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Old 11-21-2019, 06:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
EcoModding Lurker
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
Posts: 1

Van - '97 Volkswagen Transporter
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Greetings from Vancouver Island

Hi Folks,

Awhile back I created an account, but haven't even lurked all that much.
When the emails come with updates on the forum, I sometimes check them out and find them interesting. Today is one of those days, and I was inspired to come on and say Hi.

I have always appreciated small cars that get great fuel economy. My first was a 1980 Ford Fiesta Sport purchased in '85. Then in 1993 I was given a 1990 Chevy Sprint (Canadian Metro with flush polycarbonate headlights and 1.0 engine) It was agreed that this car would be given to me by the original owner if I allowed him to trade in my Fiesta in 1990 toward the purchase of the new Sprint. I didn't need a car for those 3 years anyway.

With that Sprint I was able to routinely use less than 5L/100km driven and once got it down to 3.6L/100km by driving 60 kph on a flat highway for 200km.

In 1997 the Sprint was totalled when it plowed into a Camry that had run a 2-way stop sign. The car was still driveable but not worth the bodywork required, I guess. With the insurance money I was able to get a 1989 Swift GTi which was the same body style but with 100hp vs the Sprint's 55. The best fuel economy (and driveability) mod for that car is to advance the timing and road test, repeating until the engine pings then back off a hair. Suzukis don't generally use knock sensors and the GTi was able to run on 85 Octane gas from the factory, quite unusual for such a high output engine.

I sold that car when my wife was pregnant with our first child in 2003. It had 400,000km on the original engine, transmission and clutch. But I bought another one that same year, actually before selling my other Swift, from a senior citizen who was selling it due to terminal cancer. He had owned it since new and it was in the best shape of any I had ever seen, so I bought it and drove it every third summer or so until taking it out of my storage shed last spring to put Collector plates on. This car gets 5.5 L/100km when driven responsibly, which takes some restraint. These cars really like to run hard.

Our other vehicle is a 1997 VW Transporter. The Transporter vans, in Canada, were the long wheelbase trades variants of Eurovan usually with no rear seats or windows and usually with a 5 speed 5 cylinder diesel. Mine was converted for the original owner by an RV conversion company called GTRV in Richmond, BC. They took the original front seats out and replaced them with Chevy Astro captain's chairs with swivelling bases, adding matching Astro Van sliding bench seats for 2nd and 3rd row seating. These seats will fold back and flat,and will form a 7-ft long bed with the headrests off. A pop-top roof was also added as part of the conversion.

These vans come with 15 inch wheels and extra load tires to handle the van's weight plus 1.2 metric ton payload capacity. The previous, and second, owner fitted the van with 16 inch wheels which are larger diameter and wider. This results in less rolling resistance but I don't think that is why he had it done. The choice of tires in this size is a lot greater. I am using XL tires even though I don't really have to. They are Bridgestone Ecopia. The larger wheels are one fuel economy mod.

The other fuel economy mod is a 6-speed kit from Eurotuning.

I pulled the van's gearbox and sent it to the mfg company which installed the kit and sent it back to me. This particular van, and most transporters I suspect, has very short gearing to match the gutless non-turbo motor.
The kit I ordered replaced the 5th gear with a taller one and added the tallest 6th they offer. Now the van runs at 100 kph with 2200rpm in top gear vs 3100rpm originally. It doesn't make a huge difference in fuel economy but boy does it make for a more relaxed highway experience.

Considering this vehicle sleeps 4, seats 8, and has carried a ton of cinder blocks home many times the observed fuel economy of 6.5-7.0 L/100km is impressive in my opinion. Given that diesel is usually cheaper than gasoline where I live, especially and even more so in the summer, the fuel cost of running this van is similar to that of a modern compact car.

My next planned mod is to advance the pump timing when I replace the cam and pump timing belts, probably next year. Currently I drive with the cold start lever pulled out all the time. That advances the pump timing a few degrees. It runs better and has more power. I'm sure it gets better economy too, so I'd like to adjust things so that the same timing can be achieved without the cold start lever pulled out.

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