Thankfully, some folks just can't leave well enough alone. We think you'll agree that in the quest for vehicular nonconformity-at least, at the present time-and ultimate utility, the diesel engine just fits.
Here are several examples, professional and privateer, of some very viable, reproducible, and just downright right gas-to-diesel engine conversions that breathe new life into some classic light truck and SUV designs.
Before digging into the details, though, it would be good to mention at the outset a few diesel conversion caveats:
One: These conversions are really not cost effective in terms of recouping expenses through savings in fuel or maintenance costs with fuel prices being what they are today. The exception here would be if the old gas engine is completely cashed, requiring a fairly expensive replacement in its own right.
Two: Not all of these swaps are easy to perform, unless you have considerable skill with both tools-welding experience being a definite plus here-and are able to engineer some of your own solutions.
Three: These swaps are not legal in all 50 states for use on public roads, due to emission laws. It is very important that you check your state's regulations beforehand, since the work required to legally register your new creation may make the work required to perform the swap pale in comparison.
What we've collected here is a fairly good cross-section of what's of interest out there in the diesel-swap world. The approaches described range from a well-researched and documented privateer do-it-yourself Toyota conversion blog-site, to a fully professional install company that specializes in the Land Rover Defender models.
Certain aspects of this swap business apply no matter what kind of swap is being performed. For instance, it's always better to purchase the diesel donor vehicle in its entirety, or at least the front half, which is often the method of choice for foreign importers. Otherwise, you will expend too much time, money, and effort sorting out the critical details. Related to that, without getting into all of the technical reasons for it here, simplicity is recommended. For instance, when possible, try to select a transplant patient and engine that will need the least amount of modification to form the most perfect union. If a swap is being attempted where an engine adapter plate is needed, but unavailable, more time, money, and effort will be required. Also, if any other adapters are available, such as for engine and transmission mounts, exhaust system, or any accessories, it's smarter to purchase them, unless you are a fabricating whiz.
East Coast Rover DefenderThis Warren, Maine, outfit specializes in performing conversions on the Land Rover Defender models with the 300 TDI engines that are available in Land Rovers sold outside the U.S. The company claims fuel economy in the low 20s and a 75 percent increase in range with its Defender 90 swap (from 200 to 350 miles). If you need more power without the 300 TDI pedigree, the company can install a 2.8L Ford Power Stroke engine, instead. Additionally, East Coast Rover sells parts and service for several incarnations of Land Rover diesels, as well as performance modifications for the 300 TDI. You can reach East Coast Rover at (207) 594-8086 or on the web at www.eastcoastrover.com.
Rocky Road Outfitters SamuraiHere's a company that specializes in the sale and support of Volkswagen 1.6- or 1.9L turbodiesel engine swaps into the Suzuki Samurai. Rocky Road offers a swap kit for these engines, as well as providing all the information you'll need to accomplish the task. The firm claims that the 1.6L engine has just short of double the torque output of the stock Samurai gasoline engine, with fuel economy in the high 30s. And the compact, lightweight Suzuki was a decent 4x4 to begin with! You can reach Rocky Road Outfitters at (888) 801-7271 or on the web at www.rocky-road.com.