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Diesel-Powered Mini Van Gets 42 MPG
Matt Eby repowered a Ford Windstar with a VW diesel, boosting mileage up to as high as 42 mpg. He and his wife operate Eby Farms, an organic, pasture-based, local market farm. They needed a better way to deliver their homemade soap, produce and meat to customers.
    “I talked to a friend of mine who had a 2000 Ford Windstar with a blown motor,” says Eby. “It was in great shape with no rust, and I had a diesel Jetta with a 5-speed.”
    His friend, Andrew Leach at A+A Recycling in Hartford, Mich., provided the use of machine shop tools, welding and general assistance. Eby was able to swap a side of beef and the scrapped out Jetta for the minivan.
    Eby took 2 weeks off work and parked the 2 front-wheel drive vehicles alongside each other. He and Leach pulled out the minivan’s motor, transmission, clutch and driveshaft and replaced them with the Jetta’s. The clutch was upgraded.
    “I did the upgrade, as the minivan was about 600 to 700 lbs. heavier than the Jetta,” explains Eby. “We mocked it up for height and reused the Jetta motor mounts. They fit the frame, but had to be modified for the wider space.”
    The right side required metal wedges to create a level mounting area. The left side had to be extended out to accommodate the narrower motor and transmission.
    “We also added a wishbone mount underneath the engine and transmission to keep them from twisting under torque,” says Eby. “We found existing holes in the minivan frame to attach the wishbone in place so it could be bolted to the transmission.”
    Eby and Leach also had to modify the front axles to match the Jetta transmission and driveshaft and the Ford wheel hubs. They removed the original axles from both vehicles and cut them in half.
    “We welded up bushings to connect the section of the Ford axles with hubs to the Jetta axle halves that connected to the transmission,” says Eby. “The only problem we’ve had since was a bushing on one axle that broke after about 8,000 miles. We hadn’t made the weld deep enough.”
    Parts that were transferred from the Jetta to the Windstar included the clutch pedal, gas pedal, wiring harness, half the air intake system, the instrument cluster and computer. The computer was required for the electronic fuel pump, and the instrument cluster was needed to talk to the computer and engine. The Jetta clutch pedal was needed for the Jetta’s manual transmission.
    “We made a bracket for the clutch pedal,” he says. “It is a hydraulic clutch, so we could put it where we wanted. Since we kept the Windstar hubs, we kept the brakes too.”
    Keeping the computer and instrument cluster from the Jetta meant the wiring harness had to be matched and merged with excess removed. After stripping out the Jetta wiring harness, anything not needed for the hybrid Windstar was removed. It was then laid over the Ford harness and reattached with unneeded Ford wires removed.
    “The wiring was the hardest part of the swap; however, only once did we have to backtrack to replace a stripped out wire,” says Eby. “We did have to do some splicing to retain the Ford ignition switch.”
    If he was doing it again, Eby says he would have mounted a mechanical fuel pump. That would have eliminated the need to transfer the computer and wiring harness from the Jetta to the minivan.
    Most parts, such as hoses, were off the shelf. The air-to-air cooler from the Jetta didn’t fit in the Ford, so Eby had to buy an air-to-water intercooler. It was the only after-market component purchased. He estimates the entire process cost about $700 in incidentals, hoses and electronics.
    “If you don’t have a phenomenal amount of money, you have to be creative and build stuff,” says Eby. “The swapping made it work. If I had to purchase everything, it would have been expensive.”
    As it is, the swap, including an estimated 120 hours of labor, has already been recovered. Eby estimates he has driven about 25,000 miles in the past year and saved around $2,000 in fuel.
    “It is our primary transportation,” says Eby. “We have one other vehicle, and it gets only half the mileage of the repowered minivan. The minivan gets 32 to 35 mpg in the winter and 39 to 42 mpg in the summer.”
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Matt Eby, 56641 Glenwood Rd., Cassopolis, Mich. 49031 (ebyfarmsllc@gmail.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #1