Back with Sticks

Amazingly, I was able to work with Patrick Dougherty again on his latest installation at Wheaton College in Norton, MA. Another totally positive experience! Nothing like working your tail off, feeling good about it, working with amazing people, and jumping out of bed the next day to do it again! Here is the photo gallery from the project. Photos were taken by the slide library and are property of Wheaton College.


King Jimmy - should not have sold this beast

Here is what I wrote up for the ad to sell this beautiful beast. I should not have sold it, I miss it the most. It was my first veggie conversion... 2003!

The great: It's an 88 full-size 1/2-ton 2-door GMC Jimmy Half-convertible w/ 160k miles. The engine is the 6.2l diesel, this is important, it's not the 5.7l that is very troublesome and gave diesels a bad name in the US. The 6.2l is much more reliable, and has served me well. It has a live (solid) front axel and it is a very, very capable 4x4 as it was even used by the government in the 80's before they switched to the Hummer. It is a go anywhere, do anything vehicle. It has a complete towing package including an updated rear suspension capable of towing 6000+ lbs. It's also really easy and inexpensive to work on. It has one-month-old 31-inch tires by Dayton that cost $500+ installed, plus a full-size spare (different brand) and a set of brand new tire chains. It also has a new OEM starter. I drive it everywhere, often to CT and NYC, never with a problem. For diesel trucks, it’s a great competitor at a very affordable price.

The Mild: However, since I can walk to work, and other members of the band I'm in have gotten trucks for moving equipment, I have found that I'm using my truck like a car and not for hauling stuff or driving in heavy snow! It gets 15/20 mpg for short trips in the winter and 65mph on the highway respectively. I've used it for 2 years and the only big thing that I had to fix was the injector pump, and it now has a rebuilt pump from a military grade version. The new pump works really well and It has both much more power and better mileage than before.

I use an amp hooked up to 6”x 9” eclipse speakers and a portable DVD player for audio (I don’t use a head unit as I drive it into NYC frequently and don’t want something visible and easy to steal). The AC needs a recharge; in Vermont I never needed it. The right electric door lock doesn't function and you have to reach over to unlock the door.

The rear wheel wells and rockers had rust and they have been cleaned, had the steel replaced, filled with fiber-resin, and painted (slightly different blue), but there is still some surface rust in places. The frame is in great shape and has an oil coat; it even still has a lot of the original undercoat. The front right fender and hood are from a white and red jimmy; the rest of the jimmy is blue. The tail gate has some rust along the bottom edge, but it still fully functional, I jump around on there all the time loading stuff in and the window motor still works.

The less good: Truck needs one of the dual tailpipes welded on, same thing happened to the other side and I just welded it in place and it hasn't been a problem. The glow plug relay has started to be finicky, but people with this problem usually simply fix it by putting in a manual switch. The relay always goes on, but sometimes you have to turn the engine over once before it clicks into play. Just passed inspection.

The really good: It already really reliably runs on used veggie oil. I made most of the parts from scratch using far superior methods than the available kits. For instance, the hose-in-hose fuel heating system uses a copper tube with great heat transfer the entire length of the hose and is brazed to the components that allow coolant in the hose so there is no chance of cross contamination! It uses two motor driven switches for tank and return/loop selection and there are no flimsy solenoid switches. The veggie tank is custom welded to fit under the car and holds 13.5 gallons and uses a transmission cooler radiator for great heat distribution versus copper tubing. It also has a removable 55-gallon drum on a dolly for oil storage. It uses a standard spin-on fuel filter (6 spares with the truck) for the veggie oil that gets held in place by a stationary heated copper coil that promotes efficient fuel filtering. The veggie fuel gauge is built into a blank spot on the dash and the switches are mounted into drilled holes in the dash. There is a 12-volt dc pump with an inline filter that hooks up to the battery for pumping oil directly from the dumpsters into the main or removable tank.



From the Archives: My 1982 Mercedes 300tdt. For the controls I built everything into the dash. In the first photo, notice the fuel gauge and the temp gauge just above the shifter, I built them into the ashtray. The fuel and electric heater switches are the silver ones above the climate control. I generally try not to "over beautify the neighborhood," but the interior of this car was really nice so I tried to make the new instruments match.

The second photo shows the engine compartment. I initially converted this car with some special clear tubing that cole-parmer said would hold up, I drove a couple miles, opened the hood and literally saw a tube balloon and then explode diesel all over my face. I got a tow back and replaced all the lines with high pressure fuel line. I used a Davco element fuel filter, a wort chiller (from beer brewing) for my stainless steel plate heat exchanger, injector heater lines from The scout, earlier in the blog, is my most recent conversion and some of these things are out of date as to what I would use in my next conversion. Wrapping the heater lines with pipe insulation foam made a huge difference. The oil temp would reach as high as 160 degrees f.

I had a 24 gallon tank in the way back area. There isn't any room under a mercedes for a tank, besides the stock fuel tank. However, if I did another Mercedes I would do a single tank with a electrically heated buffer tank up by the engine. It looks like a possible disaster in the back there, but actually it was a really clean setup. I used dry disconnects to separate the clean tubes from the dirty ones, which would be submerged in the grease vat. The dirty ones would then get coiled and put in that little tuperware box. I used a fill-rite pump, a spinner separator, and a diesel fuel pump element filter from Northern Tool. I put a marine deckplate on the tank for filling from other sources and to view the high of the oil as the tank is filled. It took about a minute per gallon and then element would last 70 gallons. I used a length of pex tubing inside the tank for heating. The fuel lines ran with the heater lines in an insulated tube along the side by your feet (see the first photo, that grey snake are the lines). I did it this way, not under the car, so that everything is serviceable without a lift.