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Rear wheel drive conversion guide.

"Convert your front wheel drive car to a rear wheel drive setup."

Why so this? Some people just like a challenge or want a project to inspire others. But there are some practical reasons you might want a rear wheel drive conversion.

Power delivery through a RWD setup means you can run much higher power figures.

The maximum power output through a FWD setup is around 225bhp, and with some clever differentials you might be able to go higher.

Converting to rear wheel drive is only a project for the brave, with  lots of skill and very deep pockets!

As the front wheels control the steering and weight is pushed to the back of the car on acceleration is is quite hard to get traction.

For this reason, most high power cars and motorsport cars have a rear wheel drive setup. Even front engined street cars are converted with a mid mounted engine and rear wheel drive.

Cars are more fun to drive when the power is to the back wheels. It makes for lots of oversteer rather than the safer and more predictable understeer manufacturers build into FWD cars.

Is this something  you can do on your car to maximise your performance and driver enjoyment?

Problems:

  • Engine could be mounted in the wrong orientation
  • Added weight to the car and loss of cabin space
  • High project costs, with lots of additional custom fabrication required
  • Lack of off the shelf parts

Transverse and Inline engines - does your engine face left to right or front to back. Most FWD cars have the engine mounted sideways so the driveshaft takes power to the front wheels. To get this power to the back you'll need to reroute the driveshaft which is a big problem.

Some drivers will mount the engine inline and choose a different gearbox setup, but this often means losing some space in the cars cabin as the engine and gearbox will need more room.

Otherwise you'll need a differential to take the power to the rear of the car through a propshaft.

 

Shortcuts to RWD conversions.

If your FWD car model has a four wheel drive option it makes the conversion process a lot simpler - think A3 Quattro for example. Generally speaking a rear wheel drive setup can be made from the four wheel drive parts which are readily available but modified without the power going to the front wheels. You'll also have a driveshaft tunnel running the length of the car and a rear axle diff and gearbox that copes with the RWD setup.

If your car model is only available in FWD format then the challenge is that you'll need to get a driveshaft from the front of the car to the rear.

This will generally mean cutting into the cars cabin as ground clearance prevents an external driveshaft on most cars. The brake lines, fuel line, spare wheel housing and exhaust pipes will all conspire to frustrate your plans to mount a driveshaft the length of the car.

Some car makers offer a RWD option or AWD option that would be compatible with your chassis/engine bay (usually larger executive cars such as the Passat 4motion, Quattro or suprise limited  editions like the Clio V6!). This can provide suitable parts to convert your car to rear wheel drive.

Much older cars can also offer suitable parts for your project. The MX5 and Mark 1 Ford Sierra are ripe for part picking.

A mark 1 Ford escort was rear wheel drive and the drivetrain fits nicely with the powerful Cosworth engine. Dropping the modern engine into your car and using the running gear from the Mk1 will save a lot of custom fabrication.

We have seen some people convert an old RWD chassis, engine and gearbox to look like a FWD by shortening it and adding the FWD cars body. This is more converting an old RWD to look like a modern FWD car but it does achieve the RWD feel and retain a modern cars appearance.

The MX5, Passat and A4 quattro, Volvo and BMW would be suitable for sourcing RWD parts you could use on your cars chassis, but expect much cutting and fabricating to get it to fit and work.

Kits are around which will help but be prepared to source a new engine, gearbox and fabricate custom mounts as this is generally easier than getting your current engine and gearbox to drive the rear wheels.
After you've achieved this engineering feat, you'll need to alter the suspension to cope with the difference in handling and alter the braking.

The front driveshafts and hubs will need to be modified as they are no longer driving the front wheels. On most cars this.

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