Well, after pushing throguh all the emails and chatroom advice, I've made a decision about the engine choices. If you recall, I had asked for some advice about what to do about Hapy's engine. The existing engine (aka "the Limper") really doesn't have much push anymore.
I coud go the cheap route and get one off of craigslist. I know a cat in SE Portland that's doing that, but his motivations are different than mine. He needs effective transportation now and his original engine has a trashed head. Different situation. He's going to rebuild his original engine while getting A-to-B with the craigslist engine. Good luck, Josh, it looks like you have it under control.
I thought about getting an off-the-shelf (AVP) engine from busdepot. I like BusDepot, and I've heard good things about their upgraded heads. The problem is their most powerful engine still only makes about 68HP (more importantly 99ft/lbs of torque max). Better than the limper, but still not that great when you're loaded with a family of 4, camping gear, food/ice for a week, etc.
Boston Bob was a late entry that didn't get a dedicated blog posting. He makes good reliable engines. They are reportedly more reliable than the off-the-shelf variety, but not necessarily any stronger, so we think about upgrading both the power and the price...
The first more expensive option was the TDI engine sitting on my garage floor. Most of the responses I got from people that knew what this engine was went something like this: "you have a TDI engine!!! Aw.. I've dreamed of putting one of those in my bus..." Not many really knew how much work it would be, but I was told by a guy that does these conversions on vanagons to consider 100 hours a fair starting point for estimating. 100 hours! Holy crap, that's a lot of time! But how much calendar time would that be? I mean if I have an hour here, and an hour there, that could take, like, a year.
Jake Raby got a full posting, and he makes some great, powerful engine kits. A Raby camper special is rated at 92HP (120ft/lbs torque). That's a lot better for getting into the Cascades with a full load. The sticker shock was one detriment, but the biggest blocker was that it was a kit and I'd have to find a good case and assemble the engine. Good learning opportunity? Yes. Get to know your engine all the way through so when something going "boink" you know what it was? Absolutely. Keeps the air-cooled bus as close to stock as possible while delivering a measurable power boost? Definitely.
So... what's the decision? I'm going with the TDI. In the end, I really want to run biodiesel. I feel like driving a hippy icon while getting 16mpg (and pumping high smog exhaust output) on MidEastern oil just wasn't ok. The increase in power will be considerable. I'll post the exact numbers from the dyno charts I have on my PC at home, but from the web, the HP will be around 90 and torque peaks at about 145. I am setting very low goals and expectations for this, and I'll document everything I do in this blog so that someone else will have a better idea of what it will take to do this. Hapy is still on the road, and his original engine won't be pulled until after camping season this Fall.