Volkswagen air-cooled engine

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Volkswagen E-motor
ConfigurationFlat-4 naturally aspirated petrol engine
Cylinder block alloyAluminum / magnesium alloy
Cylinder head alloyAluminum / magnesium alloy
ValvetrainPushrod OHV
Fuel systemMechanical / Carbeurated
Fuel typePetrol
Oil systemWet sump
Cooling systemAir-cooled
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Volkswagen E-motor
ConfigurationFlat-4 naturally aspirated petrol engine
Cylinder block alloyAluminum / magnesium alloy
Cylinder head alloyAluminum / magnesium alloy
ValvetrainPushrod OHV
Fuel systemMechanical / Carbeurated
Fuel typePetrol
Oil systemWet sump
Cooling systemAir-cooled

The Volkswagen air-cooled engine is an air-cooled boxer engine with four horizontally opposed cast iron cylinders, cast aluminum alloy cylinder heads and pistons, magnesium crankcase, and forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods.

Variations of the engine were produced by Volkswagen plants worldwide from 1936 until 2006 for use in Volkswagen's own vehicles, notably the Type 1 (Beetle), Type 2 (bus, transporter), Type 3, and Type 4. Additionally, the engines were widely used in industrial, light aircraft and kit car applications.


Type 1: 1.1–1.6 litres

Volkswagen Type 1 engine
SuccessorVolkswagen Type 4 engine
Fuel systemCarburetor
Volkswagen 1100 engine
Displacement1,131 cc (69.0 cu in)
Cylinder bore75 mm (2.95 in)
Piston stroke64 mm (2.52 in)
Compression ratio5.8:1
Power output18 kW (24 PS; 24 bhp) @ 3,300 rpm,
22 kW (30 PS; 30 bhp)
Specific power15.9 kW (22 PS; 21 bhp) / L (18kW variant)
Torque output68 N·m (50 lbf·ft) @ 2,000 rpm
Volkswagen 1200 engine
Displacement1,192 cc (72.7 cu in)
Cylinder bore77 mm (3.03 in)
Piston stroke64 mm (2.52 in)
Compression ratio6.1:1 - 7.0:1
Power output22 kW (30 PS; 30 bhp)
25 kW (34 PS; 34 bhp)
27 kW (37 PS; 36 bhp)
30 kW (41 PS; 40 bhp)
Specific power18.5–21.0 kW (25–29 PS; 25–28 bhp) / L
Volkswagen 1300 engine
Volkswagen 1500 engine
Displacement1,493 cc (91.1 cu in)
Cylinder bore83 mm (3.27 in)
Piston stroke69 mm (2.72 in)
Power output1500N: 33 kW (45 PS; 44 bhp),
1500S: 40 kW (54 PS; 54 bhp)
Specific power22.1–26.8 kW (30–36 PS; 30–36 bhp) / L
Volkswagen 1600 engine
Cylinder bore85.5mm
Fuel systeminitially: 30/31-Pict Carburetor for single port 34-Pict Carburetor for dual port,
later: Bosch L-Jetronic electronic fuel injection
Power outputsingle port: 35 kW (48 PS; 47 bhp)
dual port: 37 kW (50 PS; 50 bhp)

Like the Volkswagen Beetle, the first Volkswagen Transporters (bus) used the Volkswagen air-cooled engine, a 1.1 litre, DIN-rated 24 kW (24 PS, 24 bhp), air-cooled four-cylinder "boxer" engine mounted in the rear. The 22 kilowatt (29 PS; 29 bhp) version became standard in 1955, while an unusual early version of the engine which developed 25 kilowatts (34 PS; 34 bhp) debuted exclusively on the Volkswagen Type 2 (T1) in 1959. Any examples that retain that early engine today are true survivors - since the 1959 engine was totally discontinued at the outset, no parts were ever made available.

The second-generation Transporter, the Volkswagen Type 2 (T2) employed a slightly larger version of the engine with 1.6 litres and 35 kilowatts (48 PS; 47 bhp).

A "T2b" Type 2 was introduced by way of gradual change over three years. The 1971 Type 2 featured a new, 1.6-litre engine, now with dual intake ports on each cylinder head, and was DIN-rated at 37 kilowatts (50 PS; 50 bhp).

The Volkswagen Type 3 (saloon/sedan, notch-back, fastback) was initially equipped with a 1.5-litre engine, displacing 1,493 cubic centimetres (91.1 cu in), based on the air-cooled flat-4 found in the Type 1. While the long block remained the same as the Type 1, the engine cooling was redesigned reducing the height of the engine profile, allowing greater cargo volume, and earning the nicknames of "Pancake" or "Suitcase" engine. This engine's displacement would later increase to 1.6 litres.

Originally a single- or dual-carburetor 1.5-litre engine (1500N, 33 kilowatts (45 PS; 44 bhp) or 1500S, 40 kilowatts (54 PS; 54 bhp)), the Type 3 engine received a larger displacement (1.6 litre) and modified in 1968 to include Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection as an option, making it the first mass production consumer cars with such a feature (some sports/luxury cars with limited production runs previously had fuel injection).



The 30 kilowatts (40 hp) 1.2-litre can be modified by the addition of a big bore kit, which allows bigger cylinders and pistons from the stock 77 millimetres (3.03 in) to 83 millimetres (3.27 in) while keeping the stock crankshaft, cam, head, etc. and providing to a 25% power output increase.[citation needed]


1285cc Single port 1966-1970 Twin port 1971-1975


1493cc Single port only. 1967–1970 in Euro/US Beetle.



Single port

The 1600 single port was used on the following models:

Twin port

The 1600 dual port was used on the following models:

Type 4: 1.7–2.0 litres

Volkswagen Type 4 engine
PredecessorVolkswagen Type 1 engine
SuccessorVolkswagen Wasserboxer engine
Volkswagen 1700 engine
Displacement1,679 cc (102.5 cu in)
Compression ratio7.8:1
Power output76 PS (56 kW) @ 5,000 rpm
Torque output127 N·m (94 lbf·ft) @ 3,500 rpm
Volkswagen 1800 engine
Power output50 kW (68 PS; 67 bhp)
Volkswagen 2000 engine
Power output52 kW (71 PS; 70 bhp)

In 1968, Volkswagen introduced a new vehicle, the Volkswagen Type 4. The model 411, and later the model 412, offered many new features to the Volkswagen lineup.

While the Type 4 was discontinued in 1974 when sales dropped, its engine became the power plant for Volkswagen Type 2s produced from 1972 to 1979: it continued in modified form in the later Vanagon which was air-cooled from 1980 until mid-1983.

The engine that superseded the Type 4 engine in late 1983 retained Volkswagen Type 1 architecture, yet featured water-cooled cylinder heads and cylinder jackets. The wasserboxer, Volkswagen terminology for a water-cooled, opposed-cylinder (flat or 'boxer engine') was subsequently discontinued the engine in 1992 with the introduction of the Eurovan.

The Type 4 engine was also used on the Volkswagen version of the Porsche 914. Volkswagen versions originally came with an 80 horsepower (60 kW) fuel-injected 1.7-litre flat-4 engine based on the Volkswagen air-cooled engine. In Europe, the four-cylinder cars were sold as Volkswagen-Porsches, at Volkswagen dealerships.

Porsche discontinued the 914/6 variant in 1972 after production of 3,351 units; its place in the lineup was filled by a variant powered by a new 95 metric horsepower (70 kW; 94 bhp) 2.0-litre fuel-injected version of Volkswagen's Type 4 engine in 1973. For 1974, the 1.7-litre engine was replaced by a 76 metric horsepower (56 kW; 75 bhp) 1.8-litre, and the new Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system was added to American units to help with emissions control. 914 production ended in 1976. The 2.0-litre engine continued to be used in the Porsche 912E, which provided an entry-level model until the Porsche 924 was introduced.

For the Volkswagen Type 2, 1972's most prominent change was a bigger engine compartment to fit the larger 1.7- to 2.0-litre engines from the Volkswagen Type 4, and a redesigned rear end which eliminated the removable rear apron. The air inlets were also enlarged to accommodate the increased cooling air needs of the larger engines.

This all-new, larger engine is commonly called the Type 4 engine as opposed to the previous Type 1 engine first introduced in the Type 1 Beetle. This engine was called "Type 4" because it was originally designed for the Type 4 (411 and 412) automobiles. There is no "Type 2 engine" or "Type 3 engine", because those vehicles did not feature new engine designs when introduced. They used the "Type 1" engine from the Beetle with minor modifications such as rear mount provisions and different cooling shroud arrangements, although the Type 3 did introduce fuel injection on the "Type 1" engine.[citation needed]

In the Type 2, the Volkswagen Type 4 engine was an option from 1972. This engine was standard in models destined for the US and Canada. Only with the Type 4 engine did an automatic transmission become available for the first time in 1973. Both engines displaced 1.7 litres, rated at 66 metric horsepower (49 kW; 65 bhp) with the manual transmission, and 62 metric horsepower (46 kW; 61 bhp) with the automatic. The Type 4 engine was enlarged to 1.8 litres and 68 metric horsepower (50 kW; 67 bhp) in 1974, and again to 2.0 litres and 70 metric horsepower (51 kW; 69 bhp) in 1976. As with all Transporter engines, the focus in development was not on motive power, but on low-end torque. The Type 4 engines were considerably more robust and durable than the Type 1 engines, particularly in Transporter service.

Other applications

During the 1970s, in Brazil, Volkswagen made available the 1700 cc engine for its regular production car SP-2. The 1700 cc engine was identical to the 1600 cc version, but with enlarged cylinder bores.[citation needed]

Up until 2001, Beetle engines were also used to run several of the ski lifts at the Thredbo ski resort in New South Wales, Australia, and were maintained to a high standard by Volkswagen mechanics.[citation needed]

Also in Australia, in remote opal mines, Volkswagen engines were modified to air compressors for jack hammers, etc. They used two cylinders on one side as a motor, and modified the head on the other side to produce a flow of compressed air. The opal fields are very dry and hot, so an air-cooled compressor has an advantage over liquid-cooled.[citation needed] Beginning in 1987, Dunn-Right Incorporated of Anderson, South Carolina has made a kit to perform the conversion to compressor.[1]


Volkswagen AG has officially offered these air-cooled boxer engines for use in industrial applications since 1950, lately under its Volkswagen Industrial Motor brand. Available in 18 kilowatts (24 PS; 24 bhp), 22 kilowatts (30 PS; 30 bhp), 25 kilowatts (34 PS; 34 bhp), 31 kilowatts (42 PS; 42 bhp), 33 kilowatts (45 PS; 44 bhp) and 46 kilowatts (63 PS; 62 bhp) outputs, from displacements of 1.2 litres (73 cu in) to 1.8 litres (110 cu in), these Industrial air-cooled engines were officially discontinued in 1991.[citation needed]


The air-cooled opposed four-cylinder Beetle engines have been used for other purposes as well. Especially interesting is its use as an experimental aircraft engine. This type of Beetle engine deployment started in the 1960s. A number of companies still produce aero engines that are Volkswagen Beetle engine derivatives: Limbach, Hapi, Revmaster, the AeroConversions AeroVee Engine, and others. Kit planes or plans built experimental aircraft were specifically designed to utilize these engines. The VW air-cooled engine does not require a heavy gear reduction unit to utilize a propeller at cruise RPM. With its relative low cost and parts availability, many experimental aircraft are designed around the VW engines.[2][3]

Formula V Air Racing uses aircraft designed to get maximum performance out of a VW powered aircraft resulting in race speeds above 160 mph.[4]

Some aircraft that use the VW engine are:

Volkswagen air-cooled engine installed in an Evans VP-1 Volksplane

Half VW

1/2 Volkswagen engine mounted in a Hummel Bird.

For aircraft use a number of experimenters seeking a small two-cylinder four-stroke engine began cutting Type 1 VW engine blocks in half, creating a two-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine. The resulting engine produces 30 to 38 hp (22 to 28 kW). Plans and kits have been made available for these conversions.[5][6]

One such conversion is the Carr Twin, designed by Dave Carr, introduced in January, 1975, in the Experimental Aircraft Association's Sport Aviation magazine. The design won the John Livingston Award for its outstanding contribution to low cost flying and also was awarded the Stan Dzik Memorial Award for outstanding design.[6]

Another example is the Total Engine Concepts MM CB-40.

Some aircraft that use the Half VW engine are:


  1. ^ "Dunn-Right Incorporated". Dunn-Right Incorporated. undated. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
  2. ^ "In North Kitsap, Turning Old Cars Into New Planes". Kitsap Sun. November 29, 2009.
  3. ^ Great Plans Aircraft Newsletter, Issue 3, 2010.
  4. ^ Formula V Air Racing
  5. ^ Millholland, L. E., and Graeme Gibson (November 2002). "The Better Half VW Engine - Engine Detail". Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  6. ^ a b Great Plains Aircraft Supply Co., Inc. (undated). "Type 1 - 1/2 VW Conversion Kit, Parts and Plans". Retrieved 14 May 2010.