Stop me somebody…

before I buy this.

It is close by. It is cheap. It is legendary for reliability – one was the world record holder for mileage: 1.9 million miles(!). It is of course a Diesel. Not exactly the 300SD or 300SDL I’ve been looking for, but still. I bet it does 0-60 in at least 30 seconds! (downhill, with a tailwind!)

Update 10/23/05: I managed to show some self-restraint and didn’t bid. Final price wasn’t too bad. I did some reading on the model and it was the first really successful Merceded-Benz Diesel for export. It has ZERO collectible value though.

WVO Filtering Setup

I finally photographed the home-brew Diesel setup I built:

WVO Filter
WVO Filter

The waste veggie oil goes in the top barrel. The sawed-in-half gas can acts as a funnel. The oil comes to me via the white 5 gallon buckets on the left, so they don’t pour into 2″ holes without a funnel. The gas can sits very well in the filler bung, so I won’t spill… too much. The top barrel has a bung in the side, through which I have a 3/4″ ID gasoline hose, which goes through a stop-valve, to a 15-30 micron filter, through another stop-valve, through a 5-15 micron filter, through the final stop-valve to the bottom barrel. The bottom barrel is equipped with a nice 10 gallons per minute hand pump. The whole setup is airtight, and is kept from freeze damage (thankfully only a slight possibility here in the Pacific Northwest) with one of those pipe-warming cords that winds its way from the top to the bottom. You will note the bottom barrel has a blanket around it for extra insulation. If we get a significant cold snap I’ll have to supplement the heat with a light bulb or something.

This whole section of the barn was built by the previous owner specifically to store Diesel fuel. The shelf there had four large fuel storage tanks on it when we first viewed the house. The guy owned a logging company and the barn was his workshop for the trucks and equipment. The floor below it is not on the concrete slab, but it is filled with gravel and oil-absorbent stuff. Pretty cool.

I only have about 5 gallons in the upper tank right now. It should start flowing on its own via gravity once I have about 20 gallons in the upper tank. Running the hand pump will also provide suction back through the system to boost the filtering. Can’t wait to get it running at capacity.

1957 300sl @ 4000 RPM

OK, as promised for some “car guy” buddies, I present the straffing Messerschmitt sounds of a straight-six, mechanically fuel-injected Mercedes-Benz 300sl motor. Below 4000 RPM it is smooth & quiet. Above 4000 it comes alive. Terrifying in a way.

Have a listen. [8 meg file, so wait for the download!]

Stickin’ it to the Man by burning my own oil.

Some late night ramblings about Diesel cars and my home-brew fuel setup:

I’m halfway done building my fuel making setup out in the barn. I’ve been getting WVO-based fuel from a friend of mine all summer, while I slowly collected the stuff to build my own. (WVO = Waste Vegetable Oil… i.e. used french fry oil.) In the Spring I gave John as much of the left over Diesel from the old Bothell Genset as he could carry. I fueled my car out of it from January on, then bought/borrowed as many gas cans as I could find and filled them with the fuel. There was still close to 50 gallons left a week before we sold the genset, so I had John take the rest. Once the gas can supply ran out, I got filtered WVO from John. This I mixed 50/50 with pump-bought Diesel. The car runs great on it, and I get over 50 MPG. Not bad for effectively cutting my fuel cost in half! John just took a new job, so he connected me up with the Burger joint where he gets his free oil near his old job. I should have my two-barrel filtering setup done tomorrow, at which point I’ll be in the fuel business… personal consumption only of course. Just pick up 5-10 gallons a week from the burger place, and make my own.

The Jetta is the fourth Diesel car I have owned. I much prefer Diesels, especially turbo-Diesels to gasoline cars for everyday driving. They are reliable, and very economical. They don’t produce greenhouse or CO2 gasses. Yes, they are a bit “sooty” but modern CDI and TDI engines do an amazing job at reducing the smoke – mostly with VERY efficient injections systems and EGR systems (Exhaust Gas Recirulation.)

I guess now that gasoline is at $3.00 a gallon the rest of America is suddenly interested in Diesel cars again. I’ve been casually shopping for a new or used VW or Mercedes Diesel for almost a year, and in the last three months they have gotten virtually impossible to find or buy. I passed on some really nice MB 300 2.5, and 300sdl cars last winter. I should have grabbed them when I had them close at hand. Too bad the ONLY choices for new Diesels are either VW or MB, … or a gigantic full-sized pickup truck. Fuel costs have been rising steadily for four straight years but did Detroit pull their heads out of their SUV asses? Hell no.

VW is the lone seller of a full line of Diesels… from the Beetle all the way up to the Passat have a TDI option. MB only offers an E Class Diesel now in the US I think. I don’t make enough money to fork over big bucks for a new Mercedes though.

Anyway, once my fuel setup is done I’ll photograph it and post it here.

No Comment, just comments requested

Yeah, I know that this is a big week for technology… especially Apple. Unfortunately I don’t have any comment because I’m too busy working in the technology business to have any time to comment at the moment. =)

I may be looking for some geek help next week though. Sue left her gig at the Skagit County Public Defender and is now a consulting Attorney for a Defender’s association. She’s also looking to pick up some private practice in Snohomish, and maybe Skagit counties. She’s looking at putting an ad in the yellow pages, but I was thinking that whipping up a quick website and buying some Google Ad Words might be a better use of her money. Especially since the phone directory people want like $500 a month(!) and it seems like with Google you are getting something more tangible in terms of traffic for your revenue.

Especially since what she specializes in… Minor in Possesion, DUI, etc. If she was doing estates, civil contracts, etc a phone book ad might be smarter… I don’t know.

I never look in the phone book anymore… I look online. I am a geek though, so maybe I am not the right test group for the experiment.

Thoughts?

Cool, Hockey’s Back. 10/8/05

Watched “Hockey Night In Canada” tonight (a great benefit of living just south of Latitude 49… getting CBC TV.) Edmonton beat Vancouver 4-3. It was a fair game, but ended regulation time in a 3-3 tie. Overtime produced no winner so they settled it with a shootout. While some of the rule changes are for the better (mostly the strict calling of obstruction penalties, and the elimination of the red line for off-side passes) I loathe the idea and practice of the shootout to end a tie game. I both played and officiated Ice Hockey for a good portion of my life… and I love the game. That said I have a real love/hate thing going with the NHL. Last year was a fiasco, and I’ve felt Commissioner Bettman will sell out the game and turn it into a circus to achieve NBA-like “success” as soon as he can.

The shootout illustrates this well. It is a complete sellout to this idea that there has to be a winner. Some of the best games I have ever watched, played, or officiated ended in ties. I never had a problem with any of them. The only situation when a tie is unacceptable is playoff hockey, and then the only way to do it is sudden death… play until somebody wins.

The penalty shot has a place, but a series of them to decide a winner during a regular season game is silly.

On a completely unrelated note, Christopher & I participated in the Seattle Jaguar Club’s “Fall Colors Tour” today. I put 200 more break-in miles on the rebuilt engine. It was cool and mostly cloudy, but I managed to keep the top down all day. You can see my pictures here.

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How I spent my 42nd Birthday. 10/5/05

Yesterday’s entry ended: “I imagined a nice short day at work, followed by some analog therapy of fixing my car, and a nice drive home with the top down.”

If this were a movie those words would have an ominous sound track playing behind them. Since it is just a blog, you’ll have to imagine it. (I won’t ever put some midi track in my HTML… If I do you have permission to come shoot me in the head.)

Instead my meeting schedule got completely rearranged, and after the digital.forest traditional birthday cake in the kitchen, instead of running over to NAPA to do my alternator swap, I ended up on the second longest conference call of my life. My title says “VP, Technical Operations” but in reality I was playing Contract Lawyer… slogging through the legal language of a vendor agreement several hundred pages thick. (Don’t wait for the midi track, just shoot me now!)

I finally escaped from the office at 5:15 PM, looking at a 60+ mile, Seattle rush-hour commute, with lowering skies, in a leaky 40 year old car with a suspect electrical system. Great.

And of course, it was my birthday! The wife & kids are waiting at home to celebrate.

The car starts right up (still has that new battery smell) and I zip down the hill to NAPA. They have my alternator, but there is a glitch. I had expected a two-piece fan/pulley section and instead it has a separate fan and pulley. Of course the Jag has this oddball grooved belt, and after I did my alternator mod last year some knowledgeable guys told me I could build a “groove” with washers (semi-brilliant!) No problem, I figured I could just swap my modified fan & pulley from the old alternator and be fine. (time for you to cue that ominous sound track again.)

Insert Problem #1. The bolt on the end of the alternator shaft is metric, and an oddball metric size at that: 22mm. That is slightly smaller than the 7/8th inch socket I have in my portable toolbox in the Jag’s boot. No problem I’ll buy one from NAPA!

Insert Problem #2. The largest socket NAPA has is a 19mm. I bring it to the parts guy and tell him that. He fishes around for a socket to fit it. The best he can find is 7/8ths. However he has a power torque wrench and I just have hand tools. I figure I’ll let him remove the pulleys. (I learned all about transfer of liability in my earlier conference call!) He manages to get the pulleys off and we swap them.

While popping the pulley from the old alternator I discovered what had caused it to fail. As I picked it up off the ground a diode that had fallen out was lying on the pavement(!) It had obviously came off internally and having it sitting vertically had caused it to fall out. Go figure.

Insert Problem #3. The new alternator has a slightly different housing than the old one. The shaft is surrounded by a raised sort of bridge, and it leaves no room for the bolt at the end once my fat grooved pulley is slid over it. I had this problem before when I modified the first Hitachi I put on this car. I fixed that by cutting the bushing down a bit and using JB-Weld (the choice of mechanical kludges everywhere!) to stick the fan to the bushing to center it. The bushing from the old alternator was twice as thick as it should have been.

Insert The Solution That Saved My Birthday!

The NAPA guy didn’t have any cutting tools, (and probably didn’t want to risk any further transfer of liability), so he sent me, and the bushing next door to a truck repair place. I jogged over to System Seven and found a mechanic. I explained the situation briefly and he volunteered to cut the bushing in half. He did warn me that it may not be perfect, and I assured him that I wasn’t seeking perfection, just something good enough to get me home. He put the bushing in a vice and expertly sliced it in two, right where I had showed him to cut. KZOK happened to be playing on their shop stereo. I mentioned that the car he was helping me fix was just photographed for KZOK’s calendar, so I’d have to get him a copy when it was published later in the year. I introduced myself and he told me his name was Todd. I plan on calling Steve Slayton tonight and making sure he plays something on KZOK dedicated to Todd and the guys at the System Seven Repair for saving my ass, my birthday, and my Jaguar. Something rockingly awesome from the early 60’s, just like the E-type… Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” would be good.

The bushing in hand, I sprint back over to the NAPA (where my car was sitting, bonnet & boot up, my tools & valuables everywhere, and a half-eaten office birthday cake sitting in the passenger seat!) and pop the fan back on. It fits PERFECT! The fan has maybe 1.5mm of clearance from the housing thanks to Todd’ precision cutting, and the pulley has more than adequate clearance to put on the bolt. I put the whole thing together and bring it out to the car. I’ve removed and re-installed alternators on this car so many times I swear i could do it in my sleep… like a well-drilled soldier cleaning his rifle. The new Hitachi goes on and I tighten the belt. Remove all the tools, re-connect the battery, hop in and hit the starter button. The moment of truth…

The noise of a Jaguar XK engine is a truly wonderful sound. The deep rumble of the long-stroke big-bore six, the clatter of high notes from the dual overhead cam cylinder head, mixed with the wind of triple carbs and the whine of the timing chain and V-belt. It is often called “Sir William’s Sixth Symphony” in reference to Sir William Lyons, founder, heart and soul of Jaguar Cars Ltd. It burbles with pleasing menace at idle and emits a spine tingling roar when driven in anger. Sir William’s Sixth greeted my ears, but it was the sight of the Lucas Ammeter… yes The Prince Of Darkness himself! That Lucas Ammeter on the dash indicating a hard swing to the left. No words in the English language can describe the immense pleasure I felt seeing that needle swing towards the “C”, indicating that the Prince Of Darkness was showing current from the alternator to the battery. “Joy” doesn’t do it. “Relief” doesn’t either. Even “heights of climactic delight and waves of multi-orgasmic pleasure” don’t do the feeling justice.

Let’s just put it this way: I was feeling good!

I took the box and paperwork back into the NAPA to get my core charge credited and probably did not even touch the ground while making that 20 yard stroll. As the NAPA guy was doing the credit card work I went into their washroom and made an attempt to clean my very dirty hands and arms of car grease. Even clean cars get you dirty while working on them… go figure. As I finished up the paperwork I saw Todd outside having a look at the car and he waved to me. Finished, I went out and started packing up the car. I told Todd more about the history of it, and thanked him profusely again for allowing me to make it home on my birthday. He was happy to have helped out and graciously accepted my thanks. I fired up the car and headed home. It got dark shortly after, but I felt confident running with my lights, and watched with immense satisfaction that Lucas gauge showing a positive flow of electricity once again.

I hate driving this car at night, but I didn’t have a choice. At least it was late enough now that the freeway was merely crowded, instead of stop & go. At least it never rained, and it wasn’t too cold to run top-down.

I finally arrived at home around 8pm, and was immediately tossed into the Jetta and driven to our local Mexican restaurant for a traditional Carne Asada and Marguerita dinner. Christopher drove so I downed two stiff ‘Ritas and got to wear the birthday Sombrero. (I’ll post the pic as soon as I scan the polaroid.)

All’s well that ends well.

Sorry I didn’t take any pictures. I usually stock my blog with plenty, but I was just so focussed on getting the car FIXED that it never even occurred to me to stop and document anything by camera. That should be an indication of how stressed I was…