R56 Mini Cooper TDI Swap? Anyone try it?

Giantmcm

Active member
Joined
Jan 31, 2003
Location
Washington
Hey all,

I recently picked up a 2008 R56 N/A Mini cooper and I am hoping to do a TDI swap to it after the motor pops.

I was wondering if anyone else has tried this yet? Or who I could talk to about possibly accessing the European diesel parts for this Mini.

Thanks!
 

ZippyNH

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2015
Location
Southern NH
TDI
2015 JETTA TDI SE
Funny feeling size is your issue...
Know going back the my r53 mini days, the engine bay was small enough that swaps usually weren't even a thing
 

Giantmcm

Active member
Joined
Jan 31, 2003
Location
Washington
Funny feeling size is your issue...
Know going back the my r53 mini days, the engine bay was small enough that swaps usually weren't even a thing
That is also a concern I have had, to be honest. I can't find ANYTHING on the engine size of the N12 prince engine in the r56 we own, yet I can find the size specs for the tdi motor easily.

There is a guy who fitted a K20/24 into his R53 and is currently selling the harness and engine mounts. He has a full YouTube video on the install/teardown...but if possible, I want a tdi in the engine bay. I have even considered going for an older one as they are smaller.

I need to finish my other car project first and then wait til this motor pops.
 

ZippyNH

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2015
Location
Southern NH
TDI
2015 JETTA TDI SE
Have friend in Worcester Mass that runs/owns a mini centric garage....have seen quite a few engines out of mini's...honestly mini engine are some of the most compact I have seen...at least till the 3rd gen mini's with true BMW motors.
VW TDI's (at least the ones we see in Noth America) are big, heavy and fairly large.....when I open the hood on my 15' Jetta, it uses just about ever inch under the hood.... nothing like the gasser's that actually have some space. Diesels are very heavily built, but that's both a blessing and a curse...
Gas engines have gotten smaller, especially with turbo's....and honestly the typical TQ band has gotten much better, almost diesel like....when compared to older higher reving motors.
Honestly if you want a project I bet there are engines that would fit...but my gut says a diesel VW isn't the right choice
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
What??? VAG engines are TINY. They use 88mm bore spacing. That's why they top out at 2000 cc for a 4 cyl. Anything bigger, and they add a fifth cylinder.

A CJAA engine, for instance, is only about 22" long, from the end of the vacuum pump (that actually hangs out OVER the end of the engine itself) to the front end of the crank pulley. That's itty-bitty. A Nissan KA series engine (which have displacements of 2.0L and 2.4L) is about 26".

I think all the "stuff" piled around the engine, especially the CR TDIs, does such a good job of burying the engine proper that people don't realize how tiny VAG's engines really are. Gas OR diesel.

1707829230311.jpeg

That's a CJAA (right) and a CXCB (left) sitting side-by-side. Both the same basic size, and both quite tiny.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
Here's a pair of Prius engines (the 1.8L 2ZR-FXE) and I know there isn't anything to compare, but they are physically larger.

 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
And here's my Mini's 3 cyl... and you can see there is a giant gaping gap on the belt end of the engine where another cylinder can be fitted:

1707829521161.png
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
I'd say the BMW B38 engine is probably pretty close to VAG's bore spacing. And probably why it too tops out at 500cc per cylinder.
 

PickleRick

Veteran Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2017
Location
Greenville sc
TDI
05 GLS BHW sedan 5 speed conversion. BHW Carver SantaCruz in progress
How tall is the BMW engine vs the TDI? The TDI/fwd vag motors are angled pretty decently to allow for engine clearance. It's hard to tell from pics as to how the BMW engine is angled, it looks pretty straight up and down.


The space from wheel well to wheel well likely isn't going to be an issue, it's the height that may determine if it fits or not.
 

jimbote

Certified Volkswagen Nut
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Location
spiral arm, milky way (aka central NC)
TDI
Tacoma 4x4 converted to TDI
What??? VAG engines are TINY. They use 88mm bore spacing. That's why they top out at 2000 cc for a 4 cyl. Anything bigger, and they add a fifth cylinder.

A CJAA engine, for instance, is only about 22" long, from the end of the vacuum pump (that actually hangs out OVER the end of the engine itself) to the front end of the crank pulley. That's itty-bitty. A Nissan KA series engine (which have displacements of 2.0L and 2.4L) is about 26".

I think all the "stuff" piled around the engine, especially the CR TDIs, does such a good job of burying the engine proper that people don't realize how tiny VAG's engines really are. Gas OR diesel.

View attachment 135871

That's a CJAA (right) and a CXCB (left) sitting side-by-side. Both the same basic size, and both quite tiny.
They are tiny! Wider than they are long.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
VAG slants the FWD (both transverse and longitudinal) inline engines at 15 degrees, which isn't really that much but I assume it was done for clearance but then again the math for that angle doesn't really change much for height. It isn't like the rear engine inline 4 that got laid down at 40 degrees, almost on its side.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
Just so happens this little guy showed up for service this morning:

1707912648710.jpeg

2011 S, so the turbo 4 cyl BMW (PSA Prince) engine. My rough measurement from the end of the crank pulley (looking from above) to the end of the mechanical fuel pump thingy that hangs out the end of the head and it is about 22", exact same (or pretty darn close) to VAG's 4 cyl engines. Also, this Mini has the slushbox option (barf!), and that transmission is the same 6sp Aisin that VAG employs in a bunch of [gasser] transverse applications. So I'd say a 4 cyl TDI would physically fit perfectly fine. It would just be a matter of getting everything plumbed in right regarding things like charge air cooling and such.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
One big hurdle I see is that there is no room for the TDI's (any of them) downpipe to go in the usual place, because the Mini's subframe and steering rack do no have any space above them against the firewall. Mini has the exhaust on the front of the engine, and it drops down under the oil pan and UNDER the subframe to the back. Can't drop the TDI's exhaust ahead of the subframe and come down below it, because the right drive axle is in the way. The little space above the subframe has the sway bar in it, and the rack's electric assist motor.

1707913276408.jpeg
 

jmodge

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Jun 18, 2015
Location
Greenville, MI
TDI
2001 alh Jetta, RC2 w/.205's 5speed daily summer commuter and 2000 alh Jetta 5spd swap, 2" lift, hitch, stage 3 TDtuning w/.216's winter cruiser, 1996 Tacoma ALh
The exhaust route can be fixed by a hood stack lol.
Scary, my thoughts exactly. And here I was thinking you’re some kind of crackpot.
 

CanadianALH

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Location
Canada
TDI
2002 Jetta 5spd 2006 Jetta DSG (wifes)
Scary, my thoughts exactly. And here I was thinking you’re some kind of crackpot.
No they say great minds think a like. Alternately we are both crazy. Either way we solved the problem.
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
Maybe. Sounds like there wouldn't be room for the manifold and turbo, either.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
Tough to say. Mini seems to have the engine either straight up and down, or slightly tilted to the front, instead of VAG's 15 degree tilt to the back. So it's kind of hard to envision a TDI in there. The air box takes up much of the area behind the engine up high against the firewall... which is another thing... really not much room under the hood for an air cleaner that is remotely mounted like the TDIs use. And that's with the battery shoved back in a little pocket in the cowl.

Of course, Mini did sell plenty of these with diesel engines from the factory, just not here. They were Toyota engines first, then later someone else's.
 

d24tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2019
Location
MT
TDI
96 B4V
Wonder if some of the pieces from a VW T4 van could be adapted to roll the motor forward rather than back.

Agree the TDI engine physical size is about as compact as you usually can find. Probably there are some small bore Honda or Toyota motors out there that are packaged tighter and the TDI has an iron block, stout crank, heavy diesel flywheel, and a turbocharger which all add pounds vs an all-aluminum gasser, assuming that's what the stock Mini motor is (know nothing about them). So weight and general packaging could be the main issues, not as much the baseline size of block and head. Weight could affect handling as well of course.

A couple folks have swapped 4 banger TDI's into old RWD Volvos in place of the 2.3L Volvo gasser. It is amazing to see how much more tiny the VW engine is than the Volvo one that comes out, it only takes up about half the bay. The Toyota pickup I built with an AHU swap a few years ago was the same way, nearly a foot of space between the front of the motor and the rad. Here's what my buddy's Volvo looks like.

And the AHU in my Toyota looking lonely and small under the hood:


Like with anything else the devil would be in the details: A/C, power steering, communications, cooling, air management will be the big challenges assuming you could get the motor mounted in the car. VW engine in a MINI car means you'd be starting from absolute zero in terms of electrical system commonality, etc. For getting it in there you'll face either having to adapt the engine to the MINI gearbox, where your challenges will creating a suitable bellhousing adapter plate and a custom clutch/flywheel recipe, and then assuming/hoping the gearbox is up to the torque and combustion impact of the TDI, which lots of gearboxes aren't. Or, if you find a way to use a VW trans, then you're all set on those factors but face instead the challenges of fitment, passenger side drivetrain mounting (maybe torque mount as well), axle shafts, clutch hydraulics, and shift linkage. Engine conversions are challenging enough in longitudinal type vehicles or ones that have some kind of same-manufacturer synergy in terms of engine mounting and transmission interface. I think a transverse mounted swap in a vehicle platform where nothing is shared is about as difficult as it gets.

That said, folks have bolted TDI drivetrains sideways in the front of many vehicles, for sure Chrysler and Ford minivans for example, I think a few Hondas too. Maybe a Saturn was out there at some point if I remember right. So it's all doable if you are committed to overcoming the hurdles and have plenty of time, money, or skill (best to figure needing at least two of those three!).
 

CanadianALH

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2023
Location
Canada
TDI
2002 Jetta 5spd 2006 Jetta DSG (wifes)
Wonder if some of the pieces from a VW T4 van could be adapted to roll the motor forward rather than back.

Agree the TDI engine physical size is about as compact as you usually can find. Probably there are some small bore Honda or Toyota motors out there that are packaged tighter and the TDI has an iron block, stout crank, heavy diesel flywheel, and a turbocharger which all add pounds vs an all-aluminum gasser, assuming that's what the stock Mini motor is (know nothing about them). So weight and general packaging could be the main issues, not as much the baseline size of block and head. Weight could affect handling as well of course.

A couple folks have swapped 4 banger TDI's into old RWD Volvos in place of the 2.3L Volvo gasser. It is amazing to see how much more tiny the VW engine is than the Volvo one that comes out, it only takes up about half the bay. The Toyota pickup I built with an AHU swap a few years ago was the same way, nearly a foot of space between the front of the motor and the rad. Here's what my buddy's Volvo looks like.

And the AHU in my Toyota looking lonely and small under the hood:


Like with anything else the devil would be in the details: A/C, power steering, communications, cooling, air management will be the big challenges assuming you could get the motor mounted in the car. VW engine in a MINI car means you'd be starting from absolute zero in terms of electrical system commonality, etc. For getting it in there you'll face either having to adapt the engine to the MINI gearbox, where your challenges will creating a suitable bellhousing adapter plate and a custom clutch/flywheel recipe, and then assuming/hoping the gearbox is up to the torque and combustion impact of the TDI, which lots of gearboxes aren't. Or, if you find a way to use a VW trans, then you're all set on those factors but face instead the challenges of fitment, passenger side drivetrain mounting (maybe torque mount as well), axle shafts, clutch hydraulics, and shift linkage. Engine conversions are challenging enough in longitudinal type vehicles or ones that have some kind of same-manufacturer synergy in terms of engine mounting and transmission interface. I think a transverse mounted swap in a vehicle platform where nothing is shared is about as difficult as it gets.

That said, folks have bolted TDI drivetrains sideways in the front of many vehicles, for sure Chrysler and Ford minivans for example, I think a few Hondas too. Maybe a Saturn was out there at some point if I remember right. So it's all doable if you are committed to overcoming the hurdles and have plenty of time, money, or skill (best to figure needing at least two of those three!).
I’ve seen a Honda insights with TDI swaps. That would be a great hyper miler build. Even funnier if it was a big turbo one. Great sleeper.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
There was a guy that did a Lupo TDI powertrain in a first gen Insight.... and it got more MPGs, LMAO.... nearly 100!!! Of course, the Lupo 3L got over 80 already, so...
 

d24tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2019
Location
MT
TDI
96 B4V
Yeah, those are impressive MPG figures. But even so it's hard for me to see the logic. A factory-built Mk4 with an ALH already gets such amazingly good mileage that the little bit you gain doesn't seem worth it. Even if you double your MPG from 50 to 100, the amount of actual fuel and money saved in absolute terms is so small that I cannot imagine the payback ever working out unless you put on thousands of miles a week, like a pilot car operation or courier or similar. At 50 MPG, even if you have a 100 mile round trip commute 5 days a week, your fuel bill is almost certainly less than your lunch bill for the week. There are easier ways to save $15 a week than spending big money and time to build a car that will take you from 10 gallons of fuel to 6 gallons of fuel over 500 miles.

Plus with the Mk4, if you have one in good shape, you get a car with impressive refinement and comfort that drives very well, especially if you freshen up the suspension and add a good set of tires..... excellent reliability and easy/inexpensive parts availability, simple to fix and maintain, a car that can be viable almost indefinitely with no real limit on miles, no hybrid battery to think about..... AND great practicality, you get a real usable back seat and in the case of a Golf or JSW, plenty of flexible cargo space. An Insight swap has none of that -- that is a car that is optimized only for one or two people and a minimal amount of stuff to go down the road using as little fuel as possible.......

And you can buy a Mk4 TDI ready to drive in decent shape any day of the week in any corner of the country, no conversion challenges, etc......

Same basic principles apply to a Mk3 or early Mk5 BRM car really, matter of preference, the Mk4 ALH is probably the pinnacle of these things but some folks like the other cars better and in the big picture they accomplish the same amazing feat of balancing economy with "real car" functionality.

Not trying to discourage anyone's dream project, just pointing out that in terms of what "makes sense" as a practical matter, it's hard to beat what VW already offered.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
Except that the parts getting tagged with "NLA" increase tenfold every month. They don't want these cars on the road anymore. And the aftermarket isn't stepping in for a lot of stuff.

I've got a diesel NB here I've been waiting on parts for since before Thanksgiving last year. :(
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
Fuel line set that goes through the unibody rail up to under the hood.

Charge air tubing on both sides of the intercooler.

I forget what else. BEW+02J car.

Fuel lines might be the same as G/J, but that might not make them any more available.

The B5's lower windshield cowl cover is another part that MANY cars are in dire need of. I have one of those here tight now. Rain going straight into the cabin filter into the blower box! :(

And MOGolf was just here, he took my B5 ATF cooler pipe set... his rusted out, and that is also NLA.

BEW+Jatco drive axles, NLA, and the Chaxles are complete and total garbage.... good for about six months.

I honestly would have striven to hoard more of these cars for parts, especially all the poor cheap gassers that got tossed aside that had perfectly good trim pieces, door harnesses, trunk harnesses, door latches, etc. It's kind of depressing, really.

Just bought a nice, clean, original owner 2002 Jetta sedan, just shy of 300k. Great shape, weak compression in one cylinder. At least for now most engine bits can be sourced, but I fear sooner or later the venerable ALH will be like the old IDI stuff. Complete unobtainium.
 
Last edited:

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
Funny, I was wondering it intercooler parts were what you were missing. Those have been gone for a while, it's true. Not sure about the fuel lines.
 

d24tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2019
Location
MT
TDI
96 B4V
At least for now most engine bits can be sourced, but I fear sooner or later the venerable ALH will be like the old IDI stuff. Complete unobtainium.
Maybe. But the ALH motors and others like them were such a successful product with pretty high sales numbers -- plus everything that came after them was more and more problematic -- that my hunch is that they will have a reasonably wide following and support for a long time, even if more of it eventually becomes cottage industry type support. I don't think the demand from folks wanting to keep them on the road is going to crater like it did for the IDI engines. And I would guess that as long as the demand is there, suppliers will be as well. (Hope I am right, crossing fingers)

The old IDI stuff was always a fringe product, especially in the US, when you think about the compromises an owner had to accept versus the other options out there at the time and a few years later. They were something that you might enjoy if you were a diesel nut or tree-hugger zealot, or something that you might tolerate as a daily commuter if fuel cost was high and you were putting on a lot of miles. But for most regular folks, as soon as circumstances (fuel price or usage habits) allowed them to move on to a vehicle with more power and comfort and NVH control and better cold starting, they tossed the old diesels aside. A 50-70ish hp economy car was barely safe and comfortable to drive in traffic speeds of 30 years ago, let alone today (and that is not even speaking of a 48hp diesel Vanagon lol). Plenty of regular folks drove Rabbit and Dasher diesels in the early '80s but there's a reason old diesels of every make stopped selling in large volumes after about '84: demand crashed through the floor once fuel prices fell and people felt they could justify doing something else. In other words they never "wanted" those cars in the first place, just felt forced into them. It would take a lot to get me to want to live with one now, even as much as I still like and respect them and what they could do with the technology available then.

On the other hand, even in today's conditions a 25 year old, bone stock 90hp VE pump TDI car in decent condition is completely livable and driveable in any kind of traffic condition. Good torque band for snappy acceleration off the line and they'll cruise at any legal speed effortlessly. With a couple of light mods or even just a mild tune they become very responsive performers as we all know. In other words even if they're no longer new cars, they really aren't "obsolete" in terms of how they work. You compare a 2003 Jetta TDI to a 2023 Jetta gasser (or Civic or whatever) and the '03 can really do all the same things the '23 can day to day, and with equal (better IMHO) comfort and driveability, provided the older car hasn't been beat into the ground. OTOH if you compare even the nicest 1983 Jetta 1.6NA diesel to a 2003 Jetta 2.0 gasser or Civic, those are different worlds in terms of daily livability for the average consumer. You can see why people moved on from the old IDIs.

A similar dynamic exists in the light truck diesel world. The old IDI products (GM/Ford-Navistar) were OK solutions for their time, with economy advantages over carbureted gassers and downsides that people were OK living with in exchange for the economy improvement. But then only a few years after they were out of production, they became completely obsolete versus modern SEFI gassers and especially the late '90s wave of direct-injected diesels that, like early TDIs, had all the benefits of DI and turbocharging and electronic control but very little emissions complexity -- the perfect sweet spot for performance/reliability/operating cost, like an ALH. As a consequence, from what I can see, the following for the old IDI engines has really faded away, just to a few remaining fringe enthusiasts. Meanwhile the early Powerstroke and Cummins 12v/24v and first couple gens of Duramax still have enormous parts support and folks who have them are probably going to try to keep them going as long as they can, considering the downsides of the post-06 alternatives. Same story even up in the medium duty and heavy duty world too. I think all that "golden era" diesel stuff, large and small, will still be with us for years, probably until the fuel runs out or they get legislated off the road.
 
Last edited:

d24tdi

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2019
Location
MT
TDI
96 B4V
At least for plumbing related parts, fabricating replacements is an option folks can turn to. Not a factory solution but as the cars age, we may have to decide not to care.

OH, I have a set of B5.5 AT cooler lines (hard and flex sections) in good shape if you want another spare to replace what you gave away. They came out of a 2004 BHW wagon I pulled apart to donate its motor to my buddy's B7 Audi swap with 6MT/quattro. Needless to say he didn't need the AT parts. I almost tossed them but then that same thought crossed my mind..... should we be throwing any parts away that could help keep these cars going if factory support starts to fade away? So they are still hanging on the wall. Happy to send em off to ya, seems like you might be the most likely person to ever have a use for them.....
 

IndigoBlueWagon

TDIClub Enthusiast, Principal IDParts, Vendor , w/
Joined
Aug 16, 2004
Location
South of Boston
TDI
'97 Passat, '99.5 Golf, '02 Jetta Wagon, '15 GSW
My son and I had a conversation about letting his '02 Golf die when 5th failed a couple weeks ago. Cosmetically it's pretty rough: he's a carpenter and has used it like a pickup for the past few years. Mechanically the car is in good shape, consumes very little oil, and runs fine, despite having 487K miles on it. And he has a 100 mile commute, so it's getting a replacement transmission. He has an '11 JSW, and he'll use that as a weekend and backup car, with the Golf as his work truck.

I dropped the transmission off yesterday, and my guru said he currently has 2 MKIV ALHs there that are getting extensive repairs. Both owners want to keep the cars, and they are willing to spend several thousand dollars on repairs to keep them going. And of course I'm still driving my '02 Wagon with 485K on it.

But parts are going away for the older TDIs. Just yesterday I learned that no one (or no one I know of) is making BRM pistons any longer. ALH and BEW piston PNs have been merged, and supply is spotty. 7mm valves for 1Z/AHU cars are long gone, as are many other parts for those engines. We've started having some coolant hoses for TDIs and other diesels made since both OE and aftermarket supply has dried up. We're committed to keeping parts in stock for these cars as well as we can for as long as we can, but it's an ongoing challenge.

But I agree with d24tdi: older TDIs are totally capable and adequately safe for transport today. I have no worries about driving mine, even in Boston and NYC. In fact I'm more comfortable driving it than my newer cars as its smaller size makes it easier to position on the road and visibility out is far better than newer cars.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis, MO
TDI
There are just too many to list....
Yeah I think we can all agree they are a great car... and as someone who has probably piled more miles on the old non-turbo IDI VAG diesels than most, I get that too. Planning merging, turning the A/C off for various reasons, avoiding using the brakes at all costs because gained momentum was so precious.... totally get it. Wife and I probably have collectively a million miles easily in our old diesels.

But the parts thing doesn't care about how much we love these cars. And that's going forward the most troubling thing. Unless some really dedicated enthusiast industry really steps in, not sure how easily we can continue to operate them. Eurovans may as well be made of Martian rocks. Couldn't even get an intake gasket for one (a 2003!) a couple years ago. Had to reuse it.
 
Top