and  it  only  has  one flex  brake  line.  Earlier  models have  two  flex  lines  leading  to  the  differential  from  the  chassis.

Now on to  the front axle,  it is similar  to  the rear although  you  must pay  very  close attention  to  the  angles  of the  spring perches.  They  must be exactly  parallel  to the  existing pads  or  steering  angles  will  be off. For large lifts, you would be required  to  'cut and  turn' the  knuckles on the  axle but  for a simple  SPOA, it is  not  required  or desired.  The  U-bolts are  all  cleaned up and  ready  to install, not obvious is that there are  three  different sizes  of U-bolts and  the  location  is  not  interchangeable.  The  pic on the  right  shows the  lower  shock mount and  also the new bump stop.

These pics show the  installation  of the front axle.  First, since this vehicle will see mostly street  use, I tried to keep the sway  bar and  indeed, the  directions indicate that you  can.  Well folks, you cannot.  I  already heard first hand the horror  stories of  'bump  steer' and it's causes.   So  when  I ordered the  SPOA, I also  ordered the Higher  Heights  kit which  relocates  you drag link  above the springs, eliminating the need for a dropped pitman arm and also the dreaded 'bump steer'.    I  can testify  that the Sammi  does  indeed drive and steer just as well after the SPOA as it did before, there is no bump  steer, and no 'death  wobbles' induced into  the steering.   It  really  does  drive just  as  nice  as  it did  when  stock.  However, as  you  can see in  the pics, there is no room for the  sway  bar.  It  simply was deleted. Also note the brake line  must be installed in  a particular fashion or it will rub  on  the tires.  More on  that  next.

The  first  pic shows  the sway  bar  installed  and  the  mis-routed brake line. Next, the  obvious contact  with  the  brake  line and the  tire.  Hard contact with  the  sway  bar and  the  HH upper arm. On  the right,  the correct brake hose routing and the  sway bar removed.  To be honest, I  couldn't  tell if the sway  bar was connected or  not, so I guess it isn't that important.

One thing I did require is a stock  parking brake.   After  the SPOA, the cable was too short so I  made an  extension bracket and released the cable from  the differential.   This resulted in  a normal operating parking brake.   I understand that the earliest Samurai's  had a parking brake mounted on the transfer  case  and  that they work well.  However, with this drop bracket, the stock parking brake works just great.

This is the rear  drive  line. With the  short  driveshaft in  the Samurai, the operating angles will be high.  There are two  methods  of keeping vibration out of  the drivelines and they are:  

1) Keep the angles (while operating)  the  same  at each  end of the driveline.   You do this by  measuring the  flanges at the rear differential and the transfer case and  keep them  the  same.  Sort  of....   to keep the driveline as smooth as possible, the angles  must be  the same  WHEN  OPERATING, which means  because  the differential nose will climb  when under power, you must compensate for that when  measuring the angles  in the driveway.  It is common practice  to use 1.5  degrees  as the amount  that the differential nose will climb so  you  must use this correction when  setting the spring perches.

2)   Use a driveshaft  that uses  a double-cardon  joint at  the transfer case end and  point the nose of  the differential  directly  at the transfer  case  when  static - again with the  correction angle  of  1.5 degrees.  You can either have a custom drive shaft made or obtain a front driveshaft  from a Toyota PU  or 4Runner that has a DC front joint and cut down the length. Driveshaft  work is not terribly expensive but the decision of methods must be made prior to welding  on the spring perches.

As you can see, I  chose to use the existing driveshaft, add a spacer, and keep the angles the same.   It does  work OK, however  there is  some  vibration in  2nd  gear smoothing  out as the road speed increases.   I guess I  will just live with  it.

What we're looking at  here is the crossmember that goes under the transmission bellhousing. When we installed the adapter plate, it indexed the transmission slightly off to the passenger side. As a result, the bottom of the  transmission touched  the  crossmember  and transmitted vibration to the body.  The solution shown in the center pic was to add washers  as shims  to move the crossmember down slightly on the passenger side resulting is sufficient clearance shown in the right pic. Whenever you perform a swap such as this one, there  will be numerous places where little problems crop  up and some remedy must be found.

Besides the SPOA to gain lift, trimming of the front bumper is also required.  Is this case, the Sammi has 31x10.5x15 Uniroyal tires.  They required removal of the plastic end caps off the stock bumper, then a little sawzall action on the bumpers themselves.  Be sure to smooth the cut metal and then prime/paint it to prevent injury and rust.

Another mod that will be required is to cut a portion of the hood away to make room for the VW radiator.  No one covered it on the net, so I thought I would show how I did it.  Try not to remove any more material than necessary as this weakens the hood and it is already pretty flimsy anyway.





If you have the time, equipment and materials, making your own SPOA is not a difficult undertaking. I used 2x4 square tubing for the spring perches, a Mercedes steering arm on the passenger side to get the drag link up and used the stock tie rod in the factory position.

The picture on the left is the initial cut to get the spring saddle to length.  If I remember correctly, I used 5" as the first cut.  I then marked the cut piece at the halfway point lengthwise.  This is to locate the hole saw pilot hole.  The right picture shows the piece clamped into the drill press, ready to receive the pilot hole.


The sequence shows drilling the hole the same diameter as the axle tube, if I remember I used a 2 1/2" hole saw.  The right picture shows drilling a pilot hole for the locator pin on the leaf spring.  It needs to be 9/16" for a final size.


The locator hole drilled out to 9/16". The piece is turned to be cut into halves. Use care here.

These show the steps to create your own saddles.  The reason I did not just go to a trailer supply shop and purchase spring saddles will be clear in the next few shots.  Trailer perches will not result in a strong mount between the axle and the leaf spring. By making your own, you can fill in the end spaces, making a very strong joint, preventing the springs from 'rounding off' the spring perches during hard off-roading.

Sorry for the small thumbnails here.  In this case I chose to keep the driveline angles the same as they were stock.  The easiest way I have found to do this is to place the axle on a sawhorse and place the homemade spring perch perfectly parallel to the existing perch on the bottom of the axle.  I use a digital angle gauge and to be honest, I don't know I have lived this long without one.  The are accurate to a tenth of a degree...  Cool.....    They really should be considered a required tool for all men....

This is the blocking at the ends of the perch I was referring to earlier.  Once the ends and sides are welded, it makes the perch very strong and able to withstand extreme wheeling.

Once again, please forgive the blurry pics, I hope you can get the gist of what I am trying to convey here. The first pic shows the way I made up the rear shock mounts.  Since this particular Sammy was primarily a street vehicle with limited use off-road, I elected to use the stock shocks and not tilt them together at the tops like I would for a trail rig.  This way I don't have to modify the exhaust pipe or make a upper shock bar.  Ride and axle travel will remain the same as they were stock.

These two pics show the shock mounts on the front axle.  I used the stock upper mount on the front and rear locations. Ride quality is the same as stock.

Brake lines are required whenever you do a SPOA.  Don't even think about not putting longer ones on because even though they may be long enough sitting in the driveway, as soon as the axles get flexed out on the trail, they will tear away and you will lose the brakes.  Not good.

I tried several different brake lines from the local NAPA and there are several that will work both for the front and back.  However, after paying the bill for new ones, it occurred to me it was cheaper and easier to order stainless braid hoses made for this application from Petroworks, Rocky Road or other supplier.

If you can snag used ones from the junkyard, there are several that will work.

Front: 96 Geo Metro

Rear: 85 Toyota P/U 4x4 front lines

There are other I have heard including taking the jumpers (short flex lines located rear passenger side engine compartment) off of a junk Samurai and using them to extend the rear lines.



Just because you want to drive a Samurai with a VW Diesel engine, that does no mean that you have to live without any creature comforts whatsoever.  You can have air conditioning and even power steering if you would like. I personally have not done a power steering but I have done a couple with air conditioning.  This section shows how I solved the problems with the conversion.  There may be different, maybe better ways but this is one to get you thinking.

I typically mock up all the drive pulleys before I install the engine as it is much easier to do fabricating with the engine out of the engine bay.  With the mounting of the air conditioner compressor however, I wasted a bunch of time mocking up the drive system and then installed the engine only to find that it wouldn't work and had to do some of the work while the engine was installed and some with the engine pulled.

Air conditioning adds considerably to the cost and complexity of the conversion.  It may be worth it to you, especially if the vehicle is a hard top.  Mine is a convertible, so I do not intend to add air conditioning to my personal vehicle.

The first picture shows the bracket I wound up using to start the mounting of the Samurai fair conditioning compressor on the VW engine.  This is maybe the third attempt and it finally did work out in the end.  This bracket comes stock on some models of the VW diesel engine, but not all.  Whether or not your engine originally had A/C or dealer installed A/C or none at all determines which bracket you got.

The next shot shows the flat plate I fabricated to hold the factory Samurai A/C compressor bracket.  Placement of the bracket on this flat plate is critical so make you tack welds sturdy but realize that you most likely will be moving them several times.  The correct alignment of the pulleys and the belts that drive them come from the placement of the compressor bracket.  Be vewwieee vewwieee careful.....

The left picture shows another view of the plate and the compressor bracket. The center shows the final location of the A/C compressor, right pic another view.  Once again, the compressor did not magically arrive at this location.  3 full days of labor were used before this final configuration was used.

These shots show the upper brace this I made to provide tension for the belt.  The final configuration has the alternator being driven by a dedicated belt, the water pump and A/C compressor sharing another belt.  Since the water pump was driven off this belt, the upper brace was somewhat stronger than I may have used otherwise.

There are pictures of the final configuration of the hoses involved in the A/C conversion.  The A/C hoses were special made here in a shop in Kansas City and I'm most cities have shops that will make custom hoses.  The radiator hose simply had to be made in two pieces.  I simply could not find any hose that would work in one piece.  The hose on the left is a VW Rabbit upper radiator hose, the right one is a upper hose from an Audi 80 with the 1.8l gas engine.  They are both new German hoses.

The placement of the A/C condenser was a challenge insofar as it had to be made to be placed into the area immediately behind the grill.  There is simply no room for the condenser so stay in the stock location. Braces were welded in and the condenser was mounted with rubber insulators to help with body flexing. The routing of the A/C hoses is shown.  The receiver/drier was relocated as well and new flex hoses were routed to it.

These further show routing of the A/C hoses.




One of the areas where I thought there may be room for improvement was in the clutch area.  Although I have used the ACME setup and it worked fine, I have heard complaints from others, primarily hard wheelers that the clutch area was a weak link and did I have any ideas that might help.  I really didn't but I took a little different approach and it seems to work fine.  Lets take a look.



Anytime you want to place an engine manufactured by company A next to transmission from company B, somehow you are going to have to create an interface that will allow the two to mate up. Several problems must be overcome. First, the flywheel has to mate both with the engine crankshaft and also with the clutch disc and pressure plate that the transmission will accept.  ACME uses a Samurai flywheel redrilled and modified to fit the VW crankshaft.  I have seen other companies use the VW flywheel and cut it down to fit the Samurai bell housing. Both approaches have some advantages and both have some drawbacks.

If you use a Samurai flywheel, you are limited to a Samurai clutch disc and pressure plate.  The available surface area is much smaller than what you may want if you wheel hard and slip the clutch frequently. There are aftermarket heavy duty and even Kevlar faced discs available but they are all limited by the size of the Samurai flywheel. The clamping forces required to hold the available torque of the VW diesel gets pretty high and pedal force is higher than in the stock Samurai, although not really excessive.  The pilot bearing is pretty easy with the Samurai flywheel, you just use a stock Suzuki part.  One item I did not care for with the Samurai flywheel is that you are required to cut down the VW crankshaft.  While not a problem when the crank will be used in a Samurai or even reused in a VW Rabbit or Jetta. However, it prevents future use in any longitudinal chassis - Fox, Audi, Dasher, etc. Maybe not a big deal, but I have a habit of removing engines and reusing them on a regular basis.

So how can you use a VW flywheel/clutch?  The first problem is shown in the first pic.  What kind of pilot bearing will allow the VW crankshaft and Samurai transmission input shaft.  I went through numerous versions of solutions of using custom bearings of various types, placing a steel sleeve on the input shaft and the stock VW pilot bearing, and other ideas of mine and online suggestions.  The simplest and cheapest solution came from a local bearing shop salesman who looked at the problem and had an answer in just a few minutes.  The Samurai transmission input shaft is 10mm.  The hole in the crankshaft is 21mm.  There is no stock brass bearings or roller or needle bearing of that particular size.  BUT.  He picked up two bronze graphite impregnated bearings, one 10mm x 15mm x 20mm long and one 15mm x 21mm x 20mm long and said simply - press these together and cut them to length and you have a pilot bearing.....

Now before you go and throw rocks at this guy, remember that most all vehicles had bronze or brass pilot bearings up until the 1970's when roller bearings pretty much took over.  I can remember removing transmissions for a clutch job that had well over 100,000 miles on them and removing the bronze pilot bearings and replacing them.  They worked well then, why not now?

So that is what I used for a solution for a pilot bearing.  Total cost of both bearings? $6.  I did have to shorten them to 18mm which was no big deal.  A dab of moly grease and the pilot bearing issue is put to bed - at least until someone comes up with a better solution....


Next, how to get a VW flywheel into the Samurai bell housing? Other folks have indicated that you need to order their super special $400 flywheel supposedly custom made from Unobtainium and that it will cure your installation problems.  Well, after looking at the problem on the bench for a while, I noticed that the stock VW clutch cover will fit into the bell housing will no modifications.  The flywheel itself is too large and must be turned down. to fit.  So this is what I have done.  I removed the flywheel from a VW Fox.  Heated up the starter ring gear with a torch and knocked it off.  I then removed the starter ring gear from a Samurai flywheel and cleaned the flywheel completely so I could get accurate measurements from it..  I then chucked the VW flywheel in the lathe and turned down the O.D. to the same dimensions as the Samurai flywheel.  Placed the flywheel in the freezer and the Samurai ring gear in the oven at 500F.  When both reached stable temps, slipped the Samurai ring gear on the VW flywheel and presto! I had a flywheel that solved the immediate problems. Now I have a flywheel, pilot bearing, and clutch cover, so now what about a clutch disc?

There are clutch rebuilders here in Kansas CIty that can actually build any combination of hubs and driven discs to meet your requirements.  They are pricey, but not much more than a regular disc.  I looked through a clutch catalog at a rebuilder and discovered that a clutch disc from a 2001 Suzuki Vitara with a 2.0l engine has the correct hub for the Samurai transmission but it is a little too large for the VW pressure plate.  Solution? Chuck it in the lathe and turn down the OD slightly to fit the VW flywheel/pressure plate.

Now the clutch is complete.  VW Crankshaft.  VW Fox flywheel turned down to Samurai size. Samurai starter ring gear.  Bronze bearing for pilot bearing. Vitara disc. VW Fox/Quantum pressure plate. Stock Suzuki release bearing (Koyo 429).

The left photo shows the VW flywheel with the cut-down Vitara disc. The center shows the Quantum pressure plate mated up.  The right picture graphically demonstrates the difference in size and swept area of the stock Samurai disc on the right and the Vitara disc on the left.

How do I know all of this will work?  Funny you should ask.  Hold your breath for a Samurai transmission had to die to prove that all this theory would actually result in a solution and not a time-bomb!

The left shot shows the holes I made with a hole saw to actually view what was happening inside the clutch compartment when mating these pieces together. I would like everyone to observe a moment of silence for the perfectly good Samurai transmission that gave it's life in the name of research!

The center shot shows the input shaft actually mated into the crankshaft of the VW engine;  The two piece pilot bearing is visible and you can verify that the input shaft is dead center of the crank.

It is crucial that the centerline of the input shaft and the centerline of the crank are in fact the same.  I do not know how the average Joe could place the transmission on the engine and arrive at the correct location.  The adapter plate shown is what places these centerlines together and was manufactured by Jeff Kerr at ACME adapters.  This is one area where an expert has done the homework and has a product that has proven itself.  I highly recommend you utilize this adapter plate as every other dimension is based on it.


The next two show the clearance between the fingers on the clutch diaphragm and the throwout bearing.  There must be at least SOME clearance or the clutch will slip.  How much is up to you but if it is excessive, you could shim the flywheel back to take up some.  The right picture shows the transmission mounted on a test engine with the crank, rods and pistons installed.  The Tracker starter is installed and used to spin the assembly to verify clearances and operation.

The VW clutch proved operational and was placed in service.  The pedal pressure was much less despite the much larger disc area.

Tranny all mounted, ready to go.



I really like to keep track of what is happening under the hood.  Particularly when parts from different manufacturers are mashed together and the trail is a long way from home.  The Sammi here is a late version and has the vertical stack which I took advantage of when adding instruments.  This vehicle is a convertible which rules out any kind of sound system so I decided to build a dummy panel to place gauges where the radio used to reside.  I used the gauges and senders from a VW Rabbit Cabriolet.  It is important to note that the gauges are calibrated to specific senders and must be used with the same senders VW used.  So when you snag gauges in the boneyard, take care to get the senders too and make sure those senders are used with those gauges.  VW (VDO actually) makes dozens of senders that all look alike but are all rated for different gauges.  Keep them together.

These show the reverse side of the instrument panel.  All connections are made together before this panel is inserted into the Samurai panel.  This makes removal and installation much easier. The CB radio of a Cobra unit that has all the controls in the microphone.  The electronics are housed in a separate box that is permanently mounted in the panel and the microphone can be removed for security.

You can see from the pictures that the VW diesel carries a bunch of oil pressure.  At 80c (oil temp) the oil pressure is 3 bar, about 45 psi.  On start up, it pegs the gauge above 5 bar, 75 psi and stays there until it warms up.

This picture is obviously not from a Samurai.  It is from a Rabbit Pickup that I recently sold.  The 1.6TD engine was not equipped with an intercooler and I wanted to keep track of the boost levels and also the EGT.  This is how the gauges were mounted in the Rabbit.  It would be a great idea to have both a boost gauge and an EGT gauge if you were to place a TD engine in a Samurai.



One  of the  things  that I wanted to look  stock was the  water  plumbing, including  the reservoir.  The solution that I came up with was to use a bracket from a VW Jetta that used the round reservoir bottle.  It is simply  tack welded  in place and looks like it came there from the factory.  In the future, I would raise the bracket one inch so that the line leading out the bottom would not touch the fender. The pic on the right shows my solution for the exhaust header.  If you install a lift, there is plenty of room for the exhaust to go under the transmission and it does not need to go over.  The exhaust shop that did the original install really messed up the upper exhaust pipe so I made this one from scratch and it works just fine.  I would pay closer attention in the future as this pipe is very close to the starter and should have been routed further aft to clear the starter.  It is necessary to re-route the brake lines either above or below the frame to keep the exhaust heat from heating up the brake fluid.

Well folks, there you have it. This project obviously isn't complete as it needs paint and bumpers and rock sliders and a  winch  and  a  fold-down  windshield  and.....  well, you know how it goes.  But I hope you have gotten a little better idea of what is involved.  I'm not sure what I would do differently if I were to do another one, perhaps I would try a VW flywheel and  clutch instead of  the Suzuki piece, just to see if it would work better.   To be honest, the stock Samurai clutch is probably enough for a NA diesel.  At least until you did some hard wheeling....

The time for the conversion would take about 45 hours of labor if you had a well-equipped shop.  The SPOA  took me 18 hours of labor, not including some rework that was my fault. Overhauling  the diesel took the wife 8 hours of labor and $900 in parts and  machine work.  A lot of time and money was spent on the clutch because I did not catch  the lack of freeplay at the clutch arm  - my fault. Breaking the heater core was also my fault and added a bunch of time stripping the interior to replace it.

Air conditioning will add a bunch of time and money to the conversion.  Custom A/C hoses don't come cheap. Fabricating all the brackets (at least 3 times) really adds to the shop time. I'm sure power steering, intercoolers and oil coolers would also add a bunch of shop time.

If a guy had a nice Samurai that was currently  operating and working well, then installed a SPOA and larger  tires which will be required anyway, this really  would not be a difficult undertaking, depending on  your experience and shop.

You have to admit, this is one cool Suzuki Samurai.




Lets add up the numbers:

Samurai            $  750

engine               $  900

Kit from Acme $   550

SPOA               $  600

Exhaust            $  600   (I got raped on a 'special'  diesel  catalytic converter....  oh well)

Tires                $  520

starter              $  100

radiator           $    50   (Audi unit from  the  boneyard  - works great)

Fans                $  120   (Two electric fans and a  relay)

Hoses             $   100

misc                $   500

Rear  locker    $  220

Total            $ 5010     WHEW!!!!


There is  a bunch  of money wasted because this  was my  first Samurai conversion and I was just learning.   First of all, I will never pay anyone to do exhaust work again.  I got lied to and raped and then to add insult to injury, I had to tear out all their work and weld up my own..... very frustrating.

Next is the SPOA.   After installing this one I can see where a guy could do just as well with the correct shocks and $100 worth of materials.  There is a  guy who has a web page concerning a  SPOA on a Samurai  and  covers the subject pretty well.


Tires.  If you  have a U RIP  IT type of salvage yard in your area, getting the correct wheels and tires is easy.  Ford 150's have the same bolt  pattern  and  the required tire size ( 31  x 10.5 x 15)  is pretty common on Pickups.  In fact my spare is from a F150 - tire and rim, it cost me $15.

I  bought  my rims off of CraigsList, they were from a Jeep CJ  for $50, I had  them sandblasted for another $80 and bought tires from Wal-Mart  (I know-I hate em too) for $95 each.

There is a list that I took from another site and these vehicles  have the same bolt pattern.

5 on 5-1/2
        AMC - Jeep (5 bolt) '42-'89
        Chrysler - 8 cyl. & wagon '46-'55
                 - Imperial '54-'66
        Ford 2 ton van
        Ford Bronco, F100
        Ford - all '28-'48
             - full size P.U., van, Bronco '49-'89
        International Scout, Travelall
        Lincoln - all '52-'60
        Mercury - all '39-'51
        Suzuki - Samurai '86-'89
This  is the site; http://www.mr2.com/TEXT/WheelBoltPatterns.txt

Whichever wheels you use, verify that they will actually fit  by installing one on the FRONT axle of your Samurai. The hole in the center of the wheel must be 4 1/4" so check to verify the wheels you get will actually mount on a Samurai.

You  can live  without the  rear locker for now....

Get an engine  that  does not require overhaul.   For  the  money I  spent on parts and machine work, I could have bought a 1.6 TD from a Jetta!

If a guy had some patience and used eBay or better yet,  CraigsList, you could do this project for a lot less.

If you  already  own a Samurai, you can do a lot of this piecemeal and not have to fork out a bunch of money all at  once.   With  all that said, for $5000  I have  a 4x4 that gets 30+ mpg, no rust nowhere, will go just about  anywhere I want to go and is a  blast  to drive. Not  to mention the engine, clutch, pump, injectors are all freshly  overhauled and it could use even use biodiesel (if I had  some).....  the tires  are  new and  it has fresh  brakes and the axles have been serviced.    Not much to do for a long, long time except to drive and enjoy it!

All told, I'm happy and feel the work was worth it.  After viewing this web  page, maybe you have a little more information to make a better decision.  I have already done another one for a customer and his was a LOT cheaper as he already had a Samurai and an engine that was running great.   He paid for labor, but a lot less in mistakes....

If  you  live  in the  Kansas City, Des Moines, Lincoln, Omaha, Joplin or Tulsa and you  have a Samurai  that you  would like converted  to VW Diesel power but you  don't  have a  shop or the  time, give me  a shout and we'll see if I can help.


Have fun and  keep the greasy side down!