Energy Efficient Transportation Series: A Diesel Conversion

Dakar Pajero

Dakar Pajero

Our regular readers may be familiar with my recent project to convert a '98 Porsche Boxster to an electric vehicle. I also have another energy/transportation-related project that has been in my garage for about 5 years. I recently completed converting a vintage Mitsubishi Montero 2 door rally truck from gasoline to diesel.

Some may ask how this is related to energy efficiency? There are three reasons why this conversion fits into energy conservation and efficiency:

Diesel Engines use fuel more efficiently than Gasoline Engines.  The small 4 cylinder turbo diesel engine I used is almost twice as efficient as the 4 cylinder gasoline engine I removed.  In general, diesel engines convert more of the fuel into energy that moves the vehicle and loses less energy through waste heat output.

Some Diesel Engines are compatible with biofuels.  The engine used in this conversion has been fueled with diesel, biodiesel and waste vegetable oil.  It started its life in a 1986 Ford Ranger diesel truck that I used for a biofuel research project back in 2005.  It is what is known as an indirect injection engine which means that combustion occurs outside of the main cylinder preventing coking of the cylinder walls.  This makes it flexible enough to run on most any diesel-based biofuel including heated vegetable oil and animal fats.

Recycling worn out vehicles puts less carbon into the atmosphere than buying a new one.  I am a big fan of keeping older vehicles on the road as long as they are maintained properly, are energy efficient and can use biofuels.  All of my cars are reconditioned older vehicles that I maintain meticulously to keep them in optimal energy-efficient condition.  Most have been modified to run on biofuels.

I will be doing a series of posts describing the conversion process for those who are interested in following my wacky car projects that involve recycling old cars and making them more efficient. I'll try to keep it at a very high level to keep everyone interested and will link to other detailed technical posts for more technical discussion of the conversion process.

Here's a quick video that shows the completed conversion and first test drive to peak your interest. (hopefully, that's not like reading the last chapter of a book first)


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I have thought about doing the same using a small two cylinder diesel engine in a toyota corola.Now if i can just figure out how to get my 91 camry to deliver the 30 plus miles per gal. it is supposed to get i will be happy!Has anyone ever had a electronic full injected engine that runs rich?If you have any source for tech papers or anything let me know.
Hi Carl, I picked that specific 4 cylinder turbodiesel engine because it is the stock motor for the '87 Mitsubishi Montero (Pajero) in Japan and South America. (Mitsu 4D55T) I got lucky because that same motor was delivered in the US in a stock Ford Ranger. This meant that it would bolt directly to the bell housing of my vehicle with little modification. I'll have more information on this process in followup posts. If you choose a different motor than stock, there is a lot of fabrication needed to make everything work. in some cases, gear ratios and drive shafts have to be replaced to make things compatible. Your best bet for the Toyota Corolla is to find out what diesel motors were fitted in that year and model in other countries. Once you find out which motor, you can have a "front clip" shipped to you for the swap. That may sound like a lot of trouble but it's really not that bad. On the Camry, the '91 is pre-OBD so I don't think you can take it to a chain auto parts store and pull the codes. However, typically, there are several sensors that provide feedback to the Engine Computer to control the throttle and fuel injection system. If I were to guess, I would check the oxygen sensor for failure first and then the coolant temp sensor. Both of those help the computer decide how much fuel to inject into each cylinder for combustion. -pmapawatt

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